A few weeks ago my father was taken by ambulance to the emergency room with trouble breathing. After that 5 day hospital stay, he’s been doing really well!
But one thing that stands out from the experience was how my own psychology fluctuated. During the initial couple days I’d go to sleep at my parents by myself leaving my mom and father at the hospital. And I was a mess.
Plunging ourselves into ice cold water isn’t usually a pleasant experience. So it’s a common practice research psychologists make people do when studying how people deal with pain. They call it the cold pressor test.
And in 2003, a group of researchers performed the cold pressor test, but this time they tested what would happen if people with their hands submerged in ice cold water were with someone else. A friend. Even a stranger.
The people who had company during that painful moment felt less pain.
Things remarkably changed when everyone descended upon the hospital to join my mom, father and me. My sister came into town with her boyfriend and my niece. My sister’s best friend showed up for multiple visits and help. My wife grabbed my daughter and all our pets and moved them over to my parents place. Even a great friend of mine came and spent a couple hours visiting my father and eating some McDonalds in his hospital room for dinner with us.
Despite all the upsetting and scary things we were now dealing with, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off me when all these people showed up.
It just goes to show you how important it is that no matter what you’re going through. If it’s work or career stuff, or these moments in our personal lives, it’s important to experience them socially. Don’t isolate yourself.
Over and over again, we find that, whether we’re social butterflies or we’re introverted or we’re shy, when we have people around us, even strangers, we can far better endure the inevitable stress that comes with life.
A few weeks ago, I took my daughter to the Art Institute here in Chicago. She’s three.
So as you can imagine it wasn’t a tremendous success of actually seeing a ton of art. We had a lot of fun though doing crafts they had set up for kids and eating lunch.
My proudest moment was when she yelled out “I really like that picture!” It was Vincent van Gogh’s The Bedroom. It’s my favorite too.
There’s an interesting exercise you can do at the Art Institute or other major art museums. Go find some Picassos and note how old he was when he made them. Now find some Cézannes and do the same.
It’s possible you spot something like Economics Professor at the University of Chicago, David Galenson did.
Picasso’s most valuable work, based on prices paid at auction, peaked when he was 25.
Cézanne at 65.
Some artists peak young. Others get better over time.
Galenson saw this over and over with writers and artists in all sorts of different time periods and industries.
I think the world puts too much focus on the Picassos and the young phenoms. We overlook the Cézannes. The folks who took a while to experiment on getting better and better and who never stopped.
The thing I take from this is that if you find yourself still experimenting in life. If you don’t have it all figured out. If you’re 30, 40, 50, 60 and still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up…
There’s still plenty of room and time to get better. Your peak is still ahead.
I’ll share moments with my crying toddler, or scenes from the hospital with my sick dad. Why don’t I just stick to business?
The reason is the reason I do all of the things I do, the reason I work on Highrise, the reason I started Draft.
I want to build things I want to see in the world.
I look at all these other “business” videos on YouTube, posts on Medium, podcasts, and I see a great deal of people sharing success stories and the tactics they cherry picked which got them there. What I don’t see is them opening up about some of the difficulties of actually running a business. The other difficulties from life and its challenges that stack even further up from there.
You go to conferences and someone up on stage professes, “Hey here’s how I became successful and you can too!”
I’m sick of it. I want to hear from someone who’s in the thick of it. Some days are good. Some are bad. Most have good and bad moments. I want to connect with others who are going through the same things and emotions. To know that what I’m going through isn’t unique.
Everyone tries to put on this fake face while things are chaotic around them. They’re hoping they come out of it with a huge success story they can then start talking about. I don’t want the rosy hindsight. I want all of it.
So I try to share everything. Including the stuff that might not be so positive.
It’s my attempt at creating something that’s just a little different. A little weird. Something that I want to see in the world and hopefully something that people can relate to.
I’m hoping my work can inspire you. I hope I can give you some advice on how to do something better. But even more so, I hope that while you’re doing life, and going through the inevitable problems at work and at home, you know at least here’s someone else going through a lot of the same stuff.
P.S. Thank you so much for the convos over email and the comments in all these channels. It means a lot to me. If I can be helpful with anything please don’t hesitate to reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org). You should follow me on YouTube: youtube.com/nathankontnywhere I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups, try Highrise.
It’s weird. It’s weird for a lot of people. So I get asked a lot: “How are you comfortable doing this?” “Do you have a history of doing something like this” But the umbrella question that I think most people are trying to ask is:
“Are you extroverted? Is that why you can pull this off and I can’t?”
The fact is, I’m probably one of the most introverted people you’ll meet. Some would maybe even label me fairly anti-social. 🙂
I really like one-on-one interactions and meeting new people. I love true friends. But I don’t like going to parties. You won’t see me at many conferences. If I am there, you’ll find me in the back row of something or closest to the exit so I can bolt.
And no, I’m not comfortable doing this. Even in front of a camera in a room by myself, I get nervous. Even though I know I have all this power to edit and redo. The first video I uploaded to my vlog was a Live video I recorded on Facebook but made it Private to just me 🙂 And I filmed it 13 times.
And I hate that attention on me as I walk around talking to a camera.
But I do it anyway.
Do I have some kind of inflated image of myself? Hard for me to judge I guess since I don’t know the self talk in other people’s heads, but I’m pretty hard on myself both in what I do and how I look.
I don’t even want to open up that therapist session on all the ways I hate how I look on camera. But some obvious ones. My complexion is terrible. Skin is oily. Now I’ve developed this recurring terrible allergic reaction that comes on when I even glance at a pine/Christmas tree and recurs randomly otherwise.
Kendall Jenner, one of the younger of the Kardashian clan, was at the Golden Globes, and it was crazy how many people called her out for the visible Acne she had on the red carpet.
What were people expecting? That she’d skip the red carpet? Stay home?
This is a huge thing that keeps people back. Vanity that they have to look perfect.
And that’s why the Kardashians are so successful. They have zero fear of putting themselves out there for every single person on the planet to see, flaws and all. It doesn’t matter what the public thinks of their skin or anything else they say or do. They aren’t afraid to embarrass themselves when most everyone else is.
People also commonly ask me if I’ve had a lot of practice doing this.
Not really. I have had some brief on-camera training as part of acting lessons I’ve taken over the years, and a big reason I took those classes was to get over my fear of performing in front of people and cameras. And that practice has helped some.
But there’s been plenty of videos, especially the live ones, where I’m sweating the possibility of saying something stupid or why on earth is my hair sticking out like that today.
So, if you’re holding back from doing something like a vlog because you’re afraid of what you look like, or you’re uncomfortable in front of a camera? I’m there with you.
But I refuse to let those things keep me back. It takes some practice. It’s still uncomfortable. It gets less uncomfortable… sometimes. And it’s worth it.
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting. ― E.E. Cummings
A couple weeks ago we decided to get an artificial Christmas tree. I love real trees, but years of evidence have proven I’m allergic. We think the dog is too. And the cleanup is a nightmare.
So we went to Target looking for one.
I didn’t want to go to Target, but my wife and kid were going and I didn’t feel like spending the day by myself. Plus, I wanted to improve our Wifi network and Target carries the Google Wifi mesh devices.
I begrudgingly went along.
My hangup with Target is that everytime I go to look for something specific, they don’t have it. Which was made abundantly clear again on this trip. They didn’t have any Christmas things left. They didn’t have a Google Wifi mesh network either.
I began regretting tagging along.
But that Saturday I didn’t want to waste my energy on a bad attitude, so I decided to treat Target a lot less specifically.
I went back to the Electronics section and browsed what they did have. Turned out they had something called the Orbi from Netgear. I hadn’t heard of it, but a quick Google scan seemed to show it performed well despite some drawbacks in its application design. Ok, I’ll try it.
Also, my three year old’s interest in building things keeps growing, but she doesn’t yet care what kind of things we’re building. So we went on the hunt for the cheapest LEGO’s we could find to continue adding to our set at home.
What once seemed like another trip to Target coming home empty handed turned out to be quite the win. I’m enjoying the Orbi network we now have at home, and my daughter has torn through these multiple boxes of LEGOs we’ve purchased. We also bought a ton of other stuff we didn’t even realize we needed :).
This random trip to Target reminds me how important it is to know our place as businesses. Sometimes people need the accurate solution to the one specific problem, and sometimes people just need something that works most of the time.
We hired a professional photographer this Christmas and he almost lost our business.
My wife is one of four kids. One of those kids has four kids. We have a kid. Another sister has two kids.
There’s a lot of us.
And this Christmas we finally had most of us together. So my wife took to booking a professional photographer to snap some photos.
She went through the typical process of reviewing websites and inquiring if they could do a shoot near the holidays.
She found one she liked who had availability, but then a wrinkle came up. The end product was that they’d provide a CD-ROM of the photos.
That’s a problem. We don’t even have a CD drive in our house anymore. We’re not going to go through extra hoops to get these photos off of this thing.
We’ll find someone else.
But it occurred to us to just ask to see if they had another method. Could we just give them a USB thumb drive to put the photos on?
And they could — even mentioned they’ve done this with customers before.
Huh. So they almost lost our business because they failed to update a tiny detail of their process with recent changes around options for delivering photos to customers.
I think a lot of business are like these photographers. There’s a bunch of small details that pile up. Clearly they aren’t a priority. Taking and displaying awesome photos probably ranks much higher on a photographer’s todo list than updating policies and website FAQs on how photos are delivered.
But then they lose a customer here for this and a customer there for that.
So at Highrise, we cycle in time to at least get some of the small things done — the little nagging issues that don’t seem significant but may lose us a few customers here and there.
And you don’t have to be a software company like us to accomplish this. Just slot in some time to work on the non-priorities. Make one hour every Friday the time you spend doing a little polish. Touching something that isn’t going to move the needle. Change an email footer. Improve a single image. Rewrite a confusing sentence.
It’s important to not get overwhelmed with these bits or they’ll take over the time you should actually be working on the most important thing.
It flies in the face of everyone trying to chase Pareto’s Principle. “Just work on the 20% that brings you 80% of the impact.” But eventually, all those little improvements pile up to something pretty significant too.
Happy New Year! We hope you had a great time celebrating the holidays and the end of 2017. It’s been a cold start to ours here at Highrise Headquarters in Chicago, but we’re thawing out now. Though it’s back to 7F next week. Oh well, it keeps us inside working on this stuff for you 🙂 We’ve got some great improvements, and it’s all setting us up for exciting things coming soon…
P.S. You can also follow more behind the scenes on how we design products, run the business, and try to just get through life at a YouTube channel I created.
Each paid Highrise account is allocated a rolling monthly quota of bulk emails equal to the number of contacts in their plan.
For example, accounts on our basic plan come with up to 5,000 contacts so can send 10 bulk emails to 500 contacts or 5 bulk emails to 1,000 contacts — any combination up to 5,000 bulk emails each month.
No extra charge, you pay the same $24 you’ve always paid for six users.
Many of our users have taken advantage of this, sending bulk emails, but never really knowing the limit (or whether there was one) as long as they didn’t hit the quota.
Today we announce a small, but useful feature to help you avoid composing and sending a message only to find you’re out of quota for the month:
Have you noticed a theme in the features above? Coming soon to a Highrise near you:
Highrise Now Integrates with 1000+ Other Products
As one of the first cloud based CRMs, Highrise has had a wide array of direct integrations for some time. But now in addition to native integrations, Highrise connects to 1,000 other web tools with Zapier.
My 3 year old daughter is in school. Most of her classmates are older than her. She keeps up great. But she reported to us recently, that many kids have called her small. And it makes her feel bad.
It’s easy to just chalk this up to kids being naive. “Hey kid, comparing your age to someone whose older or taller and feeling bad you aren’t as big as them is dumb.”
But adults are just as guilty.
In a study at Harvard, researchers asked participants if they’d rather have $50,000 in a society where everyone else made $25,000. Or $100,000 where everyone else made $200,000. The prices of all material goods were the same in both scenarios. More than half chose the world where they were only making $50,000. Even if they could have more money and wealth in absolute terms, many would rather just make more than their neighbors.
I get it. I look at my career as an entrepreneur and I’d love to be achieving more. I have many colleagues and friends who’ve accomplished quite a bit more so far. And it’s easy to come away from that analysis with emotions probably not that much unlike my daughter.
The best thing for me is to make sure I spend more time comparing myself to myself. Have I grown? Am I better than I was a few year ago? Did I accomplish the things younger me set out to do for myself?
There’s an endless list of books about how the greatest become the greatest — deliberate practice. They don’t just show up time after time. They also set short measurable goals and keep stretching them.
Time your runs. Swim a bit faster. Get yourself over that pull up bar just one more time.
That’s great for performance sports. The goals are easily measurable.
But I’m not looking to be, for example, a fast editor. I’d like to be a better, more creative, editor. I want to build bigger audiences. And get more subscribers this week.
So how do you deliberately practice in the creative field where success is often external, unpredictable, and uncontrollable?
Here’s four ways I’ve found over the years to deliberately practice being more creative.
How many times have you redone something? Probably not more than 18. Monet painted at least 18 haystacks that we’re aware of. He destroyed a bunch too.
Work on the same thing over and over and over and over again. It’s that simple.
I repeat myself constantly. I try and tell the same story over and over. I redesign the same thing over and over. Each time trying to make it better.
At Highrise, I’ve started a new redesign of the whole site at least 3 times. I’ve burned them like Monet, but they’ve all informed me of things I’d like to see and honed my eye for things that work.
Try to imitate other people’s work. Don’t pass it off as yours of course. But envision what it would be like if someone you look up to was working on your current goal.
More than once, I’ve channeled Malcolm Gladwell. How would he write this? What would the style be like? Where would he go to be inspired?
Use imitation as way to practice techniques others have mastered.
Force yourself into modes of experimentation. In other words…
Do weird shit.
A great example I found recently was watching an interview with Casey Neistat. You know how interviews go. You’ve seen a million of them. Except this interview involved hot wings. The wings got hotter and hotter and made Casey more uncomfortable as they went. Now, that’s taking interviews in a really weird direction. But it worked.
How’d they come up with that? I have no idea. But I bet if you took an interview and decided, “you know what, I’m just going to get really weird with it.” You would eventually come up with something compelling.
I’m sitting here now, and I’m thinking, let’s have an interviewee play with my kid’s toys (hell, let’s even make them play with my kid, while I ask them questions?) Great idea? Who knows. Unlikely. But at least it’s an experiment you haven’t seen before. Maybe it’d work. If not, something else will.
James Altucher, writer, podcaster, and just interesting human, is constantly encouraging people to come up with 10 ideas. Then 10 more. Then 10 more.
It’s just lifting a weight. Training the idea muscle like an athlete would train their legs.
The best deliberate practice I know is adding some arbitrary constraint.
Publish a video every single day for a year. Write 5 articles a week for 3 months. You normally write 1000 words? Force yourself to only write 500.
I often publish vlogs anywhere from 4 minutes to 10 minutes. With 2018, I’m now giving myself the constraint of publishing only 3 minute vlogs. I have no idea how long I’ll keep this up, but the constraint forces me to get better at editing, and finding places where the story repeats itself or gets boring.
It really doesn’t matter what you pick. Just pick something that makes you uncomfortable, like picking up some heavy weight. Then do it a bunch.
I think a lot of us read these books about deliberate practice, and see all these examples of athletes, and we miss the lesson. There are parallels we can use to improve our creative selves, if we just dig a little deeper.
Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good. ― Malcolm Gladwell
On January 2, 2017 I published a video on YouTube telling everyone I was starting a daily vlog. I also told them I’d probably fail. I did.
I remember the exact meeting I was in at Accenture in 2001 when I found out a manager I was working with had started his own “blog”.
Though I was in a technology group researching trends, I still found it weird that someone at work would blog. What a strange word. “Blog”. I didn’t pay any attention to the blog after he told me about it. Who wants to read this guy’s personal journal online anyway.
Blogging went mainstream. My first blog was published after I started my first company in 2005. I wrote a couple posts, then lost motivation. I got a little more serious in 2010, but just barely. A post here or there. By then, there were so many good writers out there and I was so far behind. What was I possibly going to add to the wealth of good content out there? And how could I possibly stand out?
I’d missed the opportunity.
But in 2011, Dustin Curtis invited me to his new blog network, Svbtle, on one condition, that I post one article every single week. And that regularity and Dustin’s exposure helped get a ball in motion that hasn’t stopped.
From then on I’ve taken blogging and writing online seriously. My audience finally grew. That Svbtle blog and other writing opportunities started to propel my companies forward.
Now, I’m publishing at least twice a week. My writing is a major driver of traffic to Highrise and projects I work on. But I regret not using those years before more wisely — practicing, finding my voice, learning how to do it better, and growing (if even slowly) an audience. Imagine how much further I’d be today.
One of the biggest regrets I have in my career was that I didn’t jump on what that Accenture manager was doing.
It’s strange when my friends and family ask about my “vlog”. That word again seems so foreign and weird.
Yet, people have been doing it for awhile with Adam Kontras being celebrated as the first to post a video blog back in 2000. Now, dozens/hundreds of celebrities make 7/8 figures running their vlogs, often with teams of well skilled editors and cinematographers behind them. How can I possibly add to this and stand out?
And I see all these trends in video taking over the content of site after site after site. Facebook and Instagram are investing heavily in video as Zuckerberg has already predicted he: “wouldn’t be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video.”
YouTube is surging with hours of video watched growing 60% year over year, even though it was acquired over a decade ago and the product isn’t fundamentally different.
Six year olds are making $11 million a year on YouTube and being featured on primetime-old-people-television like SNL. Ask a bunch of kids or teenagers what they want to be today, and it’s rarer to hear “athlete” than it is to hear “celebrity vlogger”.
Another missed opportunity?
Well, I could keep missing it, or I can take a dive like I did with writing back in 2011 and finally commit to it.
I failed at actually completing a video every single day. I started out strong, but petered out at one point trying a bit too hard to game the numbers and perfect individual videos. Motivation would also wane.
But I don’t like giving up on things I promise I’d do.
So in July 2017, I re-committed myself to getting a video done every day. Even if it was something tiny. Like a quick YouTube Live video. I mostly kept to that promise minus some days I got pretty sick.
The result: I tripled my audience. My editing got faster. My ability to find stories in my content got better. My camera work improved. I think the quality of my current videos are 10 times where they were a year ago.
And these videos have helped me snowball other content. A good idea on the vlog judged by views and likes often helps me focus on things that become even better ideas in articles I write. And so my writing has gotten even stronger and more useful to building my audience and supporting our business — all because of the vlog.
Apart from failing to meet the daily goal, I’d say running this vlog has been a big success.
But it’s still far from where I want to be, far from the people I look up to.
So what will 2018 hold? More of the same. I’ll keep at that vlog. I’ll keep experimenting and trying to improve it. I’ll keep trying to grow it.
Because sure, it still feels weird opening up about my day and life so much in a “vlawwg”. But I remember how I felt the same way about the manager blogging so many years ago.