Episode 52 | Getting Off The Hamster Wheel

Show Notes


 [00:00] Mike: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 52.

[00:04] [music]

[00:11] Mike: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it.   I’m Mike.

[00:19] Rob: And I’m Rob.

[00:19] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made.  What’s going on this week, Rob?

[00:24] Rob: I bought myself a SAS application.  I’m not sure I actually talked about this particular acquisition before.  At one point, probably 10 episodes ago, I mentioned that someone had approached me with kind of a larger SAS app and that fell through.  I wound up not wanting to move forward with it.

[00:42] Gosh, within a couple of months of that I was, you know, going through my idea notebook and I had a couple of conversations with some kind of trusted colleagues and was basically asking, “What’s my next niche?” You know, I was asking this to myself.  I was actually asking myself, “What’s my next move?” period.  Like do I write another book? Do I go out and start another blog or do I – whatever.

[01:02] I mean I was just trying to think of what am I excited about doing and what’s going to provide a lot of value to people.  I realized that I’m excited about doing, you know, another SAS app frankly and kind of doing when it’s maybe a little bigger than the other ideas that I’ve done in the past.  We talked a little bit about this when we went on TechZing.

[01:20] In essence, I made a list in my notebook and it wasn’t a list of products or niches.  It was a list of problems that entrepreneurs have and I came up with about 10 or 11 of them.  Like examples were like entrepreneurs want more visitors to their website.  Entrepreneurs want to blog but they don’t have time to do it.  I mean I was just kind of thinking of all the problems that I’ve heard that have come up the most with people that I talk to whether through my blog, through the academy or through, you know, the speaking gigs I do.

[01:45] I was trying to think of ways to solve those problems and after talking to a few colleagues who I talk to a lot, I figured out, wow, I really want to do something in the – like in the marketing space and specifically, as I honed it down, I realized wow, [0:02:00] I want to do something in like an organic search space, like the search engine optimization area.  Not black hat stuff but the white hat stuff and so I was kind of designing a tool and looking at building something.  I had the idea in mind and remember that there was a website that already did this.  It was a SAS app that was essentially not being developed.  It was being just basically supported but it was having some issues with downtime and such.

[02:24] So I did a cold email to the owner and we negotiated for about two months and then just a couple of weeks ago, we went through the [0:02:32] [Indiscernible] process and I’m now on HitTail.com.

[02:36] Mike: Congratulations.

[02:37] Rob: Thank you.  That was a very long soliloquy about how that came about but wanted to give folks some background.  So yes, it’s hit and then T-A-I-L dot com so it’s like LongTail, HitTail.com.  It’s cool.  It’s a real time SEO keyword tool that uses your traffic to tell you words, keywords that you will rank high for just by writing like a single blog post with these keywords in the title.  It’s almost guaranteed that you will get to the first page of Google for this thing and typically rank pretty, you know, even high up on the first page.  So that’s what it does.

[03:11] So you install a little snippet on your website, you know, a JavaScript snippet and then it just analyzes it and has a proprietary algorithm.  That was kind of the reason I acquired it.  It was for the – there’s a little bit of the technology.  The technology is not expansive but it’s very well-written and it’s intelligent.  The other thing is – you know, the marketing already exists.  I mean the thing has a lot of links and it has existing customer base and it has – you know, it’s a working app.  I mean you know that going from zero to a working app to then an app with customers is a huge amount of effort.  So that’s why just having the shortcut of the process was worth, you know, the purchase price to not have to go through those steps.

[03:50] Mike: Oh, believe me.  I know.

[03:52] Rob: Yes.  Well, I – seriously, you know, it’s like you can spend months building something or if someone out there had a code [0:04:00] base that did what, you know, you want AuditShark to do or did half of what you wanted it to do, you would have paid quite a bit of money for that.  I don’t think there’s any doubt, you know, to save yourself the time.

[04:09] Mike: I don’t know about that.  I think in general I probably would.  Like if it was something that I didn’t have a very firm idea of exactly how it needed to be done, then yes, I probably would; but I think AuditShark is a little different just because I have that unique insight that I don’t think anybody else would have and getting a look at their code base before I bought it is a little problematic, you know.  I mean I know you can but it’s just a little harder and it would take a lot longer to kind of analyze and figure it out.  I don’t know if I would have done it for AuditShark but I can definitely see for HitTail.  I definitely would have bought it.

[04:42] Rob: Right.  You could see just the advantage of …

[04:45] Mike: Yes.

[04:45] Rob: … skipping over those early steps.  Yes, and frankly I’ve struggled with it and I’ve talked to a few people about it because I want to do it – I mean I really, you know, want to grow HitTail into a fairly sizable business and I was kind of in my own head like, “Wow, am I cheating by not building this from scratch?” Am I really a founder, an entrepreneur because I didn’t – you know, I didn’t write everyone a code in this thing and I finally realized like it doesn’t – like it doesn’t matter who’s keeping score.  You know, but I built this thing into a sizable business and, you know, sizable is anyone’s definition; but I mean let’s say it’s doing 500 grand a year or something ultimately or a million.  It doesn’t matter if I didn’t write everything.  Like it doesn’t matter to me and so I just decided, “Screw it.  I’m going to move forward with it.” So …

[05:24] Mike: Yes.  I mean the thing is by the time you grow it to that size, chances are good that it’s probably – you probably hired somebody to help write code and you didn’t write pieces of it …

[05:34] Rob: Yes.

[05:34] Mike: … anyway.  So …

[05:35] Rob: Certainly.

[05:35] Mike: … it doesn’t really matter.

[05:36] Rob: I mean that’s a good point.  I mean even this week, you know, I’m moving the app from its old servers to a new managed facility and that, you know, has a lot of complications with it that I didn’t anticipate.  So I had to hire a DBA as an example so already he’s making changes, you know, and he’s like, “Oh, I’m going to write this stored procedure”.  He’s like, “We need to redo the logins because, you know, I can make it more secure,” and I mean there were just all these things and I suddenly realized [0:06:00] that – like yes, already the app is not really – not even mine.  You know, I’m only two weeks into it.  How about you? What’s going on?

[06:06] Mike: Mostly just working on AuditShark.  I finally got things working end to end.  By end to end, I mean that I can create an account, install a service or machine in my environment or in a domain environment; and then essentially things will sink up between the service that’s installed in your environment and the cloud.  Then from the cloud, you can go out there and you can say target this machine for an audit and the service will pick it up, run the audit and then pipe all the results back.  I still have to test it but I believe that all the audit results are going to be stored back into the Azure Tables that I’m using for the back end for all the results and stuff.

[06:47] Right after that, all I think I need to do is do a little bit around reporting and then build an interface to generate the rules that actually run behind the scenes to do the audits and that is basically it.  I mean then after that, it’s just all the, you know, marketing and all the associated things that go along with it like hooking up a billing system and, you know, all the other stuff.

[07:14] Rob: Right.

[07:14] Mike: Doing the marketing.

[07:15] Rob: So in the interest of busting your chops as it were, there was some original talk about end of June for alpha and then you actually had something – there was actually something legitimate that came up and it was end of July.  It was rescheduled pretty quickly and then I think we talked in end of July and you said it might be a couple more weeks.  So that would have been kind of middle of August.  It’s the beginning of September.

[07:39] Mike: Yes.

[07:39] Rob: And you are – I mean you would say that you’re an alpha, like the product itself functions and someone could use it end to end.  The thing you’re missing like you said is reporting and the way for people to build rules.  Is that right?

[07:52] Mike: Yes.

[07:52] Rob: Because there’s a too big piece of functionality.  Because I don’t consider – like payment processing, I mean yes, it’s part of the product but I mean you can definitely go into alpha and [0:08:00] beta without that code, you know

[08:02] Mike: Oh, totally.  I mean I think the big thing for me right now is really I treat it as if it’s in an alpha state right now because theoretically, I could hand this to some customers, put it in their environment and have it work.  The fact is that because the service can be automatically updated on the fly, I don’t necessarily have to worry about that either.  So theoretically, I could give somebody an alpha.  Without them having to touch anything, can kind of  migrate to a beta and then to kind of a full blown production environment without them ever having to touch anything or update anything.

[08:33] Rob: Right.  It’s nice.

[08:34] Mike: So, all of that stuff is done.  In terms of the interface to create the rules that will be executed on the target machines, I can create those manually by hand right now but it takes about 10 times longer to do it by hand than it would if I had an actual interface.

[08:50] So that’s more for my sanity and expediency to actually get the rules built.  They can be built and the policy is executed on the machines and then the – for the reporting, my expectation is I’m going to be doing some very simplistic reporting out of the gate because once I’ve got the data, then I can build reports.  I just need the data in order to be able to build reports but once I have the data, I can build as many reports as I want.  It doesn’t matter so just having that data is kind of enough for the time being.  I mean I can go into alpha without having extensive reporting.  That’s not a big deal.

[09:22] Rob: Right.  Cool.  It looks like you have a note here that is something about your MacBook Air.  What’s the deal with that?

[09:28] Mike: Well, you remember how I was telling you I was having those VMware Fusion issues where …

[09:32] Rob: Yes.

[09:33] Mike: … it would shut down and wouldn’t necessarily wake up? I took it to the Apple Store and the guy looked at it and he thought that it might have been a hardware issue.  So he just said, “Well, let’s replace this and I’ll give you a brand new one,” and they went ahead and migrated all of my data from my existing MacBook Air to a brand new one.  It’s nice to get that level of service but at the end of the day, I don’t think it was necessary because I don’t think that there was necessarily anything wrong [0:10:00] with the old one.  I think the guy just looked at it and said, yes, you’re having this problem.  I see that it’s a problem.  I don’t know what the solution is so I’m going to give you a new one.

[10:08] Rob: And did it fix the problem?

[10:10] Mike: No.  I’m fairly certain that I’ve kind of narrowed it down.  I think what’s happening is that because VMware Fusion is running Windows in the background and I have it on a separate desktop, when the machine goes to sleep and it is not plugged in, what’s happening is that the Windows side of things says, oh well, I’m working on battery power right now because it’s passing through the information that says it’s operating on a battery or is plugged in or whatever.

[10:39] I think what’s happening is that when it decides that it wants to go to sleep because Windows is still kind of running, then it tries to take control of the screen and because you’ve got two operating systems trying to either dim the monitor or turn it off or what have you at the same time, I think VMware Fusion is getting kind of confused and then hanging and then it just black screens.  I think that’s the problem to be honest.

[11:03] Rob: Right.

[11:03] Mike: And it seems to make sense.  I just need to figure out what settings I need to toggle to tell it not to worry about that and I’ve turned off the dimming of the monitor in Windows.  So I’m hoping that that will fix it but it just takes so long to test it.  I don’t necessarily care.  I know the work around for it.  I just don’t feel like it most of the time and I don’t – you know, I try to keep it plugged in as much as possible anyway.

[11:25] Rob: Right.  Well hey, we have two new reviews in iTunes and this is awesome.  We actually have 50 ratings now and it looks like – I mean the average is five-star.  Yes, we have 48 five-stars and one four-star and one one-star.  So, again, it’s awesome.  This totally helps us rank, you know, really well in iTunes for like – you know, we’ve talked about you just search for “startups and we’re there.  I think we’re after like This Week in Startups which is a widely popular podcast.  So, for the amount of listeners we have, we rank really well.

[11:54] We have two really cool reviews and one is from Nathan Prater [0:11:57] [Phonetic] and it says, “I’m a member of the Micropreneur Academy and this [0:12:00] weekly podcast is a great supplement to the material.  Thanks and keep it up Rob and Mike.” Then the other one is from Scott [Indiscernible].  It says, “Great practical advice.  Rob and Mike provided a ton of hands-on, real world practical advice.  Highly recommended for developers interested in starting their own business”.  So we really appreciate that and, you know, if you haven’t left us a review or left us a rating in iTunes, we really would appreciate it if you could swing in there and do that.

[11:22] I have this tool that is so freaking cool that I have to talk about it.  I needed to compare – I acquired HitTail and it has two servers and the code basis, they’re supposed to be identical but they were different between the two …

[12:34] Mike: No.

[12:35] Rob: Yes.  Shocking, huh? They weren’t synced.  They were being manually synced which means not synced at all.  So I was going to like download both of them and like copy them over each other and would compare file by file and stuff.  Ruben from Bidsketch.com, he said, “Use a tool called Beyond Compare and this thing is crazy.  It is crazy good and I remember when I came to the site, I was looking at what it does.  You can compare code between multiple servers, like three different servers and it will show you the file, like the directory differences and then you can just drill down immediately into files.  It will compare images.  It will compare like database files, like access database.  It will compare text files.  It will compare – I mean just craziness and I’m looking at all the features and I’m thinking, oh my gosh, I’m going to have to pay like a – this is like an enterprise tool, isn’t it? I was thinking I’m going to have to pay hundreds of dollars and I think I remember what – I think it’s $30.

[13:26] Mike: I thought it was like 50 but yes, it’s pretty cheap.

[13:29] Rob: Whatever it was, it was trivial.  Like when I saw what it could do for me, I was just blown away.  So I used it and it just cut the task.  I don’t know why I didn’t think to look for something like this but I was going to do it manually and it would have taken me hours and it wound up taking me about 15 or 20 minutes.  So it was ridiculous how cool that was and I totally recommend it for someone if you have to compare stuff even on an ongoing basis.  It’s amazing.

[13:52] Mike: The standard tool is $30.  The pro edition is $50.

[13:56] Rob: I didn’t need the pro edition so …

[13:58] Mike: Yes, I forget what the version [0:14:00] difference is between them but I’ve used them before.  It’s an awesome tool.  It’s made by Scooter Software so if you’re looking for it, it’s at ScooterSoftware.com and we’ll link to that in the show notes.

[14:09] Rob: And it’s really well-written, easy-to-use, intuitive.  I mean everything you would hope for and then it actually works.  Like I was impressed with it.

[14:17] Mike: What I always liked was you could do like a three-way merge so you can take three different files that were different and merge all three of them together or merge based on two previous versions of it into a third version.  It was awesome.

[14:30] Rob: Yes, I can do all kinds of stuff I haven’t even looked into.  You know, I just have this one application and it was worth it but yes, you’re right.  It has way more advanced features than I’ve even talked about here.

[14:39] Mike: So Dan Andrews from the Lifestyle Business Podcast thought that you were cruel in episode 50 for the last episode joke.

[14:46] Rob: It was your joke.  You’re the one that was like, let’s do this …

[14:48] Mike: But you let me go through with it.

[14:50] Rob: I let …

[14:51] Mike: Your fault.

[14:52] Rob: So I’m responsible.

[14:53] Mike: You are responsible.

[14:54] Rob: Mike wanted to leave it until the end of the episode and say right at the beginning that we were going to end the podcast at episode 50 and then at the very end dispel the myth but I made him do it like two minutes later because I couldn’t stand it.  I was concerned how many people would unsubscribe in that 30-minute listening time.

[15:09] Mike: You know, I think I must have had a mean streak between the last episode and this one.  The day that Hurricane Irene was making landfall, it was either North Carolina or closer to us.  I forget which.  I went on a helicopter ride at a local fair at the elementary school here in town.  I started taking pictures from the helicopter ride and posting them on Facebook and telling everybody I was taking a helicopter ride into the hurricane and there were all these people who were going nuts like, “Be careful”.

[15:37] Rob: Nice.

[15:37] Mike: And of course I didn’t tell them otherwise.  Of course somebody sends a Facebook message to my wife and says, “What is Mike doing?”

[15:44] Rob: Right.

[15:44] [music]

[15:47] Mike: Today’s podcast came from a couple of different things.  The first one was from the last podcast when you talked about episode 29 being one of the most popular episodes.  I went back and checked it out and I think I realized why it struck a [0:16:00] cord with so many people.  We talked a lot about the things that people encounter so frequently that they apply to almost anyone, whether you’re a developer or not.  You know, things like working late, trying to be the hero, being the victim at work and, you know, taking responsibility for where you’re at today.

[16:16] It reminded me of when I left Pedestal Software back in 2005 and shortly after that, I had lunch with the ex-CEO and he asked me why I left.  After I explained it to him, I said, you know, I just want to go out and do my own thing and kind of be a little bit more in control of the things that I was doing and working on; and he said, “You want to be master of your own destiny,” and that’s exactly it.

[16:39] So that was the first thing and the second thing that brought this topic to mind was that it was one of the things that you mentioned in your MicroConf speech which, you know, I thought was an absolutely amazing analogy but it was the difference between being on a hamster wheel and a flywheel.  Can you take a few minutes to explain kind of the basic concept that you went over at the MicroConf?

[17:00] Rob: Yes, sure.  You know, most people know what a hamster wheel is, right? It’s a wheel that a little hamster gets on and it runs and as long as it’s running, the wheel turns and when the hamster stops running, the wheel stops.  Now a flywheel, most people aren’t familiar with.

[17:15] Basically a flywheel is typically a very large stone wheel.  It can be metal.  It’s something very heavy and a flywheel is really hard to get going so you have to push really hard to get the thing to start turning.  You push for a long time and eventually if it starts turning pretty fast, you can let go of it and it will just sit there and it will turn and turn and turn for a long time because it has so much momentum.  You know, again going back to a hamster wheel, really easy to get started but stops right away when you stop moving on it.

[17:45] So, there are a bunch of benefits to flywheels.  There are real world applications of them in generators that serve web hosting facilities and then colo facilities but it’s kind of boring tech stuff so I won’t go into it here.

[17:56] Mike: So today we’re going to talk about the first steps that you need to get off the [0:18:00] hamster wheel and this week’s episode is called Getting off the Hamster Wheel.

[18:05] Step one to getting off the hamster wheel is you have to decide that you want to get off of the wheel.  I mean this is the single most important step.  You need to decide that you need to get off the hamster wheel.  Not just that you want to get off it or that you would like to but you need to get off of it.  There are things going on.  You just can’t deal with them anymore and you need something else and part of this is evaluating where you are today and not only what got you here but where you would like to be.  What would you rather be doing? If the answer is doing the same thing that you’re doing today, then maybe staying on the hamster wheel isn’t such a bad thing.

[18:40] The fact is that although we talk about it like being on a hamster wheel is bad, it’s not always a bad thing for everybody.  Some people, you know, like being on that.  They like having that continuity and knowing that they’re working on stuff and when they stop working on it, nothing else moves forward.

[18:55] But I think a lot of people kind of really relate to the idea of building a business and being able to take a break from it and walk away for a little while and come back to it and things are still going.  Things are still going in the direction that you originally pointed them to.  I’m sure you may have to make some adjustments here and there to get them back on track a little bit because, you know, it’s kind of like a sailboat.  Things will veer off a little bit if you’re not paying attention to the tiller the entire time but it generally goes in the direction that you want as long as you are not away for too long.

[19:25] Rob: Yes, and I think kind of some underlying assumptions that underline what you just said is that we consider salaried employment a hamster wheel, right? It’s something that you have to go into work everyday and you have to work a certain amount of hours in order to get this check.  It’s similar with hourly consulting.  If you’re trading your hours for dollars, that’s really what we’re talking about here whereas, you know, having a product, more of a business, even having investments – you know, if you have investments that make money on a recurring basis, I mean these are the flywheels that you put in motion.

[19:53] We’re not going to talk about investments because we’re not investment experts but we can talk about the entrepreneurial side of things.  That’s what we’ll be talking about [0:20:00] in our five steps today.

[20:02] So step two is to figure out what it’s going to take to get off the hamster wheel.  There is a bunch of different ways to think about becoming more self-sufficient and getting away from the “dollars for hours” kind of mentality or situation.  You have to think about, “Do you need to change your job?” You need to think about, “Do you need to quit your job?” I mean this is something I think a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with early on is, “At what point am I going to have to take the leap from a salary employment to basically being an entrepreneur?”

[20:29] Do you need to develop your own products in order to get off the hamster wheel? That’s the way that both Mike and I have approached it.  It’s certainly not the only way to do it.  As I said, there are ways to do it through investment.  Some people do it through real estate.  That’s actually the path I would – before I really started getting hardcore into entrepreneurship, I totally went down the real estate road and I owned a bunch of houses in Los Angeles.

[20:50] Mike: Really? I didn’t know that.

[20:51] Rob: Yes, I did.  I owned a total of seven units.  It wasn’t seven properties.  There were a bunch [0:20:56] [Indiscernible] but seven units in LA and some of them are with other investors and friends and such; but yes, that was going to be my ticket to independence to where I could quit my job.  In my own experience, there were a couple of drawbacks to it.

[21:08] One, I wasn’t totally in control of it because when the housing market tanked, like I lost literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in paper wealth and I realized like wow, the market can basically make or break you in this thing and that didn’t feel great.  I feel like as an entrepreneur, I’m much more in control of my destiny.  There are always market forces that can come out and get you.  Plus in the end, I just realized I enjoyed, you know, the entrepreneurship side more than managing properties and doing the deals.  That wasn’t that interesting to me.  I was more doing it as a means to an end whereas entrepreneurship, I actually enjoy the process of it.

[21:41] I think the last point of this – you know, step two I was talking about – before I wandered off, is figure out what it’s going to take.  The last point of this is if you are going to pursue entrepreneurship and you are going to develop your own products or SAS apps or mobile apps, whatever it is, you need to think about potentially making some pretty heavy sacrifices in order to make that happen.

[21:59] You’re going to have to carve [0:22:00] out 15, 20 hours a week of free time.  So you might have to cut back on your hours at work.  You might have to, you know, take Fridays off, take a lower salary, do something in order to get this thing kick-started because trying to just fit 5 or 10 hours a weekend, it’s going to take you a long, long time to get there.  I mean if you’re doing really small ideas, you can pull it off but it’s going to take you a lot longer than if you’re, you know, able to spend more like 15 plus hours a week on it.

[22:27] Mike: So step three is a follow-up to step two and what step three involves is accepting the responsibility and the consequences of those actions and this is really hard.  There’s no way around it and anyone who says otherwise is lying.  Making big changes in your life is really difficult and it can be really scary sometimes but there are times when the pain of what you’re doing now becomes so great that you just have to accept that something needs to be done about it and you need to do it.

[22:54] Making big changes like this is right up there with the top forms of stress in people’s lives.  I mean changing jobs, getting married, buying a house.  All these things are very difficult to do because they’re very stressful and making huge changes in your life and accepting the responsibility and consequences of those actions is not going to be any different.  I mean when you go through this, it is going to be stressful and you are going to worry about it and you will probably lose some sleep at night; but if you accept that this is something that absolutely needs to be done to make your life better, then it makes it a little bit easier to sleep at night.  As you start to see results, things will get better over time.

[23:35] Rob: Well, and I think there’s ways to avert risk as well or to kind of minimize risk.  I have realized it has only been over the past few years that I am very conservative when it comes to risk, like I’m the entrepreneur who does not like to put too much on the table.  I’ve never risked bankruptcy.  I’ve never risked major financial meltdown.  I just – I don’t have it in me.  I think I would stress out too much so I avoid [0:24:00] that and as a result, I look at situations.

[24:03] I mean as I transition from salaried employee to consultant and then  consultant to kind of supporting myself on products, I moved fairly slowly but I was never at a point where I couldn’t turn around pretty easily and go back if I needed to.  People work different ways and so if you need to burn a bridge to be motivated, then do it and I know people who’ve done that.  You know, as an example, before I stopped consulting and kind of started referring my clients to other developers – which I guess in a way wasn’t burning bridges per se but, you know, I was getting rid of work.  I would have had to finally work from scratch.

[24:36] Before I did that, my products were generating about 70 percent of my – it was 70 percent of what I needed to live on because my consulting income is actually quite a bit more than what I needed to live on.  I had a good chunk of savings so I had a pretty long runway.  Now I know people who quit after they have a product making 10 percent of what they need to live on.  To me that sounds crazy.  You can totally make it work but it’s not going to work as often as, you know, someone who [0:25:01] [Indiscernible] have 70 percent.

[25:03] All that to say is that there are going to be consequences of your actions especially, you know, quitting a job, leaving an income source, whatever and it is hard but depending on how you react to risk is probably how you need to approach it.  There’s no right answer.

[25:18] So step four for getting off the hamster wheel is to create a plan to get from point A to point B.  You know, as Mike said, making dramatic changes in your life, it’s really scary and it’s often pretty stressful.  It’s often hard to do something like quitting a job or leaving consulting behind or whatever it is.  Whatever it is that you’re going to refocus your life on something, it’s scary.  But if you plan appropriately, you can eliminate the real and the imagined risks associated with it.

[25:44] So keeping the imagined risks in mind is important.  For example, job security is an imagined risk.  No job in the world is safe especially today.  Not a month goes by when I don’t talk to a friend who – even if layoffs aren’t happening right now in their company, we’ll be talking casually and, you know, they [0:26:00] talk about being an entrepreneur and mention that how, you know, a couple of years ago, there were layoffs at their company and how that made them feel; that they felt totally out of control and really not safe at their job which is something that probably our parents felt if they worked somewhere for 30 or 40 years.  They really did feel that there was a promise that they would be at their jobs.  So imagined risk, it’s a big deal.  It’s deluding yourself, you know.  It’s not looking at the way the cards really are.

[26:26] Mike: As Rob was saying, creating that plan to get from point A to point B, there’s no reason that that plan can’t include backup plans or follow-ups in different data points that say okay, well, if I get to this point, then I need to make a change in the course of action and I maybe need to think about doing something different.

[26:44] Don’t be afraid to change those plans though if things are dramatically not working the way that you expected them to because plans will change.  They will evolve over time and don’t think that just because you wrote it down on paper and said, “Oh, well, I need to do this in this timeframe.” If you get there and you start making decisions based on new data that you’re getting, that’s okay.  It’s okay to deviate from the plan but the idea is to put a plan in place that will help to, you know, mitigate risk that you may not have thought about, that you are thinking about and saying, “Okay.  Well, what can I do about this?” or, you know, “What can I do to change this particular course of action from a bad outcome into a good outcome?” You know, these plans are all about just getting you to think about the different things that could happen and how you’re going to deal with them.

[27:30] Rob: One other point I wanted to make about this is there’s a lot of fear in making these changes and I was actually listening to a podcast a few weeks ago and I don’t remember who it is.  Basically, this is a – the guy mentioned a technique that I’ve used for years.  My wife taught it to me as a psychologist.  It’s basically like you have this fear of – let’s say for example like leaving a salaries job, right? Leaving what you feel is safe and you take that fear and think, “Oh my gosh, what’s the worst that could happen” Typically, the worst that could happen is – I remember when I was leaving my job, the worst that could happen is I would go back and get another [0:28:00] job because I had never been unemployed, like I never had trouble finding a job.

[28:05] I guess ultimately the real worst that could happen is that I wouldn’t be able to find a job.  I lose my house and we have to move into an apartment then I would find another job.  Like I remember thinking into this whole process and being like wow, A, I don’t think that losing my house and not getting another job is even a viable option at this point because I have very marketable skills.  B, even if that did happen, is it worth staying at the job that I despise and doing this hamster wheel thing just because I’m scared of the slight possibility that that might happen?

[28:37] It put it into perspective for me and it was, you know, one of the reasons that made me – motivated me to, you know, get off my butt and start building products on the side frankly and the same thing – when I was finally leaving consulting was, “What’s the worst that could happen here?” It’s like, well, I’ll need to go back and find new consulting clients.  Again, the worst is I won’t find consulting clients.  I’ll lose the house blah, blah, blah but the odds of that happening are so small.  Asking your self what’s really the worst that can happen and trying to put it into words and quantify it actually removes kind of the unknown, the shadow side of it that you can’t see.  You know, not knowing it is where the real fear lies.

[29:13] Mike: Step five of getting off the hamster wheel is to actually take action from the plans that you put together and as the Nike slogan reads, just do it.  If you have a reasonable plan in place to get from point A to point B, what’s stopping you from doing it? Anything that you can point to is a major hurdle that needs to be addressed.  Either plan for it or create contingencies.  Fix it and move on and eventually you need to take action assuming that, you know, you have decided to go through step one and you absolutely have decided that you need to get off the hamster wheel.

[29:45] Rob: I think a good topper to the show is to say there are two sides to taking action.  One side is the practical side, right? It’s what we talk about quite a bit on the podcast.  Deciding on the niche and figuring out how to market it and building a product and that’s the practical side and the, you know, actionable side.  [0:30:00] The other side is this.  Taking action in your head and it’s getting over the fear and we’ve talked about this maybe on two or three podcasts in the past.  As you said, I think episode 29 was one and it’s a very popular episode.  That’s the part that actually I think trips people up maybe more than these manual steps that we all talk about, you know.

[30:20] Building a business is hard and it takes a lot of creativity and drive but you have to be in the mental headspace to be able to do it.  Even if you know all the steps, if you don’t have the motivation and this ability to look fear on the face and just be like, you know, “You’re not going to beat me.  I’m basically going to overcome you,” then you’re not going to make it very far even if you know the right steps that you should be taking.

[30:39] Mike: And I think that’s part of what creating a plan to get from point A to point B is about because it really forces you to think.  What do I need to do? What are the different things that could happen? It helps you eliminate those scary things that are mostly unknowns.

[30:53] For example as what you said in step four is people think that they have job security.  Well, job security is an imagined risk and if they sit down and they think about their plan to get from point A to point B, they’re going to realize that that’s an imagined risk.  It’s not a real risk.  As you start walking through these different things that are scary, you’re going to realize that they’re not nearly as scary as you thought because you start identifying all the things that could be potential road blocks for you.

[31:19] [music]

[31:23] Corey: Hey, Rob and Mike.  My name is Cory Maass, former member of the Micropreneur Academy.  I now run a website called TheBirdy.com, birdy with a Y.  I had a [0:31:34] [Indiscernible] for you.  After episode 49, you talked about getting people engaged, people investing time.

[31:41] What I’m finding with The Birdy which is a spending tracker is that most people invest a couple of days in tracking their spending, sign in, realize how much they’re spending and then freak out and never come back.  So I was wondering if you guys could talk about sort of the psychology behind things [0:32:00] like fear of people using your product or the experience they have; and then I also just love to maybe have you do a show sometime about different sort of psychological challenges you’ve faced with customers.  Anyway, love the podcast.  Keep up the great work.  Thanks.

[32:17] Mike: Thanks for the question, Cory.  I think that what your question boils down to is essentially that you’re delivering bad news to people about their spending habits and drawing attention to it.  It sounds to me like the possible solution to that would be education.

[32:35] So what you need to do, I think, is to try and educate these people about not just what their spending habits are but what they can do about it and how they can resolve whatever issues there are.  Because if you have an application that, you know, you’re drawing attention to where it is that they are losing  money or wasting money, then you also need to point them to a solution and if you’re pointing them just to the problems without a measurable or quantifiable solution that will help solve the problem, then all you’re doing is delivering bad news and I don’t know of very – I mean I don’t think that I would probably use a product that just pointed out all the problems to me and said, “Well, you figure it out,” or “You do what needs to be done”.

[33:18] I think that the reason Mint.com was so successful was that what they would do is they would point you to where you were spending the most money and then show relevance.  They weren’t quite search results but they would show you different ways that you could save money or spend less money and come out with essentially a better outcome for yourself.  Rob, what do you think?

[33:40] Rob: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with it.  Cory used the phrase people – there’s like a fear of using his product and it doesn’t sound like that it’s actually a fear of using it.  It sounds like people are using it and then he’s giving the bad news and then they’re running away.

[33:54] So maybe it’s the fear of coming back, of using it again that he really needs to attack and I think Mint is a great example.  [0:34:00] It’s like you said.  They showed a problem and then offered solutions.  I think he could even take it one step further and start doing some financial literacy teaching, you know.  Not only could it be content marketing but in terms of just marketing the service by putting together some really solid content.  I mean Ramit Sethi does this at IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com and he talks a lot about financial literacy and learning about debt and credit cards and all that stuff.

[34:23] Not only would it be good marketing but then you could run through someone’s account and then say, “Oh, you know, you’re spending a lot on food”.  Like here’s a specific video that talks about like how to get around that.  You know, here’s either how to cook cheaper or how to psychologically think about why you don’t need to go out to eat or whatever it is that you put together.  I mean I’m certainly not an expert on this so I don’t want to throw ideas of specific content that will address these issues but the idea is that if you either know it yourself or you hire some people to put together some really meaningful stuff, you can educate your audience as well as bring in people to the service.  I hope that helps and thanks again for the question, Cory.

[34:58] [music]

[35:01] Rob: If you have a question or comment, call it into our voicemail number like Cory did at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at Questions@StartupsfortheRestofUs.com.

[35:11] Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons.  If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider writing a review in iTunes by searching for “startups”.  You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or via RSS at StartupsfortheRestofUs.com.  A full transcript of it is available at our website, StartupsfortheRestofUs.com.  Thanks for listening.  We’ll see you next time. [0:35:32]

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3 Responses to “Episode 52 | Getting Off The Hamster Wheel”

  1. Eoin says:

    Depending on your goals with HitTail, I’m sure the AppSumo audience would see value in it.

    • Rob says:

      Yep, already contacted Noah. I’m doing a re-design right now but once that’s done I’ll be diving heavily into marketing.


  1. Episode #75 – Forget 80/20, Aim for 99/1 With Critical Non-Essentials - February 15, 2013

    […] Startups for the Rest of Us, check out “Episode 52 – Getting Off The Hamster Wheel“ […]