Jeff Cannon
Jellyfish Chiropractor


Oct 31, 2022

Fall 2022 Plan

My health, wealth, and wisdom goals for the fall of 2022.


  • Balanced training routine: lift 3 times per week, run 3 times per week, yoga once per week
  • Drop weight to below 77 kg
  • Increase major lifts (bench, squat, deadlift) to 100 kg


  • Improve finances

    • Pay off credit card debt
    • Invest at least $1K into String Theory
  • String Theory

    • Rebuild custom order flow
    • Build out more of the dashboard and automate order handling
    • Stock more inventory


  • Take a break from writing

  • Reading list

    • Built to Sell
    • The Guest List
  • Prepare to move to Denver

    • Sell and move stuff out of my current place
    • Spend quality time with friends and family

- Manchester, UK

Sep 05, 2022

The simplified daily routine

I’d like to revisit my blueprint for a perfect day. A lot of it sounds nice but in critique of it, it has a lot going on and doesn’t allow much flexibility if your day does not go according to plan.

If I were to scrutinizingly strip away everything nice-to-have from it, the only two true must-haves I would keep are work and exercise. Reading, writing, and reflection can be a distraction from your most important work.

My simplified routine at this moment in time would be to start your day with a workout, then dive right into your work and spend as much as time as you can on it. Clear your mind of everything else. Do what you can to reduce interruptions and avoid multitasking.

Next quarter, I am going to eliminate a lot of activities I usually include such as reading and writing to see what difference it makes in my actual productivity on what matters most: String Theory. At the end of the year, I’ll report back the result.

- St. Ives, UK

Jul 15, 2022

Leak or spill

A leak is a recurring action draining capital from your funds. Frequent eating out, regularly buying material goods like clothes, and too many subscription services are all examples of leaks.

A spill is a one-off expense in excess. An item you’re considering returning because it didn’t meet expectations or a company charging you a hidden fee that you’d like to dispute are examples of spills.

Leaks are worth addressing but don’t waste your precious time cleaning up spills.

Value your time highly (over $1000 an hour) and if the amount of money you will get back cleaning up a spill is not greater than the time spent (it usually isn’t) then don’t do it.

Instead, gift items you want to return, let disputes go, and choose not to do future business with these companies.

- Sterling, VA

Jun 29, 2022

Summer 2022 plan

My health, wealth, and wisdom goals for the summer of 2022.


  • Training plan

    • Lift 3 times per week, run 3-5 times per week, yoga once per week
    • Sub-3:30 time in Air Force marathon in September
  • Develop default healthy morning diet

    • Pre-workout: greek yogurt, berries, seeds, greens supplement, fish oil, electrolytes
    • Post-workout: spinach, 2 eggs over easy, 2 slices of bacon, half avocado, protein shake, apple or banana
  • At least one no caffeine day per week (Wednesday or Thursday)


  • Find a new job. Apply to at least 10 positions

  • String Theory progress

    • Marketing: stringing tutorials and competition giveaway
    • Order handling, dashboard improvements, more automation
    • Make improvements to product and custom order pages
  • Setup Cold Brew + Cake website


  • Reading list

    • This Is How You Lose The Time War
    • The Cold Start Problem
    • Meditations
  • Speak Spanish and write once per week

  • Family quality time

    • Check-in back home once per week
    • Setup trip abroad for grandparents

- Cheltenham, UK

Jun 24, 2022

How String Theory custom orders work

Here’s a link to our custom order flow and this post describes what currently happens behind the scenes when an order gets placed.

It’s a crude and manual process at the moment but I am working on automating it with software.

Step 1

The customer first chooses between 3 options: “Men’s”, “Women’s”, or “Goalie”. Then they have two choices for theorist selection: “Automatic” or “Manual”. Theorists are our team of experts who fulfill the orders.

There are many other customizations that could be added to this process but out of necessity to keep it simple, we decided to only collect those two pieces of information before checkout. 

The downside to this simplicity is that it adds a level of uncertainty to our offering but there are some benefits too. The checkout process is faster and there’s less decision fatigue from selecting between many options. A lot of our customers are also unsure of what’s best for them. Our expert team members can have a discussion with them after checkout to help guide them into making the best decision for their position and level of experience.

If “Automatic” is chosen, go to step 2. Otherwise, skip to step 3.

Step 2

For an “Automatic” order, I reach out to the customer first to have a brief discussion about what they’re looking for. I then hand-pick someone on our team who is best suited for it. I look for someone who is geographically close, free to fulfill the order in a reasonable time, and specializes in the type of stringing the customer is looking for.

Step 3

We forward the customer’s information to the theorist by email and they reach out to them by text message using their provided phone number to work with them and deliver the best head that suits their needs.

Step 4

After discussing the order with the customer, the theorist lets us know what materials are needed on our company Slack or Instagram and we provide them with a custom order box that includes the required materials, a packing slip, marketing materials, and a shipping label from them to the customer. In instances where we don’t have all of the materials in stock, we ship materials separately from a third party.

Step 5

Once the theorist receives the custom order box from us, they string up the order and use the same box and shipping label inside to ship the final product to the customer. They can either drop the package off at a USPS location near them or leave it outside and schedule a package pickup for the next business day.

Step 6

When the order is marked as delivered, we pay our theorists for their services via Stripe. We pay $20 for basic mesh stringing and $30 for anything more complex (i.e. traditional, women’s, goalie, etc.). Tips are enabled in our checkout and any tips left by the customer are passed directly onto the theorist who serves them.

Custom orders from us include any factory color head from all of the major brands and any stringing style. As long as the head and strings can easily be sourced, we will supply whatever the customer wants. Some materials that are limited edition, like the ECD DNA Diamond, cannot be supported. Dyes are not included and we can’t reimburse for dying costs.

- Manchester, UK

Jun 10, 2022

June 2023 areas of focus

Here are my areas of focus to achieve my vision for the next year:

  1. When in doubt, eliminate, automate, or delegate tasks until you are no longer overwhelmed.
  2. Commit and do more with less.
  3. Be a lean machine.

- Seaford, NY

Jun 10, 2022

June 2023 key results

Here are the key results for me to achieve my vision for the next year:

  1. Running marathons every quarter
  2. Read a book every month and include one fiction book every quarter
  3. Write every week
  4. New remote software job with over $200K annual base salary.
  5. String Theory: 100+ theorists, $10K+ MRR
  6. At least one friends and family trip
  7. Speak Spanish and salsa dance

- Seaford, NY

Jun 09, 2022

June 2023 vision statement

In 2023, I will be a lean machine running marathons every quarter. Arran and I will travel through Asia and South America speaking Spanish and learning to salsa dance along the way. We will have a small traveling cold brew and cake business that enables us to meet locals all over the world. I will have a new remote software job making over $200K annual base salary. String Theory will grow to over 100 theorists across North America and over $10K in monthly sales. I will write every week and read a book every month—including one fiction book every quarter. It will be a year of focus on eliminating, automating, and delegating repetitive tasks so I can be a more clear thinker.

- Seaford, NY

May 31, 2022

Cheating yourself

On the surface, honesty seems like a selfless character trait but I would argue there are more selfish reasons to be honest. If you think a few lies can’t hurt, I would urge you to reconsider. Most lies, even small ones, are not worth telling.

Relationships are built on trust and respect. A lie in a relationship can be toxic to its foundation. The destruction they cause can be irreversible. The people you lie to might not find out you lied right away or ever, but there is a lot of extra effort involved in keeping your story straight over time. At the very least, you will always know the truth and have to live with it.

I make all of these claims based on personal experiences where I lied. It made me realize that the person who was hurt most by it was me. I’m not perfect but I value honesty much more than before.

Be honest. It’s good for your heart and soul.

- Seaford, NY

May 23, 2022

Addicted to progress

No matter what your goal is, just get started with the bare minimum. Biting off too much too soon can actually hurt you. Let me paint a picture of how.

Imagine that you’re inspired to lose some weight. You decide tomorrow that you’re going to drastically change your diet and exercise habits. Everything is going great at first. You can follow your new plan with no issues for a few days. But then one night you decide to meet up with your friends for dinner and you can’t beat the temptation to cheat on your diet. The next day you feel hopeless and you slowly fall off the wagon and revert back to old habits. Sound familiar?

I’ve been there and I found it difficult to accomplish my goals because I expected too much to change too soon. What actually worked for me, to get from a place where I was borderline obese to where I am 50 pounds lighter and crushing marathons, was years of small habit changes.

If you’re just starting now, set the bar really low. One goal could be to workout for 30 minutes 3 times a week. Another could be to eat at least one serving of vegetables per day. Slowly accumulate these small habits over time and you will see a dramatic shift when you look back over the years.

The word “years” might scare those of you looking for the quick fix but I don’t think one exists. In retrospect, the years don’t feel that long. And this idea doesn’t just apply to health changes. I’ve experienced this with investing and building a business as well. 

Eventually, the progress you make will become more addicting than the short temporary pleasure you get from your bad habits. Patience is key.

- Seaford, NY

May 19, 2022

There’s never enough time

There isn’t enough time to write this post. I’ll just get it over with. I have to get to sleep early if I want a shot at being productive tomorrow.

Always anxious. Always stressed. I’m falling behind. I’m not reaching my potential.

Others manage their time better and get more done or have more fun. Should I be optimizing my time for work or play?

I lust for a moment of relaxation except when I get one, I am already thinking about what’s next.

The problem isn’t a lack of time. The problem is how I’m choosing to spend mine.

- Seaford, NY

May 09, 2022

Anxiety is the mind-killer

Action relieves anxiety.

Anxiety induces inaction.

Herein lies a predicament that I don’t yet have a great solution for.

- Manchester, UK

May 06, 2022

The case for doing it on your own

Whatever career path that you have chosen in life, there are a lot of good reasons to seek mentors and outside help along the way.

You can learn from the countless mistakes others have made so that you don’t have to make them too. Someone who is already successful in the field that you have chosen can show you the way they made it and there are good odds that doing the same things will yield you a similar outcome.

Depending on the style of person you are, that might just be what you want out of life.

But if you like being original and hope to stumble upon a new way of doing things, perhaps you should try to carve your own path.

Seek inspiration from others but stay far enough removed that you have to figure a lot out yourself. You will repeat others’ mistakes. It will be a long, painful process. But if you find success this way, it will be more rewarding because it will be authentic.

In a passage from Range by David Epstien, Jack Cecchini, a jazz teacher who is one of the rare musicians that is world class in both jazz and classical music had this to say:

I get a lot of students from schools that are teaching jazz, and they all sound the same. They don’t seem to find their own voice. I think when you’re self-taught you experiment more, trying to find the same sound in different places, you learn how to solve problems.

It’s slow, but at the same time, there’s something to learning that way.

- Manchester, UK

Apr 26, 2022

How to write a blog

Here’s how I do it:

Before I start writing, I have no idea what I’m going to say. I usually just start by writing every thought that pops into my head. Eventually, that takes me in a direction where I feel compelled to say something.

Now, I don’t think my blog is very good from a marketing standpoint. There’s no singular focus. It’s more of a self-indulgent diary than a useful body of writing for a specific audience.

But I don’t have anything to sell you and I don’t care if you like it.

Maybe you don’t think you have anything to write about, but you might be surprised. I certainly didn’t think I could keep this up for hundreds of pieces but here we are.

- Manchester, UK

Apr 21, 2022

Pressed for time

It’s hard for me to keep up with everything I want to do. I often get overwhelmed because of commitments my past self made for my present self.

It’s important to be consistent but not everything requires my full energy and attention all of the time.

When time is short, it’s okay to do the bare minimum on tasks that aren’t the highest priority. Not everything has to be your best work.

- Seaford, NY

Apr 15, 2022

Improving String Theory’s copywriting

I published some updates to String Theory’s copywriting today. In this post, I will discuss what I changed and why.

The first and most important change I made was to the first tagline a visitor to our site sees:

“Get custom heads from the best lacrosse stringers in the world.” → “Get custom heads from lacrosse stringing experts across the world.”

Declaring you have the best anything is lazy and doesn’t say much about your company’s products or services except your opinion which means very little to someone who doesn’t know you yet. Instead, saying that we are a marketplace of experts demonstrates authority and implies that we have some of the best lacrosse stringers without directly saying it.

The tagline change led to some changes in another section on the home page titled “What makes us different”:

  • “Premium talent” → “Premium skill”

The word “skill” is a better word than “talent” to describe what our theorists have.

  • “We hand-pick the best lacrosse stringers to be on one platform.” → “We hand-pick lacrosse stringing experts to be on one platform.”

Similar to the tagline change, I wanted to remove “best” from our copy.

  • “Find your go-to stringer for a consistently great pocket.” → “Find your go-to stringer for a reliable pocket.”

This is a shorter way of getting at the same point—”great” was an unnecessary filler word.

I also updated part of the product description for our new “Custom Order” flow:

“One of our knowledgeable theorists will discuss specifics with you after checkout to ensure you get a lacrosse head tailored to your position and style of play.” → “One of our knowledgeable theorists will work with you to guarantee you get a lacrosse head tailored to your position and style.”

I like the new version better here because it’s more concise and the word “guarantee” sparks more trust than the word “ensure”.

The final change I made to our copy was to the subtitle of a menu item:

“Browse theorists from all over the globe.” → “Discover theorists from all over the globe.”

The reason I like this is because the word “discover” sparks more emotion than “browse”.

- Massapequa, NY

Apr 04, 2022

What you chase, eludes you

What you desire most seems most likely to come once you stop chasing it.

I really want to create successful businesses and I have been working at this dream for about seven years now without much luck. For much of it, I have been clinging to an outcome. Because of that, it’s been a rollercoaster of hope and disappointment. 

I have become tired of this rollercoaster and started to care less about what happens. I still work at it though because I enjoy the process of making something. Ironically, things seem to be working out much better now that I care less.

But don’t take it from me. Although there’s more promise now, it may still elude me. Take it from people much more successful than me.

From Naval Ravikant:

The year I generated the most wealth for myself was actually the year I worked the least hard and cared the least about the future. I was mostly doing things for the sheer fun of it. I was basically telling people, “I’m retired, I’m not working.” Then, I had the time for whatever was my highest valued project in front of me. By doing things for their own sake, I did them at their best.

And Joseph Gordon-Levitt:

If your creativity is driven by a desire to get attention, you’re never going to be creatively fulfilled.

- Manchester, UK

Apr 01, 2022

Foundation is key

There are certain skills that are fundamental to generating wealth. 

If you run a business, you will need to know how to do or hire for specific things like digital marketing or building a website but before approaching any of these specific skills, it is best to have a solid foundation to build upon.

What are the foundational skills to building wealth?

At the highest level, you should have an ability to process and communicate information effectively. This involves listening, reading, and writing. The specifics of how you consistently practice these skills does not matter so long as you do it.

An understanding of human psychology and persuasion is another foundational piece of knowledge. It will be easier and faster to switch between different sales strategies and tactics if you have this high-level understanding.

You should also know how to use computers well. This is a recent development but the Internet provides so much cheap leverage that you would be severely handicapping yourself without it. The better you are at writing and using software, the better off your business will be. Even if you don’t use these skills directly within it, you will be able to better hire or communicate with the people who do.

Specific skills matter but make sure your foundation is solid.

- Manchester, UK

Mar 11, 2022

Certainty is a trap

Many people choose to keep their wealth in a depreciating asset like cash instead of investing it because of certainty. Even if the outcome is bad, people cling to a situation that seems certain and familiar instead of one that has more variance and upside.

People don’t just make this decision with money. They base their entire lives around this principle. It’s preferable to stay in a relationship or career they’re not happy with because at least they know what to expect.

I know all of this because I’m one of those people. But it’s time for change. Things might not get worse without change but they also certainly won’t get better.

Don’t be afraid to leap into or out of a relationship or career. Any decisive action—even if it’s the wrong one—is better than no action at all. Keep shuffling the deck until you’re happy with where you end up.

Mar 04, 2022

The credible authority

In previous posts, authority has been described as a persuasion lever that leads to increased compliance. However, it is important to distinguish between a credible authority and an uncredible one. Merely being in charge and commanding orders can have the opposite intended effect because people generally don’t like being told what to do. Instead, an authority who promotes willing cooperation and is viewed as being highly informed is the kind that people are eager to follow the recommendations of.

A credible authority possesses two distinct features: expertise and trustworthiness. Expertise appears to create a halo effect for those who possess it. For example, a therapist’s office with multiple diplomas and professional certifications made visible to the client has been shown to produce higher ratings not only of the therapist’s proficiency but also of his or her kindness, friendliness, and interest in clients.

Besides wanting our authorities to give us expert information, we also want them to be trustworthy sources of information. Being perceived as trustworthy is an effective way to increase one’s influence. A communicator can rapidly acquire perceived trustworthiness by employing a clever strategy. Rather than succumbing to the tendency to describe all the most favorable features of a case upfront and reserving mention of any drawbacks until the end of the presentation (or never), a communicator who references a weakness early on is seen as more honest.

The effectiveness of highlighting your own weaknesses can be seen in the case of Domino’s “NEW DOMINO’S” campaign of 2009 admitting to the past poor quality of its pizza. After this campaign, sales went sky high. Another example of this is the famous investor Warren Buffett’s annual letters to shareholders. Near the start of his annual reports, usually in the first page or two of text, he describes a mistake he’s made or a problem the company has encountered during the past year and examines the implications for future outcomes. Rather than burying, minimizing, or papering over difficulties, which seems to be the tack taken all too frequently in other annual reports, Buffett demonstrates that he is first, fully aware of problems inside the company and, second, fully willing to reveal them.

The persuasiveness of online reviews is also influenced by perceived trustworthiness. Five stars is too good to be true. When the average rating moves past the optimal 4.2 to 4.7 range, purchasers become suspicious that ratings are phony and are less likely to buy. Negative reviews establish credibility. In fact, if a site includes some negative reviews, the conversion rate jumps by 67 percent. Additionally, verified buyers are gold as reviewers.

Feb 21, 2022

Keep it simple

I’ve been working on String Theory for over 2 years. Here are some of the many of the ways in which I’ve gotten in my own way throughout the process:

Price is an afterthought

Before you build and sell a new product, find out if anyone will pay a price that you can make a profit on. I know the feeling of getting so excited about creating a new thing that you may want to overlook this part. But it can save you from pouring a lot of effort into something that can’t work.

Trying too hard to be different

You don’t have to create a major breakthrough to build a successful business. You can start with something similar to what already exists and just have slightly better marketing or cater to under-served customer segments.

Reinventing the wheel

I have tried to build so much infrastructure from scratch. Because I’m an engineer, I can build these things therefore I thought I should. And I wasted a lot of time doing it. There are many great software services out there that are worth paying for. Be lazy as much as possible and use what’s available. Even if it’s a bit cookie cutter. It’s better to get started that way.

Single failure point

Just because you can do everything at first, doesn’t mean you should. Figure out as soon as possible how to automate or delegate a business process. And if that’s too difficult or expensive, consider whether it’s worth keeping and eliminate it if it isn’t.

Devil in the details

When you already have a solid business that’s growing, I think it’s great to get down to the details and refine your offerings to stand out even more from the crowd. But don’t start with the details; start with the simplest thing. For me, focusing on the details was a form of perfectionism and procrastination to avoid doing the difficult task of talking to people and selling my products.

All of this boils down to one thought at this moment: keep it simple stupid.

- St. Ives, UK

Feb 06, 2022

Symbols of authority

Three symbols of authority—titles, clothing, and trappings—greatly increase chances of compliance.

Titles are simultaneously the most difficult and easiest symbols of authority to acquire. To earn a title normally takes years of work and achievement. Yet it is possible for somebody who has put in none of the effort to adopt the mere label and receive automatic deference. Actors in TV commercials and con artists do it successfully all the time.

Studies investigating the way authority status affects perceptions of size have found that prestigious titles lead to height distortions. In an experiment conducted on five classes of Australian college students, a man was introduced as a visitor from Cambridge University in England. However, his status at Cambridge was represented differently in each class. To one class, he was presented as a student; to a second class, a demonstrator; to another, a lecturer; to yet another, a senior lecturer; to a fifth, a professor. After he left, the class was asked to estimate his height. With each increase in status, the same man grew in perceived height by an average of a half-inch, so that he was seen two and a half inches taller as the “professor” than as the “student.”

Because size and status are seen as related, it is possible for certain individuals to benefit by substituting the former for the latter. This is precisely why con artists, even those of average or slightly above-average height, commonly wear lifts in their shoes.

A second kind of authority symbol that can trigger mechanical compliance is clothing. Police files bulge with records of con artists whose methods include the quick change. In chameleon style, they adopt the hospital white, priestly black, army green, or police blue the situation requires for maximum advantage.

A series of studies by social psychologist Leonard Bickman indicates how difficult it can be to resist requests from figures in authority attire. Bickman’s basic procedure was to ask passersby to comply with some odd request. In half of the instances, the requester was dressed in ordinary street clothes and in some sort of uniform in the rest. In one particular experiment, the requester stopped pedestrians and pointed to a man standing by a parking meter fifty feet away. Regardless of attire, the requester always asked the same thing: “You see that guy over there by the meter? He’s overparked but doesn’t have any change. Give him a dime!” Nearly all the pedestrians complied when he wore a guard costume but less than half did when he was dressed normally.

Less blatant as a uniform, but still effective, is the business suit. Researchers arranged for a thirty-one-year-old man to jaywalk. In half of the cases, he was dressed in a business suit and on other occasions he wore a work shirt and trousers. Three-and-a-half times as many people followed him into traffic when he was dressed in a business suit.

In addition to titles and clothing, trappings such as high-priced jewelry and cars can lend similar authority effects. Experimenters discovered that motorists would wait significantly longer before honking their horns at a new luxury car stopped in front of a green traffic light than at an older economy model. Interestingly, the researchers asked students to predict how they would behave in the situation and they were wildly inaccurate in predicting the results. Many assumed they would honk sooner at the luxury car compared to the economy car, even though the findings were the exact opposite.

The effect of authority influence is grossly underestimated and the observation that people seem to be unaware of its effect may account for much of its success as a compliance device.

Feb 05, 2022

Intro to authority

We are more influenced by people who seem to be an expert or in a position of authority.

The Milgram psychology experiment is a famous example of the influence of authority. In his experiment, subjects were instructed by a scientist running the experiment to deliver increasing levels of electrical shock. The person receiving the electrical shock was an actor merely pretending to be shocked but the subject was unaware of that fact. As the voltage was increased with each shock, the actor let out greater screams of agony. The surprising result of the study was that 65 percent of subjects carried out their duties faithfully to the maximum shock.

Let’s look at another example from one facet of our lives in which authority pressures are visible and strong: medicine. The worrisome possibility arises that when a physician makes a clear error, no one lower in the hierarchy will think to question it. Indeed, according to the Institute of Medicine, hospitalized patients can expect to experience at least one medication error per day. In addition, annual deaths in the United States from medical errors exceed those of all accidents, and, worldwide, 40 percent of primary- and outpatient-care patients are harmed by medical errors each year.

Take, for example, the classic case of the “rectal earache.” A physician ordered ear drops to be administered in the right ear of a patient suffering pain and infection there. Instead of fully writing out the location “right ear” on the prescription, the doctor abbreviated it so that the instructions read “place in R ear.” Upon receiving the prescription, the nurse put the ear drops into the patient’s anus. Obviously, it made no sense to treat the patient’s earache with rectal drops but neither the nurse or the patient questioned it.

Whenever our behaviors are governed in such an unthinking manner, we can be sure that compliance professionals will try to take advantage of it. In my next post on Authority, one of the 7 principles of persuasion from Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, I will discuss the symbols of authority that people use to persuade others and increase compliance.

Jan 15, 2022

Look foolish

Whenever you’re learning something new, you’re going to make mistakes and you will look silly. 

Your first painting will be shit. Your first movie will be embarrassingly bad. You’re going to look awkward in your first martial arts class. Your first piece of writing will be unintelligible. The first time you do standup comedy, nobody is going to laugh.

Not just the first ones either. It will take a lot of repetition to get competent and if you’re doing it right, you’ll choose to do it in front of other people and show your work to others even though it sucks. You can’t learn in a vacuum—you need feedback.

People stop learning because it’s more comfortable to keep doing the things that they’re already good at but do you really want to stop growing as a person so early in your life?

Embrace the discomfort and look foolish. You’ll learn and grow so much more than you thought possible.

Jan 07, 2022

Be relentless

One of the most important qualities to foster is an ability to thrive on setbacks.

Your goal in life is not to remove struggle. Your life is struggle and always will be. It can’t be any other way. Without struggle, life is boring. You might as well be dead without something to contend with.

The good news is that you don’t have to do anything to find struggle. Challenges will always find you no matter how many ways you try to surround yourself with security and certainty.

What’s your attitude when you’re facing setbacks? You have a choice. You can be a pessimist or an optimist. You can quit or you can keep going. You can get weaker in the face of adversity or stronger.

There’s zero upside in the former. I know which one I’m choosing. What about you?

When you decide you’re going to be the kind of person who never gives up, failure loses its power to scare you. You love failure because it’s an opportunity to improve.

It’s a tremendously freeing feeling knowing that you have the strength to keep going no matter what.

Jan 07, 2022

Growing plants

Starting a relationship is like growing a plant. The early days are the most fragile. You need to provide just the right amount of care. Too much or too little will result in its death. 

I have a tendency to overwater my plants and drown them.

If you’re a romantic, the best thing you can do when you’re in doubt about a person you like is shut the fuck up. Keep your feelings to yourself.

I generally like being an open book and I think there’s virtue in that. Unfortunately, there are some circumstances where it isn’t in your best interest.

Jan 04, 2022

Winter quarterly planning 2022

Fall 2021 Retro

Another not-so-great quarter. What’s going on here? I think I’m being pulled in too many directions with too many things. I need to brainstorm how to fix that.

My health goals were accomplished this quarter. I successfully cut weight and have been taking a daily greens supplement with fish oil. Those were the only two things I was interested in and got both done.

My wealth goals were very poorly met this quarter again. I didn’t get to build many of the features that I wanted for String Theory. I also wanted to tighten up my spending to prepare for quitting my job but I didn’t do that either. I did however successfully negotiate for some discounts on heads for materials which is a big win for us. It is hard for me to be doing so many things at once. I need to look into getting some help.

My wisdom goals for this quarter were met on the writing and walking front but I did not read all of the books I wanted to read. I guess I got slowed down by everything else and Influence was also a pretty long book. I’ll try to incorporate some shorter reads next quarter.

Winter 2022 Plan

For my health goals this quarter, I want to maintain my weight around 165 lbs, box once per week, and increase my running distance for the runs I do twice per week. I usually do 3 or 5 miles and I want to increase it to 5 or 7 miles.

For wealth, I am focusing solely on String Theory site development. There are some other marketing objectives that I need to do but they are not the primary focus. I want to focus on building the features for custom orders, the theorist dashboard, and a product or service review system.

My wisdom goals are similar to last quarter: I’m going to continue a weekly writing cadence and commit to doing a meditative walk at least on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week. Here’s my reading list: Mastery, Monetizing Innovation, and The 48 Laws of Power. In addition to these goals, I am also taking a Casey Neistat filmmaking course.

Jan 04, 2022

Annual retro 2021

2021 expectations

  • Write every day
  • Read a book every month
  • Have one weekly physical activity that isn’t weightlifting or cardio (yoga, martial arts, paddle board, sports, etc.)
  • Average 7 hours of sleep per night
  • No hangovers
  • String Theory: 50 stringers, 100 Premier subscribers, $50K in revenue

2021 reality

  • Started the year writing everyday. Eventually got burnt out by it and switched to writing every week.
  • I read 10 books this year, so close to one book per month.
  • I box every week.
  • I didn’t track my sleep.
  • I may have had a couple hangovers this year but my drinking is much better than it used to be and my drinking is no longer excessive to the point that it holds me back.
  • String Theory: 30 stringers, no subscription service, between $5-10K in revenue.

I had high expectations for this year and fell short on a lot of the goals but looking at it positively, it’s still a big improvement from the previous year and I’d rather be ambitious and fall short than set the bar low.

My health is still great. I’m very active, box every week for extra cardio, and kept all of the weight off that I lost in 2020. I’m not tracking my sleep and I probably don’t average 7 hours every night but I care less about it now and will just sleep as much as my body feels necessary.

In retrospect, a year of daily writing on top of building my business was not smart. Writing is an important skill to work on so I still want to do it but weekly is much more manageable. I was a couple books shy of my reading goal but I didn’t miss by much there.

I’m looking forward to growing much more in 2022.

Dec 26, 2021

Social proof shortcut

What do you do if you don’t have social proof to point to? What if you just started a company or released a new product that has nothing impressive to talk about in terms of market share, sales numbers, or general popularity to this point?

You definitely shouldn’t lie and the other levers of influence will work for you but there is still a way for you to use social proof. Instead of relying on evidence of existing social proof, a communicator can do at least as well by relying on evidence of future social proof.

When we notice a change, we expect the change will likely continue in the same direction when it appears as a trend. Even though only a minority of people might be engaging in something, if people learn that within that minority, more and more others are engaging in it, they jump on the bandwagon and begin enacting the behavior too.

Because we assume they will continue in the same direction, trends don’t just tell us where others’ behaviors have been and are now, we think they also tell us where others’ behaviors will be. Thus, trends give us access to a special and potent form of social proof—future social proof.

If over a reasonable period of time, you have evidence of growing popularity, you should make that fact the central feature of your messaging because, as your audiences will presume, such evidence will be an indicator of genuine worth and future popularity.

Dec 17, 2021

Social proof optimizers

The optimizing conditions for social proof are uncertainty, the many, and similarity. Let’s dive into each.


In my last post, I discussed an example of social proof regarding a chain of restaurants in Beijing who discovered that “most popular” was the best label to use to describe a dish and increase its sales. Although the labeled popularity of an item elevated its choice by all sorts of diners, there was one kind of customer that was most likely to choose based on popularity—those who were infrequent and therefore, unfamiliar visitors.

Consider how another simple insight made one man a multimillionaire. In 1934, after acquiring several small grocery stores, Sylvan Goldman noticed his customers stopped buying when their handheld shopping baskets got too heavy. This inspired him to invent the shopping cart. The contraption was so unfamiliar-looking that, at first, none of Goldman’s customers used one—even after he built more-than-adequate supply, placed several in a prominent place in the store, and put up signs describing their use and benefits. Frustrated and about to give up, he tried one more idea to reduce his customers’ uncertainty, one based on social proof. He hired shoppers to wheel the carts through the store. His true customers began following suit after they saw others using it and his invention swept the nation.

This tendency for everyone to be looking to see what everyone else is doing in uncertain situations leads to another fascinating phenomenon known as pluralistic ignorance. This phenomenon helps explain a troubling occurrence: the failure of bystanders to aid victims in agonizing need of help. People will often not react in an emergency situation because it is unclear who should take charge and they all look at what everyone else is doing to figure it out. This is why it is best to single out a person in the crowd if you are ever in need of help to reduce the uncertainty.

The Many

Here’s an experiment to try that illustrates the power of the many. Stand on a busy sidewalk, pick an empty spot in the sky or on a tall building, and stare at it for a full minute. Very little will happen around you during that time. Most people will walk past without glancing up and virtually no one will stop to stare with you. Now, on the next day, go to the same place and bring along some friends to look upward too. Within sixty seconds, a crowd will have stopped to crane their necks skyward with the group.

Another example of the influence of the many is the use of laugh tracks in sitcoms. Many of the most popular TV shows today add artificial laughter to their content to make audiences perceive the content as being funnier than it is. 

The many is a contagious form of influence. In 1761, London experienced two moderate-sized earthquakes exactly a month apart. Convinced by this coincidence that a third, much larger quake would occur on the same date a month later, a soldier named Bell began spreading his prediction that the city would be destroyed on the fifth of April. At first, barely anyone paid attention to his claims. But those who did took precautions by moving their families out of the city. The sight of this small exodus stirred others to follow, which, in cascading waves over the next week, led to near panic and a large-scale evacuation. Great numbers of Londoners streamed into nearby villages, paying outrageous prices for any accommodations. After the designated day dawned and died without a tremor, people returned to the city furious at Bell for leading them astray. Although, it wasn’t the crackpot Bell who was to blame, but the Londoners themselves who validated his theory to each other.

If we see a lot of other people doing something, it doesn’t just mean it’s probably a good idea. It also means we could probably do it too. When it comes to convincing people to conserve energy, social proof-based messaging generates 3.5 times as much energy savings as any of the other messages. Utility-company officials don’t trust it because of an entrenched belief that the strongest motivator of human action is economic self-interest. Contrary to their beliefs, it seems that telling homeowners that by saving energy, they could save a lot of money, doesn’t mean they would be able to make it happen. However, when people learn that many others around them are conserving energy, there is little doubt of its feasibility. It comes to seem realistic and, therefore, actionable.


The principle of social proof operates most powerfully when we are observing the behavior of people just like us. This phenomenon is coined the term peer-suasion.

For this reason, we are seeing many more companies these days advertise average-person testimonials. They know that one successful way to sell a product to ordinary viewers is to demonstrate that other “ordinary” people like and use it. 

People will use the actions of others to decide how to behave, especially when they view those others as similar to themselves. Of interest to sales people is how sales improve dramatically when they use names/testimonials from female customers with female prospects, males with males, and couples with couples.

An analysis of factors that impact the market share of national brands revealed that passage of time had surprisingly little influence on brands’ performance, less than 5 percent over three years. Geography, on the other hand, made an enormous difference. The strongest influence on market share, 80 percent, was due to geographical region. People’s brand choices moved in line with the choices of those like them, around them. 

Marketing managers might want to consider decentralized strategies targeting separate regions to a greater extent than they currently do, as research indicates people are regionally similar on attitudes, values, and personality traits—probably due to contagion effects.

Dec 11, 2021

Intro to social proof

A few years ago, managers of a chain of restaurants in Beijing, China partnered with researchers to accomplish something decidedly profitable. They wanted to see if they could increase the purchase of certain menu items in a way that was effective yet costless. Their idea was to give the dish a certain label that would get customers to choose that item more frequently. Although they found a label that worked well, they were surprised it wasn’t what they thought would work previously, such as “Specialty of the house” or “Our chef’s recommendation for tonight.” Instead, the label that worked best was “most popular.” Sales of each dish with this label jumped from 13 to 20 percent. Quite simply, the dishes became more popular because of their popularity.

This anecdote illustrates another one of the 7 principles of persuasion from Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. The principle of social proof states that we determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct. As a result, advertisers love to inform us when a product is the “fastest growing” or “largest selling” because they don’t have to convince us directly that their product is good. They only need to show us that many others think so, which is a good enough shortcut for us to believe it too.

Certain nightclub owners manufacture a brand of visible social proof for their clubs’ quality by creating long waiting lines outside when there is plenty of room inside. Why are profiteers so ready to use social proof as a tactic? Sales and motivation consultant Cavett Robert captured the principle nicely in his advice to sales trainees: “Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer.” There are examples of this everywhere.

A Toyota dealership in Tulsa, Oklahoma was faced with the challenge of finding quality sales talent for their staff. They decided to run an ad on the radio that focused on the great demand for their vehicles, how many people were buying them, and, consequently, how they needed to expand their sales force to keep up. As they had hoped, they saw a significant jump in the number of applications to their sales team. Surprisingly, the biggest effect they saw however was an increase in customer floor traffic, an increase in sales in both the new and used vehicle departments, and a noticeable difference in the attitudes of customers. The unintended effect of expressing the demand they were experiencing to find more sales people caused more customers to want to buy from them.

The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more a given individual will perceive the idea to be correct. The principle of social proof says so. But there are certain conditions that can enhance this behavior. The optimizing conditions for social proof are when we are unsure of what is best to do (uncertainty); when the evidence of what is best to do comes from numerous others (the many); and when that evidence comes from people like us (similarity). I will discuss each of these optimizations in more detail in a future post.

Nov 29, 2021

There’s a price to be paid

One thing that you don’t expect when chasing your dreams is that while you may make a bunch of strangers like you a little more, you’ll also make everyone close to you like you less in the process.

You become boring because you obsess over the thing you’re chasing. It’s the only thing you want to talk about. You know this and try to talk about other things but realize you don’t stay up-to-date on anything else anymore.

You’re emotionally unavailable. There are always deadlines to hit and you don’t have time to catch up with people. God forbid something unexpected comes up and ruins your tightly planned schedule.

Even if you end up achieving what you set out to do, people close to you will be jealous of your success. Your success makes them feel inadequate. No one will admit this of course. They’ll try to write off your success as luck. Surely, luck did have a role to play but nobody will respect all the hard work that was required too.

Chasing your dreams is lonely. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m an asshole. But maybe there’s someone else out there who can relate.

Nov 13, 2021


We are more influenced by people we like, even if we’ve never closely interacted with them.

An interesting display of this rule is research done by communicators trying to get people to accept Darwin’s theory of evolution. Through means of facts and logic, very little was able to be accomplished. However, when people were led to believe that George Clooney had made favorable comments about a book that took a pro-evolutionary stance, they became significantly more accepting of the theory.

For would-be persuaders, the message is clear: to change feelings, counteract them with other feelings by someone who is liked by the people you are trying to persuade.

Commercial exploitation of this rule is effectively used by Tupperware in their “home party” setup. They make it possible for anyone to host one and have their friends over to purchase their products. By providing the host with a percentage of the take, Tupperware arranges for its customers to buy from and for a friend rather than an unknown salesperson.

Other compliance professionals have found that the friend doesn’t even have to be present to be effective. Often, just the mention of their name is enough. 92 percent of consumers trust product recommendations from someone they know, such as a liked friend, which is far more than any other source and 22 percent more than the next highest source, online reviewers.

When already formed friendships are not present to be employed, you can make use of the liking bond by getting customers to like you.

One path to likability is physical attractiveness. This quality creates a halo effect that extends beyond the way you look. People also assume other positive qualities about your competence and character.

Another path is similarity. We like people who are like us. Consequently, those who want us to like them so we will favor them can accomplish their purpose by appearing similar to us in a variety of ways. Dressing similarly is one way. Another is to claim to have similar interests.

In a related piece of research on similarity, it was found that changing the name of a survey-taker to be similar to that of the survey recipient nearly doubled completion of the survey.

Compliments are one other simple way to get people to like you. On the Internet, these take the form of “likes” and have a similar effect of generating positive feelings. Those working in the service industry know this well and frequently use compliments with great effect to increase the size of their tips.

It doesn’t matter if these compliments are made earnestly either. In one study, individuals who worked on a digital assignment received flattering feedback from the program regardless of how they performed. Even though the participants were told this, they still had more favorable feelings toward the machine and remarkably became prouder of their performances after receiving the hollow praise. 

We are phenomenal suckers for flattery. In another experiment, it was found that praise does not have to be accurate to work. Positive comments produced just as much liking for the flatterer when they were untrue as when they were true. As a manager or employer, use praise as a tool to drive towards the outcomes you desire.

Contact is another path to liking. We like things that are familiar to us. Good marketers know this and it is the reason why they repeat their message often. We don’t realize our attitude toward something has been influenced by the number of times we have been exposed to it, but the more we engage with something, the more we tend to like it. 

Yet another way to induce liking is cooperation. Compliance professionals are forever attempting to establish that we and they are working for the same goals. One setting in which this is used is Good Cop/Bad Cop. The purpose of the routine is to establish that the Good Cop is on your team so that you are more likely to cooperate with them.

One key way to prevent people disliking you is to avoid being the bearer of bad news. As Shakespeare wrote in Antony and Cleopatra, “The nature of bad news infects the teller.” People associate you with your message. This association process works so well and unconsciously that corporations regularly rush to link their products to the current cultural rage. Right now, “naturalness” is such a hot feature that it’s applied even to products that don’t make any sense. 

Linking celebrities to products is another way advertisers cash in on the association principle. The connection doesn’t have to be a logical one; it just has to be a positive one. What does Matthew McConaughey really know about Lincolns after all?

In the famous experiment, Pavlov trained his dogs to get the typical response to food (salivation) to be directed toward something irrelevant to food (ringing a bell) merely by connecting two things in the animal’s experience. This mechanism similarly exists in our brains and is used all the time by advertisers.

This post is a summary of a chapter from Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. The book discusses 7 principles of persuasion, one of which is Liking.

Nov 09, 2021


The following post is a summary of a chapter from Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. The book discusses 7 principles of persuasion, one of which is Reciprocation.

The rule of reciprocation says that we should try to repay what another person has provided us. As social creatures, it is an urge that most people are susceptible to and is often exploited by those trying to sell us something.

One application is the free sample. In a California candy shop, researchers examined the difference in sales based on whether a customer was given a free piece of candy when they walked into the store. They found that receiving the gift made recipients 42 percent more likely to buy something.

To magnify this force even more, it is found that when the first gift given to a potential customer is personalized in some way, that they are even more likely to be compelled to buy something.

Besides just repaying favors, another consequence of the reciprocation rule is an obligation to make a concession to someone who has made a concession to us. 

This is exploited in the rejection-then-retreat or door-in-the-face tactic that many sales professionals use. It works like this: suppose you want me to agree to a certain request. One way to increase the chances I will comply is first to make a larger request of me, one that I will most likely turn down. Then, after I have refused, you make the smaller request that you were really interested in all along.

A similar strategy is the larger-than-smaller-request: after being exposed to the price of a more expensive item, a less expensive item seems even smaller by comparison. This is often why when you go into a store to buy a suit, they will sell you the most expensive pieces first so that the accessories don’t seem as expensive when you add them on. 

Another example of where this sort of anchoring is used is in restaurants: they will often have very expensive bottles of wine on the menu, not intended for the purpose of customers buying them, but to make the bottles they intend to sell seem more affordable by comparison.

It is important to note that people are sensitive to these sorts of tricks so it’s necessary to be subtle in how you might apply any of these strategies for them to work. A negotiation in which your initial offer is outrageous could totally backfire.

Oct 22, 2021

Done beats perfect

Perfectionism is an insidious form of procrastination.

It feels productive and you think it’s okay that you haven’t released that thing you’ve been working on yet because it’s not quite perfect yet. But it will never be perfect. And you are pushing off the opportunity to receive feedback because you are afraid of how you will be judged.

I haven’t written in two weeks and I’m beginning to feel it. I’m not sure what to write and I keep pushing it off because I don’t want to write something embarrassingly bad.

If you don’t push through the bad work, you’ll never get to the great work.

There’s no way to grow faster than having a willingness to fall on your face in public. So start somewhere and ship the damn thing.

Oct 12, 2021

Starting a company is like

…searching for a light switch in a pitch black room.

…jumping off a cliff and building an airplane on the way down.

…making a sculpture out of soft serve ice cream.

…eating glass and staring into the abyss.

Sep 27, 2021

Fall quarterly planning 2021

Summer 2021 Retro

This quarter was pretty lackluster overall. I should be more on top of my game and I need to reduce the distractions I am allowing into my life.

My health goals were somewhat satisfied. I wanted to drop weight to 165 lbs, box weekly, and eat dinner at home at least 3 times per week. The last two goals were met but my first one to drop weight was not. I am 169 lbs at the moment.

My wealth goals were very poorly met this quarter. I wanted to finish building the String Theory dashboard for theorists, build a review system into String Theory, onboard 5 more theorists to the site, get 10 new customers to try String Theory, and string 1 head for sale per week. 

Of the site development goals I had, I only got authentication working for the dashboard and didn’t even come close to starting work on reviews. We onboarded 6 new theorists this quarter and I stuck to the weekly head commitment but missed on the number of new customers I wanted to work with.

The thing that slowed me down a lot was onboarding theorists and responding to a lot of messages from them. I need to have notifications turned off and check them in batches. I also shouldn’t be offering to do so many different things for them right now when the site needs a lot of work.

My wisdom goals for this quarter were to write only once per week instead of the daily commitment I had before so I could focus better (ironically, I didn’t focus better), do a daily meditative walk, and read The Ultimate Sales Machine, Influence, and Man’s Search For Meaning. I stuck to the weekly writing schedule but was not consistent about doing the meditative walk. I also fell behind on the reading, read Animal Farm instead of finishing Influence, and still have to finish Man’s Search For Meaning.

Fall 2021 Plan

For my health goals this quarter, I am rolling over my goal to lose a few pounds from last quarter. I’m increasing the target to 167 lbs so it’s only 2 lbs that I need to lose—no excuses! I am also committing to taking a daily greens and fish oil supplement. That’s it for health this quarter. There’s not much here but I think I’ve gotten myself into a pretty good place with my overall health.

For wealth, the first goal I have here is to reduce spending in preparation for leaving my day job next year. I’m planning to commit to String Theory full-time before next lacrosse season and without the income from my day job, it is going to be a big adjustment. I need to analyze how much I’m currently spending, then implement a plan to reduce spending now before I no longer have a day job. 

In terms of String Theory development, I committed to too many features last quarter and I don’t think I need to be focusing on new features right now. Instead, I should be focusing on tools for theorists to do more things for themselves and cleaning up the site to support scaling to many more theorists.

For the String Theory business, I want to offer weekly free stringing to plant seeds for my personal stringing business here on Long Island. I also have a large batch of brand new heads that need to be strung and listed on the site. Finally, I’d like to onboard at least another 10 theorists to the site.

My wisdom goals are similar to last quarter: I’m going to continue a weekly writing cadence and commit to doing a meditative walk at least on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week. Here’s my reading list: Influence, The Beginning of Infinity, and The 48 Laws of Power.

Sep 17, 2021

Different is better than best

This is not something I expected when I first started trying to build companies, but making something better is a pretty ineffective approach to starting a business. Especially if it’s only marginally better. Even if it’s a lot better, it might not be good enough for people to switch.

The reason for this is that there is a mental cost and potential risk to switching to something new from what you’re familiar with. If what you’re offering isn’t obviously much more valuable than that cost, people won’t switch. Debating whether something is a better version of something that already exists is mentally taxing. To make a company like that work, you need excellent distribution.

However, if what you’re offering is different, there is no debate. Nobody else sells what you have. You’re making a bold prediction about how the future will be different and creating a movement for people who agree.

When thinking of a business that illustrates this well, I think of this company: The Oodie. Who the fuck wants a hybrid sweatshirt/blanket to wear? Apparently, enough people for that company to pull in tens of millions of dollars in sales annually. If you don’t believe me, check out the founder’s YouTube channel.

They didn’t try to make a better shirt or pair of pants. They created an entirely new item to wear. Most people are not interested in that new thing. But for the people who are, there’s only one place to buy it from which makes it an easy decision.

—East Northport, NY

Sep 01, 2021

Balancing conventional and unconventional

We constantly seek others to validate what’s worth consuming or producing before trying to figure it out ourselves. This can save us from losing time or money on something that doesn’t have any social proof, but there are flaws to always seeking the conventional.

First of all, it’s a strategy that mitigates risk at the expense of reward. Because of this, we ultimately miss out on some of the most meaningful experiences—the ones that were made just for us.

Second, there’s a conformity effect where the closer something gets to consensus, the more likely others will feel compelled to agree with the majority. Some psych experiments illustrate this nicely.

I felt this second one impacted me recently when I read How to Win Friends and Influence People. It seems to be one of the most recommended business books and after finishing it, I think it’s overrated. The general gist of encouraging empathy is good but I think there are probably other more modern, interesting books that communicate the same points. I’m curious how many people recommend that book just because it’s the book that everyone else recommends instead of actually enjoying it. I bet more than many would like to admit.

It’s work to go against the conventional and more often than not, the conventional approach is the most effective way to get where you’re going. But save some space in your life for the unconventional. The unconventional has the most asymmetric upside.

—Quito, Ecuador

Aug 28, 2021

Blueprint for a perfect day

Jumping off of yesterday’s post about daily habits that benefit everyone (reading, writing, reflection, and exercise) I’d like to imagine what a perfect day might look like that incorporates those habits.

So let’s imagine that you are lucky enough to be making a living doing something creative. You are your own boss. You don’t have a 9-to-5 job doing something that isn’t meaningful to you. You create and sell your own work. Here’s what your perfect day might look like:

You wake up, grab a cup of coffee, and get right into deep work on your most important project. You’re only going to spend roughly 4 hours working on it. I’m too lazy to look up where I heard this but you only have about 3-5 hours of truly good work in you on any given day before you start reaching a point of diminishing returns. The figure sounds reasonable to me so let’s go with it.

After a quick brunch, your afternoon consists of the habits discussed yesterday with an hour dedicated to each one. 

First, you might spend an hour of reflection on a long walk.

Next, you write. It doesn’t matter what you write about and it doesn’t matter that you don’t have an audience. I recommend publishing whatever you write anyways as if someone is going to read it because it will force you to get better at communicating your thoughts.

Then, you read. Read whatever you’re drawn to. I’m personally a fan of non-fiction but reading anything can be a great source of ideas.

Finally, you do a workout and sweat it all out. That completes the productive part of your day within 8 hours (plus the time spent eating).

You’ll want to reserve 8 hours for sleep at the end of the day so the remaining 7-8 hours in your perfect day before heading to bed gets allocated to everything else in your life. Most likely that involves eating dinner, running errands, checking email, and spending time with the people you love.

Aug 27, 2021

Daily habits for everyone

In pursuit of self-development, I have tried many hacks to improve myself. Most were fads that I was into for a short time. I obnoxiously recommended them to other people as if they were an important part of my identity when, in fact, I was just trying them out. There was an immediate benefit that eventually faded before I dropped them completely.

But some habits have stood the test of time. Here are some things I have developed a habit of doing regularly (some of them daily) that I think I will continue to do and can benefit anyone. Perhaps some of these will be future fads but I don’t think so at the moment.

Read. I read a lot as a kid and stopped because it wasn’t cool to do so in middle school and high school. I also didn’t value it much in college or my early 20s. I listened to audiobooks and podcasts and thought reading was overrated. But for the past year, I have picked up reading again and it truly has been a joy. I think there is absolutely a place for audio learning but consuming information through text and being able to highlight important points feels like an important part of my day now.

Write. I wrote and published a daily journal for over 100 days. While I often dreaded doing it and have since reduced the frequency of it, I have to admit in retrospect that I reaped a lot of unexpected benefit. First of all, the habit of writing everyday has drastically improved my writing compared to what it used to be. Additionally, an unexpected side effect of writing more consistently is that my communication when speaking has also improved. The ability to communicate my ideas more clearly has made me much better off in every other aspect of my life.

Reflect. Admittedly, I have been skipping this one a bit recently but it is noticeably a necessary habit in my life for stable mental health. I meet weekly with a therapist but I’ve been thinking about cancelling it and instead opting for more self-reflection. Therapy just facilitates a conversation with yourself with the guidance of a professional. If you can have the discipline to set aside a decent chunk of time to sit with your thoughts without distractions (no music, podcasts, videos, reading, internet, etc.) then it will have the same benefit as seeing a therapist.

Exercise. Working out sucks when you’re not in shape. A few years ago, I was well over 200 pounds at only 5’8 and getting back into working out was dreadful. However now, I am happy to say that exercise feels great and I don’t ever want to go back to my out-of-shape self. Don’t take your body for granted. Move it while you still can.

None of these habits directly cover how one makes a living day-to-day but I think they all indirectly improve our health, wealth, and happiness and can be applied to anyone.

Aug 19, 2021

Fool-proof method for a productive day

I’ve written extensively about quarterly planning and breaking down how to plan your weeks for a productive life. Now, I want to discuss in further detail my fool-proof method for planning and executing a productive day’s worth of work.

The required tools

I used to do all of my daily planning entirely on paper in a planner except it became incredibly tedious writing everything out the week before, especially when there were a lot of recurring tasks showing up everyday. 

I then switched to an entirely digital approach using Todoist. This fixed the issue of recurring tasks but now I had the problem of having to use a distracting Internet-connected device to manage my to-do list. Checking my to-do list became as bad a habit as checking social media.

The approach I have settled on now, which I have found to be the best, is using both. Todoist (or some other software equivalent) is great for planning the week because all tasks that need to be recurring automatically populate the days they need to. But at the end of each day, I check the next day’s planned items and time-box them in a paper planner.

The paper planner is what I actually look at during the day and at the end of the day I can check those items off in Todoist so I’m not constantly checking my phone throughout the day. 

Timing your day

The key to a productive day starts the night before. Do you want to get up and start your day super early? Then you better be planning to go to bed super early. Otherwise, you’re just engaging in wishful thinking. Getting crappy sleep is not a long-term solution.

I’m personally fine starting my day around 7 so I plan to be in bed by 11 for 8 hours of rest. Maybe you need more or less but figure out what’s sustainable for you.

Once you know what time you’re going to start your day, plan out your first task. Some people’s morning routines involve meditation or physical exercise and I have experimented with all of that but I strongly advise doing your most important work first.

Fancy drawn out morning routines can bleed into procrastinating the hard, important work that you need to do. Your willpower to get shit done is strongest first thing in the morning. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and chip away at it. Allow yourself 3 to 5 hours of uninterrupted time to work. Crushing the most important thing first will energize you to get through the rest of the day because it’s all downhill from there.

After giving yourself at least 3 hours for the most important thing, time-box the rest of your schedule. Make sure to account for lunch and allow some breathing room throughout the day in case something unexpected comes up.

Some tasks that are included in a productive day’s worth of work for me are reading, writing, and physical exercise. Don’t plan for your productive day to take up more than 12 hours. At the end of the day, time-box your tasks for the next day and leave a few hours for yourself to regroup before getting to bed.

Aug 06, 2021

How Elon Musk solves difficult problems

Although this video was supposed to be about his rockets, it ended up being an insightful look into how Elon Musk approaches problem-solving. Here are the steps he lays out:

Step 1: Question requirements

When we think about problems and potential solutions, it’s easy to lose sight of what actually matters. With building rockets, it’s especially important not to add unnecessary features. By having simpler parts, you lower the number of points of failure. Don’t add unnecessary mechanisms for a tiny gain.

Step 2: Delete parts

The figure he gives for each iteration of the rockets is that at least 10% should be removed or else you are not removing enough things. Similar to the first step, constantly question if something needs to be kept and look for opportunities to remove parts or steps in the process.

Step 3: Optimize & simplify

It is important to do this step after you have already done the first two steps. The most common mistake that even smart engineers make is optimizing something that should not exist at all.

Step 4: Accelerate cycle time

Find ways to iterate faster. Again, it is crucial to do this after the other three steps. Accelerating iteration on a bad solution is just digging your grave faster.

Step 5: Automate

Finally, after you have settled on a good solution, automate it.

He has learned these steps through trial and error over his career. He gave an example within Tesla of a scenario where they actually did these steps in reverse and ended up wasting resources. Ultimately, the thing they were trying to automate and optimize didn’t need to be built in the first place.

I’ll leave you with one last quote from Elon that didn’t really fit anywhere else in this piece but I liked it:

All designs are wrong, it’s just a matter of how wrong.

Jul 30, 2021

The flow of time

Our experience of time gets faster as we get older. When you’re a kid, a year is a long time. It is less so when you’re an adult. 

What I didn’t fully consider until speaking with my friend’s dad the other day is that this acceleration of time doesn’t seem to slow down. The analogy that he used to describe this experience is like the unraveling of a roll of paper. 

Imagine a roll of paper being pulled and unraveled at a constant speed. That’s time. Now, think about the roll in the center. At first, it spins slowly. But as you get closer to running out of paper, it spins faster. The spinning roll is your experience of time.

In our lifetimes, we could figure out how to extend our lives much longer than our current life expectancy. We might even live for centuries instead of decades. All of that extra time seems like a lot but when you consider how our experience of time keeps accelerating, it might not be much different than what we have now.

Not everyone is as anxious as I am about running out of time so if you’re already at peace with your mortality or not even thinking about it yet then this doesn’t concern you. But if you’re like me, this thought is sobering. Whatever you want in life, you gotta start doing it now.

Jul 20, 2021

Summer 2021 plan


  • Cut weight to 165 pounds
  • Box once per week
  • Eat out for less than a third of meals


  • Simple String Theory dashboard with following functionalities:

    • Update page information
    • Add custom products
    • Organize products into collections
  • String Theory review system

  • String Theory business maintenance

    • On-board 5 new stringers
    • Get 10 challenge
    • String one head for sale per week


Jul 19, 2021

Spring 2021 retro

The good

There’s a lot of progress made on String Theory that I should be proud of. First off, I did a lot of orders for Northport players and did a good job of making myself well known as a stringer during the playoffs. Next, we added another team member, Makaela, to help us out with marketing. Finally, we also on-boarded four other people besides myself to string and built up some confidence for the String Theory concept. Somebody even reached out to us and asked to become a “theorist”.

Aside from String Theory, there wasn’t too much else that went well. I am walking almost everyday and enjoying that time each day away from the Internet and reactivity. I also learned a lot from reading Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss as is evident from my blogging the past few months mostly being ideas I learned from that book.

The bad

My health took a bit of a step back this quarter. I gained five pounds and am now weighing over 170. Em and I didn’t commit to the dance class that we initially thought we wanted to do. In hindsight, I might’ve been expecting too much with that.

While the String Theory business grew, I did not make much progress in terms of building new features into the website. String Theory needs more functionality to support more growth.

Writing every day has finally taken its toll on me. It is too much for me and I don’t feel focused enough on what’s important right now: getting String Theory to a healthy place where it is useful for many people and provides a good enough income stream for me to quit my day job.

My reading was also all over the place this past quarter. Even though it is so highly recommended, How to Win Friends & Influence People was a very dry read for me because the references in the book are so outdated.

Looking ahead

The key word for this quarter is focus. I’m taking on less commitments and really want to focus on improving the String Theory website. Now that it is the offseason, I have a chance to implement features that will slingshot our growth into next season. 

I am only committing to write this blog once per week instead of the daily writing I have been doing for the last 6 months. I also would like to correct the step backwards that my health took last quarter and get that back to a good place.

Jun 22, 2021

The similarity principle

The similarity principle states that we trust people more when we view them as being similar or familiar. People trust those who are in their in-group. 

Similarities as shallow as club memberships or college alumni status increase rapport. That’s why in many cultures negotiators spend large amounts of time building rapport before they even think of offers.

Effective listening is key for using this principle to your advantage in a negotiation. Find out what similarities you share and casually bring them up in conversation to build better rapport with your counterpart. It will lead to better deals.

Jun 21, 2021

Normative leverage

Normative leverage is using the other party’s norms and standards to advance your position. If you can show inconsistencies between their beliefs and their actions, you have normative leverage. No one wants to look like a hypocrite.

For example, if your counterpart lets slip that they normally pay a certain multiple of cash flow when they buy a company, you can frame your desired price in a way that reflects that valuation. 

Or consider another example when selling a used car: if your counterpart says they only pay the Kelley Blue Book value for a car, then you can set your price at the Blue Book value and they will have no room to negotiate without breaking the norm they set.

Discovering normative leverage can be as easy as asking your counterpart what they believe and listening openly.

Jun 18, 2021

Negative leverage

Opposite to positive leverage, negative leverage is a negotiator’s ability to make their counterpart suffer. It is based on threats like “If you don’t do X, then I will destroy your reputation.” 

This sort of leverage gets people’s attention because of loss aversion: people are more likely to act in order to avoid a loss than to achieve a similar gain. That said, it is best to avoid making direct threats at all and be extremely careful with making even subtle ones. 

If you try to shove negative leverage down your counterpart’s throat, it might be perceived as you taking away their autonomy. People will often sooner die than give up their autonomy.

A more subtle technique is to label your negative leverage and make it clear without attacking. For instance, a sentence like “It seems like you don’t care what position you’re leaving me in.” is a vague threat that can open up the negotiation process if your counterpart isn’t being cooperative.

Jun 17, 2021

Positive leverage

Positive leverage is simply your ability as a negotiator to provide things that your counterpart wants.

Whenever your counterpart says, “I want…”, you have positive leverage. When they say that, you have power because you can make their desire come true. Or you can withhold it and inflict pain or use their desire to get a better deal with another party.

Even if you don’t have other offers or the interested buyer is your first choice, you have more power than before your counterpart revealed their desire to work with you. That is why experienced negotiators will delay making a counteroffer in order to not give up leverage.

Positive leverage should improve your psychology in a negotiation. Even if it’s not the offer you want yet, you’ve gone from a situation where you want something to one where you both want something from each other. Once you have it, you can identify other things the person wants in order to get the deal done.

Jun 16, 2021

Three types of leverage

In theory, leverage is the ability to inflict loss and withhold gain. In practice, where our irrational perceptions are our reality, loss and gain are fluid, and it often doesn’t matter what leverage actually exists against you; what really matters is the leverage they think you have on them. 

Negotiation expert, Chris Voss, says there is always leverage: as an essentially emotional concept, it can be manufactured whether it exists or not. To get leverage, you have to persuade your counterpart that they have something real to lose if the deal falls through. 

There are three kinds of leverage: Positive, Negative, and Normative. I will dedicate a separate post to discuss each one.

Jun 10, 2021

Forget what you learned in school to write better

If you want to be sure that almost nobody reads your writing, write like an academic. If, instead, you actually want to communicate ideas to an audience:

  1. Replace ten dollar words with ten cent words. If someone needs a dictionary to understand you then you have already lost them.
  2. Use less words. There’s no minimum page limit. Most people only have the time and attention for a few sentences so make them count!

I still fall into these traps more often than I’d like. Old habits die hard, I guess. However, use these two rules of thumb to unbrainwash yourself of the bad writing habits you learned in school.

Jun 09, 2021

Ackerman bargaining

Much of the negotiation tactics that I’ve written about from the book Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss is a form of psychological judo to avoid haggling and letting your counterpart bid against themselves. However, from time to time, you’re going to be forced into bargaining with a hard-ass haggler. In those situations, you should use the Ackerman model. It is a systematized process to bargaining with four steps:

  1. Set your target price or goal and calculate 3 other numbers: 65, 85, and 95 percent of your target. Your first offer will be 65 percent of your target.
  2. Use lots of empathy and different ways of saying “no” to get the other side to counter before you increase your offer.
  3. When calculating the final amount, use precise, oddly specific numbers like, say, $37,893 instead of $38,000. It gives the number credibility and weight.
  4. On your final number, throw in a non monetary item (that they probably don’t want) to show you’re at your limit.

The genius of this system is that it incorporates many of the psychological biases discussed previously such as reciprocity, extreme anchors, loss aversion, etc. without needing to think about using them.

First, the original offer of 65 percent of your target is an extreme anchor that will slap your counterpart in the face and bring them right to their price limit. An inexperienced negotiator may immediately give you their best offer but most experienced ones will have expected the anchor.

Then, your offer is going to get progressively better which will inspire reciprocity from the person you’re negotiating with. Also, notice how the increase in each progressive offer is diminishing. This convinces your counterpart that they are squeezing you to the point of breaking so that by the time you reach your target, they will truly feel they got as much as they could out of you.

Finally, the oddly specific target number that you have in mind will convince your counterpart it really is your best offer.

Jun 04, 2021

Don’t create enemies

In any negotiation, the most vital principle to keep in mind is to never look at your counterpart as an enemy. The person across the table is never the problem. The unsolved issue at hand is, so focus on that. 

Treating the other person as if they are against you is toxic to any negotiation. Punching back against an aggressor is a last resort but an attempt at de-escalation is always preferred first. Taking a step back from heated bargaining will help your counterpart regain a sense of agency and control and they will appreciate you for that.

If you can’t come to an agreement, you have to be willing to walk away and it is best to part on good terms. Never be needy for a deal and don’t create enemies.

Jun 03, 2021

Start and never quit

No matter what your vision of success is, there are only two things you need to do to make it happen:

  1. Start right now. Don’t wait until you are “ready”. Just start doing something.
  2. Never give up. In most worthwhile pursuits, results don’t come linearly. Expect to grind for years or decades with no progress seeming to be made.

As long as you don’t run out of time (one lifetime should be long enough), have faith that you will get what you want.

Jun 02, 2021

May 2021 retro

The good

Some good things happened for String Theory last month. We had a surge of orders. They were generated from word getting around for girls playing on the same lacrosse team. This gave me confidence that our service is good enough to be remarkable but we just need to get more people to try it. We also had potential interest from one stringer to work with us. It hasn’t worked out yet with them but it’s a step in the right direction to getting more people to join the platform. We found somebody to help us with social media marketing on Instagram. This will relieve me of some concerns with posting and being active there. On a totally unrelated note, Em and I found an online dance class website which is a fun weekly activity for us to do together.

The bad

I haven’t been consistently reading, writing or walking everyday and need to build those habits back up. I’m falling behind on reading one book per month so I want to catch up. Some of my expectations for String Theory last month were duds. Discounts on pricing don’t seem to be incentivizing anyone to try out the service. Instead, I believe it might be making our service seem less valuable. There also does not seem to be any interest for us to be doing team apparel at the moment.

Looking ahead

This upcoming month I’m going to focus on consistently doing the habits I’ve been slacking on. I am looking forward to a nice long week off at the end of this month. With regards to String Theory, I don’t have a clear path forward but some things to think about. While discounts didn’t seem to work, offering free stringing did. It removed any risk from potential customers and one person even chose to pay after we strung for them. In terms of onboarding other people, what would light a fire under stringers’ asses to get them to string and sell for String Theory? What kinds of incentives or disincentives can we create?

May 28, 2021

Problems are inevitable

Problems are not a bad thing. They are inevitable. Life would be boring without them. 

Try to change your perspective on them. They are not ruining your life. They give meaning to your life. 

View problems as an opportunity for improvement. Progress is satisfying.

May 27, 2021

My octopus teacher

I finally got around to watching this documentary last night. The filmmaker’s obsession and relationship with the octopus is bizarre but I enjoyed it. 

I was very moved by the life of this octopus. The experience of watching this documentary made me reflect on my own mortality.

Life is full of contradictions. Our lives are both insignificant and significant, finite and infinite, simple and complex. We are all connected through this unusual experience of being alive.

In the last entry I wrote, I was stressed and feeling a bit down on myself. I think I’d really benefit from not taking myself so seriously. Eventually, I will learn not to.

May 25, 2021

Checking in and feeling sluggish

I feel sluggish lately. I am overwhelmed by the number of things I want to get done and as a result, I procrastinate, which only makes matters worse.

I don’t have a great tip or hack for dealing with this; this is just a status check of how I’m doing at the moment. In the past, forcing myself to sit down and spend at least a few minutes on something would help but it’s not really helping for the kind of anxiety I’ve been feeling lately. 

On a macro level, I want to do so many things each day. I want to read, write, and exercise everyday. Then, there’s String Theory and my day job. I have resistance against doing each of these things and within String Theory, there is so much work to do and a lot of it is not the kind of work I typically like doing.

So, I’ve been retreating into Twitter and YouTube. Twitter, in particular, is a terrible place to hangout. Everyone is “building in public” and talks about the importance of having a “personal brand” to promote your work. I suspect a lot of it is bull shit but it’s seductive and leads me into the truly toxic habit of comparing myself to others.

If I find an effective way of managing the anxiety and getting shit done, I will write an update about it but for now, I’m just leaving you with an outline of my predicament. I hope this makes someone feel better if they feel this way too, knowing that they’re not alone.

May 24, 2021

Do it now

I really enjoyed this conversation between Tim Ferriss and Chip Wilson, founder of Lululemon. When he turned 60, he asked his dad what his advice would be to his 60-year-old self and after a day of thinking about it, here’s what he said:

Do it now. Do it right fucking now.

I loved this response. I’m relatively young right now and it’s easy to waste time when you feel like you have so much of it. But life is shorter than any of us would like it to be. 

Don’t save the life you want to live for a future when you imagine you will have more security and freedom. Whatever it is that you want to do, do it before you feel ready. 

Do it now. Do it right fucking now.

May 21, 2021

Write what you read

Just so it’s clear, I don’t know shit about negotiation from personal experience even though I’ve been writing about it a lot lately. 

All of the ideas on negotiation I have written are from Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, an FBI hostage negotiation expert. I don’t credit Chris in every post because it would ruin the flow of my writing but if I’m talking about negotiation I learned it from this book.

Writing down ideas, especially when paraphrased in your own words, makes them easier to remember and implement. I think I will keep doing this indefinitely with other books and recommend the practice to anyone interested in self development.

So here’s a disclaimer going forward in case anyone thinks I’m trying to steal content and pass it off as my own: many of the ideas I write about are not mine. Even the ones that I think are original, probably came from somewhere else.

May 19, 2021

Taking a punch

Negotiation academics like to treat bargaining as a rational process. A popularly discussed idea is ZOPA—the Zone of Possible Agreement. That is the space between the lowest offer a seller will accept and the highest offer a buyer will pay. It’s a very rational concept except it doesn’t turn out to be so useful in a real negotiation.

Experienced negotiators often lead with a ridiculous offer, an extreme anchor to knock you off your bearings. If you’re not ready for it, you’ll immediately reach for your best prepared offer and be at a huge disadvantage.

As a well-prepared negotiator who seeks information and gathers it relentlessly, you’re actually going to want your counterpart to name their price first, because you want to see their hand. Welcome the extreme anchor but be careful not to let your emotions in response to it cause you to start bidding against yourself.

In response to the initial offer, you will want to deflect in a way that opens your counterpart up to reveal more information. One way to do this is with a calibrated question like “How am I supposed to accept that?” delivered in a deferential way. Another option is to immediately pivot to non monetary terms and discuss implementation details to avoid being dragged into a situation where you’re haggling.

May 18, 2021

Using the different styles of negotiation

While it is useful to know which style of negotiation you lean towards, it is even more important to understand the differences between them so you can understand your counterpart better and how to deal with them.

The greatest challenge to identifying someone else’s style is the assumption that many people have that others view the world the same way they do. While that is an innocent and understandable assumption, it is the most damaging one to have in a negotiation. With that assumption, we will unconsciously project our style onto the other person and then be confused why negotiations aren’t going as expected.

When it comes to negotiating, the Golden Rule is wrong. Instead, don’t treat others the way you want to be treated; treat them the way they need to be treated.

May 17, 2021

Assertive style of negotiation

Assertive types of negotiators are direct and candid. They believe time is money so they have little patience for relationship building if it doesn’t seem like you’re getting anything done. Above all else, they love winning, often at the expense of others.

Their view of business relationships is based on respect. They want to be heard and don’t have the ability to listen until they know that you’ve heard them. They focus on their own goals rather than people and they tell rather than ask.

When dealing with an assertive style negotiator, focus on what they have to say, because once they are convinced you understand them, they will listen to your point of view. Every silence is an opportunity for them to speak more. Mirrors are a wonderful tool to use on this type of negotiator to keep them talking.

When it comes to reciprocity, this type is of the “give an inch/take a mile” mentality. They will figure that they deserve whatever you have given them so they will be oblivious to owing something in return. They will actually simply look for an opportunity to receive more. If they give a concession, they are surely waiting for something in return. For this reason, do not offer anything with the expectation of a return concession from this type.

If you are an assertive type, be conscious of your tone. You will not intend to be overly harsh but you will often come off that way. Intentionally soften your tone and work to make it more pleasant. Use calibrated questions and labels with your counterpart since that will also make you more approachable and increase the chances of collaboration.

May 12, 2021

Accommodator style of negotiation

The accommodator style negotiator is sociable and friendly. The most important thing to them is spending time building the relationship with their counterpart. Out of the three styles, they are most likely to build great rapport without actually accomplishing much.

Accommodators will want to remain friends even if they can’t reach an agreement. They are easy to talk to and have pleasant voices. They will often yield concessions hoping the other person will reciprocate.

If you are negotiating with someone like this, be sociable and friendly with them. Listen to them talk about their ideas and use calibrated questions focused specifically on implementation to nudge them along and find ways to translate their talk into action. Due to their tendency to be the first to start the reciprocity cycle, they may have agreed to give you something they can’t actually deliver.

While it is very easy to disagree with them, because they want nothing more than to hear what you have to say, uncovering their objections can be difficult. They will have identified problem areas beforehand and leave them unaddressed out of fear of conflict.

If this style sounds like you, stick to your ability to be very likable, but do not sacrifice your objections. Also be conscious of excess chitchat: the other two types of negotiators have no use for it, and if you’re sitting across the table from another accommodator like yourself, you will be prone to interactions that don’t get anything done.

May 11, 2021

Analyst style of negotiation

The analyst style negotiator is methodical and diligent. They pride themselves on not missing any details in their extensive preparation. They will research for weeks to get data they could get at the negotiating table in a few minutes just to avoid being surprised. They hate surprises.

Analysts rarely show emotion. They often speak in a way that is distant and cold instead of soothing. This puts people off without them realizing it.

They are hypersensitive to reciprocity. If they give you a piece and you do not offer anything in return within a certain period of time, they will lose trust and disengage. This can seem to come out of nowhere. 

Any new information from a counterpart will result in them wanting to spend time evaluating it. Don’t expect immediate counter proposals from this type of individual.

Analysts are skeptical by nature so asking them too many questions in the beginning of a negotiation is a bad idea because they are not going to want to answer without understanding the implications. Use data and focus on facts to reason with them.

Apologies have little value because they see the negotiation and their relationship with you as a person as largely separate things.They are not quick to answer calibrated questions or closed-ended questions when the answer is “yes”.

If this style sounds like you, you should be worried about cutting yourself off from an essential source of data: your counterpart. The single biggest thing you can do is smile when you speak. People will be more receptive to you as a result. Smiling can also mask moments you become caught off guard.

May 10, 2021

Three styles of negotiators

There are three styles of negotiators: analysts, accommodators, and assertive. People tend to gravitate towards one style over the others but it’s fluid and can be adjusted. Here’s a breakdown of each:


Methodical and diligent. They don’t like to be rushed to make a decision. They work towards the best result in a systematic way. Their self-image is linked to minimizing mistakes.


Sociable and friendly. The most important thing to this style of negotiator is time spent nurturing the relationship with their counterpart. They love the win-win scenario.


Direct and candid. They believe time is money and their self-image is linked to how much they can get done in a period of time. They love winning above all else, often at the expense of others.

The assertive style of negotiator is the classic stereotype seen in movies but in reality, it is rarer for assertive types to be successful. Most successful negotiation requires a certain level of cooperation that strictly assertive individuals tend to lack the inclination for. All of these styles can be effective and to be truly great, you need elements of all three.

Over the next few days, I will dive into each style more thoroughly and discuss the best way to negotiate with each type.

May 08, 2021

How to get someone to bid against themselves

In a negotiation, the art of getting someone to bid against themself is by saying “no” without actually using the word. Using the word would indicate you’re not willing to work with the other person but by using calibrated questions and other indirect means, you can say “no” in a way that invites the other person to think of ways to sweeten the deal for you.

Here are three ways you can say “no” without actually saying it:

  1. “How am I supposed to do that?” or some version of the same question is the classic go-to first step. It must be said in a deferential way so that it becomes a request for help instead of conflict.
  2. “Your offer is very generous, I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me.” is an elegant way to say “no” after the first “no”. The use of the word “generous” nurtures your counterpart to live up to the word and “I’m sorry” softens the “no” and builds empathy. Ignore so-called experts who say apologies are a sign of weakness.
  3. “I’m sorry but I’m afraid I just can’t do that.” It’s a little more direct than the last one.

Finally, if your counterpart still doesn’t have a deal that works for you, you can directly say “I’m sorry, no.” If delivered gently, it barely sounds negative.

By saying “no” in these ways and working with a counterpart who genuinely wants to do business with you, the offer should get closer to what you want with each successive “no”.

May 07, 2021

Use your name

People love the sound of their own name. Using somebody’s name in conversation is a tactic written about in the best-seller How to Win Friends and Influence People and mentioned in many other books on sales and negotiation.

In fact, it is so well-known that salesmen have tarnished its effect by beating their clients over the head with it to the point that it can signal to someone that you are trying to manipulate them. It is still important to use and not overuse people’s names when talking shop with them. 

However, a little known tactic is using your own name to your benefit. By introducing yourself, saying your name in a fun and friendly way, you humanize yourself to the other person. 

In Chris Voss’s book Never Split the Difference he talks about the concept of the “Chris discount”. I’ll save you the details of the story and get to the punchline. When trying to get a discount in an outlet store he used the line: “My name is Chris. What’s the Chris discount?” and it worked! Try using your own name to get a special price.

May 06, 2021

Pay attention to pronouns

In a negotiation, the more somebody uses first person pronouns like “I”, “me” or “my”, the less important that person is in the decision making process. Conversely, the less they use first person pronouns, the more important they probably are. 

Similar to liars distancing themselves from a lie, smart decision makers try to avoid being cornered into making a decision in the moment by deferring to other people. 

If you notice this when dealing with someone then they are probably the person you need to convince.

May 05, 2021

The Pinocchio effect

The character Pinocchio is famous for his nose growing every time he lies. It turns out that everyone has a similar telltale sign that they are lying too.

On average, liars use more words than someone telling the truth. They also use more third person pronouns. They talk about him, her, them, they, it, or their instead of I in order to distance themselves from the lie they are telling. Liars also tend to speak in more complex sentences as a way to win over a suspicious counterpart by sounding smart.

This is known as the Pinocchio effect because instead of somebody’s nose getting bigger, their sentences tend to get bigger as they lie. Use this observation to detect if the person you’re dealing with is speaking the truth.

May 04, 2021

The rule of three

The “Rule of Three” is simply getting the other person to agree to something three times in the same conversation.

You have no doubt experienced a situation where someone said “yes” to something that later turned out to be a “no”. People have become so accustomed to pushy salesmen that they have gotten very good at saying “yes” in the moment without any intention of following through. 

To avoid this trap and to be sure you’re getting a genuine “yes”, you want to get three confirmations. While people are good at giving a fake “yes” in the moment, it is difficult for most people to repeatedly lie. The trick to this tactic is being able to do this without seeming pushy. 

In order to do it without seeming like you’re repeating yourself, you want to switch up your tactics of getting a confirmation. After they first agree to something, you might follow up with labels and summaries of what they’re saying to get a “That’s right.” Then you might use some calibrated questions about implementation so they can explain to you how you’re going to move forward together. That would be the third confirmation.

No matter how you do it, seek three confirmations to be sure negotiations aren’t going to fall through when you’re done meeting with the other person.

May 03, 2021

April 2021 retro

The good

I’ve added the necessary functionality for String Theory to support more products. We have committed to marketing and have been very active on Instagram. We also set up Google search ads to get seen by more people.

The bad

String Theory’s marketing efforts are not working. We’re not investing money in the right places or doing a good job of communicating our value proposition. We expected this to be a big month and we only did a couple hundred dollars in sales. We are still dead in the water.

Looking ahead

We are making a few changes to our marketing approach. First, we are going to offer a significant discount (50% off) for first-time users of our service to incentivize people to try it. This promotion will be advertised on Google. Second, we are going to be reaching out to some people to test our service for free in exchange for honest, public feedback (a review on Google). Third, we are going to focus our efforts on our hometown Northport. We will work with the booster clubs to create merchandise that the teams would be interested in and donate portions of the sales back to the community.

Apr 28, 2021

The 7-38-55 Percent Rule

In two famous studies, UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian quantified the importance of words, tone, and body language in what makes us like or dislike somebody. The numbers he came up with is that only 7 percent of the message relies on words, 38 percent comes from tone, and 55 percent from body language.

Although difficult to accurately quantify, these numbers give us a rough indication that your tone and body language when communicating are much more important than the substance of what you’re saying. 

How can we benefit from knowing this?

First, when discussing business with a potential client, face-to-face is best, over-the-phone is second best, and email is the worst way to communicate with them. Many people prefer the ease of email but you are going to get better results if you can get facetime.

Second, you should pay more attention to someone’s body language than their words. If someone says they want to work with you but their body language is indicating that they’re hesitant, that is a good sign they are not being forthcoming with how they truly feel. You should dig deeper to make sure you’re on the same page and that your counterpart feels respected.

Apr 28, 2021

Yes is nothing without how

Calibrated “how” questions are a surefire way to keep negotiations going. They put pressure on your counterpart to come up with answers and think about how to solve your problems.

The trick to these types of questions is that they are gentle ways of saying “no” without actually having to say it. Instead of a simple “no”, which would be viewed as working against the other person, “how” invites them to collaborate on a better solution with you.

By making your counterpart articulate implementation with carefully crafted “how” questions, they will believe the final solution is their idea. This is crucial because people always make more effort to implement a solution they think is theirs. That’s why negotiation is often called “the art of letting someone else have your way.”

There are two key questions you can ask to push your counterpart to defining success their way:

  1. How will we know we’re on track?
  2. How will we address things if we find we’re off track?

When they answer these questions, you should summarize their response back to them until you get a “That’s right.”

On the flip side, there are two phrases your counterpart will say if they don’t really believe the solution is theirs:

  1. You’re right.
  2. I’ll try.

“I’ll try” in particular should give you a sinking feeling in your stomach because this really means, “I plan to fail.”

If you hear either of these responses, you should dive back into more calibrated questions until victory is felt by the other side so you can be sure of smooth implementation.

Apr 27, 2021

How to keep your cool

Calibrated questions are great but without self-control and emotional regulation, it doesn’t work. The first and most basic rule of keeping your emotional cool in a negotiation is to bite your tongue. You have to stay away from knee-jerk, passionate reactions.

The Japanese have this figured out. When negotiating with foreigners, it’s common practice for a Japanese businessman to use a translator even when they understand perfectly what the other person is saying. That’s because speaking through a translator forces them to step back and take time to frame the response.

Another simple rule is, when you are verbally assaulted, do not counterattack. Instead, disarm your counterpart by asking a calibrated question.

The basic issue here is that when people feel they are not in control, they react by becoming extremely defensive or lashing out. This leads to our rational brain being overwhelmed by the fight-or-flight mechanism in the limbic system. Negotiations in this mental state only lead to bad outcomes.

Apr 26, 2021

The problem with "why"

One of the words for open-ended questions that I left out in the last post on calibrated questions is “why”. There’s a good reason for this: no matter where in the world you are or what language you are using, “why” is almost always received as accusatory and makes people feel defensive.

There is only one situation where you might want to use “why” to nudge someone to see your perspective. If you use it as an accusatory statement towards yourself, you can make the other person feel defensive for your perspective.

For example, you might say, “You’re probably asking yourself why you would ever want to switch to using our business instead of your current provider,” and then follow up with some labels about their perspective of what they are looking for in a business like yours and what you’re offering.

This is the only situation you might use it but since it is tricky to get right with wording and tone of voice, it is best left unused when in doubt.

Apr 24, 2021

Create the illusion of control

The secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation is giving the other side the illusion of control. An effective way to do this is with calibrated, open-ended questions.

Calibrated questions have the power to educate your counterpart on what the problem is rather than causing conflict by telling them what the problem is. You have to design questions that will ease the conversation in the direction you want to go while letting the person you’re negotiating with think it’s their idea to take you there.

What are calibrated questions?

  1. They avoid words like “can”, “is”, “are”, “do” or “does”. These words are typically used in closed-ended questions that have “yes” or “no” answers.
  2. They start with “what” and “how”.

Here are some great examples:

  • What is the biggest challenge you face?
  • What about this is important to you?
  • How can I help to make this better for us?
  • How would you like me to proceed?
  • What is it that brought us into this situation?
  • How can we solve this problem?
  • What’s the objective? What are we trying to accomplish here?
  • How am I supposed to do that?

The implication of any well-designed calibrated question is that you want what the other person wants but you need their intelligence to overcome the problem.

Apr 23, 2021

Surprise with a gift

You can get your counterpart into a mood of generosity by staking an extreme anchor and then, after their inevitable first rejection, offering them a wholly unrelated surprise gift.

Gestures like this are effective because they trigger reciprocity. They will suddenly come up on their offer or look to repay your kindness in the future. People feel obliged to repay debts of kindness.

Apr 22, 2021

Use odd numbers

When you do talk numbers in a negotiation, use odd numbers. Rounded numbers feel like placeholders that can be easily negotiated away from. Odd numbers feel specific and calculated.

When it comes to sales, you can use the same strategy for pricing depending on the image you want your brand to have. If you want your customers to feel like they are getting the lowest possible price, use odd numbers. If you’re going for more of a premium feel, use even numbers.

Apr 21, 2021

Pivot to non-monetary terms

Pivot to non-monetary terms

This post is going to be directly lifted from Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss:

People get hung up on “How much?” But don’t deal with numbers in isolation. That leads to bargaining, a series of rigid positions defined by emotional views of fairness and pride. Negotiation is a more intricate and subtle dynamic than that.

One of the easiest ways to bend your counterpart’s reality to your point of view is by pivoting to non-monetary terms. After you’ve anchored them high, you can make your offer seem reasonable by offering things that aren’t important to you but could be important to them. Or if their offer is low you could ask for things that matter more to you than them.

What are some things you can offer? Maybe a warranty on your product or service to give them peace of mind?

What are some things you might want? Maybe they can help promote you and your business?

Step away from the numbers and talk about the execution details that might make the deal better for everyone involved.

Apr 20, 2021

Establish a range

While going first rarely helps, there is one way to seem to make an offer and bend their reality in the process by alluding to a range.

When confronted with naming your terms or price, counter by recalling a similar deal which establishes the ideal “ballpark” you would like to be in. Instead of saying, “I’m worth $100,000,” it is better to say, “At top places like your company, people in this job get between $130,000 and $170,000.” 

What’s great about this response is that you start off by complimenting the company and saying it’s a “top place” to set the standards high. Then you state a range that “people in this job” get instead of saying you’re worth something in that range. By deflecting the focus from yourself, it gets your point across without making the other person defensive.

When stating a range, expect your counterpart to lean towards the lower end so the lower end of your range should be what you really want.

Apr 19, 2021

Let the other person go first

In negotiations, you should almost always try to let the other side anchor first.

I have definitely made this mistake before in a salary negotiation. In my first and only job out of college, when asked what I expected to make, my initial offer was so low that the offer they countered with was 25% higher than what I was asking for. Who knows what I could’ve gotten had I actually gave a number they had to negotiate down from.

The issue is that neither side has perfect information when going in. This means you don’t know enough to open with confidence. That being said, you have to be careful when letting the other side go first. If the person you’re dealing with is a professional, they will open the negotiation with an extreme anchor to bend your reality. Keep this in mind when you hear their first offer and don’t let it throw you off.

Sometimes the other person insists on you going first, in which case, the next tactic I will discuss will help you respond appropriately.

Apr 17, 2021

Anchor their emotions

To bend your counterpart’s reality, start out with an accusation audit acknowledging their fears. By anchoring their emotions in preparation for a loss, you ignite their loss aversion so that they’ll jump at the chance to avoid it.

This is particularly useful in a situation of hiring someone for a job that you can’t afford to pay too much for. If you give them an offer straight up and it’s not particularly lucrative, you will not do a good job of convincing them to help you out. A better approach is to acknowledge that your offer isn’t great but you want to give them the opportunity before finding someone else. For example:

I got a lousy proposition for you. We can pay you $X for your services. I know this is well below your usual rate of $Y but this is the most we can afford at this time. Still, I wanted to bring this opportunity to you first before I took it to someone else.

The last sentence here is crucial. It changes the conversation from getting paid less to not losing the deal to another person. This tactic shouldn’t be used to take advantage of people but it is useful in situations where you really can’t afford to pay more.

Apr 16, 2021

Bend their reality

Effective negotiators know how to frame an offer so that it looks fair to their counterpart. You can take the same person, change one or two variables, and $100 can seem like a win or a total insult.

The best theory for describing the principles of our irrational decisions is prospect theory, created in 1979 by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Two important ideas of prospect theory are:

  1. Certainty effect: People are drawn to sure things over probabilities, even when the probability has a greater expected return.
  2. Loss aversion: People will take greater risks to avoid losses than to achieve gains.

These two principles lead to inconsistent decision-making. Consider this: a person who’s told they have a 95% chance of gaining $100 or 100% chance of gaining $94 will avoid risk and choose the safe option of $94. But, if you flip it so that the same person has a 95% chance of losing $100 or 100% chance of losing $94, they will make the opposite choice and risk losing $100 to try and avoid the loss altogether. The chance for loss increases a person’s risk appetite over the possibility of an equal gain.

There are tactics using these principles to give you an edge in a negotiation that I will discuss over the next few days. In a tough negotiation, it’s not enough to show the other party that you can deliver what they want. To get real leverage, you have to persuade them that they have something to lose if the deal falls through.

Apr 15, 2021

Discover the emotional drivers

A great salesman does not convince a customer to buy through rational argument. Instead, their job is one of emotional framing around a decision to buy.

If you can get the other person to reveal their problems and pain, then you can get at what they’re really buying. Sell them a vision of their problem that leaves what you’re offering as the perfect solution.

What does a good babysitter sell, really? It isn’t child care, but a relaxed evening. A furnace salesman? Cozy rooms for family time. A locksmith? A feeling of security.

Don’t try to sell someone on the features of your product or service. Sell them on the pain and frustration they are currently experiencing without your solution. What’s in it for them? Why do they need you?

Apr 14, 2021

Use of the word “fair”

The most powerful word in a negotiation is “fair”. People are heavily influenced by how much they feel respected. Therefore, you need to tread carefully when using that word and when it’s used against you.

In the game that I described yesterday, most accepter’s will invariably reject any offer that is less than half of the proposer’s money. Most people make an irrational choice to take no money over some money because the negative emotional value of unfairness outweighs the positive rational value of money.

Typically, people drop the word “fair” in a negotiation when they are accusing you of being unfair. For instance, they will say, “We just want what’s fair.” or “We’ve given you a fair offer.” If you’re on the receiving end of one of these accusations, the best response is to follow up with a mirror and a label. For example, “Fair? It seems like you’re ready to provide evidence that supports that.” As always, it is important to use a deferential tone and remain calm.

The best way to use the word “fair” yourself in a negotiation is to start talks off with, “I want you to feel like you are being treated fairly at all times. So please stop me at any time if you feel I’m being unfair and we’ll address it.” It’s simple and sets you up as an honest dealer. 

You should strive for a reputation of being fair. “Winning” unfair deals sets you up for failure in the long run. Your reputation precedes you.

Apr 13, 2021

No such thing as fair

Chris Voss runs the following experiment with his students to illustrate that there is no such thing as fair: he pairs two people up, a “proposer” and an “accepter”, and gives the proposer $10. The proposer has to offer the accepter a round number of dollars. If the accepter agrees, they receive what’s been offered and the proposer keeps the rest. If the accepter refuses the deal, neither gets any money.

The shocking results of this experiment is that no matter what split the pairs agree on, they find themselves in a minority. The conclusion is that there is no consensus on what constitutes a fair split of found money. If you approach a negotiation thinking that the other person thinks like you, you’re wrong. You’re projecting instead of being empathetic for their position.

In Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio explains a groundbreaking discovery he made. Studying people who had brain damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated, he found that they all had something peculiar in common: they couldn’t make decisions. They could describe what they should do in logical terms, but found it impossible to make even the simplest choice.

While we may use logic to reason ourselves toward a decision or to rationalize why a decision was made in retrospect, the actual decision making is governed by emotion and is therefore entirely irrational.

Apr 10, 2021

Don’t compromise

The only thing worse than not getting a deal done is getting a bad deal.

Compromise seems like a good idea because it seems like it would result in a win-win outcome. However, compromised outcomes are usually never ideal for either party. At best, both sides are not completely satisfied and at worse, someone’s getting swindled.

The reason we compromise is because it is easier than doing the hard work of negotiating. But if you approach negotiations in an empathetic and trust-building way, you shouldn’t have to split the difference.

A general rule of thumb for great negotiators is to “never split the difference”.

Apr 09, 2021

This will make your players' lives easier

Hi Coach,

I’m sure many of your players are currently getting their sticks strung at a store like Lacrosse Unlimited or String It Up. I used to work at one of these stores and understand how slow the turnaround can be, not to mention having to drive to and from the store to drop off and pick up their stick.

I’ve decided to go solo and offer lacrosse products and services here with FREE pickup & delivery to anywhere on Long Island! Many of the services and products can be fulfilled within the SAME DAY of placing an order.

Would you be opposed to helping me pass this information along to the players and their parents? Attached is a promotion for them to get 20% off their first order with me.



Apr 08, 2021

Trigger the two words

Instead of “yes”, what you want to hear from someone you’re negotiating with is “that’s right”.

 “Yes” is meaningless. “You’re right” is similarly meaningless. Both of these phrases usually mean someone is trying to get you to shut up and go away. But “that’s right” means you are on the same page.

Here are the steps to get there:

  1. Effective pauses: Silence is powerful.
  2. Minimal encouragers: Simple phrases like “uh-huh” or “I see” to let the person know you’re listening.
  3. Mirroring: Repeat back the words of your counterpart.
  4. Labeling: Label the emotions your counterpart is expressing.
  5. Paraphrase: Don’t just mirror. Also, repeat back what someone is saying in your own words.
  6. Summarize: A good summary combines the meaning of what is said and the emotions underlying it. Paraphrasing + labeling = summary.

Once faced with an effective summary, your counterpart should say “that’s right”. If you can get the person you’re negotiating with to use those two words, then it’s a signal that you’ve earned their trust and can move forward with the negotiation and your pitch. If you pitch before you get there, it’s going to be much harder for them to listen to what you have to say.

Apr 07, 2021

How to never be ignored again

If you’re in correspondence with someone you’re trying to do business with and they stop returning your messages, hit them with this:

Have you given up on working with us?

By framing the question for a “no” response, this uses the tactic discussed yesterday and typically results in a constructive path forward. 

Or they respond “yes” and you can stop wasting your time.

Apr 06, 2021

Beware yes, master no

The typical sales approach involves getting to “yes” as quickly as possible. However, I have learned from Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss that “yes” is a meaningless word in sales or negotiation.

It is better to frame your questions for “no” responses. Consider the following example: “Do you have a few minutes to talk?” vs. “Is now a bad time to talk?”

Both questions aim at getting the same result but the first question makes you feel more uncomfortable. This is because framing a request for a “yes” answer feels like commitment to the other person and creates anxiety. Framing it for a “no” answer gives people a sense of security and control. 

Therefore, if you want to have better success at selling to other people, seek “no” and avoid “yes”.

Apr 05, 2021

Do an accusation audit

Before going into a negotiation or any situation where you might have to deliver some bad news, you should prepare with an accusation audit.

An accusation audit is brainstorming every possible accusation that your counterpart might have against you. The point of this exercise is to come up with a list so that you can bring light to the accusations when you meet with them.

That’s right, you want to air out your own dirty laundry without your counterpart prompting it. Even if your counterpart isn’t planning on discussing their reservations, they exist and are holding them back from wanting to cooperate with you.

This is an extension of the idea talked about in the last post. Labeling the negative emotions of your counterpart takes away their power and leads to more rapport to move forward.

This idea is from Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss.

Apr 03, 2021

Don’t feel their pain, label it

I’m posting again about something I read in Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. I’m learning a lot of new ideas from this book so I’m just going to keep them coming!

Today’s post is about labeling the emotions of a person you are negotiating with as a form of tactical empathy. When you label someone’s emotion, it says that you identify how they are feeling and in doing so, that person will feel closer to you. 

So how does it work? Here’s a simple example: if someone seems to be expressing frustration about something, you should label that feeling by saying, “It sounds like you’re frustrated that…”

The first part of the phrasing is important. You should start the statement with something along the lines of “it sounds like…” or “it seems as if…” for labeling your counterpart’s emotions. 

An alternative way of expressing the same statement above would be to say, “I feel like you’re frustrated that…” but this is a bad way of phrasing it. In particular, it is best to avoid the usage of the pronoun “I”. The word “I” gets people’s guard up. When you say “I”, it says you’re more interested in yourself than the other person.

This tactic is most useful to calm somebody in a tense situation, such as a negotiation. Labeling and identifying their negative emotions makes them less scary and leads to more productive interactions.

Apr 02, 2021

Be a mirror

I’m currently reading Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. It is a book on negotiation by an FBI hostage negotiator.

The second chapter discusses an unusual tactic for extracting information and forming rapport known as mirroring. Although it can be used when negotiating, it is also supposed to be useful to just generally make others trust and feel connected to you.

Here’s how a mirror works: actively listen to the person you are speaking with and when they finish a statement, repeat back to them the last few words they said to you as a question. 

For example, if you say the, “the weather is bad today,” I might then respond with, “The weather is bad?” to mirror you. Sounds weird, right? But I tried this out a little bit with someone today and they didn’t seem to pick up on the fact that I was just repeating their words back to them, although I’m not sure if it made them feel like I was listening more intently.

There’s a little more to it than just words; here’s some more steps on how to use this technique from the book:

  1. Use a late-night FM DJ voice (tone is important)
  2. Start with “I’m sorry…”
  3. Mirror.
  4. Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart.
  5. Repeat.

It seems odd and feels awkward but I’m going to try this out a bit more to see how people respond to it.

Apr 01, 2021

In need of a reset

A crucial component of my quarterly planning is a week of rest after a 12-week sprint of work. I have ignored it the past few quarters and now I am feeling why they are necessary.

I feel disoriented and trapped in a cycle of falling behind on tasks.

I’m in need of a recharge but right now is the worst time for me to take a break because of String Theory. Spring is primetime for us so I need to power through.

BUT, I’m reserving my next break now. I WILL take a break at the end of this quarter regardless of whether I feel I have time for it. 

From June 18-27 I am taking time off. Fuck String Theory, fuck this blog, fuck reading, fuck meditation, fuck it all.

And you know what, I’m also taking Sundays off starting now. That was initially part of my planning that I started to ignore too but I need to reclaim my time.

Mar 31, 2021

Burning out

I’m pretty close to burnout.

My to-do list is longer than ever. I wouldn’t be so irritated by it if I was also seeing more success. But right now, it feels like I’m doing a lot with little to show for it.

I have a hunch that success is delayed after the onset of good habits. However, it’s difficult to be sure whether my current habits are good. Should I persist or change things up?

I’ll try to be more positive tomorrow.

Mar 30, 2021


What most activists get right is that people need to change for the world to be a better place.

What most activists get wrong is the way that they try to change people.

Trying to force people to change is lazy and ineffective. Inspiring people to change is difficult, but it is the best way to have a meaningful, lasting impact.

Mar 29, 2021

Emily's skin care routine

Jeff has so graciously given up his platform again to allow me to ramble on about what is currently holding real estate in my brain. So without further adieu, ladies and gentleman, what you’ve all been waiting for:


I will now walk you through step by step how I clean my face XD

  1. I always start by taking off my makeup. I am going to take a quick moment to shame you if you are still using Neutrogena makeup remover wipes. Like, come on girl, what are you doing?! It’s 2021; don’t you even watch Hyram’s videos? Anywho, I will use Ponds cold cream to remove my eye makeup if I am wearing any. Next, I will go in with my Banilla Co. original 3-1 makeup removing balm. This shit is fantastic. I buy the mega-size at a whopping 6.7 oz. I am telling you it will last you 4 months AT LEAST. I also want to note I typically will use this even if I do not have makeup on, just to really get rid of the dirt, oil, and sunscreen that has accumulated on my face throughout the day. If y’all are not on the double cleansing train yet, I suggest you hop on. 
  2. Next, I will cleanse my face with my Good Molecules soap-free clarify and cleanse bar. Some may think it is bizarre that I chose to use a bar to clean my face, but I am telling you this shit is magic. Jackie Reviews Beauty introduced me to Good Molecules and man, am I so grateful for her because of it. 
  3. After my face is cleansed, I go in with my Good Molecules Niacinamide brightening toner. I love this because it helps to bring back hydration after washing my face, and it has definitely made an impact on fading some of my acne scars. Don’t be fooled; good skincare takes patience. You may not see all your flaws removed after one night, but staying consistent with a product like this can make a world of a difference. 
  4. Depending on the status of my skin, I then go in with my Wishtrend 5% Mandelic acid. It has a similar consistency to a toner, but its purpose is to help gently exfoliate the skin. My skin tends to be super dry and sensitive so I have to be careful with what acids I incorporate into my skin care. I have found even lactic acid, which is known for being one of the more gentle acids, to be too harsh for my skin. The mandelic acid has not given me any problems thus far, but I also chose to stay away from it when my skin is feeling tight and itchy. 
  5. This step is dedicated to face masks. It is important to note that face masks are not part of my daily routine because that would just be doing too much. I have two main face masks that I alternate between. When my skin needs a detox I use the Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask with Super Volcanic Clusters. This is a fairly new product for me but let me tell you it has SAVED ME. As much as I hate to admit it, there are nights where I get too drunk or am just too damn tired to take my makeup off. I am not proud to say it, but I do make the biggest skin care fail every now and then, but this product saves me a lot of heartache when I do fuck up. The other mask in my routine is the I’m From Honey Mask. This has a stupid high honey concentrate, but it hydrates and softens my skin like no other. Typically I will do each of these masks once a week. 
  6. One of my newest holy grail products is my COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. I legit rub the icky gooey shit from a snail’s ass on my face. And let me tell you, I wish I started doing it sooner. My skin feels so damn soft and hydrated after this product, and I wake up every morning looking super refreshed. Not to mention it does a wonderful job of prepping my skin before I beat my face. 
  7. Finally, the routine comes to an end when I slather my Cerave Daily Moisturizing Lotion all over my face. You either love Cerave or hate it, but let me tell you I am a bitch that loves Cerave. After years of working at Sephora and sticking my nose up at drug store makeup and skincare, I have been truly humbled to learn I was paying way too much to have my skin still look like shit. I truly believe this moisturizer has helped me reach my skin goals. 

Now I have written this post from the perspective of my nighttime skincare routine. But really not much changes during the day. The biggest changes are I will only go in with one of the cleansers if I am going to wash my face. But honestly, sometimes just some cold water does the trick. Again, my skin tends to be very dry and sensitive so I find that sometimes doing less is more. Then I will use the Good Molecules Toner, Snail Mucin, and Cerave moisturizer. And as anyone who knows me can guess my final step in my daytime routine is SUNSCREEN. Every day, multiple times a day, even if I am staying inside. Okay realistically, again, I am human and fuck this step up sometimes. But I try my damn best to make sure my skin is protected all day long. I still use the Dear Klairs Soft Airy UV Essence despite the controversy behind it. I will also try to incorporate more forms of SPF for further protection. I just bought the Cerave Sheer tinted SPF 30 face moisturizer and am so far loving it. But my ride or die will forever be the Ilia True Skin Serum Foundation with SPF 40. 

And folks, that is a day in the life of my face. I’m sure this is not the post you wanted or needed, but it is the post that was ultimately inevitable.

Mar 28, 2021

Iced chai tea protein latte

Hey, y’all. Em here. Tonight I have the honor of taking over Jeff’s blog. I thought long and hard about how I was going to take advantage of this platform. Of course, my gut reaction is to talk about all things social work. To somehow persuade you all to give a shit about the causes that I hold close to my heart. But I don’t think that is what I am going to do tonight. You see, the thing is, social work is exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, it is my dream job and there is nothing else I would rather be doing, but damn it sure takes a whole lot out of you. Although it has not even been two years since I started my MSW program, I have learned very quickly how important is it for me to indulge in my other interests once I leave my clients. If I am being perfectly honest I feel like a sell-out for not following through with my original plan of enlightening the world about the social injustices that occur daily, but my heart and brain need a break to recharge. So with that extremely personal and lengthy introduction, I will now share with you all my go-to breakfast drink these days:

Iced chai tea protein latte

Let me give you three reasons why this drink is worth trying. It’s only three ingredients. It’s SUGAR-FREE. It takes virtually no time to prepare. Bonus reason for my ADHD/anxiety-prone friends out there, it is less caffeine than coffee so there is less of a chance it will ruin your day. 

Here’s what you need:

  • Sugar-free chai tea concentrate. My favorite (and the only brand that I’ve been able to find) is Oregon Chai. 
  • Your milk of choice. My favorite is unsweetened vanilla almond milk.
  • Finally, the secret touch that makes this drink stand out from the rest, is collagen protein powder. I will give you another little secret. My go-to was always Vital Proteins but I have recently discovered that Whole Foods makes an exact dupe for half the cost. You’re welcome.

Now, my final piece of advice is to prepare this drink in a protein shaker bottle. The protein can glob up a bit which is so not sexy, but I’ve found that when I shake it with that little coil inside it is as smooth as butter. I also like to then transfer the final product into a different cup over ice to really knock it out of the ballpark. 

If you are still here, thank you for sticking around this long. There is no way you needed to read all that fluff, but hey we all like to hear ourselves talk every now and again right?

Mar 27, 2021

Spring 2021 plan


  • Focus on functional movement:
    • Box twice per week
    • Take a dance class with Emily
  • Cut weight to 163 pounds
  • Maintenance: Daily exercise, fruits & vegetables, Monday fasts


  • Add functionality for more products on String Theory:
    • Support standalone items like balls and merchandise
    • Support custom add-ons to stringing like heads and shafts
  • Double down on a social media marketing strategy:
    • Should be posting twice per week with memes and/or cool lacrosse plays
    • Hire someone else to takeover in May


Mar 26, 2021

Winter 2021 retro

Winter 2021 retro

The good

I’m maintaining a healthy weight and exercising a lot. I picked up boxing and have been doing that twice a week in addition to my usual exercise routine. I also got my dentist appointment and annual health check-up out of the way.

I started focusing more on marketing for String Theory. It is challenging but at least I am addressing and improving something that I’m not good at.

I read three great books this quarter and I am enjoying the newfound reader in me. I am still writing everyday despite feeling a lot of resistance to it.

The bad

My sleep is still not the best. I have accepted that getting at least 6 hours of sleep a night is acceptable for me considering how much I want to work. I’d rather not stress over the lack of sleep anymore.

I did not build all of the features I wanted for String Theory. This is fine considering the focus I am placing on selling now. I think our product is good enough to be promoted and it will be improved over time.

I didn’t meditate much at all this quarter. My head feels a bit scattered.

Looking ahead

My goal next quarter is to expand the String Theory platform to at least 10 theorists besides myself. I would also like to hire someone to do our social media since it needs to be done and is distracting for me to do it (Instagram is an unproductive place to be).

I am going to continue reading and writing. I will also make my hour-long walks a priority to clear my head.

I feel that my health is in good shape so I would just like to maintain my current routine and continue boxing.

Mar 25, 2021

Choose your projects wisely

Keep these points in mind when you start your next project:

  1. It will take 10x longer than you think it will. If you think it will take 6 months, are you willing to spend 5 years on it?
  2. There’s an opportunity cost to saying yes to a project. Working on this one means you have to say no to everything else. Do you really want this one?

Maybe these points are a bit exaggerated but the principle is what’s important. Don’t waste your life working on the wrong projects.

Mar 24, 2021

Feeling low

I feel really unsure of myself right now.

Promoting a business is exhausting. It’s hard to get people’s attention—at least for me it is.

The positive perspective is to view this as a challenge I need to overcome. But I’m doubting my ability to overcome it.

I don’t have anything useful to say today; I just need to vent.

Hopefully, I can look back at this post and laugh because everything worked out.

Mar 23, 2021

Dear Jeff

Stop being patient. You need to have a greater sense of urgency in operating your business. 

Talk to more people about it. Come up with more clever ways to spread it. You believe that the service you offer with String Theory is great. Now you need to sell it. People won’t know it’s great if they don’t try it so lower the barriers to entry.

You may have to give up control of some parts of the business. You can’t do everything effectively. Hire and recruit people to help.

Let’s go,

Your impatient self

Mar 22, 2021

Do what feels unnatural

Through recent experiences trying boxing and marketing, it has come to my attention that I avoid doing things that I don’t initially have a knack for.

I never thought I had an issue with doing hard things. To some extent, I still think that is true with activities I consider myself good at. But I realize now that I definitely avoid things that don’t come naturally to me and try to hide from them.

This time, I’m going to stick to the activities I’m bad at. It’s embarrassing and feels unnatural but I feel it is important to my growth as a person.

Mar 21, 2021

Crazy or brilliant?

In the present moment, there is little distinction between the beliefs of a crazy person and a brilliant one. It is only clear in retrospect whether someone was crazy.

Lean into your bold ideas that other people think are crazy. Go against the status quo. You can’t know yet if you are crazy or not but if you aren’t willing to have conviction in believing something different, then you will certainly turn out to be unremarkable.

Mar 20, 2021

Less me, more you

Recently, I’ve been focusing more on marketing String Theory. We think an important channel for us to market in is Instagram (note: we should test other platforms to verify). 

I have never used Instagram often before but I noticed something that we’re doing poorly: we focus way too much on ourselves and trying to sell our service. This issue is not unique to us; I notice others doing this as well.

The trap that many people seem to fall into on Instagram, and other forms of social media, is making their content about them. We think other people want to follow us because we seem interesting but people are much more interested in themselves. A better approach to gaining followers and engagement is making other people feel special.

How might we do this? Post content that makes other people seem interesting and feel noticed. Avoid the urge to shoehorn something about yourself into the mix. 

Everyone wants to feel like they matter. It will be appreciated and more engaging than whatever cool or funny thing you want to say.

Mar 20, 2021

Input is error

Elon Musk said this on a recent Joe Rogan podcast and you can see the sentiment littered throughout the evolution of Tesla.

Tesla removed the ignition and the light switches from their cars. The weight of the driver and the sensor in the key fob are enough to activate the car. Regarding the lights, here’s what Musk said:

They wanted to put a bloody switch or a button for the lights. Why would we need a switch? When it’s dark, turn the lights on.

One tactic to making your product or service better is treating all input as error. What are inputs you require from customers that you can instead figure out through some other more intuitive means?

Mar 18, 2021

Consistency is key

So many things worth doing suck at first.

Exercising, reading, writing, meditating, creative work, etc. I don’t feel like doing these things everyday. But the more I show up, the easier it gets.

It may not seem like much but daily, consistent practice makes a world of difference.

Get good at doing shit that you don’t want to do.

Mar 17, 2021

Don't say it’s impossible

In reading Elon Musk’s biography, it is clear that a big pet peeve of his is people telling him something is impossible. 

Here’s a passage that I particularly like in response to an employee telling him that a deadline for a specific part at SpaceX to be built was impossible:

Elon will say, ‘Fine. You’re off the project, and I am now the CEO of the project. I will do your job and be the CEO of two companies at the same time. I will deliver it,’” Brogan said. “What’s crazy is that Elon actually does it. Every time he’s fired someone and taken their job, he’s delivered on whatever the project was.

One of Elon Musk’s superpowers, that the majority of people lack, is the open-mindedness to try and succeed at doing the “impossible”.

Here’s another footnote that I liked from the book that illustrates this:

It should be noted that there are many people in the space industry who doubt reusable rockets will work, in large part because of the stress the machines and metal go through during launch. It’s not clear that the most prized customers will even consider the reused spacecraft for launches due to their inherent risks. This is a big reason that other countries and companies have not pursued the technology. There’s a camp of space experts who think Musk is flat-out wasting his time, and that engineering calculations already prove the reusable rockets to be a fool’s errand.

This book was published in 2015 when it was still unclear whether reusable rockets would work but we now know that they do. It is astonishing how wrong the “experts” were. Instead of trying to figure how to reuse the rockets, people were totally comfortable with the idea of building and destroying a massive rocket after each launch. This seems ridiculous in retrospect.

It is dumb to state something is impossible, unless it violates the known laws of physics. Maybe something is expensive to do, in terms of time or money, but it’s probably possible and potentially worth doing.

Mar 16, 2021

String Theory marketing routine

Mondays are for DMs. Who am I sending DMs to? 

  1. Potential new stringers to on-board onto our site. (From
  2. For a limited time while less busy, offer free stringing to new customers to get more people try our service. (From @jeffcanstring)

Tuesdays are for posts from my theorist Instagram account (@jeffcanstring).

Wednesdays are for @jeffcanstring Instagram community engagement. Do 3 for 7:

  1. 7 comments on posts in my main feed.
  2. 7 comments on posts in two lacrosse-related hashtags.

Thursdays are for posts from the main String Theory Instagram account (

Fridays are for Instagram community engagement. Do 3 for 7 here too.

A note on Instagram posts: do less business stuff and more fun stuff. People should follow our account because we post cool lacrosse plays or funny lacrosse videos. Only plug the business every once in a while.

I probably have to do more than just these things in any given week but this is the baseline for our marketing.

Mar 15, 2021

The appeal of astrology

Yesterday, I learned about Vedic astrology and that my moon is in the Punarvasu nakshatra signifying the star of renewal and abundance. In other words, I wasted a few hours of my day yesterday learning about astrology.

While it is a funny coincidence that my moon nakshatra signifies abundance and I’ve written so many times about the abundance of the future, I don’t believe there’s any true significance to it. It did get me thinking, however, about the appeal of astrology. 

What I think makes astrology so appealing is the ability to relinquish the control of your own destiny. The fact that we have some control over our own fates in life can be a scary responsibility.

I’m a huge believer in the importance of self-belief so if astrology gives you some sort of positive belief about yourself, then I think there’s some usefulness to it. But if you read something negative into it, throw it away. You can overcome any limitations with self-belief.

Mar 14, 2021

Network effects of competition

I have been trying to come up with ways to incentivize the growth of our company. I want to offer a sale promotion but while it may incentivize one person to try it, it does not incentivize them to share our service with others because there is no extra benefit to the customer for sharing it.

To incentivize sharing, I am considering running a competition on top of the promotion. Here’s how it will work: each lacrosse team we are targeting in our area will be given a promo code that unlocks 20% off their order. At the end of the promotion period, whichever code gets used the most, will result in that team of players receiving an extra prize of lacrosse balls.

Each week, I can give an update on Instagram showing the scoreboard between teams. My hope is this scoreboard will drive FOMO for players to tell their teammates about our company and increase sales. I will report back with the effectiveness of this strategy.

Mar 13, 2021

MacGruber is underrated

I just watched MacGruber tonight and couldn’t stop laughing the entire movie. Everything is deliberately over-the-top and Will Forte nails the absurdity of his character. 

I was curious after watching the movie what it’s ratings were and only 48% of critics and 35% of the audience liked it.

I’m not sure what people expected but if you’re looking for an easy movie to watch with some ridiculous gags, this movie is it.

Mar 12, 2021

Givers & takers

The paradigm I have had since I was a kid between good and evil boils down between givers and takers. 

If you’re a giver, you know what I’m talking about. Takers are the people in your life who sense your giver nature and take advantage of it to the point where you feel resentful. You resent them for using you, but mostly you resent yourself because you let them use you.

As a giver, you can become very insecure about this. You may feel like you have to toughen up or stop giving so that people don’t take advantage of you. But hopefully you don’t. You are a good person; don’t hate yourself for that.

When you encounter takers, don’t try to change them. People don’t change from outside pressure. Just take notice that you should cut that person out of your life and keep being the wonderful person you are.

Mar 11, 2021

String Theory announcement

We’re leveling up! String Theory is now a platform for stringers and our first profile is one of our founders @jeffcanstring. He is offering free delivery across Long Island and is going to be randomly DMing one of his followers each week to offer free stringing.

Over the next month, we’re going to be adding new products to our site and giving away some brand new lacrosse heads. Keep an eye out for that announcement so you can participate and get a free head!

Our mission to players is to offer the easiest way to get a quality lacrosse stick. If you’re a stringer, we’re here to support your business. Our theorists get discounts on materials and a profile on our site where you can list all of your services and products. If you want to string with us, DM us or check the link in our bio!

Mar 10, 2021

Remember to have fun

I read and write everyday. I work out everyday. I work my day job. I work on my side hustle. Everyday. 

Most of these things are not required but they sometimes feel like obligations. It’s easy to forget to have fun when you don’t feel like you have enough time in the day to do everything you want to do.

It’s great to be ambitious but don’t forget to enjoy the “now”. Not later. If you’re postponing happiness for the future, that day will never come. If you can’t have fun with it now then it’s not worth doing.

Maybe you need to change what you’re doing. Or maybe you just need to adjust your perspective. Enjoy your life right now.

Mar 09, 2021

Maybe you're the expert

While working for a bank, Elon Musk discovered an opportunity to easily double their money by investing in South American debt because it was backed by the U.S. government. He eagerly shared the information with his boss expecting to be praised and make a big bonus.

His boss passed on the opportunity because they had been burned on debt in South America in the past. That experience left a heavy impression on him and later gave him confidence when working on PayPal. This is what he had to say about it:

Later in life, as I competed against the banks, I would think back to this moment, and it gave me confidence. All the bankers did was copy what everyone else did. If everyone else ran off a bloody cliff, they’d run right off a cliff with them. If there was a giant pile of gold sitting in the middle of the room and nobody was picking it up, they wouldn’t pick it up, either.

The moral of this story is that nobody, not even the so-called experts, knows what the fuck they are doing. If that’s the truth, then why shouldn’t you be the one to call the shots?

Mar 08, 2021

Distort reality

The last landmark for unreasonable success is distorting reality.

Star Trek originated the phrase “reality distortion field”. Steve Jobs was iconically described as distorting reality around him. He would urge engineers to meet deadlines that they thought were impossible. If something was defined as vital, it therefore became possible.

Reality distortion is a two-step process:

  1. Project extreme optimism and determination. Do what others think is impossible. Defeat the conventional view of what is realistic and unrealistic.
  2. Brainwash brilliant followers or collaborators that they too, can do the impossible. They will believe you because you have a track record of being right.

Faith can overpower facts. It is not the meek or the powerful who shall inherit the Earth, but the unreasonable believers.

—Richard Koch, Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It

Mar 07, 2021

Acquire unique intuition

Landmark #8 is acquiring unique intuition.

Before there is knowledge, there is something else that generates knowledge.

The perfect example of using intuition from the book is in the case of Albert Einstein:

 A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way. But intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.

Einstein’s theories of relativity required a leap of imagination in opposition to the prevailing theories at the time. His totally original view of the universe—that there is no such thing as absolute time—came in a picture he saw in his mind. It was the result of intuition, not linear thinking. Even his revolutionary paper, On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, was mainly written in the form of thought experiments rather than equations.

To be unreasonably successful, you need to have conviction in ideas that aren’t obvious to most people. These sorts of ideas come from intuition rather than logic.

Mar 06, 2021

Thrive on setbacks

It is not enough to be resilient and merely survive setbacks. To be unreasonably successful, you must learn to positively thrive on them.

Paradoxically, setbacks can validate unconventional views and contribute to a sense of greatness. If you follow the herd, you are unremarkable. If you are controversial, you are noticed. As long as you don’t run out of self-confidence and conviction, you can eventually be successful despite your setbacks.

Nassim Taleb discusses this landmark in great detail in his book, Antifragile. In it, he states:

Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos: you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.

To innovate, first get into trouble. Setbacks are a mechanism for discovery. Exposure to failure is essential for success.

The players discussed in Richard Koch’s book all had an antifragile spirit. They had a highly developed sense of their own potential and strong, unconventional opinions. They not only had a strong ego, but also an ability to overcome adversity with a curiosity about themselves and the world and a degree of stoicism.

Take big risks. You can’t know the future, but you must trust it. What you will achieve matters. Expect extreme lows to be followed by extreme highs. It must be done. Your audience expects it.

Mar 05, 2021

Why should you be good?

I don’t consider myself a religious person. I don’t think bad people go to hell and good people go to heaven. I think there is no experience after death. If you believe in those things, then you already have a pretty compelling reason to be a good, honest person in your life. But if you don’t believe in them, why should you be good?

The way I think about it is this: life is a collection of stories. What character do you want to play in those stories? Obviously, the hero is the best character. What rational person wants to be the villain? I know I’ve been the villain before, usually out of short-sightedness or insecurity, but I’m doing my best to be the good guy. Everything you accumulate in your life will eventually be taken away when death comes. Why not try to leave something useful behind?

People don’t need a threat of consequences for being a bad person or a promise of heaven for being a good person to incentivize them to do the right thing. They just need to keep the big picture in mind that there is no point in intentionally causing pain for others. I hope when this life is over, my existence can be viewed as a net positive.

Mar 04, 2021

Drive your personal vehicle

After making your own trail, you need to find and drive your own personal vehicle on that trail.

What is a vehicle? It is a resource that provides leverage, collaboration, and credibility for the trail you are blazing. It can be extrinsic (a pool vehicle) or intrinsic (a personal vehicle).

Many of the players discussed in the book used both types of vehicles but while pool vehicles are useful, your personal vehicle is essential to unreasonable success.

Steve Jobs’ personal vehicle was Apple. When he was fired from there, he worked on NeXT and Pixar but neither were sufficient personal vehicles for him to achieve his unreasonable success. It wasn’t until he was hired back to Apple and saved the company with products like the iPod and iPhone that he was considered massively successful. Apple embodied Steve’s design sensibilities and perfectionism and scaled them to a massive audience.

You may not think you need a personal vehicle but no matter how autocratic you tend to be, those who run business empires typically need collaborators with different skills to balance and cover for weak spots.

If you want to be unreasonably successful in business, your personal vehicle will most likely be a company you create or a unique business strategy that you foster.

Mar 03, 2021

Make your own trail

Another landmark unreasonably successful people have in common is making their own trail.

Becoming a trailblazer is no easy task. By definition, you must have a unique philosophy that contradicts common sense and you must have the conviction to follow it in the face of that contradiction. Self-belief is quite important here.

Before Amazon, it was considered ludicrous for a company to put the interests of their customers above the shareholders, employees, and profitability of a business. Shareholders impatiently and reluctantly went along with Jeff Bezos’ philosophy although many doubted if it would ever actually lead to profits.

Steve Jobs was thrown out of Apple because he had to do things his way. His need for creative control rubbed many of his co-workers the wrong way. 

Walt Disney felt that the corporate ethos was an anchor to his creativity. In an interview, he said, “The thing I resent most is people who want to keep me in well-worn grooves.” Disneyland was considered a bad idea by everyone around him and in order to finance it he had to set up a separate company named WED (his initials) before eventually striking a deal to roll it back into the Disney company. It saved the company.

If you seek unreasonable success, be bold enough to create your own trail.

Mar 02, 2021

One breakthrough achievement

Starting with a foundation of self-belief and olympian expectations, along with some transforming experiences that give you unique insight, the next landmark on your journey to unreasonable success is a breakthrough achievement.

Your breakthrough achievement will be something no one has done before. The most common type of breakthrough achievement of the players discussed in the book is invention. Think about what you might invent.

Your skills (and improving them) are useful but they are not sufficient for unreasonable success. What are you going to try to do with your skills? Have an objective that is laughably ambitious.

Mar 01, 2021

February 2021 retro

The good

The MVP for our String Theory platform is so close to being ready for launch. Last month, I was a bit disappointed with my original designs but as it is coming together, I am starting to love it. I hope our audience agrees.

I moved into Seaford and have setup my room to be well-suited for productivity. I lost a bit of time that could have been spent elsewhere for String Theory but it is the best room I’ve ever had.

The bad

Aside from creating my theorist Instagram and taking some pictures, I did not spend any time marketing this month. I need to pick this up next month.

My sleep is still a struggle. I’m starting to question whether it’s worth stressing over. Elon Musk, a significant role model, does not seem to care too much about sleeping a lot and I’m starting to consider that path as well. I will give it another month to aim for better sleep but also try to stress less about it being perfect.

Looking ahead

This is a huge month for String Theory. We will be re-launching our MVP and picking up steam with our marketing. I’m prepared to invest heavily into gaining exposure and we should see a lot of increased interest this month.

Mar 01, 2021

Transforming experiences

Landmark #3 is transforming experiences. It can be one or more of these that test you and if you rise to the occasion, you will experience a profound shift in self-belief.

Within business, there are three patterns of transforming experiences:

  1. Start to experiment with your ideas while still employed by someone else
  2. Go off on your own and take the leap into carving your own path
  3. Experience near-failure and be transformed by it

The first option is the best, the second is amazing but rare, and the third is incredibly painful.

Your best bet is to be like Jeff Bezos. He was employed at D. E. Shaw when he came up his idea for “The Everything Store” and didn’t leave until he felt he had a safety net to fall back on if the venture had not worked out. If you are seeking to recreate this path, find a company to work for that is growing fast and doing interesting things to learn from.

Following a conventional path may lead to success but unreasonable success will only follow from unique insights from transforming experiences so seek these out.

Feb 28, 2021

Olympian expectations

The second landmark for unreasonable success is closely linked to the first. Self-belief leads to higher expectations which leads to greater belief in oneself—it is a virtuous feedback loop.

Walt Disney and Steve Jobs both saw their products as an extension of themselves and wanted perfect product quality. They were adamant about not surrendering control of their creations.

Steve Jobs in particular was one of the worst people managers because he had huge expectations and couldn’t stand it when people couldn’t deliver.

Likewise, Jeff Bezos created Amazon with the principle that relentless focus on the customer is greatly more important than short-term profits, hence, why redirects you to the Amazon homepage.

Expectations can be self-fulfilling so set your expectations extremely high if you want unreasonable success.

Feb 26, 2021


The first and most important landmark on your way to unreasonable success is self-belief.

I’ve already written many times about the superpower of belief but Richard Koch has validated my opinion by defining it as the most important trait of the characters studied in the book who achieved unreasonable success.

“Nobody reaches a target without defining it and believing—sometimes naively and to almost universal ridicule—that it is attainable.”

Winston Churchill wrote his own autobiography a decade before he became Prime Minister.

Albert Einstein discovered his theories of relativity through intuition and thought experiments rather than physical experimentation. He read everything relevant to his investigations but never needed other scientists’ agreement with his theories to come to his own conclusions.

Steve Jobs had always believed he was special.

If you do not believe in yourself, you are certain to fail at achieving unreasonable success.

Feb 25, 2021

Affiliation & status

I was listening to Seth Godin’s podcast the other day and heard another gem from the genius behind This Is Marketing. I’m sure this was discussed in that book but he reiterated an important point.

Human beings are motivated by two things: affiliation and status.

Affiliation: Who’s in? Who’s out?

Status: Who’s up? Who’s down?

As the creator of an enterprise, you are seeking network effects that pull one or both of these levers to scale your product or service. 

Does your product or service make me an insider or elevate my status in some way? Does sharing your product or service with others make me an insider or elevate my status? These are important questions to ponder for your business to be successful.

Feb 25, 2021

Unreasonable success and how to achieve it

I just finished reading Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It by Richard Koch and I thought it was okay (3 stars out of 5).

The author defines unreasonable success as one individual having such an unreasonable impact changing the world or unexpected success that goes beyond what an individual’s talents seemed to indicate earlier in their life.

Much of the book felt a bit repetitive but I think the author nailed it with his 9 landmarks of unreasonable success. The landmarks are:

  1. Self-belief
  2. Olympian expectations
  3. Transforming experiences
  4. One breakthrough achievement
  5. Make your own trail
  6. Find and drive your own personal vehicle
  7. Thrive on setbacks
  8. Acquire unique intuition
  9. Distort reality

I also very much enjoyed reading about some of the 20 players in the book that were covered: Bill Bain, Jeff Bezos, Otto von Bismarck, Winston Churchill, Marie Curie, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein, Viktor Frankl, Bruce Henderson, Steve Jobs, John Maynard Keynes, Vladimir Lenin, Madonna, Nelson Mandela, J.K. Rowling, Helena Rubinstein, Paul of Tarsus, and Margaret Thatcher.

I did not care for the political characters but found Jeff Bezos, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs particularly fascinating. This inspired me to order their biographies so I can learn more about those individuals.

Feb 23, 2021

String Theory commercial idea

Starts with a shot of a customer placing their order and leaving their stick outside.

Title slide: “What happens after I place my order?”

Cue 80s music.

Insert clip of superhero logo intro lighting the sky with a superhero symbol. Replace stock superhero logo with String Theory logo. Overlay “String Theory HQ” above building where the light source is coming from.

Pan to theorist shooting lacrosse balls. Use a high camera angle on their last shot before they pull their sunglasses off and stare at the sky to see their beckoning call.

Theorist: “I’m on it.”

Theorist runs to their car. Use quick cut shots here of them turning their car on, putting on driving gloves, and speeding off.

Insert this clip of a sports car doing donuts. Paste the theorist’s face over the driver’s in the stock video clip.

Theorist gets the stick and cut back to them restringing the stick. Use quick cut shots here on clipping the strings out and cutting fresh new strings. Then show a sped up time lapse of them stringing the stick that slowly pans closer to them.

Show a shot of the final product when the theorist is finished.

Edit another sequence of the theorist driving the stick back to the customer. This time, use this clip of a monster truck.

Final shot shows the String Theory logo fade in then “Stringing made easy.” flings in right to left word by word.

Feb 22, 2021


Three principles for being a better Monopoly player that also apply to your life:

#1: don’t think linearly

People seem to fall into this trap most when negotiating. They get hung up on haggling over a few hundred bucks because they are worried about getting a bad deal. Take the bad deal if you  can get closer to having a monopoly sooner rather than later. This ties into the second principle.

#2: assets > money

A linear investment into your assets results in exponential growth of your income. It is almost always a bad idea to trade assets for money. There is one exception that is related to the last principle.

#3: focus in one area at a time

Rather than building up your properties evenly, you should focus on one location at a time. Sometimes, it may even be a good idea to trade away properties for money so that you can invest more in the ones that you are focusing on.

Feb 21, 2021

Are you proud of it?

Marketing works and feels best when you have something that is worth sharing. Once you have done the work of being specific about “who’s it for” and “what’s it for”, the job of the marketer is to capture the attention of the people you serve so they can reap the benefits of your offering.

I am proud of what we are doing with String Theory. We are doing what I think every great business should be doing: reducing friction. If you can successfully reduce friction in a market, those savings can be passed on to the producers and consumers of the market.

In String Theory’s case, we can pay the stringers more for their work compared to traditional brick and mortar shops and make it easier for players to get a high-quality lacrosse stick to play with. It’s very niche but the minimum viable audience is big enough for us to do meaningful work.

Feb 20, 2021

What asset are you building?

I am building a software platform to reduce the friction in the traditional lacrosse stringing business. This enables stringers to be paid better and players to get better service. 

We are focusing specifically on lacrosse stringing right now but in theory, this asset can be abstracted to benefit any sort of service business.

Feb 19, 2021

About jeffcanstring #1

I am the founder and Chief Theorist of String Theory.

I was an All-American lacrosse player for Northport High School. My first job was working as a retail employee and stringer for Lacrosse Unlimited in Huntington where I worked part-time for 5 years.

I was recruited to a few colleges after high school but got into UVA without being committed there and decided it was the best place for me. I considered walking on to the team but thought it might be too difficult to balance lacrosse with a computer engineering degree. Instead, I played for the club lacrosse team while in college.

Combining my knowledge in lacrosse stringing and technical know-how as a computer engineer, I designed and developed String Theory with the intent of creating the easiest way for lacrosse stringers and players to connect.

Feb 18, 2021

Where’s the network effect?

How does your product or service get better as more people use it? You want to create something with this property so that people are incentivized to selfishly share it. They tell their friends because it makes your product or service work better for them if their friends use it too.

I’ve already spoken of referral links but there’s nothing exciting about that. It seems like every company uses them now so it doesn’t give us any sort of edge. But how exactly are we going to do referral links? I think free stringing credits seems like a good idea. Stringers can opt into adding this feature where players who write a review can share their profile with friends and if anyone new signs up, both players get free stringing. They just have to pay for materials.

Team orders are another useful feature that I have talked about already. We can make our service more affordable at scale and incentivize players to tell their teammates about String Theory. I have ideas for UX/UI around this concept similar to Kickstarter that could gamify this.

Feb 17, 2021

What will they tell their friends?

Have you heard of String Theory?

It’s a cool website where you can choose from highly-reviewed lacrosse stringers to restring your stick or deliver a new one to you.

A lot of the stringers offer pickup & delivery so it’s really easy to use. You just checkout online and they take care of the rest.

If you use my link, we can both get a discount.

Feb 16, 2021

Why will they tell their friends?

When creating a product or service, you want to create something that gets better when more people use it or when people tell their friends. I have a few ideas for incentivizing the spread of String Theory.

A tactic that is used by many internet companies such as Uber or Airbnb is offering referral links so that the person who shares and the person they share it with both get something. We can offer a similar referral system.

Another idea I have is to make a customer’s experience easily shareable to Instagram after they write a review. If a customer writes a good review, they will see a button to share a post that we will automatically create for them (to make it easy) and offer a $10 gift card in return for them spreading the word.

Last but not least, we will reach out to coaches and offer team order discounts. We will set a minimum limit (maybe 10 sticks) and once the team reaches that limit a stringer will show up to one of their practices and string the sticks of everyone who signed up for just the cost of materials (roughly a 40% discount).

We can create UI around this last tactic so that people placing orders can see the progress of the team order and how close they are to reaching discounted stringing. This incentivizes people to spread the word to their teammates so they can reach the minimum order limits and get the discount.

Feb 15, 2021

Prepare for abundance

Whether they’re aware of it or not, most people care about status.

In a future world where machines do most of the grunt work and everybody has a basic income to meet their needs, money loses its effectiveness at elevating one’s status.

How can we prepare for this future?

First, making a lot of money shouldn’t be your goal. Make enough to cover your means and then some but don’t stress about acquiring much more than that. 

People are going to care less that you’re rich or that you have nice stuff. Some people may even judge you for how you don’t help enough people with your money. We can already see aspects of this future in some pockets of the world—it’s just not evenly distributed yet.

Second, while physical resources become abundant, attention is maintaining its scarcity. Get ready to compete for it in the world of ideas. 

Learn as many skills as you can. Be as competent as you can be. Try to entertain or build. Work to create something great and give it away for free. The attention is worth more than any money you can make from it.

Feb 14, 2021

Weekly update

I moved into Seaford and really like my new place. My room has a good amount of space. I’ve never been one to focus and care about how my room is set up but I’d like to be more deliberate about this space. It is clear that my environment has a powerful impact on my mood and productivity so it is worth a little extra attention.

I’m charging full steam ahead with the new changes to String Theory and I’m getting antsy to announce and start marketing. I finished implementing the dynamic shop pages and now I am working on theorist profiles. Once they are finished, we will reach out to some stringers with a link to our staging site to gauge interest in being part of our re-launch.

My doctor’s appointment was stressful. The new doctor I saw is similarly concerned about my health like the last one was because my blood pressure was high. I’m anxiously waiting to see the results of a blood test.

Feb 13, 2021

Reaching the early adopters

How will you reach the early adopters and neophiliacs? This is the small minority of individuals in your market looking for the next new thing to try. 

They play an important role in building trust for your new product or service that will eventually cross the chasm to the rest of the market.

Our strategy starts with stringers. We already follow a decent number of people on Instagram who are trying to break into the market of offering lacrosse stringing online. Some are already very successful but others could use a helping hand. We will offer that help to them in exchange for them joining and doing business through our platform. 

Our first stringer is me and by helping me grow my business here on Long Island we will develop the tactics to grow and prove the concept. We will then scale these tactics to stringers across the nation.

I think our company already appeals to early adopter players because we are offering lacrosse stringing in a very different way from what’s been done before by going fully online and including pickup and delivery with the service to make it really convenient. 

To convince those that might be on the fence, we will be doing giveaways and team order promotions to get people to try and spread the word of String Theory.

Feb 12, 2021

How will it change their status?

With sleek branding and website design, fast checkouts, and excellent customer service, we will organically build our reputation as a premium, convenient, future-focused lacrosse brand. 

The virtuous cycle we need to kickstart is the balance between stringers and players. As we serve more players, more stringers will be interested in being on our platform and as more stringers are on the String Theory platform, the more players we will be able to reach.

We will start this cycle by recruiting great stringers. We are carefully on-boarding them to make sure they are individuals who we believe have the skill and determination to provide great service. In order to convince them to join in the beginning, I’m willing to promote and provide the tools they need to succeed at no cost to them.

One other thing: stringers on String Theory are called theorists. I think it is a fun way to elevate their status to people trying our service.

Feb 11, 2021

The change you seek to make

What change are you seeking to make with the business you are creating?

I strongly dislike inefficiency. Lacrosse stringing is a space that I worked in for about five years so I understand the inefficiencies well in that niche business. I can help make it more efficient and increase the value that both stringers and players receive.

There are some stringers that have figured out how to successfully offer their services without working for a brick and mortar store, but many have not. The stringers who have figured it out are also still competing for a small portion of the total lacrosse stick market relative to retail competitors. 

I hope to get more stringers and players to embrace this model. If I succeed, stringers can be paid better and players can get better service by working with someone directly. Using technology, I can apply the e-commerce methods of a company like Amazon to a very niche space that is too specific for Amazon to compete with.

Feb 10, 2021

What story will you tell?

I was a lacrosse stringer and an All-American player in high school. As a stringer, I worked for a retail store stringing lacrosse sticks. I also strung sticks as a side gig for teammates. 

The benefit of working with the store was consistent work and pay. Additionally, I enjoyed hanging out with the people I worked with. The benefit of working as a side gig was making much more money per stick as well as being known as the team stringer.

Is there a way to marry consistent work and a community of people to work alongside with the glory and recognition of having your own brand? We think String Theory can be that answer for stringers.

As a player, I never had to worry about getting a bad string job because I strung my own sticks but I played with people who had that experience. If you can’t string your own stick, the next best thing is to have a connection with someone who can to work with you to consistently string a pocket that matches your preferences. String Theory can provide that connection for players more efficiently.

Feb 09, 2021

What are they afraid of?

A powerful motivation for buying any product or service is to compensate for insecurity. What are the stringers and players of String Theory afraid of?

Our stringers are afraid of obscurity. They are afraid of all of the nuances of creating any sort of business. What started as a desire to get compensated and recognized for being a good stringer has turned out to be more complicated than they thought. They fear the complexities. They are afraid of the responsibility it takes to market oneself. They feel vulnerable. They’re not sure how to get people to trust them and buy their services.

Our players are afraid of playing poorly. They’re afraid of getting cut from the team. They’re afraid of not playing up to their full potential because their stick was not strung the way they are used to. They’re afraid of not using the same cool, new service as their friends.

Feb 08, 2021

The String Theory worldview

Our stringers and players are all individuals in high school or college who care about recognition and convenience.

The stringers want to be recognized in the online world as craftsmen worth going out of your way to hire. In an ideal world, they could just be compensated well for stringing and not have to worry about the nitty gritty of running their own ecommerce store. If they just cared about stringing, they would work for a retail store so clearly the recognition among teammates and players in the broader lacrosse community is a key component.

The players want a consistent and reliable stick to elevate their play. Maybe they want a cool-looking stick that will raise their status with their teammates. Coaches and parents might be looking for a way to give the players an edge over the competition. They also want it to be easy. If they can avoid a trip to the store and get back their time, it’s a huge win worth paying extra for.

Feb 07, 2021

What’s their worldview?

What’s the worldview of the audience you’re seeking to reach? One thing that This Is Marketing changed about my thinking is understanding that not every person cares about the same things when buying something.

This seems obvious, but let me explain myself.

For some things, this already made sense to me. For example, I understood that not everybody cares about lowering their carbon footprint so if you make something that is supposed to be better for the environment, you’re telling a story that aligns with a specific type of person.

But for other concepts, this was less intuitive to me. For instance, I assumed everyone likes getting something for a lower price. It is true that most people, when given a choice between similar offerings, would prefer the less expensive option, but some people actually want the more expensive item. Not because it’s any better, but because of what it says about who they are and the story they tell themselves. They’re the type of person who can afford luxury and they like affirming this story by buying things that others can’t afford.

I also assumed most people liked new or better products or services, like myself. But I now realize I am in the minority and there’s actually a term for customers like me: neophiliacs. The majority of people prefer the status quo over the new because they want familiarity and are averse to change.

Unless your customer is you, it is important to think about what the worldviews of your audience might be.

Feb 06, 2021

2021 week 5 update

This week, I made myself a daily schedule in my planner for tackling my to-do list and that really helped me stay on track to get things done before 7 or 8 each night. I will continue to do this moving forward.

I worked on the new main shopping page for String Theory and I’m pretty excited about it. I’m developing the page so that it is dynamically built by content models defined in Contentful. It’s a bit more complicated up front but it will add flexibility for changing the layout of the page or adding new pages in the future without having to update the code.

My sleep was better this week in the beginning but got crappy towards the end. I’m starting to think I’m destined for poor sleep and should stop stressing about it. For now, I will stick to the plan and try to improve next week.

I made my doctor’s appointment for my annual check-up next Monday. I always dread doing these sorts of things but I will feel much less anxious after I get it over with.

I also finished listening to Jeff Bezos’ annual shareholder letters. I never knew much about him but it’s amazing how much foresight he had and how clear his vision was for the company. From the beginning, Amazon has been relentlessly focused on the customer and prioritizing their long-term reputation over short-term profits. They made many decisions that were counterintuitive to the way many thought a business should be run but those principles paid off. I would like to apply similar principles to building String Theory.

Today, I’m moving into my new place in Seaford, hence why I’m writing this last minute. There’s supposed to be a big winter storm tomorrow so Em and I are going to do some grocery shopping before calling it a night.

Feb 05, 2021

What’s it for?

Why are you creating a business? Sure, maybe you want to make money or have a greater sense of purpose but frankly, your customer doesn’t care about any of that. What’s in it for them?

What makes String Theory different?

I bounced around a few different answers to this question. Maybe we could be more affordable, faster, higher quality, or more convenient than competitors.

Affordability is a lazy way to differentiate oneself so I threw that idea out first. Fast is hard to guarantee with a platform of independent stringers so I eliminated that as well. That left me with higher quality and easier. While I like the idea of offering something premium and want to do high-quality work, I think it’s much better for us to focus on doing one thing really well: make it easy.

Reducing friction is a theme that many internet businesses have adopted and done successfully. Considering we are entering a market with old school players where our advantage is my technical aptitude, it makes a lot of sense for us to start here.

The standard process for getting a stick strung if you don’t know someone who does it is to go to a brick and mortar shop and drop your stick off or buy a new one. What would it look like if you could just press a button and have a new one? That’s what String Theory is for.

Feb 04, 2021

Who's it for?

It can’t be for everyone. If it’s made for everyone, it won’t be good enough for anyone.

What’s the minimum viable audience? The more specific I can be about who it’s for, the easier it will be for me to have a clear idea of who I’m marketing to.

Since String Theory is a marketplace, it has two buckets of “shareholders” in the business that we are trying to simultaneously serve: stringers and players. Let’s talk about who each one is separately.


These are individuals who currently offer their services a la carte on Instagram or some other online medium. They are not tech savvy and if they have a site, it is most likely a boilerplate one setup with a website builder. They may be struggling to grow their stringing business or make a living with it. Possibly, they work for a retail store at the moment but they are interested in getting paid more for their work. They can drive and are willing to offer pickup and delivery to local players.


String Theory makes it easy to get a new lacrosse stick or your current stick restrung by a professional you can trust. The players we serve are willing to pay a little extra for this convenience and peace of mind. They prefer connecting with a stringer directly rather than working with a retail store chain. Maybe that stringer plays lacrosse with them or their kids and they have a personal connection with them.

Feb 03, 2021

A simple marketing worksheet

At the end of This Is Marketing by Seth Godin, there is a section titled “A Simple Marketing Worksheet” with a series of questions. 

Rather than try to summarize the entire book in a few posts, I think it might be more fun to go through these questions over the next couple of weeks and apply it to my business, String Theory:

  • Who’s it for?
  • What’s it for?
  • What is the worldview of the audience you’re seeking to reach?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • What story will you tell? Is it true?
  • What change are you seeking to make?
  • How will it change their status?
  • How will you reach the early adopters and neophiliacs?
  • Why will they tell their friends?
  • What will they tell their friends?
  • Where’s the network effect that will propel this forward?
  • What asset are you building?
  • Are you proud of it?

Starting with “Who’s it for?” tomorrow.

Feb 02, 2021


Minimum Viable Audience.

When creating a business, what is the smallest number of people you can reach for it to matter? For a restaurant, that might be a few thousand people. For a freelance creative, that might only be a handful of clients.

Counterintuitive, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we be trying to reach the most people in order to have the greatest impact?

Most people want their business to be a hit. The irony is you will probably have more success if you start small and specific. The more specific you are, the deeper you can reach people. 

Seek to have a greater impact for less people.

Feb 01, 2021

String Theory 2021 Q1 milestones

The build

  • Launch home updates (1/30)

  • Implement MVP on staging (2/1-2/26)

    • Shop module page (2/5)

    • Theorist profile page (2/12)

    • Custom strung order flow

      • Material selection (2/15)
      • Theorist selection (2/19)
      • Head selection (2/22)
    • Pre-strung head support (2/26)

  • Clean up staging and launch to production (3/6)

The sell

  • Create Instagram and take profile picture for @jeffcanstring (1/31)

  • Stock photos and promotion (2/6-2/20)

    • Buy 6 black heads from STX: 2 men’s, 3 women’s, 1 goalie (2/6)
    • String heads all black (2/13)
    • Photoshoot of heads to be used for website stock photos and @jeffcanstring content (2/20)
  • Tease re-launch on String Theory Instagram (2/27)

  • Announce launch & @jeffcanstring (3/6)

  • Start 3-week, 3-head giveaway in partnership with @jeffcanstring (3/7)

Jan 31, 2021

2021 week 4 update

This week was a little bit better than the last. I published updates to the home page of String Theory and finalized some designs for our upcoming sprint to re-launch.

My sleep is still not great. I’m not working as late as I was a week ago but now I am keeping myself up with my phone or TV so I still need to work on it.

I finished reading This Is Marketing by Seth Godin this weekend and I LOVED the ending! I liked this book more than The Practice. I felt like I really needed to hear its message. It helped me see how selfish I was being in the creation of my business. I may not like marketing but it doesn’t matter if I don’t like it because it isn’t for me. I have to do it so that the important work that I’m doing is seen by the right people in a way that resonates with their own personal story.

My birthday was this past week and it was a good one. I had a nice dinner with Em at Crown Shy in the Financial District and got to see some friends on Tuesday and this past Saturday.

In this upcoming week, I will be grinding into more development of the re-launch of String Theory. Specifically, I’m trying to get our new shop page completely implemented with CMS on Contentful. I will also be starting a new book: Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It by Richard Koch. Fingers crossed for better sleeping habits.

Jan 30, 2021

January 2021 retro

The good

I created designs for a better String Theory. I am excited about what’s happening next for the business. I also lost a few pounds, although admittedly, I quickly gained some weight back this week.

The bad

I completely neglected my daily meditative walks. I felt scattered this month and my sleep was not consistent. I’d like to try to be more regimented next month.

Looking ahead

In February, I will finish implementing the design updates for a new and improved String Theory. This will involve adding support for more types of products like new heads and pre-strung heads. 

Most importantly, I need to transition from building to marketing. This Is Marketing gave me a lot of good ideas to apply to String Theory and now, I just need to execute them. I will start with creating my personal stringer account on Instagram and teasing the changes to String Theory on our main Instagram.

Jan 29, 2021

Care about your customers

One thing that is lacking as companies continue to offer cheaper, faster, easier products is customer service. If you ever have to deal with the customer service of a lot of these new online companies, it feels totally impersonal.

Am I the only person who wants a company to give a shit about me as a customer? I can’t possibly be the only one. Your customers are human-beings; they are not a cost-benefit analysis. Treat them as such.

If you use String Theory and we don’t offer excellent customer service, please call me out on it. This is clearly important enough to me to rant about it and I hope to create businesses that can treat people better.

Jan 28, 2021

Don't start with price

When considering all of the ways you can offer a better product or service than what currently exists, avoid starting with price as a differentiator.

First, it is difficult to beat incumbents with price. They have been around longer than you have and have already developed relationships with suppliers or manufacturers to afford better rates than you can. They have also already worked out the kinks in their product or service while you probably still have to do some experimentation to figure out what works for you.

Second, price is a way to hide from offering something better. Can you offer something customers would be willing to pay more for? If you’re offering more of the same, but cheaper, then you are selling a commodity. You will be easily replaced by the next person who comes along and offers the same thing cheaper than you.

Unless you have invented a completely new way of doing something that cuts price by an order of magnitude, then competing on price is not the path for you. Be bold enough to charge more for your better product or service.

Jan 27, 2021

A better way to stay?

If you travel a decent amount, then you’ve probably heard of or used Airbnb. The pricing can sometimes be cheaper than a hotel and it is nice to have somewhere to stay that feels more like a private apartment than a hotel.

The issue I have with Airbnb is the consistency between using different hosts and support for inexpensive, longer-term stays. Due to the pandemic and many people’s jobs becoming fully remote, I think this second point will become increasingly popular.

Enter Sonder, a company that is similar to Airbnb except that they own the real estate and curate the experience across all of their locations which solves the consistency issue of Airbnb. They also offer steep discounts for longer stays.

As I write this review, I am staying in one. The place for the most part is as nice as I expected from the pictures. Some of the construction of the units and furniture is a bit shoddy but nothing totally unacceptable and at least it is clean. 

Sonder’s customer service is really bad however. I’ve only contacted them twice: once to ask for garbage bags and the second time to adjust my checkout date. They never showed up for the first request and for the second request, they just informed me of their 30-day cancellation policy. No fees, no credit. They just gave me the option to shorten my stay for the same price I already paid. I did not take them up on the offer.

I think there is an opportunity here for someone to come up with something similar to these companies but better. I have an idea to execute on something like Airbnb or Sonder involving smart, tiny homes but I will go into more detail on this idea at some point in the future when I have time to build it.

Jan 26, 2021

Focus on growth

As a business owner competing against many alternatives, the natural inclination is to steal market share. Cut down your competitors and certainly don’t promote them. Advertise why customers should choose you instead of them. This seems like a reasonable thing to do if you want to survive and thrive.

But what if this inclination is wrong? I think it is and it’s certainly not how I want to operate my business. “Better” is subjective and the customers you seek to serve will always choose you assuming the kind of “better” you’re offering aligns with what they’re looking for. If you aren’t providing the best that they’re looking for, don’t be dishonest. Do better.

An issue that you and your competitors share is the total available market for what you all do. Instead of trying to corner the market, focus on growing the market. It may be most effective to do this by working with your competitors, not against them.

Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.

– Tim O’Reilly

Jan 25, 2021

2021 week 4 plan

My plans for String Theory have changed. My expectations before were impossible. I am no longer getting customer accounts implemented this quarter. Now, I have a bit more time to focus on the theorist profiles and getting that right. 

This week, I will be adding a “shop” page which is the next screen after our landing. It will be a hub where our customers can dive into an individual theorist’s profile, buy a prestrung head, or start customizing their order immediately. This page will be dynamically constructed by a backend feed so it’s easy to rearrange or adjust as needed. I will be using Contentful to store the content for that.

My birthday is this week so I have a couple of fun things planned to look forward to. I’m trying Crown Shy in the Financial District with Em on Monday night. Tuesday night, my friends have a surprise planned for me.

I am finishing up This Is Marketing by Seth Godin this week. This is another book from Seth that I love. I will probably end up having a few posts to write in retrospect from the ideas presented in the book.

Last but certainly not least, I am getting my sleep right! No work after 8PM; I need to get my ass ready for bed. I also need some sort of nighttime tea, melatonin, quaalude or whatever it takes to knock me out before midnight.

Jan 24, 2021

2021 week 3 retro

The good

Did I say last week kicked my ass? It’s hard for me to find the good in this week and I’m feeling pretty low. 

I kept up with my daily exercise and writing habits. I also made time to walk for at least 15 minutes each day.

My weight started dropping and I weighed in at 163 pounds today. This was my target for the cut so I’m happy with that.

The bad

Last week, I was proud of the design updates I made for String Theory. This week, I changed my mind. They are still not right so I’m not done with them yet. 

I still haven’t started development but I think I can get started today. This also changes my timeline and expectations for what I’m going to get done this quarter. I’m going to have to postpone customer accounts and subscriptions. This might not be a bad thing because I have felt pretty overwhelmed with my expectations so far.

My sleep schedule is a dumpster fire. I ended up getting a lot of sleep last weekend but during the week, I couldn’t keep it consistent. One night, I became obsessed with the String Theory design updates that I was no longer happy with so I stayed up until 3AM. Then, I felt I needed to catch up on my day job work so I pulled an all-nighter to do that.

Looking ahead

Cutting out one of the big development efforts for String Theory will make the work more manageable to get done. I think I bit off more than I could or should chew. If I did get it all done, it probably wouldn’t have been great work.

SLEEP. I NEED to prioritize it. Schedule less work; I’m burning myself out.

Jan 23, 2021

Is this part of the practice?

I really feel like I’m losing steam here.

When I first started this exercise of writing everyday after reading The Practice by Seth Godin, I felt like I was making progress. I thought my writing was getting better.

Now, I feel unsure. I feel like I’m hitting a wall. I feel like I’ve exhausted all of the interesting things I might have to say and I can’t keep up.

I don’t like my writing that much recently and I feel self-conscious about it. Does the process get easier? I won’t give up that easy but I’m having some doubts.

Anyways, here’s another one.

Jan 22, 2021

Death to capitalism

Yesterday, I wrote about how the majority of people think in terms of win-lose instead of win-win. I think that’s why it seems popular to hate capitalism these days. In order for some people to be wealthy, many people assume that they have to take away from others. Therefore, capitalism is evil.

Now, I’m not going to make the case that there aren’t people who do highly benefit in our capitalistic system by taking more than they deserve. They definitely do exist.

However, capitalism can take most of the credit for the abundance we have created in certain pockets in the world and I think it will be essential for expanding that abundance to everyone.

Profit is not a perfect measure of value created but it is pretty effective. I’m not sure why some subset of people think it’s more admirable to create a non-profit business. Non-profit businesses are not well-incentivized to invent the change necessary for a better future.

While it is hard to create a non-profit, it is many times harder to create a profitable business. Profit, simply put, is just the difference between the cost of the inputs of a business and what people are willing to trade for its outputs.

In order to generate profit, you have to add value. You have to do something better than what already exists without losing money. Coming up with a way to do this requires ingenuity.

Jan 21, 2021

Abundance, not scarcity

Most people think in terms of win-lose or zero sum. If I get one, then you have to lose one.

But win-lose thinking is unsustainable. It only helps some people in the short-run and hurts everyone in the long-run. I have an optimistic view of the future that I think we can achieve if more people can adopt a win-win mentality.

It is counterintuitive. We are wired to compete and fight over resources. Historically, it might have been a good idea to do so. But we are on the cusp of a remarkable transition as a species.

Either human beings will be extinct in the next century or we’re going to level up. I know that people are suffering all over the world but things are getting exponentially better. We will be able to see it in our lifetimes. Everyone can be rich.

If we’re going to make it, we need more people to adopt this mentality of win-win. Win-lose isn’t an accurate assessment of our current state and it holds you and the world back.

Think win-win, not win-lose.

Jan 20, 2021

Capture your thoughts

Where do ideas come from? They don’t seem to come from the conscious self. If they did, we could summon good ideas when we needed them.

If you get lucky and a good idea pops into your head from the ether, get it in writing immediately. Good ideas are a precious gift that will be forgotten and wasted if they aren’t written down.

If you have bad thoughts, write those down as well. It is clearly not for the purpose of remembering them but writing your thoughts out also helps clear your head. Inbox zero is a relaxing state to be in.

In either case, your brain is a terrible place to keep thoughts or ideas. So write them down!

Jan 19, 2021

Learn to code

I believe that no matter who you are, you should try to learn to code. Just try it. Even if you only understand a little bit. It’s the most worthwhile skill to have in the world we all live in now.

Unless the world drastically changes for worse, knowing how to code guarantees you a good life. Being a software engineer is not very demanding yet extremely rewarding. 

Of course, you can make it more demanding depending on where you work but at that point, it’s no longer about the money and it is just about a sense of purpose. It is such a privilege to have that option.

If you can also learn how to sell, you are unstoppable. I’m currently stuck trying to learn this second one. It does not come naturally to me. But with both of these skills, you can possibly acquire an extraordinary life.

Jan 18, 2021

2021 week 3 plan

The focus for this week is the start of development on an MVP for a new kind of String Theory

Currently, you go to String Theory and go through the process of ordering a stick to be restrung in much the same way you would at any other store like String It Up or Lacrosse Unlimited. 

In the new and improved String Theory, theorists will have their own profiles which act as their own store on the platform and you can choose from many stringers located all over the U.S. To our customers, String Theory will be a platform instead of a service provider. We will be providing the connections to talented stringers everywhere.

I’ve already finished the designs. The plan is to have this feature implemented in 2 weeks which will certainly be a hell of a sprint but I’m excited about the direction we are taking the business.

I will also be finishing This Is Marketing by Seth Godin this week. I’m halfway through and this book has already made me realize just how bad of a marketer I am and how important effective marketing is. It has given me new ideas for how to position the brand of String Theory. I have a lot to say about this book but I will save it for a future post.

On a personal note, I am looking forward to checking out a new place on Friday that I’m potentially moving into with a friend. I am also looking forward to having a birthday dinner with my family on Saturday.

Jan 17, 2021

2021 week 2 retro

The good

Although I didn’t get it done as fast as I wanted to, I am really proud of the String Theory design updates and I can’t wait to implement them!

I wrote and published everyday like I promised myself I would (even if it wasn’t good writing).

I finished the first 10 chapters of This Is Marketing and I’m getting so many great insights from this book!

I got my dentist appointment out of the way.

The bad

This week kicked my ass and it’s partially my fault. 

I’m stuck in a bad cycle of not getting enough sleep, then sleeping too late, then falling behind on work so that I work late, then falling asleep late. Clearly, I’m not hitting my sleep goals this quarter right now.

I might be trying to pack too much work in. I need time to decompress.

I’m skipping my daily hour-long walks. I miss them as they are a necessary break from all the noise.

My weight is not dropping fast enough even though I cut calories. This is probably due to me missing my walks so I’m not burning the same amount of calories.

I’m probably spending too much time on my phone.

Looking ahead

This weekend I am correcting my sleep. I’m going to go to bed early Saturday night to get on track.

Carefully plan work this week. Maybe plan 20% less than I think I can do.

Even if I don’t feel like I have time, it is better to walk for at least 15 minutes than to skip it entirely.

I will fast Sunday to get my weight loss on track.

Does my phone need to be on during the day? Maybe I can just shut it off. I can definitely at least stop using it for looking at my to-do list.

Jan 16, 2021

Getting older

It’s weird. Who else is freaking out about it?

A life that wasn’t mine until a few decades ago, is now something I cling onto even though I don’t own it. I can’t own it. Our lives aren’t for us to keep. They’re ours to borrow and return in what will probably feel like a short period of time.

I don’t believe in an afterlife. I think religious books are a collection of fictional stories that might have useful lessons in them, but I can’t take them seriously. I wish I could. I would be less anxious if I didn’t think this was all going to end so abruptly.

However, one somewhat optimistic thought I have about death is that maybe I’m not really Jeff Cannon. Maybe we’re just playing characters in a simulation. In a higher reality, we chose to wipe our memories, go back in time, and live as if we’re living through the dawn of the Internet.

Being born in this time period does feel like a strange coincidence. We could have been born in any time period. But in this one, we are approaching what seems like such a critical inflection point with technology that part of me believes that the singularity already happened.

Imagine a future where you can live forever and there’s so much abundance that nobody has to do anything that they don’t want to do. You have unlimited time and resources. It would basically be heaven.

It would also probably get so boring that people would create simulations such as this one to entertain themselves.

Jan 15, 2021

Be a horse with blinders on

Race horses are adorned with blinders to block out their rear and peripheral vision. This keeps them focused and on track.

It’s tempting to take a peak over the fence at what your neighbor has, but this will ruin you. You can never take the lead if you’re always looking at what others are doing.

The only person you should be competing against is yourself. Be a little bit better today than you were yesterday. Small changes compound. You will reach your highest potential.

Jan 14, 2021

Winter 2021

Kicking off 2021 with a bang! Here’s my plan for the first quarter of this year. 


  • Cut weight from 166 to 163 pounds in the first 3 weeks

  • Improve sleep

    • Consistently wake up at 8AM
    • Average 7 hours per night
  • Maintenance

    • Dentist appointment in January
    • Annual checkup in February
    • Daily exercise, fruits & vegetables


  • String Theory development:

    • Theorist profiles by the end of January
    • Customer accounts & subscriptions by the end of February
    • Customer reviews by the end of March
  • String Theory marketing:

    • Create personal lacrosse stringing Instagram in February
    • Do a giveaway for the month of March


The purpose of getting this in writing is a) this blog is my diary and b) hopefully it will inspire anyone seeking a similar path in life. Each Sunday I will post a progress update.

If you also want a quarterly plan like this to tackle your goals more effectively, check out my post on why I create quarterly plans and how to make one yourself.

Jan 13, 2021

Less impressed, more involved

This is another gem from Matthew McConaughey’s new book Greenlights.

Less impressed. Don’t overthink it. Don’t be a spectator. Let the past go.

More involved. Participate. Be present. Continuously improve. Do work that inspires you.

It’s okay to celebrate your wins and grieve your losses now and then, but don’t overindulge in these moments. If you linger, you can get stuck.

Don’t mind the result. Get carried away with the process. 

Less impressed, more involved.

Jan 12, 2021

Network effects

A network effect is a phenomenon in which the value or utility a user derives from a good or service depends on the number of people using it.

Social media companies like Facebook or Twitter are fueled by this phenomenon. Network effects provide a nice moat to prevent anyone from creating an alternative. These services are only valuable because your friends use it. They have little to no inherent value without their users.

I think alcohol thrives similarly. I challenge you to come up with an inherently valuable aspect to drinking. Alcohol is only fun to drink as long as your friends are doing it too. Once you come to this conclusion, it makes it much easier to quit or at least reduce intake.

- New York, NY

Jan 11, 2021

I need a writing pipeline

Lately, writing this blog has been a drag and I feel like I’m falling behind or publishing crap just to get it done. In order to address this issue, I think I need a pipeline of pieces ready to go.

My process up to this point has been to write in under 30 minutes and publish on the same day. A better process might be to still write in under 30 minutes each day but to have a couple pieces already done in a pipeline.

So today, I would really be publishing a piece I wrote a couple days ago and writing the piece for Wednesday.

There are three benefits to this:

  1. I can publish every morning at a consistent time since the piece will have been written in advance.
  2. I have the opportunity to edit with a fresh pair of eyes a day or two after writing.
  3. There will be less pressure since it doesn’t have to be published right away. This lack of pressure will open up my mind to think of better ideas to write about.

I will get to work on this tonight and hope it will improve my writing quality moving forward.

Jan 10, 2021

A haiku for overwhelm

Brain is paralyzed.

To-do list overflowing.

Trying to keep up.

—This was cheap, but I want to go to bed and feel too overwhelmed to produce something of more substance.

Jan 09, 2021

The simulation inside

Whether or not our minds exist in a simulation outside of ourselves, there is certainly one inside ourselves. We are all living in a simulation of our own creation.

Each of us have very different perceptions of reality. This fact only seems exacerbated by tools like social media.

One way to measure intelligence is how useful someone’s model of reality is in making decisions for the future. If you have an accurate model of reality that allows you to make better predictions for what you should do next, then you are a master of your universe. You can succeed in any way you define success.

- East Northport, NY

Jan 08, 2021

You should get an LLC

Disclaimer: I am not a professional accountant or financial advisor of any kind so the following information is just my opinion.

If you are a W-2 employee with a portion of your wages withheld for taxes, you are missing out on a big tax refund if you do not have an LLC. With an LLC, you get a K-1 tax form indicating your net profit or loss. If your LLC has business expenses that exceed its revenue, then you can subtract that loss from the income of your day job and receive a refund for 20-30% of that amount (based on your tax rate).

Here are some things that you might be paying for right now that could be considered business expenses:

  • Suits, dresses, shoes, and other kinds of attire.
  • Expensive technology purchases like phones or laptops.
  • A portion of your internet, phone, and cable bills.
  • Travel expenses (if travel is for business).
  • Dinners, coffee, drinks, or any other situations where you might be discussing business.

What kind of business could you create?

That depends. What do you spend a lot of money on? Is there anything that you do for fun that you might be able to get paid for?

One idea for a business that is low effort is to start a YouTube channel discussing something that you like to purchase like makeup or tech. You can post a video once a year and those products that you probably would’ve bought anyways are now considered business expenses.

Get creative with it! Maybe there’s a hobby that you have that might produce something that you can try to sell.

To be clear, I’m not recommending that you do anything illegal. You should speak with an accountant to make sure your expenses make sense.

But if you sit down and think about it, there is probably something that you’re already doing that can be turned into a business. At the very least, it will unlock a lot of tax savings for you. Start your LLC today here.

Jan 07, 2021

Guide to building an annual plan

Today, I published one long post on Medium going through every step of creating an annual plan. I’ve already outlined all steps here but it is easier to read as one document there.

Getting back into random posts tomorrow.

Go out and crush 2021!

Jan 06, 2021

Thoughts on building an annual plan

The past week I spent each day going through the steps outlined in this video to create an annual plan for 2021.

Here’s what I like about it:

My vision of where I will be in a year is crystal clear. I have a list of binary key results that need to be met in order to satisfy my vision and I have a few general areas of focus to help guide me along the way and move the needle towards the results I am seeking.

I am pumped! There’s so much to get done this year.

What I would like to improve next year:

This exercise was worthwhile but I would do it slightly differently if I were to do it again. I should’ve done a separate annual plan from my personal one focused solely on my big project this year: String Theory. It often felt like I was context-switching between what I wanted to accomplish for myself and what I wanted to accomplish for String Theory.

If you know in advance that a particular venture will be important for the upcoming year, I think it deserves its own plan separate from your personal self-development goals.

Jan 05, 2021

How to compete with Amazon

At the time of this writing, Amazon has a $1.6T market cap. They provide inexpensive products nearly instantaneously with their unrivaled distribution network. How can you possibly compete with that?

You won’t be able to charge less.

Your product or service won’t be easier to order.

You can’t deliver faster.

But Amazon does have an Achilles heel. Seth Godin described it best in his podcast:

Amazon has built an institution that is good at selling everything but has no ability to sell anything.

What does this mean? This is how I interpreted it:

If you need a pair of shoes, you can go to Amazon and find a pair at an unbeatable price and get it delivered in an unbeatable amount of time. But if you want to buy the best pair of shoes for you, Amazon is a pretty shit place to do this.

Their reviews mean nothing. All of the things I have bought from Amazon are at least four stars but I have had widely varying degrees of satisfaction with the products I have received.

I don’t blame Amazon for this. It is a difficult problem to solve when you sell everything.

But here, lies the key to beating Amazon. Be specific because Amazon can only be generic. Make the best niche thing for a small subset of people and earn their trust and loyalty. They will be happy to choose you over Amazon.

Jan 04, 2021

Choose areas of focus

How to build an annual plan

Step 7: Choose areas of focus

Write two to three areas of focus you’ll need in order to hit your key results and achieve your vision. Think of an area of focus as a “swim lane” or a “sandbox” or a “playground”.

A good area of focus…

  • …directs your day-to-day activities, pushing you closer to your vision and goals.
  • …should be broad enough to work on for a year or more.

Imagine feeling stuck 3 months from now. Your areas of focus should help unblock you and inspire you to action.

The future is not inevitable. The future is CREATED by humans.

Here’s my areas of focus for 2021:

  • Read, write, and exercise daily.
  • Grow the String Theory Instagram through monthly giveaways. It attracts new stringers to our platform and gives our brand the necessary leverage to promote them.
  • Promote and onboard great lacrosse stringers. The more great stringers we have on our team, the more revenue we will generate. We want at least 50 this year which puts us at a pace of one per week.
  • String Theory is not the cheapest service and possibly not the fastest. Optimize design and development for convenience (make it so easy to order) and transparency (profiles, reviews, order status, etc.)

Jan 03, 2021

Choose key results

How to build an annual plan

Step 6: Choose key results

Brainstorm and decide on binary key results that tell you whether or not you’ve accomplished your vision.

A good key result…

  • …is binary. You hit it, or you don’t.
  • …is quantitative or qualitative.
  • …makes you feel excited!
  • …is a little bit of a stretch.

Know what you want. This is what I want for 2021:

  • Write every day
  • Read a book every month
  • Have one weekly physical activity that isn’t weightlifting or cardio (yoga, martial arts, paddle board, sports, etc.)
  • Average 7 hours of sleep per night
  • No hangovers
  • String Theory: 50 stringers, 100 Premier subscribers, $50K in revenue

- New York, NY

Jan 02, 2021

Write a vision statement

How to build an annual plan

Step 5: Write a vision statement

Use your organized answers and brainstorming to write a vision statement for an inspiring year.

Thought happens through writing.

When you write out your thoughts in a linear, logical fashion, it forces your intentions to be clear. Clarify your thoughts in writing.

A good vision statement…

  • …gets you PUMPED.
  • …is right when you think, “well if THAT happens, I won’t need anything else!”
  • …should be specific and ambitious, but achievable. It should make you feel a little bit nervous.
  • …should help you see the future. It should be as clear as a photo on your smartphone. If you can’t see the future, it’s not clear enough.

Here’s mine for 2021:

In 2021, I will be living an active, healthy lifestyle without alcohol. I will write everyday and read a book every month. String Theory will fulfill its promise of being the most convenient and personalized way to get your lacrosse stick strung by a high-quality professional. Our platform will have 50 individual stringers and over 100 subscribers to our String Theory Premier service. We’ll take in at least $50K in revenue while investing all profits back into growing the business. It will be insane and our most successful year yet!

Jan 01, 2021


How to build an annual plan

Step 4: Organize

Organize your answers into buckets.

Up until this point, your answers should just be a brain dump of unfiltered ideas. The key is to separate the organization from the brain dump.

Now, it’s time to organize.

Go through all of your responses from the previous three steps and find the themes.

Naturally, I sorted mine into three pillars of health, wealth, and wisdom since that’s how I plan my quarters:

  • Health: Improve sleep, focus on functional movement (sports, yoga, martial arts, etc.), maintain progress in body composition from last year
  • Wealth: String Theory is my launchpad business, focus on growth and revenue, don’t worry about profit yet
  • Wisdom: Happier (and healthier) without alcohol, find less stressful living situation, keep reading books

Dec 31, 2020

Visualize the future

How to build an annual plan

Step 3: Visualize the future

Dream up the perfect year based on your questions and retro.

Imagine it is a year from now and you are absolutely stoked with the progress you’ve made in one year. What happened? What didn’t happen? What did you create? Did you collaborate with anyone? What makes you feel proud of your work? What’s your team like? How much money did you get?

Here’s my response:

I moved to Austin, TX. I am renting an apartment for the time being but planning to buy a duplex. I maintained my weight around 165 pounds and I am the fittest I’ve been since high school. For fun, I paddle board and joined a UFC gym for conditioning. I still don’t drink like I used to and I haven’t had a hangover in over a year. Creatively, String Theory has been my focus this past year. We have grown so much. From less than $1K in orders the year before, we made $50K in revenue this year. We have a platform with 50 individual stringers running their lacrosse stringing business through us. We have a few hundred customers subscribed to our String Theory Premier service. I still have the same job that I’m doing remotely because it is providing me a solid baseline of income while leaving me enough free time to pursue and improve String Theory. I am proud of how much we are paying our stringers and the quality of the work they are doing for our customers. Abdul and I have a Slack group with all of them and get great feedback on how we can continue to improve the service.

- Brooklyn, NY

Dec 30, 2020

Do a retro

How to build an annual plan

Step 2: Do a retro

Think about and learn from your past year using three columns:

What worked? | What didn’t work? | What improvements do you want to make for next time?

Creators have to take a lot of swings and inevitably miss on many. But if you commit to learning after every swing, then 5 years from now you will be unstoppable. Retros ensure that you learn after every swing.

Use problem statements for the middle column. “I need ____” is not a problem. It’s a solution. What is the underlying problem? A need statement is not a problem statement. Why do you need it? Get behind the symptom. Find the problem.

Here’s my retro for 2020:

What worked?

  • Went from 183 pounds to 167 pounds in weight.
  • Quit drinking.
  • Ate more fruits and vegetables.
  • Did physical rehab for my shoulder.
  • Got an annual physical and bloodwork done for the first time in many years.
  • Doubled savings in a year.
  • String Theory was launched.
  • We had over 10 customers and 2 repeat customers.
  • We partnered with GLE to teach kids how to string at a lacrosse camp.
  • Learned about e-commerce and using Shopify now to reduce our workload.
  • We have over 170 followers on Instagram.
  • Listened to/read at least 10 books.
  • Spending quiet time free of distractions with myself daily.
  • Learned about film editing.
  • Built a pergola for my family.
  • Setup a home gym.
  • Bought a car.
  • Bitcoin and Tesla were great investments.

What didn’t work?

  • Not sleeping well. Falling asleep late and not getting enough sleep.
  • Never got into a physical hobby like yoga or martial arts which are more functional forms of moving the body.
  • Bad money management in the stock market by selling stocks in March when they were getting crushed and buying too much into SPY put options.
  • Helmet shields were an unnecessary investment for String Theory.
  • String Theory is not meeting its promises of transparency and trust.
  • String Theory can be marketed better.
  • String Theory needs to support and attract more stringers on the platform if we want to make more money.
  • Living at home is stressful.

What improvements do you want to make for next time?

  • Focus on getting to sleep earlier and at least 7 hours per night.
  • Get a membership for yoga or martial arts classes so that I’m losing money if I don’t go.
  • Only sell stock for liquidity. Don’t trust your assumptions about what the market is going to do in the near future.
  • Find more living situations outside of home this year even if it costs you more money than you’d like to spend.
  • Develop stringer pages and better support stringers on the platform to have their own brands and product offerings.
  • Do giveaways on Instagram to grow String Theory awareness.
  • Don’t worry about making profit in String Theory yet. Focus on getting more revenue.

Dec 29, 2020

Ask questions

How to build an annual plan

Step 1: Ask questions

The first step to building an annual plan is to ask yourself questions and answer them freely. Just brain dump answers to these questions. Do not filter or organize your thoughts until step 4. Below are some questions to ask and my responses to them as an example for how you might go about doing this exercise:

What do you want? What matters to you? What doesn’t matter to you?

I want a launchpad business. Something to get me started. Something that will make it possible for me to quit my day job and free up more time. String Theory is the launchpad business. We need at least $1M in revenue per year before I can quit. I care about creative control. I care about expressing my creativity. Making more money than I make now is not important to me. Time is most important. Let’s make String Theory successful. Worry about revenue now and profit later.

What are you best at as an individual?

I can code. I can design. I like to work. I can string well. I can cook well. I’m good at learning new skills. I enjoy it.

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why does it matter?

I want to free up time to do more creative work. Creative work requires experimentation and doesn’t guarantee financial success. I need to be able to fail and still put food on the table. I want to create great products and services. I enjoy making things that are useful to others. I want to come up with better solutions to problems. String Theory is a better way for lacrosse players to get their stick strung. It is a better system for stringers and players.

What do you think attracts people to your work?

It is designed well. It has personality. It dares to do things differently. It is convenient. It is more reliable to know who is stringing your lacrosse stick. Stringers get paid more when it is direct-to-consumer.

What are your fans like? What do they get from your work?

My fans are open to trying new things. They get services and products that are designed with every detail of the experience considered, iterated on, and improved. They like the quality, reliability, and convenience of the String Theory service. 

What do you want to be doing in 5 years?

I want to have a few businesses generating income. I want to become more ambitious with my business ideas as I have more capital to play with and more experience to pull from. I want my businesses to not require my physical presence anywhere specifically. I want to be able to live anywhere, making things that people love. I don’t want my businesses to be so formal. I want them to have a sense of humor while also offering kick-ass products and services.

Dec 28, 2020

How to build an annual plan

With 2021 approaching soon, now’s the time when people typically set New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never liked New Year’s resolutions. Something about waiting for a specific time of year to make changes that will benefit you always rubbed me the wrong way. The best time for change is always right now, no matter what time of year.

This year however, I am inspired to create an annual plan for myself. The source of this inspiration is this video from Jack Conte, CEO of Patreon, outlining his method for building an annual plan. It is fucking awesome and worth a watch.

Why should anyone make an annual plan?

  1. Focus. It is easy to lose focus without a plan.
  2. Know what you want. I think I know what I want. But any time I have ever sat down and forced myself to write and clarify it, I realize that it is not what I thought it was.
  3. Live your dream. It is satisfying to have a clear vision of your dream future and to make progress towards it.

I am going through the steps outlined in the video over the next week and will write about the process here.

Dec 27, 2020

Build & sell

Creating a successful business requires two distinct functions: building and selling.

Build: Focus on the product. Fund research and development. Create the business inside out.

Sell: Focus on the message. Fund marketing and advertising. Create the business outside in.

You shouldn’t expect to succeed having one without the other. However, founders usually start with one since it is rare for a founder to be naturally good at both initially.

Starting with either can work but if you can choose to start with one, start with building. It’s easier to transition from being a builder to a seller than a seller to a builder.

Dec 26, 2020


I just finished Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey. It is a memoir of his life that he wrote using his journal entries from the past 35 years as a reference. I listened to the audiobook version. In many cases, the audiobook is never as good as reading the actual book but in this case, it’s better. Get the audiobook so you can hear him act the entire thing out.

I assume that most actors are not as cool in real life as they are in their movies. A screenwriter takes the time to write them the perfect dialog and they always know what to do and say when life throws challenges at them. But after listening to Greenlights, I’m convinced Matthew McConaughey might be even cooler than his on-screen self.

Of the many things you can take away from the book and his life philosophy, the most important to me is this: you’re the author of your own story. What is apparent in the book is that Matthew McConaughey’s life didn’t just happen to him. He was very introspective along the way and crafted a life worth reading about.

I don’t think that I’m particularly proud of the identity I’ve crafted over the first 25 years of life but I am at least now aware that I’m the one writing the story. I can choose to make this character more interesting in the next chapter. Becoming a more interesting person seems straight-forward. If you want to be an interesting person, just imagine what an interesting person would do. Then do it.

Dec 25, 2020


Do you wish for a Netflix that has every piece of content that you could ever think of? If so, then you want a Plex Media Server.

There are so many options for hardware and different possible setups that it can be a bit overwhelming to get started but here’s what I did and I am pretty happy with it:

For hardware, I went with the Synology DS220+ along with a 4TB hard drive. Then for setup, I found 2 guides on Reddit specifically for Synology hardware and they are thorough and easy to follow. I started with the basic setup then worked on the advanced setup afterwards.

This has been my favorite thing for Christmas this year.

- East Northport, NY

Dec 24, 2020

The mirror problem

How do people generally interact with you? Are they friendly or rude? Do you feel like you get what you want out of life or does life feel like it’s constantly holding you back?

The world is a mirror. People reflect your attitude back to you. Those who interact with it positively are rewarded and those who don’t get screwed.

Your engagement with the world is a feedback loop. The more positive you are, the better your life is and the more positive you end up being because of it. The more negative you are, the worse your life gets and the more jaded and cynical you become. I’ve been there and it is a scary place to be.

If you are stuck in a place like that, the first thing you need to do to get out is take responsibility for your circumstances. Acknowledge that your perspective of the world is negative. Then force yourself to be positive. Work on yourself. Smile more. Assume the best of others. Be kind even though you don’t feel like it.

At first, being positive will feel like it’s not working. You’ll be friendly to others and they will still be cold to you. The world is not rewarding you for being positive yet. That’s because your negative energy is still there. It’s subtly radiating from your body language.

Don’t give up though. If you can get through this difficult stage of the process, eventually you will make it to the other side as a positive person who can get everything they want from life.

Dec 23, 2020

Get your own website for free

Today, I just pushed a whole bunch of design updates to this site! It is finally in a state where I’m comfortable sharing it publicly. This site is costing me no money to run and was fairly simple to set up. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the tools I’m using in case you’re interested in having a site like this for yourself. It does require a bit of coding knowledge so if you’re not a developer, you could hire someone to do it for you fairly quickly.

All of the code for this site is publicly available here and I forked it from this project. I’m using the Gatsby.js framework and Netlify for hosting. I’ve never used either before but there wasn’t too much of a learning curve to figure out how to work with them. If you’ve used React before then Gatsby will be very familiar since it is built on top of it. I also designed my own custom UI and my go-to tool for that is Figma.

The awesome thing I like about this setup is that the project comes complete with an admin dashboard that makes it easy for me to write and publish new blog posts. I couldn’t find any free blogging sites that were also well designed and gave me the flexibility to code up my own frontend. If someone knows of a blogging backend that does what Shopify does for e-commerce but for blogs then please let me know because that’s all I wanted and could not find a decent one.

I just wanted a personal site that I can use to showcase what I’m working on and keep a daily blog. I believe this setup will satisfy my needs for years to come so if you’re in the market for something similar, I highly recommend it!

- Brooklyn, NY

Dec 22, 2020

Lean into vulnerability

One of the biggest personal obstacles I have is overcoming the desire to shy away from vulnerability. I often interact with people, especially those I have just met, in a very guarded way. That way, I can avoid saying something stupid. And while I might be able to avoid making a bad joke or a foolish remark, the impression that I leave is that I am a boring person.

I am trying to overcome that shyness. This blog is a start. It is basically a diary of my thoughts and it’s public for anyone to read. It honestly worries me what people will think of me when I publish it. I could choose to go back in the future and remove posts that don’t age well or expose ideas that I have that may be considered off-putting. However, I think it’s better that it’s messy.

The willingness to express your insecurities might seem like a weakness but it’s actually a strength. The internet is making everyone increasingly transparent. Sure, there are people on social media posting the best possible version of their lives and using filters to make themselves better-looking. But who are they fooling?

We all have insecurities and being open about yours lets people in to connect with you. An essential component of a life well-lived is connecting with others. Instead of trying to hide your vulnerabilities, be open about them and you might be surprised who you invite into your life.

- Baltimore, MD

Dec 21, 2020

Delusional but critical

I’d like to clarify something I wrote a few days ago. Some people might misconstrue what I mean when I say “delusion is a superpower”. There are a lot of ways in which you can be delusional and not only hurt your future but also alienate those around you.

The caveat that I’d like to make is that you should be a delusional optimist about the future. However at the same time, you should be highly critical of your present self. Be a perfectionist about yourself and your work in the present. You should constantly be looking for ways to improve.

Delusion and perfectionism each come with a set of traps that one should be careful to avoid. Too much delusion without action to back it up can make you feel like you’ve already made it when there is still a lot of work to do to make your fantasies a reality. Perfectionism can also be an excuse that people use to hide from sharing their work with the world.

There is great power in managing to tightrope walk these two qualities. Delusional optimism offers direction and hope. Perfectionism feeds action and betterment. Both balance each other well. So be a self-critical, delusional optimist.

Dec 20, 2020

Don't break the streak

It’s almost midnight and I’ve been driving all day from Orlando to Richmond, VA. I’m exhausted but I haven’t written yet so I need to write something.

Couldn’t I just skip one day? Absolutely not. Think about the shame you will feel tomorrow if you do. It’s all or nothing. Professional or amateur.

Keep the streak alive.

- Richmond, VA

Dec 19, 2020

Make or break associations

Your brain is a prediction machine. It has an amazing ability to form associations between two unrelated actions. If it recognizes a pattern of activities have been associated with one another, performing one action can trigger the other.

This mechanism is a double-edged sword. It can make bad habits difficult to break but you can also use it to form good habits.

One bad association that I have is watching YouTube and eating. I’ve spent so much time doing both together that doing one induces the other. Whenever I am eating, I crave a video. And whenever I’m watching a video, I crave food. There’s nothing about a video that is actually hunger-inducing but my mind has created the association.

Another bad association I have is the link between drinking alcohol and having fun. Some people might disagree with this one but I don’t think alcohol is actually any fun. I think I’ve just spent my entire adult life only doing fun things while drunk so my mind has made the association.

Associations aren’t always negative though. I’ve also associated working out with listening to a good podcast. This makes me excited for my workouts because I know that I will get to have time to do something I enjoy. I also have a song that I listen to on repeat that cues me to sit down and write this blog or do other creative work.

What associations do you have? Noticing your associations is useful for habit change. Be mindful of the ones that are causing bad habits and use this feature of your brain to form good ones.

Dec 18, 2020

Delusion is a superpower

Ray Dalio has a policy of “radical transparency” at his hedge fund. Everyone at the company knows exactly what their peers think of them and what their strengths and weaknesses are. I think this policy holds people back. I don’t think it is helpful for you to know the truth of what other people think of you because it reinforces your current identity instead of who you can become. Your identity is more flexible than you think it is.

I have a theory that all great success starts with delusion. I am just a software engineer at a large company. Not even a senior software engineer. And I believe that I can create a billion dollar company some day. That is a delusional belief but I don’t care. While it doesn’t guarantee success, I think it is a necessary prerequisite for that kind of success.

I am proudly delusional and willfully ignorant of my current limitations. I think having this attitude is the only way it will ever be possible for me to break through those limitations. Only time will tell the truth but that is my prediction. If there’s only one thing that people can learn from my life story when it is all said and done, I hope that it is the incredible power of self-belief.

Dec 17, 2020

The easy way to control alcohol

I recently read The Easy Way to Control Alcohol by Allen Carr a little over a month ago. I was skeptical and didn’t think it would be possible for a book to convince me to stop drinking. However, it was actually quite effective. I don’t want to discuss how he did it in case it ruins the magic of the book but I highly recommend it if you’re interested.

I was in a situation that I don’t think is too uncommon. I would drink casually a few times a week. Most of the time, it wasn’t out of control but every once in a while I would have a night of drinking to absolute excess.

Those nights where I lost control would result in a massive hangover the next day and completely disrupt any positive momentum I had. I would be fooling myself if I thought I could ever live up to my ambitions if I continued to live like that.

There are certainly some aspects to drinking that I miss. The book didn’t cure me of that. But I am at least at the point where I’m willing to trade away alcohol for a much better life.

Dec 16, 2020

Digging your hole

Vivarium is a 2019 film depicting a dark metaphor for the human lifecycle. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend you stop reading this and watch it because I’m going to spoil the film in this post. I thought it was a great movie and if you have Amazon Prime, you can watch it for free.

In the movie, the main characters are stuck in a creepy suburbia named Yonder and forced to raise a child together. My favorite thread in the film is that of Jesse Eisenberg’s character Tom digging a hole. He starts digging the hole because he believes it will lead to a way out for them. Eventually, Tom becomes so obsessed with digging that he’s no longer returning home at night and sleeping in the hole. Near the end of the movie, he finally finds something at the bottom of it: a vacuum sealed dead body. This is shortly before he dies in his girlfriend Gemma’s arms. His last words are:

I kinda felt like I was home. Because of you, I’m home right now.

After his death, the child they raised returns home with a box. In the box, there is a body bag. He puts Tom in it, vacuum seals it, and throws his body into the hole he dug.

For me, this was a good reminder that no matter what I’m making progress on in life, I am essentially just like Tom’s character digging the hole. Maybe my hole will be deeper or shallower than others but in the end, it doesn’t matter.

I hope that doesn’t seem bleak. Because I actually think that this is a positive realization. Making progress on something feels good and it can be fun. It’s just important to remember to spend time with the people you love and not to take all of this too seriously.

Dec 15, 2020

Create your ideal self through writing

Today is my 30th day of writing in a row and while it is difficult and I don’t always feel like doing it, I can already feel that it is changing me in a positive way. I feel like I am getting a clearer picture of who I am and who I want to be. I am grateful for Seth Godin’s book The Practice for convincing me to write.

Where have you been? Where are you going? Get it out of your head and into writing. Use writing to organize your thoughts and strategize a plan of action. Start with the end in mind and work backwards.

Writing it out makes it feel real and tangible. When it’s written down, It’s no longer a fleeting thought. I said that. I wrote that. People saw that I said that. Am I going to be a hypocrite or am I going to live out the story I wrote?

Dec 14, 2020

String Theory roadmap

This past week I pushed changes to our site that included us moving over to Shopify for our e-commerce backend. Our previous stack was using Braintree Payments and a custom checkout solution using Firebase to store product and order data. This was dumb. Building e-commerce from scratch is a lot of work and I’m grateful Shopify handles all of it for only $10/month. It’s an easy win and will open things up a lot for us moving forward.

Price and speed were initially important to me when creating String Theory. This was misguided. It is way too difficult for us to compete on price when we haven’t yet established the key relationships with suppliers to get good rates on materials. Speed is too difficult to guarantee at this point as well without more people, data, and money invested. Price and speed may end up being important for the future but not at this stage. We need the horse before the cart. Our primary vectors of differentiation right now are quality, transparency, and convenience.

Right now, I am working on designing stringer pages. We believe it is important for stringers to have their own brand separate from the String Theory platform. It is better for customers to have the transparency and reliability of knowing who they are working with. It also gives the stringers more accountability since it’s their reputation on the line. I will be the first stringer with a profile on this platform.

Once I am set up with my own page, we will run a giveaway to build our following. My profile on String Theory will be an experiment that shows how we can add value to stringers and players. We will work out the kinks and convince other stringers to join String Theory this lacrosse season. Let’s fucking go.

Dec 13, 2020


One of my biggest fears in life is regret. A missed opportunity, a risk untaken, spectating instead of participating in one’s own life. It’s easy to miss these things if you’re not paying attention.

I am 26 and I’m conflicted about time spent during my 20s. I will never have more energy and less commitments than I do now. And there are two equally enticing places to invest all of this time and energy: work and play.

Your 20s are a time for self-development, starting businesses, and acquiring skills that will earn you the success you desire. All of these things compound so if you miss it now, it is only going to get increasingly difficult to make your dreams a reality as you get older.

Your 20s are also a time for exploration, adventure, having fun, and making relationships and memories that will last you a lifetime. You may be tempted to put your head down and work towards a future where you have the money to do whatever you want. But who will want to spend time with you when you make it there?

Of course, you don’t have to commit to one path or the other and sometimes work and play can be one and the same. If you do pick one, you will probably regret it either way. Either you will be too old to have the fun you wish you had or too old to have the success you wish you had. Like most things in life, the answer is balance.

Dec 12, 2020

Carve your own path

Do you want to be unreasonably successful? That’s what my goal is. I think it’s important to remember that nobody can teach you how. If somebody could, then anybody could do it, which would break the condition of unreasonable success.

Many people think the path to unreasonable success requires a mentor and I agree to some extent. But the magic of the time we’re living in is that mentors are on-demand and don’t require a relationship. The video and audio of successful people being transmitted over the internet is sufficient. You don’t need to get coffee with them. Real-life mentors might happen organically. But don’t waste your time and others’ reaching out to people for meetings, especially if you’re not offering anything of value in return.

Mentors can offer guidance but ultimately, we all have to carve our own path to the kind of success we are looking for. There are many paths to take, so it will require you to develop your own principles along the way. Be willing to have principles that others don’t agree with. Ignoring popular opinions could cause you to fail but I would rather fail at being myself than succeed trying to do what the crowd is doing.

Dec 11, 2020

Don't fear competition

Since graduating college, I’ve had two ideas for startups that I’ve worked on. I failed to get the first one off the ground (so far) but the second one seems promising and tangible. In both cases, I have always eventually stumbled upon other people working on the same thing. And every time I see another competitor in the same space as me, my heart sinks and I start to feel intense FOMO. However, this fear is irrational.

When this happens, it should validate your idea to you. Because if other people also recognized the same need to address, then at least you might be onto something. It’s exciting to feel like you have a new, revolutionary idea that’s going to change the market. But that’s not how ideas work. Ideas are easy to be had and are had by many before they come to fruition. The execution is what matters and is incredibly difficult.

Instead of fearing competition, you should expect to compete. If competitors didn’t exist before, they will after you have any small amount of success. You don’t get to hold onto your idea. Good ideas spread. The only thing that you might get is a head start. If you want to win, you will have to keep pushing the envelope. Competition is inevitable—get comfortable with it.

Dec 10, 2020

What makes String Theory different

String Theory is an online marketplace for lacrosse stringing. Here’s what makes us different from our stringing competitors:

Premium talent

With over a decade in the lacrosse stringing business, we can tell the difference between good and bad stringing. Our founders have vetted every stringer on our platform to ensure that you’re going to be satisfied with your String Theory stick.

Tailored for you

String Theory isn’t a faceless company. Our stringers are proudly promoted on our platform. Find your go-to stringer and work with them through your lacrosse career to come up with the best pocket for you.

At your fingertips

Our storefront is online and built for the future. Book your string theorist with ease through your mobile or desktop computer and sit back as we take care of the rest.

Dec 09, 2020

Becoming a professional

For the majority of my life I have been an amateur. I like making things. I think I even have a propensity to do it well. I fantasize about creating a successful business with this talent. But I’ve been flaky. I haven’t showed up everyday. I show up when I feel inspired. And if I don’t change, I will always be an amateur.

The reason I write this blog even though no one is reading it is because I need to prove to myself that I can show up. Because that’s what professionals do. They don’t wait for inspiration. If you wait for inspiration, you will never develop enough skill to be good enough for the market you seek to serve.

So here I am even though I don’t feel like it. Grinding through mediocre work. Dragging you with me if you care to read. And I’ll be here tomorrow and every other day after that. Because I don’t want to be an amateur anymore. I want to be a professional.

Dec 08, 2020

Spending priorities

I find people’s spending priorities peculiar.

People will pay $50 a month to be a member of a gym that’s packed and inconveniently far away from their house instead of $100 for the gym that’s near them and has more amenities. That same person will also have no problem spending the difference they saved making that decision on a night out drinking.

You may consider health and happiness important, but what does your spending reveal about your priorities?

I have some ideas for better spending habits.

Health: Eat out less often; it’s unhealthy and expensive. Instead, buy better ingredients at the grocery store and cook (even buying the good stuff at the grocery store is cheaper than eating out). Also, don’t be afraid to spend up for a gym membership that will make it easier for you to commit to going. It is a worthwhile investment. The fitter you are, the more time and energy you will have. It is a virtuous cycle.

Happiness: A nicer car, a bigger house, new clothes, more stuff—these things will only make you happy momentarily. Only buy new stuff when you need to replace old stuff. Instead, spend money on experiences. That trip to Italy will bring you happiness leading up to it with anticipation and fond memories for years to come.

Time: Is it really worth twenty dollars to wait in line to return something? Do you really want to spend your life dealing with customer service? Throw items out or give them away to someone who can use it. Whenever you see an opportunity to trade money for time that you don’t want to spend, it is worth it. Time is the most precious resource we have. Don’t squander it.

Dec 07, 2020

Strength training is necessary

Whether you are losing, gaining, or maintaining weight, a strength training routine is necessary to keep your body in shape. It is obvious when you are trying to gain weight that you should lift weights (unless your goal is to get fat). But maybe strength training is not so obviously necessary when losing weight. However, I would argue it might be even more important when you are trying to lose weight.

This is not due to the amount of calories burned through lifting weights. Strength training actually barely burns any calories when compared to cardio. But it’s important because your true goal isn’t to lose weight. Your goal is to lose fat. We track our weight because it is much easier to accurately measure than body fat percentage.

If you do not strength train when losing weight, you will lose muscle. And losing muscle is very bad for your fat loss. Muscle mass burns a lot of calories. As you lose muscle, the total calories you need to eat in a day to maintain your weight will decrease. In order to keep losing weight at this decreased calorie limit, you will have to reduce your calories even more. Which further causes you to lose more muscle and this cycle repeats until you’re a weak, starving sack of potatoes.

Therefore, while cardio is good to incorporate into your fitness routine for a healthy heart and to burn extra calories, the primary focus of your physical exercise routine should be strength training.

- Orlando, FL

Dec 06, 2020

Idea overflow

Sometimes it is difficult to think of a topic to write about everyday. Idea generation in general can be challenging. There are a couple of tips and tools I use to generate ideas.

  1. Keep a notebook of ideas. Write down all of them. Don’t worry about deciphering which ones are good or bad. You can pick what’s useful later when revisiting them.
  2. Spend long periods of time without distractions. At least an hour per day uninterrupted (the length of time is important). No phone, no music, no podcasts. Just you and your thoughts. Bore yourself on purpose. I set a timer for an hour on my watch and like to go for long walks. I also bring a notebook with me in case anything pops into my head that I don’t want to forget.
  3. Don’t force it. My best ideas come when I least expect it. The mind has a tendency to go blank when putting pressure on it to produce an idea.

And if you’re worried about using up all of your best ideas, don’t be.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

—Maya Angelou

- Ormond Beach, FL

Dec 05, 2020


Resonance is a phenomenon where an increased amplitude occurs when the frequency of a periodically applied force is equal or close to the natural frequency of the system on which it acts. Every physical system or object has an inherent frequency that is optimal for exciting it.

You can experience this phenomenon when you are on a swing set—you can only move when you are pumping your legs at a frequency close to the natural frequency of the swing. If you pump slower or faster, nothing happens.

People have resonant frequencies. There is a lot of wasted potential because most people aren’t being excited at their resonant frequency. I think the key to operating at your resonant frequency is finding the intersection between what you find fun, what you can create, and what you can sell.

“What you find fun” because you’re going to be spending your entire life doing it and you need to enjoy it. “What you can create” because you need to be able to make something worth sharing. “What you can sell” because you need to make a living.

It has to be the intersection between all three. It’s fun to go out partying but you can’t make a living doing it. You can create pieces of art that no one wants to buy. You can also make or sell stuff without having fun and dread your existence.

Discovering this intersection for yourself will excite you at your resonant frequency and make it possible for you to live the life that you were destined for.

Dec 04, 2020

You don't have to be informed

I am of the opinion that you shouldn’t allow yourself to be exposed to certain ideas. I used to believe that the intelligent individual is one who is open-minded and seeking truth but I’m not sure about that anymore.

I’m not saying that we should censor any ideas. All ideas should be on the table. But as individuals, we should be careful about what ideas we allow ourselves to absorb. You should treat ideas like a virus with varying symptoms—some positive and some negative. The question is which ideas should be ignored?

Anything that makes you feel insignificant or powerless? Yep.

Nihilistic or cynical thoughts? These are useless perspectives.

What about the news? I don’t know a single well-informed individual doing anything great with that knowledge. But I do know well-informed individuals who are incredibly anxious and angry—especially now, when the news is so clearly biased no matter where you get it from.

Facts that are known to be true? Some of them. Beliefs are more important than facts. Anyone who has heard of the placebo effect knows this. A sugar pill should not be capable of making your hair grow back but if you believe it can, then it can.

You should be careful with the ideas you entertain. More knowledge is not necessarily better. You only need to pay attention to what can help you be more useful to those you serve.

Dec 03, 2020

Start with trust

Do you trust others? What about someone you just met? People generally fall into one of two camps with regards to trust:

In the first camp, your trust must be earned. You don’t let your guard down until somebody has proven to be trustworthy.

In the second, you assume everyone is trustworthy from the outset until proven otherwise. This is more likely to lead to situations where somebody screws you over. But the upside of having this stance is that you are more likely to form better relationships with others. And have you ever considered that other people’s trustworthiness may depend on your inclination to trust them in the first place?

I heard this idea from Jim Collins and it made me realize that I am someone who falls in the first camp. But I’m convinced that it is better to be in the second.

- Savannah, GA

Dec 02, 2020

No regrets

As I walk through the campus of the university I went to 4 years after graduating, I feel like a ghost. The memories of the people I had interacted with flood back but those people are all gone. Most of them I will never speak with again. At a moment like this, it’s hard not to feel like life is racing away from me.

Nostalgia feels horrible but are there lessons that can be learned from it? As I think back on my college experience, I can’t help but feel some regret.

I regret not being more engaged. I should have been more intentional with forming relationships. I had sort of a laidback attitude about it at the time but I think I was afraid to put myself out there.

I also regret not taking more risks. I had a high GPA. I think a high GPA is a good measure of how unintelligent I was. It indicates how much time I wasted striving for a high score that doesn’t mean anything. I should have spent more time engaging with things other than my classes.

That time has came and went for me. I can’t change anything after the fact. But going forward, these feelings of regret are worth remembering so the same mistakes are not repeated.

So put yourself out there. Take risks. Be vulnerable. Be intentional. And you’ll have no regrets.

- Charlottesville, VA

Dec 01, 2020

Yes Man

For a period of my life, I thought having a propensity to say yes to everything was a virtue. I thought it indicated I was open-minded. Like Jim Carrey’s character in Yes Man, I was going to live a life of excitement because I was open to saying yes to every opportunity.

Now I realize that I was fooling myself. I fooled myself into believing that there were only positive reasons for saying yes when in fact, it was more likely that I was avoiding the uncomfortable feeling of telling somebody no. I have even said yes to things where I resent the person afterwards for having asked for something from me (if that sounds familiar to you, then you too may be a chronic people-pleaser).

It’s easier to say yes but you pay a price for it. Saying yes to something is saying no to everything else. And if you’re also saying yes to everything else, then you’re really just saying no to everything; you will be spread so thin that you will not keep your promises to anyone.

It can be difficult to reject somebody who wants your help, especially if they’re a close family member or friend. But if you keep putting everyone else’s needs ahead of yours, you will be left with nothing but resentment and regret. So if the response isn’t ”hell yeah!”, saying no is actually the most generous thing we can all do.

Nov 30, 2020


There are critical moments in your life when you are staring into a bonfire. And you’re conflicted about the decision to watch it burn or leap into it.

If you muster up the courage to leap, there are two things that can happen.

The first is that you jump into it and realize that it’s not actually a bonfire. It actually feels quite good and you are happy that you took the leap.

The second is that you jump in and get absolutely scorched. But this is even more awesome than the first outcome. Because in the ashes, you will be reborn like a phoenix. You will be a totally changed person on the other side.

It is intimidating to take the leap but you won’t regret it regardless of the outcome.


The idea for this post is not mine. I heard it in Tim Ferriss’s podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert where she is discussing what she learned from Oprah’s life coach Martha Beck. I just loved the analogy and wanted to share it.

- Baltimore, MD

Nov 29, 2020

The silver lining

If you’ve ever dreamed of traveling and you’re one of the lucky individuals to still have a job that you are doing remote, then right now is your opportunity to do it.

Don’t re-sign your lease. Put your stuff in storage and go.

It is tempting to wait for a better time when external circumstances are more certain but there are no guarantees in life. It is actually very unlikely circumstances will ever be perfect for you to follow your dreams. As we get older, we only tend to accumulate obligations that can take us off-track. So why not do it now?

It’s now or never.

Nov 28, 2020

1 in 10

My friend has a simple rule for hitting on women at a bar: 1 in 10 will say yes.

It always gets a laugh from his friends when he says it as he shakes off another rejection but the magic is he’s right. It works because of the principles underlying the rule:

  1. Trust the process and ignore the results.
  2. Expect failure to be an unavoidable part of the process.
  3. Quantity yields better results than quality.

And not only does this rule work for picking up girls at bar but it can apply to most things:

1 in 10 of these blog posts will be good.

1 in 10 of your business ideas will be profitable.

1 in 10 customers will want to buy your product.

There is merit to getting better at your craft and increasing the quality of your work. But if you want to be more effective at achieving the results you want, you need to take more shots.

Nov 27, 2020

Using music as a cue

In order to be a highly effective individual, there are certain activities that you have to show up for everyday. And I honestly don’t feel like showing up most days. But something that I’ve found useful to get to work is using music as a cue.

Listening to music while working is not a groundbreaking idea but hear me out—I have a suggestion to make it much more effective for you. I suggest picking one upbeat song and listening to it on repeat the entire time you are working.

A playlist can be a bit distracting while you work because you’re constantly subjecting yourself to unexpected stimuli every few minutes. Another solution is to listen to music without lyrics. That can work but that kind of music is a bit unsatisfying because I personally would never choose to listen to it under any other circumstances.

So instead I pick a song I love and listen to it on repeat. The effect is trance-inducing and assists in entering a state of flow. If you’ve never tried it, you should give it a shot and you may find that it makes your work much more enjoyable.

Nov 26, 2020

I'm grateful for life

This year has been a particularly rough year for many people. But even in the midst of all the chaos and difficult circumstances that are out of our control, today is a reminder that we can always choose to express gratitude.

I’m grateful for a full functioning body.

I’m grateful to have friends and family to spend my time with.

And I’m grateful that I get to wake up every morning and strive to offer something of value to others.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 25, 2020

Intermittent fasting is dumb

When losing weight, meal frequency and timing doesn’t matter. Okay, that’s probably not totally true. It might matter slightly but it should not be the main mechanism for your fat loss. Because unless you’re eating less calories, it is not going to do shit.

That being said, you should time your meals in a way that makes it easiest for you to stay under your calorie limit and be happily satiated. For me personally, 2 meals per day works best. Not because I’m worried about my insulin spiking in the morning but because I like to have larger meals in a single sitting. I don’t wait until a certain time to start eating. I just eat when I’m hungry. And sometimes I’ll even have an apple first thing in the morning to start the day.

The only thing that I’m advocating against is creating rules like “you can’t eat until 2PM” if that makes you feel like you’re suffering through the beginning of your day. If it makes you feel bad, don’t do it! You may like to eat more frequently and that’s okay. Just keep your calories under your limit and ignore the rest.

Nov 24, 2020

Self-fulfilling prophecies

Some things are true only because people believe they are true.

If you believe people can’t change, then you can’t change. Therefore, you were right! But only because you believed that statement in the first place.

Narratives are extremely powerful. How is it possible for human beings to cooperate on scales much larger than any other species? It is due to our ability to tell stories and spread ideas. Narratives are what make it possible for millions of people to unite and push forward a common cause.

This can be incredibly positive but potentially negative depending on the ideas. So be careful what you choose to believe.

Nov 23, 2020

Healthy pancakes

To make healthy pancakes, you need:

  • 1-2 servings of Kodiak pancake mix
  • 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt (use plain non-fat for less calories)
  • 1 egg
  • Milk (enough to get your desired consistency)
  • 1-2 servings of your choice of fruit. Some recommendations: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, bananas

Mix those ingredients together and cook your pancakes in a frying pan with some butter. I use about a tablespoon of butter for the entire batch. For toppings, I like to use sugar-free syrup and some whipped cream.

What you end up with is a meal that is under 700 calories and about 50 grams of protein. Scale up or down to suit your calorie needs.

Eating to lose weight doesn’t have to suck. You can have your pancake and eat it too.

Nov 22, 2020

The age of abundance

Only 20 years ago, if you wanted to make a movie, here are some ways you could accomplish your goal:

  1. Figure out how to get in front of a movie producer so you can pitch your movie idea and convince them to fund you.
  2. Fund the production yourself and pay at least thousands of dollars for equipment.

Once the movie was made, in order to get an audience to see it, you would have to get a distributor or submit it to film festivals and hope it got accepted and the recognition necessary to be distributed.

If you want to make a movie today, your smart phone has a decent enough camera to film it. Additional equipment for audio and lighting might cost you a couple hundred dollars. And once it’s made, distributing it could be as easy as uploading it to YouTube or another video streaming site. Like this video.

If you are a creative person, this is the best time to be alive. The Internet is making it impossible for middlemen to survive and get in the way of you distributing your work. The caveat is that it is also easier for everyone else so you have to be exceptional to stand out.

People who are willing to put in the work to develop the skills to create value for others have more opportunity than ever before.

Nov 21, 2020

Not all calories are created equal

5 pounds of broccoli is 750 calories.

A pound of chicken breast is 750 calories.

3 slices of pizza is 750 calories.

A bottle of wine is 750 calories.

What’s the point?

It’s not that you need to only be eating broccoli and chicken breast to lose weight and be in good shape. It’s that, on a per calorie basis, these foods will fill you up way more than the other stuff. And if you incorporate some of these into your diet, you will be way more likely to keep your calories low and avoid binge eating.

What makes these foods so filling? Protein and fiber are your friends. If a diet is going to work, you have to eat the foods you love. Miserable people don’t stick to diets. But if the foods you love aren’t filling then I suggest you reduce your intake and supplement your diet with foods that are high in fiber and protein.

Foods that are high in fiber: fruits, vegetables, popcorn (warning: don’t get the kind drenched in butter)

Foods that are high in protein: various meats, eggs, greek yogurt. The last one I don’t actually like in its own. I use it to make healthy pancakes which I will discuss in a future post.

Nov 20, 2020

The easy way to lose weight

The tools you need: Google Sheets, MyFitnessPal, and a scale.

Your first task is to track your weight and calories for the next 3 weeks everyday. This can be annoying but the good news is you don’t have to change your eating at all. So eat like you normally do. Track everything and do not lie—they are just numbers. Don’t assign any meaning to them.

After 3 weeks of tracking, you should average your weight and calories over each week to help you see a trend. Because even if you are consistently weighing yourself at the same time every morning, your weight is going to fluctuate from differences in water consumption. Likewise, your calories may be all over the place.

Once you have these averages, you can figure out your maintenance level and what to eat to lose weight.

For example, let’s say you gained a pound per week eating 3000 calories per day. A pound is roughly 3500 calories. So in this example, you are overeating by 500 calories. Therefore, your maintenance level is 2500. And if you want to lose a pound per week, you should eat 2000 calories per day on average.

Now, it may sound daunting, maybe even impossible, to restrict yourself to eating so much less than you’re used to but I have tricks for making those calories fill you up that I will discuss in the next few days.

Nov 19, 2020

Calories are most effective

The key to getting in shape is not cutting out all carbs.

It’s also not fasting until 2PM or one day per week.

Choosing to get in shape using methods like these as the primary driver is beating around the bush. You’re avoiding the only thing that matters: if you want to lose weight, you need to consume less energy than you burn.

Some of these mechanisms can help you do that but they will only work if you’re consuming less. So rather than add a bunch of unnecessary rules that might make you unhappy, why not just download MyFitnessPal and count your calories?

Nov 18, 2020

Finding my voice

I’m a hack. At least for right now. Go to Seth Godin’s blog and see for yourself. These words are mine but the style is his. It makes sense considering Seth Godin’s book is what inspired me to start blogging a few days ago.

One thing I’m struggling with is how I can give value to you as the reader. This blog so far feels very selfish—probably because it is. I’m fleshing out my thoughts like this is a diary but I need to contribute something to you. Otherwise, I’m taking your time without giving something in return and that is an absolute sin. Some ideas for future posts of what I know that may be useful to you:

  • Software development - the most obvious one considering it’s my day job. It’s difficult to think of posts I could write in under 30 minutes but I’m sure there are some.
  • Graphic design - I’m self-taught but I design my own websites and apps. I could also offer the unique perspective of a developer who designs their own UI/UX.
  • Self improvement - I listen to so many podcasts and read a lot of books on this topic. I most likely won’t contribute anything new but maybe it will be new to you.

This blog is going to be a bit all over the place until I discover my own voice. I have no idea when it will happen but I will continue to write everyday until I do. Luckily, I have no audience right now so I have time to figure it out. If you are reading this, you are likely from the future. Greetings from 2020.

Nov 17, 2020

If I'm being honest

I’m committing to this practice because I think it will be fun to have a record of my mental state when I become as successful as I imagine I might be some day. It’s amazing to think that most people probably feel this way—that they’re destined for great things. At least, I suspect that to be the case with most people.

In reality, most of us aren’t going to have the impact we imagined we would. So as we get older we compromise. And even if we did have that impact, who cares? We should get out of our own way and forget the end result. There’s too much anxiety to be had stressing over it and the end result for everyone is death. Nothing too exciting about that. Clearly, life must then be about the journey.

It’s difficult to fight the urge of postponing happiness for some future potential prize but you should. Because even if you get the prize, your life will not be complete. So enjoy right now. Everything about this moment is perfect. And if you can work on something that you enjoy working on, even better.

Nov 16, 2020

Just start

This past summer, I experimented with starting a blog. My goal was to write one piece per week for 12 weeks. What I ended up with is half that output and a decision that blogging often wasn’t for me. I am now deciding to blog daily. So what gives?

I’m currently reading The Practice by Seth Godin—a book about shipping creative work. Section 28 titled “Toward a Daily Practice in Service of Your Identity” has this paragraph that has inspired me:

Blog every day. It’s easy, it’s free, and it establishes your identity long before the market cares about who you are and what you do.

So that’s what I’m doing. Some days the work will suck. But that’s the point of the practice. You don’t wait for inspiration, you commit to it daily no matter what. You do the work and you ship it.

But if I found it impossible to commit before, how am I going to commit now? Easy, I need constraints. Here are my constraints to make blogging daily possible:

  1. I only have 30 minutes to publish: 10 minutes to think, 10 minutes to write, 10 minutes to edit
  2. Text only, no GIFs or images

These constraints will save me from perfectionism and make it possible to commit. See you tomorrow.

- East Northport, NY