Happy new year! As is customary for so many, the new year calls for reflections and resolutions. Naturally, this means reviewing 2017 in the year of this blog.
Top posts from 2017:
Post from previous years that were still popular in 2017:
2017 was a productive one for me with 104 posts published. I’m going to start out 2018 publishing once weekly. There’s been a lot of changes at work, and I think there are good entrepreneurial posts upcoming. However, I want to focus creative resources for this first part of the year.
Stay tuned for great things ahead!
As I thought about how to start this post, I wanted to say, “I’m not a writer”. Except, I write – a lot. It’s fair to say, then, I’m a writer. I wasn’t always a writer, and I can’t comment if I’m good or not. I can say, however, that I am always improving.
Take this forum of “The ‘Rules’ of Writing” from StackOverflow. It’s fun to read what advice others give for effective writing. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Show, don’t tell. This one hits home perhaps because of my former online dating profiles. Yes, I said it. Too often, people state they’re “nice, like to travel, funny”. It’s incredibly generic and easy for anyone to say this. Instead, a well-written profile and accompanying pictures say much more, concisely, and accurately.
  • Give yourself permission to suck. Maybe I do this all the time? J Point is that when you relinquish the need to be good, let alone perfect, you get to write. You get to post. You become a writer.
  • Write, don’t edit. I adopted this perhaps 150 posts ago – write the post completely, and let it sit. Then, revisit day(s) later and only edit then. Too often writers can get stuck thinking of ways to rewrite what was just written before getting the full idea out.
  • You have to read, and read all the time. Effective writers (and entrepreneurs) are constantly curious – always learning. They’re always reading and soaking in the world. Reading (learning) provides perspective which provides creativity.

In general, you just have to write. In many cases, constant practice is better than trying to be perfect. Constant practice leads to better writing.

Give writing a try. Give curiosity a try.
I recently received a question from an entrepreneur about how to start blogging. He saw me posting last week at a conference, and shared how he’s always wanted to write. However, he wasn’t sure how. One of the questions he asked was about blogging at a “personal” level or at the “company” level. I’m interpreting this as if he should blog on the company website about company interests, or on a personal blog about personal things (company interests, too).
As always, I’d say, “it depends.” Though, he added that his goal was for his company to succeed – “whatever leads that way would be great”.
Knowing he’s new to blogging and has a direct motive to help the company, he should write on his company’s blog about his company’s interests for a couple reasons. First, it’s clear he wants to grow the company’s presence and brand first. Given he’s the CEO, his personal brand will be tied to the company at this stage anyways.
Second, starting out blogging is simple. The difficulty is being consistent. It’s important for him to start very focused with his company’s blog with a dedicated cadence and focus. A personal blog (like this one) is great to develop personal branding and attract followers to the grander purpose.  Again, being the founder and CEO, his company will be tied to his personal brand anyways.
Even if his personal brand was very strong today, he’s starting out a blog. If he was a thought leader, he would still be starting this from the ground up. In this way, I still suggest writing for the company, and share his posts with his network.
Writing a speech, writing a book, writing a blog post… I realized recently that they all start similarly (at least for me). They differ in revisions and rehearsing, if any. Starting off, I take a moment to think about the subject. I either start with an outline or just start writing (or dictating).
I get a lot of questions about how to start a blog, what to write about, or in the case most recently, perfecting a speech. The hardest part is starting out and putting together the first draft.
To that end, if you’ve got an upcoming talk or want to start blogging, here’s my method on how to start.
1.     Think about the subject, and go through a creative learning process with some research – online and/ or in-person.
2.     Are there requirements or limitations? Delivery style, can you use images, max length, etc. Consider these to narrow the scope.
3.     I want my material to be as authentic and casual as possible, so I typically do not go through a huge brainstorming conquest. Instead, I jot down a few ideas in a loose outline. This helps me think about the flow of the material conceptually.
4.     Go. That is, I either write everything in my head according to the flow I’ve created, or I simply dictate (record myself speaking). This gives me the benefit of allowing my thoughts to flow, naturally.
5.     After completing the first round, I don’t make any edits. Instead, I sleep on whatever I’ve written for a couple days. This allows my ideas to crystallize further while allowing me to come back to version 1.0 with fresh eyes.
It’s simple to start. Let the ideas flow. It’s important to realize that starting out really isn’t as hard as you make it out to be if you approach this more casually and naturally.
From there, it’s about seeking feedback on how to make the draft better, if needed. For my blog posts, for better or worse (you tell me!), I go through two rounds of editing/ read-through. For Postmortem of a Failed Startup: Lessons for Success, I went through four “official” rounds of editing with a number of editors. For my F-Up Night talk in January, I made perhaps three material iterations. I did several practice runs, however.
For any share, it’s important to draw a line in the sand and decide when what you have is ready — refer to Des Traynor’s recommendation on launching a product. You can spend weeks or months (or years) trying to make something perfect. But rarely is it the content that makes your share perfect. Instead, it’s the delivery.
Just start.
Ever since Postmortem of a Failed Startup, people are asking me:
  • Have you always wanted to write a book?
  • Why did you write the book?
  • You must read a lot, too. What do you like reading?

Most people assume I’ve always loved writing. Truth be told, for my first 28 years of life, I hatedwriting, and I hated reading. Both were forced upon me in school, and I had little interest in what I read and wrote.

So why do I write so much now? How did I get into reading? Am I more mature and appreciative of literature? Yes, but really, it all comes down to context. I now read and write based on things that interest me.
Another analogy: a new friend from dinner last night said she used to hate eating tofu. It tasted terrible. However, she started restricting her diet, and she needed to explore more food options. One of those options was exploring cooking with tofu. She learned recipes that sounded like they would be good, and through experimenting, she now loves tofu.
Okay, let me add that what also motivates us to do anything is understanding the why. For me, I’ve always wanted to be a thought leader and share stories and lessons with others. The blog and book are great ways to reach larger audiences. For my friend, learning to cook with tofu expanded her dietary options while also cooking with a taste that suited her palate.
We typically “hate” several things, but much of that feeling is based on misunderstanding and misalignment of context and purpose. I suggest finding something hated before and do it in a context that is interesting grounded with purpose. It’ll be interesting how your feelings start to shift to “enjoy” or even “love”.
What do you hate doing, but could use a little shift in context? Why do you hate some of the things you do?
Time to reflect after two weeks of publishing Postmortem of a Failed Startup: Lessons for Success.
  • It’s been a great journey, but it’s really just the beginning. Now comes the hardest part – promoting the book. Just like any startup, it’s about execution now.
  • If you publish on Amazon’s Kindle platform, be careful when you say, “available on Kindle”. Most people don’t know Kindle is just the platform, and there’s a Kindle app available for any device – many think it’s just Kindle e-reader.
  • Editors made my book way better. The first version of the book took < 10 days. It was full of content, but lacked cohesion and vision. The first round of edits immediately made the book 10X better. The more critical, the better. Three formal rounds of edits later (+ several personal ones)… book was in shape for publishing!
  • It’s very easy to self-publish a book, and doesn’t cost much money. Friends as Editors = $0. Cover photo = $12. Cover self-editing = $0. Copyright registration = $55. International Standards Book Number (ISBN) 10-Pack = $295. Website template = $48. Website self-edit = $0. GoDaddy domain registration= $11.34. For everything else = priceless (err, “free”).
  • Microsoft Word is great to write the book, track changes, and initially convert the book ready for mobile format. Beyond, know some HTML to make finer adjustments like formatting lists, pictures, etc.
  • Everyone is impressed that I’ve written a book more so than I thought. I think it’s a goal or at least an achievement most people don’t ever think about. The moment I mention it, everyone is inspired and curious. It’s going to be great for branding.
  • Writing the book wasn’t that hard. It was just sitting down and tackling it. I didn’t think about length or format at first. Instead, I made a rough outline of the topics, and made a goal to write two chapters a day. From there, it was easy to produce content. Then, editing made the book from stream of consciousness to coherent vision.

There are many more thoughts, but these just came to me. I’ve been busy the last couple weeks, though, so I’m interested to see what happens in the next month when I reach a homeostasis and start promoting the book.

    What questions do you have about publishing a book? If you could write about anything, what would that be?

    If you follow me on Instagramor have spoken to me recently, you might know I’m writing an ebook about startups and entrepreneurship. Specifically, I’m detailing the lessons learned from failure via Body Boss. I’m also collaborating with Don Pottingeron the book.
    I’ve never written long form before outside of school which I really didn’t enjoy. This, though, goes way beyond anything I’ve ever written at 60-something real experience-filled, highly revealing pages. However, much like the rest of my writing and book reading these days, I enjoyed writing this book A LOT. It’s all about context and startups and entrepreneurship are my passions. I’ve already gotten a lot of great feedback from early readers and editors.

    “Loved the honesty about it! I would often read a chapter and think ‘great lesson – gotta remember that’. In fact, I just had an idea on a simple, yet effective way for our foreign offices to stay connected with the demands of our US market…” 

    “GREAT read. It’s probably the only entrepreneurial book I’ve read where they truly lay it all out on the table for the reader.”

    My editors are friends with amazingly critical mindsets. It took a bit of courage to ask them to review and edit the book, but in the end, I knew their comments and suggestions would make me a better writer and the book would be better for all my readers.

    So why am I writing this book?

    I started writing consistently 3+ years ago, and have enjoyed it immensely. It’s taught me a lot about communication, and the experience has given me greater confidence.

    I really wanted to start another product-oriented business by the end of the year, but realized that wasn’t going to happen. So if I wasn’t going to build a business, then I wanted to build up my brand.

    Meanwhile over the years, I’ve met with students, entrepreneurs, investors, industry professionals, and others. Many seek advice because of my experience from startups and my consulting engagements. I’d like to add this book as a “channel” to help others understand startups and entrepreneurship especially in the light of the missteps and successes of Body Boss.

    What’s my vision for the book?

    I hope first-time entrepreneurs find the book informative, and the book helps them avoid the traps we fell prey to at Body Boss. I also see value in this book for wantrepreneurs and those in the corporate realm looking to innovate or make that jump to the next level.
    As I continue to find my Next Great Move, I want to build my personal brand and collateral. This will have a compounding effect with networking and professional skills with added credibility to my CV.
    Much of success can be attributed to focus, intensity, and connections. I want to use this book as a platform for more introductions and customer discovery as I build the next startup. The book will add to my foundation for future success.
    Further, I have a long-term goal of teaching entrepreneurship and public speaking (Ted!). This book will be another step in my academic career and add credibility as a public speaker.

    I want this book to have the greatest impact possible, and thus, will list the book for free on Amazon’s Kindle platform.

    When’s this book coming out?

    End of the year, or very early 2016 so I kick off the year in spectacular fashion.

    What’s the name of the book, and what else do you, a potential reader, need to know?

    The book’s title is Postmortem of a Failed Startup: Lessons for Success. You can find more information on the landing page here: http://postmortemofafailedstartup.com. If you want to be notified when the book is available, please go to the landing page and share your email address at the bottom. I won’t spam – I’ll just tell you when the book is available. 🙂
    As of this writing, the book is in final edits, and all that’s left is getting an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), registering the book for copyright, converting the book into Amazon’s Kindle format, and… releasing the book into the wild.
    Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked. I never thought I’d write a book even if it’s not a novel. However, I’m always happy to keep pushing my limits of what I think I can or cannot do. It’s all about context – why am I doing this? I’ve written the book to stay true to my personality and easily readable for everyone. I’ve had several non-technical, non-entrepreneurs read the book, and they’ve all appreciated the legibility of the book, and it’s started some fun discussions.
    Anyways, stay tuned, and pleasesign up on the landing page to be notified when the book is ready!