ordinary hustla

starting from nothing, the money making adventures of A-ron

Day 15 - Writing Checks That My Ass MAY Not Be Able To Cash

Executing, NewsA-ronComment

[News]

Now, this blog has more molecules! I know it can be a pain in the ass trying to navigate all my nonsense to find anything useful for your situation, so I've tried my best to *bold* the more interesting parts. So you can skim, consume, and quickly be on your way. You're welcome.

Also, I've chosen a book project. Really, I've chosen two, but one is a back burner type of thing. You can read all about my latest projects and the progress I've made on them by clicking on this text.

[END News]

After taking a realistic look at everything I'm biting off to chew, I'm overwhelmed. I have no idea where I'm going to find the time, on top of doing real paycheck-related work and spending time with the girlfriend and everything else. Here's the breakdown of what I'm trying to do, in order of priority:

  1. Super Poppycock - the writing app for Mac and Windows and other devices eventually.
  2. So I Quit My Job - the new book project.
  3. The Abs Project - my quest for six pack abs, keeping a "diary" to eventually turn into a book.
  4. Ordinary Hustla - this blog.
  5. The Hustlecast - the distilled audio version (podcast) of this blog.

Five things doesn't seem like a lot, but when I look at all the work involved to keep them all up, my head spins. And these things aren't going away soon. When Super Poppycock is done, I gotta get the website up and running, and a sales funnel setup, and then marketing, and then upkeep, and then...

So there's an obstacle here: TIMEMy initial thoughts are to do one of two things:

  1. Partition times of the day to work on each. Like, 8-10 work on Super Poppycock. 10:30-11:30 work on So I Quit My Job. Etc. There's a lot of context switching in this method. And knowing myself, I have a tendency to bounce from one to another randomly, as things come to me. I don't know if this an effective long term strategy.
  2. Alternate days dedicated to each. Like, Monday is Super Poppycock day. Tuesday, So I Quit My Job, etc. The limitation with this, is that the abs project and this blog are really daily activities. I suppose that shouldn't matter, but on Mondays I'm going to record the Hustlecast. Then I have to dedicate a little bit of time to edit the audio down and publish the thing (it won't be on iTunes by the way, fuck them).

The first option seems the most promising, since my nature is to bounce from one to another. But as I've outlined here already, numerous times, I'm the type who likes to chase shiny new objects. And fuck, I was just thinking yesterday and today of building a mobile app so people can listen to the Hustlecast on the go, outside of iTunes. Plus, I could recruit other "hustlers" to add their shows, so it's a radio station of sorts about making money and quitting your job. And...fucking fuck me in the taint!

The ideas never end. The more I think about this thing, the more I see the final empire, and the more I want to already be there. I have to keep reminding myself why I'm here, why I started this. It's not to build an empire of followers and worshipers and people who are just going to consume whatever I fart out because I've accomplished something they want to accomplish. I started this for myself firstly, and to help the schmuck like me get off the ground. Because trust me, if I can do it, so can (almost) anyone else. The bottom line is, I don't want a vast community of FOLLOWERS, I want a vast community of DOERS, of STARTERS, of FINISHERS. Which means I gotta get my shit together and become those things myself.

Total time invested today: about 3 hours
Progress made: a little
Distractions: too many
Feeling: overwhelmed, and a little tired (I need more exercise and sleep)

Day 13 - How To Choose Everything To Do All At Once

IdeationA-ronComment

I have two competing book ideas, and both are contingent on me meeting some future goal. Or, a better way to put it, they are both stories, much like this blog, about my quest for something (six pack abs and a successful software product, Super Poppycock). I want to do both, since both are happening right now, or soon to be happening. But it feels like a lot to take on.

So I’m thinking of rolling those experiences into this blog and/or turning them into audio blogs, which will probably be the fate of this thing once stuff gets rolling. Then, I figure I can duplicate this formula for other projects in the future and have this blog thing be a collection of that stuff, eventually turning what I can into books. What do you think?

I still think it’s a lot to take on, because on top of that, I still want a book project. But I think I have a plan, focusing on what I already know and think I can write fairly easy, keeping things simple instead of trying to write a fucking epic blockbuster. That shit can come later as I get smarter.

In 2009, the day after I quit my big corporate, high paying gig on a whim, I started a blog called “So I Quit My Job.” I wrote in it almost everyday, in similar fashion to this, except way more abstract. I shut it down in 2010 when I ran out of savings and had to go looking for a shitty job again, failing to accomplish my mission of never having to work a job again in my life. But I still have all the blog entries. And a lot of them are pretty good. So I figure I can turn those into a book fairly quickly, while still logging my experiences with my other ongoing projects.

And here’s what my narrowed down spreadsheet looks like now after going through this insane exercise:

It’s a prioritized list, with columns for keywords, keyword volume, weeks to complete, potential monthly profit, and the progress I’ve made. Is that not obvious?

I have no idea how to accurately calculate potential monthly revenue. $50 seems really high. So I halved it. And I don’t know if keyword volume matters or not. I know for a fact that most people hate their jobs and are at least casually looking for a way to quit. Well, not everyone is looking all the time. Actually, I think most people have accepted their fate and taken a knee on the whole thing. But there are always a large number of people looking for the escape plan. I don’t have it, but I do have the truth, especially if you’re like me in any way (a quitter, a procrastinator, etc).

My thinking is, I can churn these out without much problems, so it gives me a nice foundation to build on. The “Finding Your Niche” might be able to be broken out into two books: one for finding a profitable software idea and another for finding a profitable e-commerce niche.The last entry I threw in because I feel like a need three for my life to feel complete. It’s the most likely next candidate in the list any way, so why not? Do you fucking hate me now? Please don’t unsubscribe.

I created two unpublished pages on this blog. One for the abs project and another for the development of Super Poppycock. I thought about just rolling those things up into this blog, but I don’t want to make the water any more cloudy than it already is. You already have to fight through all my insanity and nonsense, adding more and more content that you probably don’t give a fuck about will make it even more difficult to like me. The audio blog will be better, I promise. It’ll be the more distilled version of this.

With all that said, I feel like I'm trying to drown myself. Like, at some point I’m going to have a nervous breakdown and quit everything. There’s no easy way to do all the work that needs to be done at the same time without the quality of something suffering or dropping something completely. And I don’t want to drop anything. I know that I’m not dropping Super Poppycock. It stays at the top of my priority list, because it’s a validated thing, meaning, I know for a fact that if I deliver, people will pay for it. I’m not so sure about the other shit. I just tend to spend way too much time on activities that don’t pay off, like tweaking this blog.

I think I’m still going to move forward, choosing “So I Quit My Job” as the book project and keeping track of my progress on the other things on here, separating them off into their on blog so as not to fuck your eyes and ears with it. You’re welcome. I’m going to sleep on it. If it still feels right, although somewhat ambitious, I’m locking it in.

Total time invested today: about 2 hours
Total time spent in wishy washy delusions of grandeur: about 2 hours
Time invested on Super Poppycock: about 1 hour (so much for being the top priority, eh?)
Feeling: overwhelmed, but optimistic

Day 12 - A Hit Of Outrage & The Need For Instant Gratification

Ideation, EditorialA-ronComment

[WARNING: Editorial]

I was just reminded why I quit using Evernote to write anything important. The situatation is this: I made a change to a note on my phone, it didn’t sync, I start editing it on another device, then the sync kicks in while I’m typing and blows away all my work. I pay them $5 a month for this. Thanks, Evernote. And by “thanks,” I mean, “suck it.”

I’ve also learned that I’m no different than anyone else. Right this moment I learned it. I just complained about a thing that costs me money screwing me over, yet I continue to use it. I get the feeling that people have a natural tendency to want to feel outrage at something. Like, there has to be some conflict in their life, some struggle at all times. Since we no longer have to worry about competing in the food chain, and our lives are so incredibly comfortable, we start making shit up. It makes me feel good feeling there is some evil force (Evernote) in the world that I must battle. It feels good having a struggle, even if it’s trivial.

Or, I could just stop paying the bastards and use some other system. But the milk from their tete is so delicious; I’ve talked myself into believing they are the best, along with Apple, Spotify, etc. And change is too fucking difficult. Amiright? Maybe one day…

[END: Editorial]

I’ve narrowed possible book topics down to four. And before I go to bed, I’m going to narrow it down to two.

Actually, I think I know which one I’m going to choose. I know which two I’m going to choose. Hell, I may choose both, since both can be written in real time almost. Am I taking on too much if I choose that route? Probably. Well, fuck it then, I’ll choose only one.

That’s about all the progress I made today. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to choose which one to write. A thought just popped in my head to, again, choose both. I can “write” one, or both, audibly, since I have a brand new portable audio recorder (Tascam DR-MKII). Since both are diary style, like this thing, I can just record my experiences, thoughts, and progress. But now I’m thinking, how much work will it be to convert that to text? Then again, maybe I don’t bother and leave both as audio books. Hmmm.

Anyway, I felt myself getting distracted by new shiny ideas. I came up with a couple of more today and thought, “ooooh, I could do that.” I’m really fucking good at chasing cars, and I don’t know what to do when I catch one. Then I get excited about them all and feel like I need to write them all RIGHT NOW. Like, I want it to be done and selling millions of copies NOW. GIVE ME EVERYTHING I’VE EVER WANTED, RIGHT FUCKING NOW! I’m so scared that someone is going to come along and do my ideas, and then I’ll be stuck being second. I hate being a copy cat.

It’s annoying because it fucks with my sleep. I swear I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in two weeks. I feel like I have 900,000 things going on, and they all require the top priority. Especially during the week, when the job gets in the way of progress. I hate it, and I’m trying to let go of caring so god damn much, but I can’t help it. It’s like the job knows my brain is wired to solve hard problems, and that it won’t quit until the job is either done or I get bored. I’m trying real hard to get myself to the bored part. 

Time invested: about 1 hour
Proximity to making a fucking decision on an idea: very close
Feeling: tired and beat up, like I need a day or two OFF

Day 10 - Kicked In The Taint By The Job & A Burst Of Progress

Ideation, Mental BarriersA-ronComment

At my stupid job, we have to go through a beat down called an iteration review. It’s a periodic, usually every two weeks, meeting where everyone involved in a project gets together and the people actually making the thing have to explain, in gruesome detail, the progress they’ve made. It’s a beating because the managers/bosses are in the meeting scrutinizing everything you’ve done and everything you plan to do. And I always leave the meetings feeling deflated, like I’m failure as a person, like the work I’ve accomplished isn’t good enough.

I fucking hate it, because it’s never enough. No matter how much gets done, how much struggle I went through, what was going on in my life outside of work, the dead weight I have to drag along with me that's barely competent to keep a job, they always want more and more. Like, they expect me to produce results like a fucking robot.

And I always get sucked in. I always get sucked into thinking I need to give more. I need to sacrifice more of my time, more of my mental energy towards the job. I fucking start caring too much about something that means absolutely nothing to me. And what’s my reward going to be? Piles of stress, wrinkles, a hunched spine, and a fatter, softer body? Oh, a paycheck? Fuck that. If the thing I’m building makes millions of dollars for the company, my cut is going to be shit. Literally, they’ll probably give me a pat on the back and say something like, “get back to fucking work boy!” And if it fails, who fucking knows? "You're fired!"

That’s where I was at today. The only good thing about the beat down days is that whenever the last meeting concludes, I pretty much take a knee for the rest of the day. And then the day after that. Which means I spend more time working on things I don’t mind putting all my energy towards.

I decided to narrow my book idea choices down to three. It wasn’t that hard of a choice. I just looked at my spreadsheet and highlighted the 3 I was most excited about, and that I thought I could deliver on easily. Here’s what my spreadsheet looks like now:

I’ve also been kicking around different variations of each idea in my head. I wrote these variations down in my Evernote note and tried to come up with a marketing-sounding teaser, something that might appear on the back cover or as the tease in the preview:

I didn’t finish, because I have a life. Not much of a life, but a life. And I was still deflated, exhausted, and feeling broken after the beat down sessions. I swear, some days I want to set the building on fire.

When I was leaving work, I had a small burst of ideas. I wrote them down and shoved them into the spreadsheet as potentials. And that’s it.

I have to admit I’m a bit bored. I think I need to start working out again. I haven’t been to yoga in over a week. I haven’t really done anything physical in about a week. It feels alien to me, and my mood seems to be suffering. My motivation isn’t gone, but the energy I’m willing to expend has shrunk. I just feel like I need a nap, a bunch of naps. Now I feel like I gotta force myself to get moving again. And I think I want abs. Just FYI.

My girlfriend is going out of town again this weekend. Once again, I’ll have infinite time to do all the things I want to do. Since I’m pretty much done publishing my last book project, which I wrote under a pen name that I’ll never divulge, I’ll have more time to put into this and Super Poppycock, and maybe kick around the app idea my girlfriend’s friend pitched me. Maybe.

Total time invested today: about 3 hours
Progress made: some
eeling: bored, but motivated

Day 9 - Tight Timetables & Greasy Noodles

IdeationA-ronComment

I had about 30 minutes of free time to work on this shit. 30, fucking, minutes. It was one of those days where I felt like I was being pulled in 90 different directions. Plus, once again, I got bogged down in editing audio and adding production value to the shitty podcast being released soon. On a good note related to that, I have 3 episodes recorded. My goal is to get to 5 before pushing them to the world. (And as a further aside, the audio quality for the first episode is shit. I recorded it too hot. You don’t care? Oh, OK. Sorry.)

In those 30 minutes though, I felt like I got a lot done. I did some more juggling on my spreadsheet, re-analyzed some of the book ideas I had, and re-evaluated the numbers for each. I might’ve done this because I got excited about a couple of ideas and wanted them to bubble to the top. What’s that called? Self fulfilling prophecy? Yeah, that’s it. Whatever pushes me closer to choosing a project, right?

Here’s the new version of the spreadsheet, complete with color coding:

The green means I’m interested and/or it seems like a good topic. Yellow means I don’t think I have enough content to fill an entire book. Those may be candidates for something free later on. Red means the book doesn't fit into any of the big three categories, Health, Wealth, or Relationships. They might be interesting to write, and people may actually be interested in reading them, but they’re not as marketable as the ones in green or yellow, in my opinion.

I also added two new columns: Fit and Synopsis. Fit is which category of the big 3 categories the book could fall into, trying to be as brutally honest as possible. Synopsis is a very short description of what the book is about. This is more of a marketing message, or a tease, than a thorough description. Because this is all I’m going to get people to read before they make a buying decision. So if they’ll buy the synopsis, they’ll buy the book, and then my job is to deliver the goods. The synopsis’s (synopsai? synopsises?) aren't perfect; they need some work, but it’s a start.

Not too bad for 30 minutes. It’s amazing how tight deadlines force focus. I feel like a winner. Parkinson was fucking right.

Later, my girlfriend’s friend had an idea for a pretty cool app. She explained it to me and asked if I could build it. I’m not sure how dedicated she is to the idea, and whether or not she has the patience to see it through, but if it can be done, it has some pretty good potential. I’m a little hesitant to stop down what I’m doing to work on someone else's app, but, I might. I don’t know. Shoot me in the face for chasing the next shiny thing. If anything, it's an idea that can be added to my meta ideas marketplace.

The lesson today is: work hard, be a good thinker, don’t work so much, and take a shower after eating Chipotle. Seriously, I felt like I needed to be hosed off after downing one of those burritos for lunch. It was like getting slapped in the face with a big greasy noodle.

Total time invested today: about 30 minutes
Progress made: some
Feeling: a little strung out

Day 8 - You Gotta Lot Of Quit In You Boy

Mental BarriersA-ronComment

I finally got that feeling last night. Laying in bed, I got the feeling that I should just quit, because, well, it’s too fucking hard. Feeling sorry for myself is also one of my skills. At the least little bit of frustration, I feel the need to quit.

Actually, I think I might use the quitting as punishment. I got slightly irritated at my girlfriend, for some dumb reason. Doesn’t matter. But that’s when I thought about quitting. As if me quitting doing something I really want to do is punishment to her. Fuck me.

Anyway, I think I’ve come to my senses. I was just frustrated because I didn’t make as much progress as I wanted to. i did make progress though, so I think that’s the important thing to focus on. Not how much I didn’t get done, but how much I did. And as long as the answer is “at least a little bit,” then that’s a successful day. The need for instant gratification, for things to fall exactly into place, for things to be easy and care free makes it hard to see this as a marathon rather than how I actually see it, as a sprint.

I just think about all the things I’ve started and never finished. I wonder where they’d be today if I hadn’t gave up when the initial excitement wore off? Maybe they’d be nowhere. Maybe they’d be huge hits and I wouldn’t be writing this stupid fucking blog. Maybe I’d be dead, or traveling through time, or rich and famous.

Who knows? I guess it doesn’t matter now. All that matters is what’s happening now, today, this moment.

Pressing forward.

The little progress I made was writing a short intro to one of my book ideas, trying to flesh out what the content will be. I even made a very high level outline and came up with a catchy title (that’ll probably change 100 times if I decide to write it). I created a new Evernote note to put all the info I could about each book idea. Then, my plan is go through each, pull out some keywords, do some deep diving on Amazon, and see which one sounds the “best,” with “best” being a combination of unique, interesting, informative, useful, and WILL FUCKING PEOPLE BUY AND READ THE DAMN THING? Here’s a snippet:

Just doing this made me excited about writing this book. I think the outline is helpful, because it kicks my brain in the ass about the content that should go between them. Although I did have a little trouble coming up with more specific sections, but I don’t like to write that way anyway. I’m more of a sit down and start writing and let the story unfold. Then at some point, about midway through, I can see where the story is going, come up an ending, and start driving towards it. The ending will probably change a handful of times, but the purpose is to have somewhere to go. Otherwise, I’d have an infinite book that goes nowhere. And people don’t tend to like reading infinite words.

I close out this day with a quote that I’m totally making up: “don’t get sucked into the feeling of helplessness, or feeling sorrow for yourself, or quitting. Fuck feelings, they’re just that, feelings. Do what you gotta do right now, what’s next. Nothing else matters. And if you don’t know where to go next, make it up. Fuckin’ A!”

Total time invested today: about 1 hour
Thought about quitting: 1 time
Feeling: shitty, and slightly optimistic

Day 7 - Oral Sex, And The Problem With Needing Certainty

Ideation, Mental BarriersA-ronComment

I spent a lot of time working on Super Poppycock this weekend, the simple little writing app of the future, or something like that. Surprisingly, I’ve made some good progress. With all the free time, I think I’ve spent it fairly wisely. I’m patting myself on the back for not giving in to the temptation of nothingness.

Today marks the end of the first full week. I sorta feel better about where I’m at, although I’m really apprehensive about which book I should pick to write. I’m even having doubts about this whole write-a-book-to-make-money thing and whether or not it's a good idea or not. It’s not that I don’t believe I can write an interesting book; after looking over some of the shit that’s on Amazon for some of the same topics I’m thinking of writing about, I’m almost certain I can write something better than 90% of them.

My problem is, I want fucking certainty, and I can’t figure out a way to get it. Probably because it’s impossible. No matter how many metrics I look at. No matter how much “Research” I do. No matter how hard I try to be sure that the book I choose to write is the right one. There’s that splatter of doubt sucking my energy. It’s like a leach on my brain, that voice that makes the most convincing argument that I’m not good enough, or smart enough, or experienced enough, or <insert some fatal flaw here>. And there's no way on Earth to know for sure if someone will buy and read a book or not.

Fucking balls.

So while I try to sort out the insanity brewing in my brain, I added to the spreadsheet I made a couple of days ago. I added a new metric: Enough. As I was filling in the numbers for all the book ideas that made the initial gut check, I realized I might not have enough material to fill a whole book. Enough stabilizes the totals by bumping up the “good” ideas that I also think have enough material to complete a book, at least 30k words (and that’s the absolute bottom, 30k works well for fiction, but if you’re looking for information that solves some problem you have, you’d probably like it to be both dense and informative, and also, interesting).

I sorted the ideas by their total score. Before adding the Enough column, “A Man’s Guide To Oral Sex” was scoring #1. I thought about if I have enough material to fill an entire book, and the answer was a resounding NO. I’m not sure I have enough to fill an article. I suppose I could do some research and experimentation, but really, it’s not that difficult. Now that I think about it further, I may not have enough information to fill a tweet. Seriously, it’s not that complicated. It’s pretty much point and [c]lick. Get it?

I’m taking the top six and deep diving. I think I’ll try and write a paragraph or two for each and see what I think. Maybe even do an outline. I still hate the uncertainty though. I hate thinking I’m going down the wrong path. I hate thinking I’m following someone else’s path. I hate that my brain is ceasing up at the thought of taking on a writing project.

I want the money now. And maybe that’s THE problem. I’m focused more on the money than on creating a valuable, interesting thing. It feels like two conflicting goals. Either I do something that makes money, or I do something that doesn’t make any money but is interesting and important to me. There’s got to be a balance in there somewhere, right? Am I fucking crazy?

I mean, should I ditch trying to come up with a profitable idea and just do the thing that everyone will most likely tell me is stupid? The idea marketplace is a stupid idea. Who the fuck will pay just for ideas? But the more I think about it, the more it feels good. But I worry about sustainment. If I’m going to sell ideas, I always need a fresh supply of ideas. And not just ideas, but GOOD ideas, fucking GREAT ones even.

My balls itch. Time for a long nap.

Total time spent this weekend: about 3 hours
Level of doubt: medium high
Frustration factor: in the yellow

Day 5 - Picking A Winner: Defining The Process of Choosing A Profitable Book To Write

IdeationA-ronComment

The girlfriend is heading out of town for the weekend. Usually, I get excited about the prospect of having inordinate amounts of time to do whatever I want. I dream of all the things I can get done when all external responsibilities are removed. But I've been jobless before, without a wife or girlfriend to support, or kids to feed, or house payments to make. In other words, I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted. And you know what I wound up doing?

Fucking shit.

A year later, I was back begging for a job. A job that would eventually bring me to the brink of insanity.

So I know myself. Wasn't that Neo's first directive from the Oracle? Know thyself. Well, I know thyself, and thyself is extremely skilled at wasting time doing meaningless, unproductive things.

The bottom line is, I'm not really looking forward to all the time in the world. I like having tight deadlines. I like having to squeeze in an hour here and thirty minutes there. It creates a focus that's unattainable when the clock isn't ticking as hard. I can totally see myself not leaving the couch for the whole weekend.

But does knowing thyself change things? Can I somehow embrace my distracted, procrastinating nature and create artificial time constraints? Possibly. Might be a good experiment. Instead of thinking I have all the time in the world, why not set aside chunks of time throughout the weekend dedicated to "making progress?" Not fucking around with recording audio, or writing this blog, or anything else. Those activities aren't progress. Focus on getting shit done. I should make a small plan and paste it to my brain.

Or, maybe not. That sounds hard. I think I'll just wing it. We'll see. (Yes, I'm a deflater.)

Last night, before I got into the bed and closed my eyes, I created a spreadsheet to compile data about the ideas I have. It's pretty simple right now. 3 columns: book/website idea, possible keywords, and keyword volume. The idea is to get on the Google Keyword Planner and think of keywords that people might use to find the stuff I'm going to make.

I've done this before with a few other ideas. I did it with my writing app, Super Poppycock  which is one of the reasons I decided to build it. So I thought, why not start there and see where it takes me. Especially since it seems I've hit the wall on coming up with ideas. They don't see to be flowing as easily the last couple of days. Probably why I've hesitated moving on and spent so much time fucking around in Garageband (the lure of the audio blog, which I'm really excited about (I finally have a meaningful topic for a podcast! More on that probably later)).

I went to the Google Keyword Planner and started banging in some keyword ideas, starting with the first idea I got excited about, DIY for introverts. The results weren’t too exciting. There were some hefty searches for some chick whose wrote a couple of books about being an introvert. And that looked to be about it. Defeat started sinking in.

I did a few more searches for related keywords, focusing on DIY stuff. Lots of results, but heavy competition. There’s a lot of really good sites and books and shit about doing it yourself. I started shrinking inside, thinking, “oh fuck, here it comes.” IT being the quit in me. In addition to being easily distracted and a master procrastinator, I also posses a low frustration tolerance. Like, when I encounter the least bit of resistance and things don’t go exactly as I think they should, I tend to want to give up.

So I took a break and did some actual job related work instead.

I decided that maybe focusing on keyword searches might be a bad strategy right now. Especially for my broad ideas. I thought I needed to get more specific. Or better, organize my book ideas a little better. Then, instead of focusing on search volume around a set of keywords for a broad topic, I could think of keywords for more specific ideas.

Then I thought of a technique I used a while back that I stole from somewhere, I don’t remember where. If you go to Google and start typing in a keyword, Google makes suggestions. They call this, search prediction, and you can use it to come up with ideas. I decided to focus on yoga, since I already had a handful of book ideas for it.

The technique works like this, start typing in a keyword in the Google search bar, in this case “yoga,” then space, then “a.” Then “b.” Then “c.” Then…you get the idea. Google makes suggestions based on both your past searches, what’s trending, and what’s common. Currently, it only gives you 4 results, but it’s good enough to tunnel down to think of more ideas.

After that, I went to Amazon and searched for “yoga” again, and went through the list of books it returned. Mostly, I was looking at what was already out there to come up with related ideas, and partly to size up the possible competition. Lots of books for beginners. Lots of scam-y sounding titles, like, “Heal Yourself of Every Disease Man Has Invented By Doing Yoga.” Most of it looked like garbage, but some of the books looked well done. I wrote down a couple of more ideas, creating this mind map (yep, I’m totally addicted now):

Later, I chose three books from this list, the ones that interested me the most and created a new spreadsheet:

I needed some way of narrowing down all the ideas and choosing the top 3 or 5 to explore further. So the first filter is just a quick yes or no decision. For each book idea, I go with my gut about what I think I CAN write, what I’m INTERESTED in writing, and if I think it will SELL. Those ideas go into the spreadsheet.

Then I’ll consider the five metrics, Effort, Interest, Market, Length, and R&D. Each is a value from 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst and 5 the best. The higher the total score, the more I should focus on it. Each metric is another gut check, backed up by maybe a little research. Like Market can possibly be loosely measured by looking at keyword searches or some other method. The point is not to get too detailed right now. It’s just a decision making tool so I won’t get paralyzed by having too many choices. Because too many choices is bad for humans.

This isn’t like a scientific, proven process. It’s something I’m pulling out of my ass and making up as I go. Actually, I did something similar when I was trying to choose between developing a fantasy football app, a writing app, and something else, I don’t remember. I did a little more market research for those, because the keywords are pretty well defined and it’s a bit easier to measure demand. A book is different though. It’s hard to determine if people will actually buy the damn thing and read it. I may do some digging tomorrow to see what other people have done.

I never completed the spreadsheet. I had to quit to take the girlfriend to the airport. Then I spent the rest of temporary bachelor weekend working on another book project that’s almost finished.

Now I suppose I should pull the curtain back a little. I’ve self published one other book earlier in the year, that I wrote last year. I have a second one close to done. I wrote both under a pen name that I’m never going to reveal or admit if someone makes the connection. I consider it my little playground, my untainted creative sandbox. I can write whatever I want and be as weird and fucked up as I want to be. Thus, why I’m creating a writing app. And further thus, why I prefer a “writing as a business model” over the traditional "make something, sell something model.”

Maybe one day I’ll reveal the truth ;)

Total time invested today: about 3 hours
Progress made: a bit
Feeling: slightly enthusiastic 

Day 4 - You Have To See The Ball To Hit It, Idiot

Ideation, Mental BarriersA-ronComment

6 hours and 8 minutes of tumultuous sleep last night. Fuck this whole sleep tracking thing. It's depressing knowing just how shitty I slept. Plus, I think it gives me an excuse to be lazy. Despite the crappy night's sleep though, I got up and went for a long bike ride. 9.3 miles, which is not too bad on a mountain bike.

I got to work and was feeling a little lost. Like, I wasn't quite sure what I should be doing next to make progress. I was also wondering if I was spending too much time on activities like this, blogging, setting up my new website, recording and fooling around with audio. Yeah, I've recorded two episodes for the upcoming audio blog. I figure once I settle in on a book project, this textual form of the diary will be sparse and the audio will be more prevalent. So might as well set it up now, right?

I’m an idiot.

Who gives a fuck about any of that crap. It's really just busy work. A sink hole that I get sucked into. But I like doing it. It makes me feel like I'm making progress. Maybe there's a business around just setting up websites for people? I wrote it down in the idea notebook (which is actually a note in Evernote). Actually, the more I think about it, the more I hate it, because I can see myself wanting to kill the people who want everything to be done THEIR way instead of MY way, which is ALWAYS the right way (I told you before, I’m a creative control freak (you can safely remove the word “creative” from that last sentence)). I'll keep it just so I can laugh at it later.

I think I came up with a daily task to get me started every day: managing the mind map. I can go through it, write down any ideas that come up, add nodes, delete nodes, edit nodes, etc. I think this will be a good routine to get in to, just so I have a starting point each day. In addition to at least writing a little bit.

I also added a section to my ideas note called "Grand." This is for the ideas that seem to encompass multiple broad subjects, like my introvert DIY guides idea and the meta idea marketplace site. Although there's various subjects each of those can hit, they’re not specific to one. And also, this is where the ideas I get really excited about fit in.

For the rest of day I got sucked into a rabbit hole about the (upcoming) audio diary. I researched recording levels, and audio editing, and blah blah blah. Things that don't really matter, but suck me in because it feels like "work." And then I get sucked so far down that my attitude turns into "fuck it" mode, which means I give up trying to achieve anything that pushes me closer to the main goal, $500 per month.

$500 per month. Maybe I need to remind myself over and over that that's the aim, and try to reject any activity, other than those responsible for sustaining my life, like eating, going to the job, sleep, etc, that don't push me any closer to it. Like fooling around with recording levels and audio editing. On a positive note though, I recorded some good intros for the audio blog. Soooo, there's that.

Overall it felt like an unproductive day. Tomorrow I have something to move towards, even though I thought of it today and should have been doing it instead of fucking around on the mike (but it's so much fucking fun for me!) Pray for me.

Total time invested today: about 0.5 hour
Total time wasted today: about 4 hours
Progress made: almost none
Feeling: blah and tired

Day 3 - Expectations, Uncertainty, & All That Shit

IdeationA-ronComment

This morning the doubt monster tried fucking me in the ass again. It typically shows up when I'm feeling good about something, like a good idea I had. And I think it shows up because I'm not quite sure what to do next. I know what I need to do. I need to do some research into the idea I had yesterday to see if there's a market for it. Doubt usually tries to dissuade me from doing this, because a) it's fucking difficult, b) certainty can never be achieved, and c) I hate verifying what I already know about myself.

That last one goes deeper than just some stupid idea that came out of my head. It goes down to my feelings of not being good enough. "Oh, A-ron, of course you're good enough," you might be thinking or saying to yourself. And you'd be right. I exist, therefore I'm good enough. But the part of my brain out to derail me likes to throw in the possibility that, maybe, I'm not good enough for this specific thing. And I'd hate to find out that everything bad I think about myself is actually true. Keeping my head in the sand feels so much better.

"Jesus, A-ron, quit being a fucking pussy," you may be mumbling under breath now. And you'd be right again. It's just a fucking idea. What do you possibly have to lose? Absolutely nothing. A better question might be, what do you have to gain? Absolutely everything. What if I stumble upon a nest of people just waiting with a fistful of dollars to give me if I write these stupid books or create that stupid website or make that dumb product? What if my idea is actually good?

Well, then I have to deliver. Then I have to meet whatever expectations those sweaty people with wads of cash hold. And that may be more scary than actually finding out my idea sucks. Because then I'll be judged by real people. Real people will curse me if I don't deliver. They'll get on the Internet and say bad things about me. And I'll be ruined forever. I'll have to strip naked and move to some remote location and live off the land. Whatever.

Can I accept that as a possible result? Is it likely? No, it's not likely. Fuck off, I know what I gotta do.

Pressing forward.

Despite the doubts, despite the fear, despite the possibility that this time next year I'll be jacking off on the carcass of a dead deer I killed with my bare hands, I decided to keep going. 

I thought of another idea, which turns out to be more of a meta idea than an actual idea. The idea is create a website and fill it with all the ideas I wind up chasing because I'm afraid to execute any one of them. Like, I spend a week or so researching the idea, compiling numbers, setting up the website, etc, then put it on the site. I could even create a marketplace, like an e-commerce store, where I sell a limited number of each idea, and when it goes "out of stock," that's it, it's gone. Or I could write a series of books that detail each idea.

I'm going to let this one percolate also. I like it. I still need to do some digging to figure how many people are looking for good ideas AND if they're interested in buying ideas to execute on. I think of it like a franchise, except not quite as mature. Like, I take all the hard work out of finding good, profitable ideas and just sell you the potential. Would I buy that? I don't know. Probably not, but maybe. If I could also buy the execution, that would be great.

For the rest of the day I worked on my writing app, called SUPER Poppycock. I'm excited about this thing. I'm hoping it makes writing books and self publishing easier and more streamlined. Easier for me, at least. If you're a writer, that is, you write books and are interested in self publishing, then give it a shot. If you don't like it, then, whatever, I'll still love you.

Total time invested today: about 1 hour
Progress made: very little
Feeling: good
Ideas that I'm really, really excited about: 2

Day 2 - Fighting Doubt & Taming Excitement

IdeationA-ronComment

Blah! I didn't sleep enough last night. According to my Garmin Vivofit, I slept about 6.5 hours, not nearly enough for me. I need at least 8, preferably 9+. Now I have a mild headache, the type that's not bad enough to take Advil but is just strong enough to get in the way. Fucking balls.

I was having doubts earlier in the day about what I did yesterday. It's nothing new, happens all the time. It's that voice that creeps up when things start getting a little rough or uncertain, even though what I'm doing now could hardly be considered rough. I think the word for it is doubt. I'm still in that place where I'm not quite sure where to take things, so that nagging voice tends fill those spaces when I'm left wondering.

I thought about starting over and focusing on actual businesses I could start, like consulting/freelancing or some kind of e-commerce bullshit. Whatever. I think I did this because I went through the list of book ideas I generated yesterday and felt a little intimidated. My main thought was, "I can't write any of these. I don't know enough about anything here. I'll come off as an impostor, a phony, a fucking douche bag."

I came to my senses a little later. This is a familiar cycle for me. Up one moment, really excited, really ready to get things going. Then the next, I feel like facing the wall, defeated, full of doubt. I've learned (somewhat) to recognize these down times for what they are: minor obstacles. I've also learned to keep pressing forward despite them. Eventually my mood swings up again.

Pressing forward.

I figure my two greatest skills are writing and programming, so those are the areas I should focus on. I already have a programming project, a little writing app that works everywhere (Super Poppycock if you care). I don't currently have a writing project. I feel like I need both. So creating a book or a content website seems like a good idea right now.

Then the questions pop in. It's hard to tell if these are obstacles or the good part of my brain trying to tell me something. Am I taking the easy way out with simply writing books? Should I be thinking bigger? Can I do more? The best answer I could come up with is, right now, who cares? Tomorrow, or next week, or next month, I may look back and kick myself in the ball sack for taking this route. But for now, who fucking cares? Gotta start somewhere. Start with what I know.

Pressing forward.

I've been influenced by that Quora thing I read the other day, about the guy who built an ebook empire. I spent a little bit of time today reading his stuff, and it's pretty good. Although I'm a little skeptical about trying to follow his formula to a T, I have gathered some good ideas. Especially in the area of idea generation.

Inspired, I turned back to the mind mapping I've become addicted to. Since I had to be at my stupid job today, I used a different mind mapping thing, one that's online. It's better than the free one I downloaded yesterday. But who cares, that part doesn't matter.

I made a mind map of things that interest me in each of the 4 broad categories, health, wealth, relationships, and passions. Here's what it looks like:

This looks more interesting than the mind map from yesterday, I think. Instead of being random things that I pulled out of my butt, they're more specific to me and my interests, sprinkled with topics I could probably write some in depth stuff on based on my experiences alone. This also gives me a butt load of markets to explore.

I went through and highlighted all the nodes that interest me the most, even if I had zero knowledge in them. I took each one and created an Evernote note with each as a bullet point. I started going through each one, thinking of ideas, and a theme emerged (I didn't actually write down any ideas for each since the theme exposed itself quick, and since, I've deleted the Evernote note, just FYI, in case you give a fuck about the tiny details).

I consider myself a strong to very strong introvert. I like doing things solo, on my own, without any help. Mostly because I don't have strong social skills and partly because I don't have a tolerance for most people. Not that I hate people, but I like to have control, of my time, of my creativity, of whatever it is I'm doing. Other people tend to slow me down, unless they're really good at what I want to do. In that case, I don't mind a little help or companionship. Like yoga, for example. I like going to class and being around like minded people, and also getting help from more experienced folks who can show me the proper and/or best way of doing the poses.

So the theme that emerged was do-it-yourself stuff. Like, God I hate to keep harping on the yoga thing, but take yoga for example. The idea was a book that guides you through building your own yoga routines that you can do at home. Another idea was a guide for building stand up desks, since there's a bunch of new research that suggests that sitting for prolonged periods of time is equivalent to smoking. I've built my own stand up desk at work, and I went through a handful of different designs before settling on the one I made. It ain't anything spectacular, but it's functional and relatively cheap to put together. I could even included shopping lists and detailed assembly instructions.

I got really excited about this idea. I even thought of a couple of domain names and checked if they were available. I tend to do this. I tend to get really excited about something, thinking, "Oh, this is it!" Then a week later, I've flamed out. After the honeymoon phase ends and I see how much work it's going to take to get something off the ground, I want to go looking for the next exciting idea. Plus my mind likes to remind me of all the various ways in which it won't work, most of which center around my belief that I'm an inferior person. What a crotch kick.

So I benched it and decided to call it a day. If I still feel the same about it tomorrow and then the next day and then a week from now, then maybe this is the one to dive into. But until then, I need to keep exploring.

I went to yoga with all this excitement swirling in my head. There's nothing like an exhausting, hot workout to drain every ounce of energy. I got home, ate some dinner, and watched the new HBO show, The Leftovers. It's fucking good. Really fucking good. Like it has the potential to be Game of Thrones good. Fuck me, another distraction.

Total time invested today: about 3 hours
Progress made: very little
Feeling: OK
Ideas that I'm really, really excited about: 1

Day 1 - Brainstorming Money Making Ideas

IdeationA-ronComment

I had the day off from my normal go to work, sit in front of a computer and make code that does things the boss tells me to do. It’s not a terrible job; I make it out to be much worse than it really is. But there’s a big difference between not having to go and having to go. And today was one of those days where I had ample time to think about my next move in life because I wasn't busy worrying about hitting a fucking "milestone," or whatever.

Over the weekend, I met a friend of my girlfriend’s. She was an ordinary looking girl. If you passed her on the street, you’d think, “oh, there’s another person walking around,” and that would be the end of it. That was my first impression of her anyway.

She's got a complicated life situation going on. She has a somewhat estranged husband that lives with her, or doesn't, I'm not sure. It was hard to tell if he contributed anything to the household's bottom line or if he was just dead weight. She has a kid of her own and two kids from some other girl, a relative of hers. The court pretty much ordered her to take care of the kids because she can and the other girl can't. And from the way she was talking, she might be getting another one soon. Good times.

Despite all this bullshit going on, she just bought a house. A very nice, 4,000 square foot foreclosure that she got for way under the market value. If she were to put just a little bit of work into it (she already has), she could turn around and sell it for a $70k profit.

She’s approaching 40 and has a very successful, full time career. Taken all this in, I thought, "she could make any excuse she wanted to just take a knee and ride out the clock." Hell, she could probably live off the system for a while if she wanted to. But she's not. She's doing the exact opposite. She's making moves, picking up gigs on the side to make extra money, buying houses, yada yada. All this with 3 kids, possibly a fourth on the way, and a husband that may or may not be helpful. I’m still wondering if he lives in the house. It doesn’t matter.

After talking with her for about an hour about all the things she’s got going on, I got to thinking about my own situation. How I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. How I’ve been using trivial excuses to get in the way of doing what I want to do, which is to make a little side money. A little for now, hopefully a lot later. I was thinking about how this girl has every excuse in the book, and no one would even try to challenge her, but she keeps her nose to the grindstone. My girlfriend calls her the best hustler she knows.

So this morning I got to thinking of ways I could make a little money on the side using the skills I already have. It’s not the first time I’ve thought about this. It’s about the billionth time. But after meeting (let’s call her) Tiffany, I have a new perspective on things. I have no excuses, no one to blame but myself if I can’t make it happen.

I think I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time diddle-daddling, which is only doing things that I enjoy doing, instead of doing things that contribute to my bottom line. A job is only going to take me so far. And a job is volatile, meaning it can go away at any time. That’s why Tiffany has the right idea. Even though she has a stable job, she understands that it’s not enough, and she can’t rely on some other entity to provide all her financial needs. It’s not about becoming rich, but about being able to take care of yourself when the time comes, to mitigate the impact of disasters when they happen (like losing a job, or an unexpected large expense). I hate to admit it, but money is important. And the more, the better.

I read a thing on Quora yesterday about a guy whose built an empire selling $0.99 e-books through Amazon. I thought, “hmmm, I could do that.” Then I went and bought a couple of his books and read a little bit of them. Then I thought, “hmmm, this looks he’s put in a lot of work. I’m not so sure I can do that any more.”

The books were impressive. Not because they were chock full of great information, but because they're nothing more than marketing gimmicks. Like, he has a book called “55 Ways to Make Money Online,” or something like that. The book is full of regular ideas, from affiliate marketing to selling products. There's very little detail to each of the ideas. There's usually a sentence that begins, "the trick to making this work is," then he offers a vague answer. The great thing is, he liters the whole "book" with links to either more information about the idea or something he's made that you can either buy or download for free. Free reports, blog articles, etc. So it’s like you start tunneling further and further down the rabbit hole. It’s information overload. I even found myself buying into some of the things he was talking about, thinking, “I could do that.”

Then I realized what I was doing. I was getting suckered into the New New thing. “Oh, look, fresh information, I’ll get really excited and think I can follow this guy’s formula and I’ll have it made,” is what I thought, because I’m an information addict. And information addicts love consuming information.

But then I thought, “wait a minute, what happened to making my own way?” This guy carved his own path, and now he’s selling the path he carved. I’ve bought into that nonsense too many times. There may be some good ideas in there, but to think I can just copy exactly what he’s done is ludicrous. I’ve tried it before, on several occasions, and either quit too early because it was feeling more like a job than an adventure, or I failed miserably. I’m not going to fall in that trap again.

I think the truth about starting <insert some difficult thing here> is that it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of little failures to succeed. In other words, you have to carve your own path, and that scares me. I don't know why it's scary. Probably because if I tell everyone what I'm doing, then I fail, then they'll say something like, "I told you so." Or, I'll do something I think is pretty good, then everyone shits on it. Or, if I somehow pull it off, and the thing(s) I make are good and people like them, then there'll be a lot of pressure to continue delivering.

But these are just flimsy excuses. After meeting Tiffany, I have nothing in my way. I have zero responsibilities outside a couple of dogs and a very low maintenance girlfriend.

After juggling all these thoughts in my head, I shifted my thinking to how I could make some extra money. I started thinking about what skills I have and how I could leverage these skills to solve problems for others. It’s hard for me to do something just to make a buck. It doesn’t feel good if I feel like I’m scamming someone. So I have to find something that genuinely feels good to me, and provides tremendous value to someone else. And it doesn't have to be just one something. It can be multiple somethings.

After getting stuck in all the thoughts that try to deter me from trying something new, I took a small step back and asked myself what the end goal is. Forget about the whys and all the abstract reasons someone might start a silly venture like this. Forget the, “because I have a passion for helping people with X.” That's canned bullshit. I like being creative. I like solving problems. And I’m pretty good at both. So that’s my why, simply because I think I can. And also, I don't want to go out just being ordinary. I don't want to go out with people saying stuff like, "well, he showed up for work every day and did a decent job." I'm not content living an adequate life, doing just enough to not die.

I felt like I needed to get more specific though. As in, how much money do I want to aim for? $500 per month was the answer. I thought about $1k. I thought about $100. But in the end, $500 seems achievable in a reasonable amount of time. Psychologically, it feels like a challenge that's not hard enough to make easy for me quit, but not easy enough that I get bored.

Now that I had a monetary goal, I needed a deadline, a time frame to shoot for. As an aside, I really hate goals, because they have a tendency to come with dependencies, like delaying happiness until they are achieved. And crushing defeat if they’re not. Since I’m not really into the whole putting off happiness until I achieve X, I decided not to set a deadline on achieving the $500 per month goal. Instead, I’ll focus on making progress every day. Whether it's writing a little bit or just brainstorming things to do next. Sounds like a fucking cliche, but I don’t want to be stressing over hitting some arbitrary goal. I choose happiness now. So, suck it.

By the way, I decided all this as I was washing my butt in the shower and getting dressed this morning. I started thinking it was going to be a productive day, especially since I didn't have to go sit in a chair in a stuffy office with a bunch of forever slaves. They're good people, but I hate being in the same category as them.

I packed up my backpack with my laptop and headed off to the Starbucks close to my house. I don’t work well at home for some reason. Probably because there’s too many fucking distractions. TV, dogs, girlfriend, apartment noise, etc. Coffee shops are like my own personal space. It makes me feel like I'm being social without the whole having to talk to people thing.

I cracked open the laptop and started thinking broadly. I thought about the basic needs of people. I thought about my needs, the things I try to focus on every day. I read a thing somewhere (I think on Quora again) that boiled down the areas where modern humans live their life, the things we're all striving to improve or make better/easier/faster somehow.

  • Health - everyone wants to be healthy, while feeling good and looking good physically.
  • Wealth - everyone needs money to exist, and the more, the better.
  • Relationships - this could also be categorized as Love, because everyone needs love, friendship, and human connection.
  • Passions - everyone has things they are passionate about, whether it be some hobby, like knitting, or something more abstract, like music, art, and/or entertainment.

Focusing on these 4 areas, I went one level deeper. I downloaded a simple, free mind mapping tool and started a mind map for each of these, then started expanding each into slightly more specific categories. Here’s my mind map for Health:

After I emptied what my feeble brain could produce, I started writing down ideas for books I could write that focused on these specific things. I created a new note in Evernote and sectioned it off into Health, Wealth, Relationships, and Passions and generated book ideas for each of the specific things in my mind map. For example, under Passions, one of my book ideas was titled, “Things You Should Do When You Turn 25 Years Old.” The idea is to create a guide for all the things I wish I’d done when I turned 25 years old. I kept at this until my brain felt like a toilet that needed to be flushed.

I don't know if this is going to be an effective start. I don't know if writing books about these particular subjects is a good idea or not. I know that I'm a pretty good writer and that I have some deep knowledge on some of these things. I also thought, for the areas where I lack experience and/or knowledge, I can learn it. For instance, I'm thinking of immersing myself in a handful of the more popular diets that people are following, like paleo, raw foods, etc. Then writing about my experiences with each. Will this be interesting to enough people to make it worthwhile? I don't know yet.

Then I called it a day and went to yoga, where it was nut to butt. Actually, I prefer it crowded. I don't know why. Maybe because there's a small possibility that I'll slip a little and "accidentally" touch the girl's butt next to me. "Oh, I'm sorry, he he." But sometimes I get stuck next to a guy. And it never fails, when there's some dude literally inches next me, we always have to spread our legs and bend over, which puts his ass right in my face. "My give up!"

Total time invested today: about 4 hours
Progress made: some
Feeling: pretty good