A Private Swanky Blog of a Quiet Monkey

A 39min video to get you back to work when you need it

Watch this video to force yourself to get back to work right now
Watch this video to force yourself to get back to work right now

Do you have time for a 40 min video? If so, then this will be the most productive listening ever if you’re having trouble doing things you need to do today. Not kidding either.

This one video will help you with procrastination, not in the foreseeable future but right this instance. There’s a catch though: You must follow along, go through its entirety and don’t skip. Otherwise, you’ll ruin it forever. Think it only works the first time.

Did it work? Who would’ve thought something so simple could do the trick! Don’t know about you but this is the best video ever on the Internet. Had to share it with everyone I know. Had to.

The power of water to lose weight?

I never thought of what Tom Beal said specifically,

A lot of people eat when they think they're hungry but they're actually dehydrated. It's amazing how when you keep yourself hydrated you won't find yourself snacking or over eating because your body will recognize that you're not really hungry, you just are properly hydrated at that point

Have access to all search engines from your browser

I don’t know how many, if any, of you guy/gals know of the Duck Duck Go search engine but I use it heavily. Anyway, if you make it your default SE on Chrome, you can do cool stuff like the following. Type on the Chrome URL bar:

  • “cookies” => As you’d expect, you get the Duck Duck Go SERP at https://duckduckgo.com/?q=cookies
  • “cookies !y” => Your search query is sent to Yahoo and you get the Yahoo SERP at https://search.yahoo.com/search?p=cookies
  • “cookies !g” => You get the Google SERP at https://encrypted.google.com/search?hl=en&q=cookies
  • “cookies !b” => you get the bing SERP at https://www.bing.com/search?q=cookies
  • “cookies !like” => you get the thesaurus.com page (useful if you’re looking for synonyms) at http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/cookies

In DDG, they call these bangs ( ! + command) and there’s a whole list of other SE and services you can redirect your query. More here https://duckduckgo.com/bang

In this way,

  • you have access to any SE you want from the browser URL thingy on top. No need to go to a specific website like yahoo.com, bing.com
  • you can avoid Google tracking you (if that’s a worry)
  • Cross platform

I just discovered thesaurus.com and will probably look into more examples for myself but just adding in case it might help you.

Destiny pleasantly revolves around integrity

I personally don't hear or encounter the word "integrity" often in real life so I don't have an exact definition. However, the times I've seen it used, it comes from sentences such as: "Ricky has high integrity."

What does integrity mean to you?

And when I hear that, what immediately comes to mind are:

  • trust
  • sticking to what you believe is right
  • dependable
  • good reputation

Before today, I hadn't thought about it much but, to me, someone with "integrity" means the following:

You may or may not like him but he has a certain standard he follows and he's proven it over time such that you almost expect him to never cross that line. You believe he won't to the point you trust him an in that way he becomes dependable.

There is no need to explicitly say, "don't do this, this, or that" nor cover every possible permutation. It's a given. So, the excuse, "You never told me THAT wasn't allowed" doesn't fly. This isn't like a contract where find a loophole and you're scott-free. This explains why someone with integrity who "crosses the line" deeply cuts another because you shake their truth, belief, and trust.

Given my definition, one can't claim, "I have integrity". It sounds weird and egotistical, almost like when a stranger says, "Hey, I'm a nice person. You can trust me" yet nobody inside fully believes him. Integrity can only be said of others after observing them for a long time. You're vouching for another so it doesn't make sense to use it on yourself. Thus, the only way to see if a person has integrity is seeking the people around him, outside of family ties. Are there people willing to speak for him?

Now that I think about it, this may be why I always hear that word in the context of someone describing someone else.

Integrity: Its misunderstood meaning in business

Tying this closer to a job, we know that under normal circumstances, a business is a black box to the public. An employee, though, is allowed passage and gets a true insider's look. He becomes aware of sensitive information he wouldn't know otherwise and has the potential to do incredible damage because of it. In this way, one with integrity won't "cross the line" and do anything to hurt the business. In fact, he's not even teetering the "line" but instead going the opposite direction.

Perhaps the best way to view this is like a marriage. Two strangers intimately coming together, learning each other's weak points and carrying enough ammo to hurt the other. The emphasis, however, isn't in avoiding the other's pain points but in healing them.

And the biggest lesson is that successful people seek to lean and rub shoulders with those that display these qualities. You may betray these principles and gain in the short term but your long term road will be difficult as no one will help you. Everything will have to come from you and you alone. Thus, your limited destiny becomes one of pity. And in some ways, because you know the outcome from the beginning, you simply reach your chosen destination.

How to avoid only daydreaming & abandoning your goals

Illustration of a rocket heading towards a collision course with a comet

You are what you do every day. — N/A1

For the longest, I've suffered from daydreaming.

At first glance, that doesn't sound terrible but, believe me, it's a dangerous spot to be in.

At the end of the day, daydreaming of your goals does you no good and, in fact, can harm you from reaching it.

I speak from experience. Agonizing experience.

You motivate yourself only to not get what you want.

On top of that, to suffer from having an unmet desire that constantly runs in your head is tiring, as bad as a broken record.

And that's why listening to an interview with Dr. Gabriele Oettingen resonated with me.

She lays out what she calls the WOOP system as a way to stop the broken record. It goes something like this:

  1. Wish - Define what it is you want. Your wish.
  2. Outcome - Imagine the best possible outcome that can come from fulfilling your wish and how that would make you feel. This is the part you fantasize and explore.
  3. Obstacle - Identifying the obstacles and temptations standing in the way that's holding you back from going all the way.
  4. Plan - Coming up with a plan that will lead you to your goal and at the same time counteract all your obstacles.

What struck me most was how similar this sounds to what I've picked up elsewhere over time from other sources.2 But the way I learned it was presented as questions to answer before heading any project like:

  1. What is your goal?
  2. Why do you want to achieve this?
  3. What are the possible consequences if I don't commit myself?
  4. If this was a smashing success, what would it look like?
  5. What are the steps needed to achieve this goal?

As you can see, they aren't too dissimilar. But what I got from Gabriele— aside from the nice acronym— was how to think about it all.

What propels a project can be divided into two forces: desire and friction.

Dreams about the future produce direction, this where I want to go but then the resistance of the obstacle produces the energy to actually overcome the obstacle. So you have direction, where to go, and the energy to overcome that obstacle. And that's what puts you into gear in order to actually solve the problem…

Imagine yourself as a rocket. Your dream is the GPS coordinate of your target and the obstacle ahead is what you try to avoid, and in a sense what shapes your route to get there.

Mind blown.

And to top it all, she provides a seemingly simple mechanism to plan and counteract any problem using if… then statements.

For each problem, think ahead of time how you will try to solve them.

If _OBSTACLE_ occurs, then I will _SOLUTION_

In this way you'll be ready when you hit that specific wall.

Mind melting of the possible uses.

  1. Either I came up with the quote or I heard it from someone else and can't remember from whom. ↩

  2. It could be that everyone I've learned pieces of the "formula" all stem from the same scientific research, which seems logical and plausible. ↩

Remember the rowboat: The F is a bow & stern?

Drawing of rowboat showing its front and back ends

Rowing is thrilling.

At the same time, it can be unnecessarily complex.

The first time I entered a Whitehall gig rowboat in summer 2013, I was excited. However, that quickly turned to overwhelm.

Once I settled down on my seat, the captain began shouting strange terms like you were supposed to have known them years ago. Words like bow, stern, port, starboard, etc.

For someone who has known only land, this was a foreign language.

Yes, the rowing crew explained them before we headed out, but I personally found it hard tracking them all while also trying to pick up rowing.

I’ve noticed the new rowers after me struggle similarly.

So, now, having finished my second year rowing around NYC, I think I just finally got down these boat terms. Yes, it's taken me much longer than I'd like to admit but what can I do.

Anyway, to help first time rowers, I'll reveal my little-known hacks to quickly get you up to speed with what's what when in comes to the world of boats and water (and how I remember them)

Lets start out today with what's a bow and stern.

Differentiating between the bow & the stern of a rowboat

If I tell you to picture a boat, would it look something like the image above?

Well, more or less I hope.

Obviously, in any boat you have what you call the front and the back. In boat-speak, however, they're called the bow and stern, respectively.

That is pretty much all you need to know when starting out.

Why they call it that instead of the back and front, I have no idea but let's go along with this more complex naming.

Wikipedia defines them like so

The bow /ˈbaʊ/ is the forward part of the hull of a ship or boat, the point that is usually most forward when the vessel is underway… The other end of the boat is the stern.

The bow is designed to reduce the resistance of the hull cutting through water and should be tall enough to prevent water from easily washing over the top of it. On slower ships like tankers, a fuller bow shape is used to maximise the volume of the ship for a given length.

Yeah, I like my simpler definition.

How to never forget on the water which end is the bow & which the stern

The way I remember which side is the bow is by imagining a rowboat like earlier but this time looking at it from a bird’s eye view.

Drawing comparing a boat and a bow

Follow the curve outline of the front from this perspective and notice how it resembles the shape of an actual bow. That is a boat’s bow. The opposite side is the stern.

Just like how you hold a real bow in front of you and aim at your target, a boat’s bow is the front part facing your destination.

As silly as it sounds, this helped tremendously since I constantly mixed up these two ends. Now, whenever the coxswain orders me to sit in the bow or stern, I think back to a bow and easily orient myself

Put to practice Business Model & Customer Development the fastest

Sketch of a cycle going from the business model canvas to customer development

I finally got a big aha moment on the Lean method that makes everything click.

It starts with the Kauffman founders school video where Steve Blank identifies the 3 components of the Lean method as

  1. Business model design
  2. Customer development
  3. Agile engineering

It's at this point where one glance at this ordered list, I made the connections and saw how to implement everything. Let me explain.

Finally! How to put into practice the Customer Development methodology & the Business Model Canvas

As a startup, you don't have much real world facts to based things on, so you can't worry about scaling. First, you need to have your business model fine tuned and to do that you need to

  1. Write down how you think (read:guess) your business will work using the framework of the business model canvas; everything from your value proposition, who you think are your customers, how you plan to earn money, etc.

    This canvas will keep track of your guesses and we all know the power of writing things down and the clarity it brings.

  2. The next step is testing out these key ideas. Mingle with your prospects and/or customers to see what you got right with your business model.

    • is your value proposition attracting people?
    • are customer segments really buying your stuff?
    • is how you're delivering your product/service viable?

    In other words, what's working and what's not working?

  3. Lastly, scratch out your guesses that turned out wrong, update your business model canvas (which acts as a scorecard) and replace with a better guess based on what you've learned from going out of the building.
  4. Go back to step 1.

The whole point of repeating this loop is to be sure that your business model is based on reality. i.e. there are no longer any guesses. They are verified.. You want to be fairly certain that the people you're advertising to want what you're offering, you know the best place to grab new customers, what are your costs, etc.

Once you achieve this point, you're no longer a "startup". You've found your business model and now you enter the phase of trying to grow as fast as possible.

Funnily enough, after writing this, found this other useful video that is a great primer.