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Paper vs Digital Checklists

By on Mar 20, 2016 in Ideas | 0 comments

My friend Sean and I had a recent discussion about idea creation when staring at a screen vs writing it on paper. Sean had just lost his backpack full of writings for his future book at a bar, and it’s recovery was in doubt. This would have been 2 1/2 months of writing lost forever. Many digital-only people would proclaim “that’s why you should have typed it all”. But there are reasons for writing on paper in 2016 and beyond. This brought up the idea of how our thought process works when writing on physical paper compared to a computer screen. I think many of us will intuitively agree that physical paper is the way to go. Many others agree. When facing a computer screen, unless you do some trickery such as completely removing your internet wireless card or blocking all distracting elements, you’re constantly facing distraction. Everything you could ever think of is only a new browser tab away. Even when writing ideas and checklists in Evernote, there are tons of other notebooks and ideas facing me on the lefthand side. When writing to-do lists in Evernote, the ideas for what to do come out slowly. When I want to get it all out on paper, however, I can fill a whole page in minutes. There is something about writing out your checklist on a blank sheet of printer paper and taping it to the wall that makes you want to accomplish things. Rather than having the checklist hiding in a new page of Evernote or your notes app, the physical paper is sitting on the wall, always present. Physical paper allows for unlimited motion. Evernote has a checklist feature, a columns feature, bolding, italicizing, and then a writing and highlighting feature. But you can do all of these with a pen and a blank piece of paper, and much faster. Sean did end up recovering his bag of writings, but he’s going to continue writing on paper. But he’s also going to type them up right away as...

‘Zero to One’ Book Review: A Lucid Treatise

By on Feb 10, 2015 in Book Reviews | 0 comments

Zero to One is an instant classic that any aspiring business owner should read in 2015. Peter Thiel breaks down large ideas and provides very convincing explanations for them throughout his book. I am currently in the middle of a few other business books that I haven’t finished yet, but I tore through Zero to One in a few days. The one takeaway The most important takeaway from the book is something often repeat by Thiel: that we should focus on solving big problems that currently don’t have a solution. He supports this idea in many different ways. One angle is to think about one truth that you hold to be absolutely true that most people would disagree with. Another supporting idea is that if you plan on improving something that already exists, you need to make your product 10x better, not 3x better. A third supporting idea is that there are secret problems hidden in plain sight that we have to dig to find. Airbnb and Uber solve problems that were hidden in plain sight, but took a bit of thinking and discovery to uncover. Innovation throughout the past few decades One of his big points in the book is the claim that society innovated from the Rennaisance through the 1960s and has fallen flat since then. I believe he has a lot of good reasons for this, but I’m not wholly convinced. Thiel is close to Silicon Valley and all the innovations with the internet, but clearly he still believes that we have not seen substantial technological improvements in the past few decades. Worldwide optimism and pessimism One unique and potentially inflammatory section of the book highlights the optimism and pessimism of different parts of the world. In the 1950s and 1960s the United States public believed in definite optimism – that the future was bright and there is a definite plan to get there. Kennedy’s plan to put a man on the moon is a good example of this. In the present day, the United States believes in indefinite optimism – the future is bright, but we don’t have a plan on how to get there. Present day Europe is indefinitely pessimistic, and present day China is in a state of definite optimism. This categorization is very general, but very interesting at the same time. Sales vs Engineers As a marketing person with a slight amount of coding skills, I really like Thiel’s explanation on the importance of sales. It’s a common debate and reaction from developers – the idea that sales and marketing people are useless. Thiel names this idea as a problem and provides reasons why.”In Silicon Valley, nerds are skeptical of advertising, marketing, and sales because they seem superficial and irrational. But advertising matters because it works. It works on nerds, and it works on you.” Developers are used to transparency in their work and knowing instantly whether their work is successful or not. Sales and marketing on the other hand involves changing perceptions rather than changing the core product. Engineers point at marketers spending money on advertising, or salespeople taking clients to two-hour lunches as a waste of resources, but Thiel points out that “what nerds miss is that it takes hard work to make sales look easy.” The most refreshing ideas The idea that having a bad plan rather than no plan is refreshing. He makes an argument in a way clearly against some main ideas from The Lean Startup. That we should have a business plan rather than just going for something and pivoting. He doesn’t directly address pivoting in the book. How it has impacted me Instead of thinking incrementally and hoping to take a small slice of a bigger market, this book has inspired me to be bolder and look for large problems that need to be solved. At the same time, Thiel doesn’t recommend taking on a huge market segment, but serving a very specific marketing and growing outward from there. The best example of this was Facebook serving Harvard students first, then other Ivy Leagues, then colleges across the U.S., then eventually anyone with an email address. The second most important idea was the concept of how venture capital worked. That venture capitalists realize their portfolio will contain a very small amount of huge hits, but that every company they evaluate has to have the potential of being a huge hit. So a VC will only want to fund companies that they believe can one day be a huge hit like Uber or Dropbox. He states that not everybody should start their own company, and it might make sense to join a fast growing startup rather than starting your own because of this concept. That it’s better to own a small part of Google than 100% of your own unfunded idea that goes nowhere. This idea was not deeply explained, and I still have problems with it, but it was still impactful. A Lucid Treatise Peter Thiel’s writing style is very clear, concise, and convincing. He builds the case for a lot of his ideas, even while jumping back and forth between global macro trends and specific startup advice. He intertwines quotes from Shakespeare and references to Einstein throughout. The fact that he barely has a Twitter account and not huge body of public writings makes this book even more valuable, as it gives insight into the mind of one of the Valley’s...

Product Idea: Tap to Donate Easy Button

By on Dec 5, 2013 in Ideas | 0 comments

Things are moving online so much and so quickly that all the techie hipsters get excited about things such as the Fliike, a physical Facebook like counter for storefronts, or the Little Printer from Berg that prints out daily news from your preselected websites. These all have some element of intimacy baked into them because they bring digital junkies into the real world, if only for a second, which is refreshing these days.   You wake up from a dream, happy with life, feeling that you want to give today. You walk over near your bedroom door and hold your phone against a soft glowing light that looks like the easy button. You hold it there for 3 seconds until the light turns green. You’ve just donated $10 to the American Red Cross. You will receive a thank you card from them in 3 days. After a month, you’ll have 20 of these cards sitting on your kitchen table so the women in your life can see how generous you are. Of course there is a smartphone app that records all of your donations, and you can reverse donations within 7 days if they were made by accident. The light will be sent to you for free after your initial $50 donation to one of the approved charities. Working name: Hunger Light, Hight, something. Height.    ...