The 5-month break comes to an end

Oh, hey again.  I know, it’s been awhile.

I’ve been building up a large collection of random thoughts and sticking them in the reserves for future posts, but I truthfully haven’t had the enthusiasm to write on here for quite some time (many reasons, some of which I’ll lay out below).  It’ll be easier for me to just do one atrociously long, disorganized post that clears the slate, rather than reflecting and redeveloping thoughts I had months ago.  You have been warned.

For those who haven’t yet developed internet-onset ADD and can make it through this entire assortment of musings, I salute you.  Here we go:

  • The most time-consuming project I have been working on over the last several months is Tim Ferriss’ next book.  It’s been a long and tedious process, but I’m extremely proud to have been a part of it.  Once it’s all finished and is about to be released, I’ll share some fun stories about the process of making it, as well as some of my results from testing.  But for now, all I can say is: (1) I have a deeper respect for any author who can stomach writing a big book and getting it published, and (2) I am beyond excited to see how it’s received.
  • One of the reasons I stopped writing on here was because I revisited my archives.  My beloved readers (that’s you!) have been kind enough to sing this site’s praises, but frankly, I was put off by quite a few of the things I’ve written.  It was kind of like reading an essay that you wrote back in middle school.  A part of you enjoys the naive enthusiasm, another part of you thinks “Christ, this can’t be me… Is it?  Damnit, my name is on this.”  As a result of this evaluation period, I started noticing a lot of blogs that seemed more like jaded Yelp reviewers, writing about trivial nonsense.  And I saw a lot of myself in their writing.  I’m very privileged to sit around and talk about fun marketing and cool receipts at restaurants (Not that I’ve lost my enthusiasm for those topics by any means — my Twitter feed is a testament to this).  But going forward, I’m going to keep working on becoming a better filter of my own content on here.  The posts that have resonated most with me and others are the ones where I’ve been reflecting on the topic for months.  I want to try to maintain that personal level of quality as much as possible.  I’m not promising brilliance obviously; just a bit less impulse behind my writing.
  • A few of my policies are changing this year.  First, I will be saying “no” A LOT more.  Up until now, I’ve jumped at damn near every opportunity that seemed like a fun / interesting / good learning experience.  It was well-intentioned yet semi-reckless behavior that finally caught up with me. Several months ago, I bit off way more than I could chew, and that lead to me feeling constantly overwhelmed and scrambling to get things done.  A big part of this has definitely been my approach, which has always been: feel the pressure, then get it done.  That mentality has reached its limitations, and I realized I’m definitely not as good at staying organized with a variety of tasks as I once thought I was.  And in spite of what several friends and colleagues have advocated, I’m not into outsourcing.  I prefer to do the things I’m hired for (a novel concept, I know).  But juggling too many things all at once has taken its toll.  So from now on, I’m going to tackle a couple projects at at time, not several.
  • I did a little bit of consulting for awhile, but that is a no-go after this year.  I’m 24 for chrissakes, I’m still dumb in more ways than I can count.  I have a few solid experiences under my belt that I’m happy with, but it’s not enough to build a house on.  Plus, consulting sucks.  It really does.  You’re not learning, you’re just regurgitating lessons on what you’ve been lucky enough to succeed with or (even worse) talking about what’s worked for other people.  No more.
  • Word-of-mouth is tough, but I still think it’s the best strategy to pursue.  If your product or service isn’t being shared, perhaps the problem doesn’t lie with the people you are chasing after.  Start asking yourself “Why isn’t this good enough” instead of “Why aren’t people eating what we’re trying to shove down their throats.”
  • I could not be more bored by Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and Youtube views.  They do not mean anything.  They are low-hanging fruit, not metrics for success.
  • My favorite passage from What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars was about how the greatest investors (Warren Buffet, Peter Lynch, etc.) all have contradicting advice on how to make money: “If imitating the pros was supposed to make you rich and not imitating them was supposed to make you poor, then each one of these guys should have lost all his money because none of them imitated each other.  They all should be flat broke because they very often did things opposite of each other.  It finally occurred to me that maybe studying losses was more important than searching for some Holy Grail to making money.”  So many of us search for the easy route to making money, then abandon ship when things get too hard.  There are countless ways to make a lot of money, only a few ways you can lose it, and no shortcuts to success.
  • This may seem ironic, given that last point, but one of my favorite articles I’ve read this year: 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job by Steve Pavlina.  A related tweet from Nassim Taleb: ‎”The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”
  • My single biggest turn-off: those who cannot laugh at themselves.  Not surprisingly, many of my closest friends and favorite people use self-deprecating humor constantly, and have no hesitation in telling embarrassing stories about their childhood.
  • I’ve posted about this on Twitter a few times, but I will say it again: creating an emergency account is one of the smartest things I’ve done (thanks, Ramit).  Unpredictable emergencies have been some of my biggest expenses, and that “Black Swan fund” has saved me on multiple occasions.  Go to ING Direct, create a savings account, and start setting aside a chunk of each paycheck for emergencies.
  • Speaking of backup plans, Ben Casnocha reminded me (a very long time ago) to back up your Delicious bookmarks.  For some reason, I’d never even considered it, but it’s a smart thing to do.  If you use it as much as I do, I highly suggest setting up a repeat reminder in your calendar to back up on a regular basis.  Just go to ‘Settings,’ click ‘Export / Backup bookmarks’ then email the file to yourself.  Done.
  • RPGrad update: I’ve stopped publicly tagging a lot of the articles I’m reading for the future version of RPGrad, because I’m not planning on releasing anything anytime soon. A lot of the people who read it still run into trouble with creating free work opportunities, or are quickly lost after trying things out.  Perhaps my ideas are flawed or incomplete, or maybe most folks are in a much tougher situation than I give them credit for.  Whatever the case, I don’t want to take it too lightly and assume I know more than I do.  I also want to expand the scope to something bigger than “how to get free work!”  The more I’ve dug into the ideas behind RPGrad over the last year, the more I’ve become skeptical of the true state of this globalized economy.  I’m still confused about the recession and I’m attempting to wade through this sea of (mis)information, but I tend to believe that things are going to get significantly worse.  This is the beginning, and jumping to conclusions on anything right now seems shortsighted.  RPGrad will be a very long-term side project, and I want to make it extremely valuable.  That involves a ton of research, finding case studies, more experimentation, etc.
  • A side project I’ve been working on for several months is an iPhone app that Ramit and I will be releasing this year.  I won’t say what it is just yet, but the goal was to create a very useful app on the cheap.  We’ve had two dozen testers try it out, and the average savings for the group was $168.  I want to dedicate a few posts to this project in the future, as it’s been a really fun learning process for me.  Stay tuned.
  • Free idea: What if non-profits like DonorsChoose made personalized videos for each major donor?  Suddenly, the results of their donations would be in vivid color and sound, and they could truly grasp the impact they’ve made.  And they could share it with / brag about it to their friends!  It’d be more work for these organizations that are stretched thin as it is, but would ultimately lead to greater loyalty from those who contribute the most.
  • One of my favorite people I had a chance to meet over the last several months is Noah Kagan.  While his career path is impressive (worked for Facebook in its early days, helped successfully launch Mint, turned down $100K salary from Yahoo because it wasn’t right for him), the thing I liked most is that he’s a very genuine and passionate person (which you can quickly see in this video).  He’s sharp and a worthwhile guy to follow, so check out his blog.
  • The most amazing/humorous story I heard recently was from a guy who created a peer-to-peer network nine years ago and was sued for $250 BILLION by dozens of the world’s biggest media companies.  One person… being sued for $250,000,000,000.00.  After having his company auctioned off in court, he used his knowledge of P2P and created a new service that would benefit the same media companies that had sued him.  Six months later, 80% of them had become his customers.  Incredible.
  • During my freshman year of high school, my friends and I were absolutely enamored with this gorgeous junior.  She would literally stop us in our tracks: we’d never seen a person in real life who’d been dealt a genetic royal flush.  Girls like her, we’d assumed, had a tremendously strong “bitch shield,” but she seemed to be a genuinely sweet and happy person who was well-liked by all of her peers.  A couple months ago, she committed suicide.  Time and time again, I’ve come to realize that we never see the full picture of anyone’s lives but our own — not even our family or our closest friends.  Sizing people up is awfully tempting, but a lot of us are hiding deep-seated issues that rarely see the light of day.  We are all flawed and insecure on some level that only we know about.
  • Everyone seems to dread their 10-year high school reunion.  I suppose the fear comes from the idea that you’ll get to see how successful everyone is and compare them to what stage you’re at in your life.  Facebook is an everyday high school reunion, where you’re casually observing the life developments that your friends (or “friends”) are going through, except it’s on an unnecessarily detailed level that’s always filtered through our egos.  I’m not sure what the implications are, but I do think it’s strange how comfortable I am with saying to someone at a bar, whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in a year, “I saw that you got a puppy!”  It’s even stranger that this sort of comment is never met with a suspicious look.
  • If you were able to make it this far, I’ll give you a special reward, and that is “How to win a Tim Ferriss contest.”  The first part of the equation: measure your damn results.  I’ve had to pick the winners a few times on posts like this one, and about 95% of the people who think they are competing automatically eliminate themselves because they write things like “I tweeted this out and posted on Facebook.”  Great, that tells me nothing.  The irony, of course, is that measuring your results is something that is emphasized over and over again on that blog, yet almost none of the people who leave comments do it.  It’s a lot easier to win these contests than you’d think.  The competition, although seemingly abundant, is minimal.  So use to your advantage, and share your results.  The second part of the equation: do something different.  Literally everyone does the Facebook and Twitter routine, and that’s fine if you get some results.  But when people write that they were able to get the contest attention on a radio station, or they printed out 100 flyers, or started a separate related contest with their friends, we pay attention.  That may be less effective, but it at least shows that you put more than 3 seconds of effort into it.

And now, some videos!

  • “The Unsettling Truth about Life” by Trey Parker and Matt Stone:

  • I put this together when AwayFind released its gadget on the Google Apps Marketplace.  The 3-second time lapse at 0:07-0:10 took more than an hour to make.

  • One of my biggest regrets over the last few months was not seeing John Butler Trio (my favorite band in college) live at Red Rocks.  Literally everyone I’ve spoken to who went — young and old — said it was, by far and away, the best live performance they’ve ever seen.  I’m still bitter at my decision to stay in that night, in favor of seeing another concert the following week.  Foolish, foolish, foolish.  Here’s their closing song from that night:

Whew!  That’s all for now.  Thanks again to all who continue reading, I truly enjoy the interactions I continue to have with you guys.  More exciting posts to come in the next few months!

By Charlie Hoehn

33 comments on “The 5-month break comes to an end

  1. Hi Charlie, I followed a similar path with my own blog a couple months ago, except I completely abandoned mine. I came to the same realization that you did: what I hated about every 20-something’s blog, I was guilty of myself. Particularly, I was desperate to be an expert in SOMETHING… and didn’t give myself the time to actually become an expert. Instead I put out barely-tested information as though it was fact.

    I came to the realization that the people I admire most actually took the time to master their fields before presenting their findings to the public, and most of them did it all outside of their 20s.

    Don’t know where I’m going with this. I guess I just like that you’re maybe the only other 20-something that seems to share this particular trait with me, and I wanted to give kudos for your self-restraint and desire to become expert and get extensive real world experience first… before others inevitably come in here to say that you’re wrong, blah blah blah.

    • Clay,

      I’m starting to feel the same. I find myself writing about things I’ve read about or want to do in the future at times. Then after a few weeks I feel shitty about it.

      Blogging is tough because it’s a way to become better (an expert) at something through writing, but not all the experiences may have been your own.

      I definitely hear what you’re saying man.

  2. Hey Charlie, interesting take on consulting. One of the hidden benefits of a job is the ability to clock out; if you still have a desire to learn after a 9-5, you almost have to study future trends. Consulting, on the other hand, seems like a faster treadmill that doesn’t require you to stop. Perhaps it depends on the type of consulting?

    • I lost interest in consulting (and slowed down on RPG, for that matter) because I felt like I was being held as an expert on things I was still learning about. That dynamic is very attractive initially, but it eventually didn’t sit right.

      • Agree on the part where you’re being held as an expert on things you’re learning about. I’m doing strategy consulting, but still absolutely love it for the fast pace and variety

  3. Backing up delicious links–what, would that be, like a .del file or something?

    Haha happy to see you posting again bro!

  4. Charlie, this is probably the best article I’ve read in the last two weeks. Thanks for that.

    Here’s a thing that I realized reading through it: Each of your bullet points could have easily made a stand-alone post for itself, being stretched to 20 times the size but eventually failing to make an impact because people lose track of the initial thought.

    If you can sum up whatever it is you want to say, keep it simple. You did a great job here. I guess this is also one of the reasons why I love reading Seth Godin’s blog.

    Keep up the good work!

    PS: Is there any realease date for Tim’s book yet? Can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    • Thanks, Christian. I certainly hope I can make my writing engaging enough to stick with when it is 20 times longer on a single topic. That’s the goal, anyways.

      Not sure if Tim’s announced the release date yet, so I have to keep my mouth shut for now. It’s coming though, and it will be worth the wait.

  5. Great to see you back Charlie!

    I too loved the post. You just wrote 5 months of ideas in one post. :-)

    I definitely understand your lack of enthusiasm for blogging and RPG. Everything gets boring if done long enough.

    I don’t think you need to have all the answers to effectively write about RPG. Your approach is unique and successful, just hearing about your ideas and experiences is valuable enough. Even failures are learning opportunities.

  6. I have been telling my business partner and a few friends who read your blog, “WTF, I guess Hoehn just isn’t posting anymore.”

    Glad to see a new post, and let me personally say thank you for creating sincere, quality content even if that takes a few months between posts. You’re choosing to put out well-thought-ideas and I hope it earns you the attention of many readers one day.

    BTW, to second your advice on Tim’s contest’s, I suspect I only won the backpack because I shared some measurements of my effort and the results it produced. Come on readers, how the hell else can they rank multiple approaches to a problem?

  7. Pingback: A Great Idea for Non-profits (and a Warning) | Cents Memory

  8. “Plus, consulting sucks. It really does. You’re not learning, you’re just regurgitating lessons on what you’ve been lucky enough to succeed with or (even worse) talking about what’s worked for other people. No more.”

    Something I’ve always thought but never been able to articulate. Well said.

  9. Oh! Here he is!
    I thought you were buried in snow somewhere in Colorado or something.

    You’re being too hard on yourself mate. I never read anything on this site and thought “damn, what a pile of horseshit!”. The opposite is true.

    Great comeback post. Stick at it.

  10. Ah, good to see you back here Charlie. You are a hard worker! I bet the Ferriss project was/is exhausting! P.S. That Steve Pavlina article you linked to here is one of my favorite articles too! I tell all my friends about it all the time.


  11. You won me over with “I could not be more bored by Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and Youtube views. They do not mean anything. They are low-hanging fruit, not metrics for success.” Very well-put.

  12. First let me apologize about reading this SO late. I totally empathize with what you’ve written.

    Second, I’m so happy you’re back! I love reading your blog – gives me lots to think about and new ways to view solutions to the problems I’ve encountered.

    Keep writing – please don’t stop. You don’t have to be an expert in something to write a blog, just have some good thoughts or ideas and you have that in abundance.

  13. Pingback: Confronting failure and this blog « The Home of David Cristello

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