Every time I bring up BitCoin, people quickly say “I don’t get it”, or “It’s too complicated to use”.  Then I ask them “Guess how many websites existed online in 1993?”. 623.  At the end of 1994 – over 10,000+.

Oh, and how hard was it to use the internet at first? Well you needed to use your phone, dial a number, put it on a special machine, then slowly wait for the content to “download” onto your computer.  But people did it.

It solved a HUGE problem.  The value outweighed the friction for the early adopters and as these issues got resolved with things like; built-in-modems, more website, e-commerce – adoption sky rocketed.  BitCoin is like the internet of 1994.

For the geeks reading this: BitCoin is the TCP/IP + HTTP of money.

Need more proof, watch this video.

Working out

Shit happens.

As an entrepreneur, it’s inevitable that things aren’t going to work out as planned. Just because you came up with the idea, doesn’t mean it will work.  That would be like working out at the gym and thinking just because you put the weight on the bar, that you should be able to lift it. That’s not how it works.  There’s a point where the weight is too much and you’ll fail to lift the bar. Now, that doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to lift that weight, it just means today you can’t – you’re just not strong enough, yet.

So what do you do when this happens in your business? When you’re trying to manage more projects than feasible, and worse, your not seeing the progress you want?

Here’s what I do when this happens.

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I read a lot of tech news and blog posts from smart startup people. I believe it’s important to stay on top of things to get a feeling for new trends, to learn from fellow entrepreneurs, and to hear what my friends and colleagues are working on. There is one problem with tech & startup news though… there’s too much! There’s a lot of not-so-interesting content floating around, and it’s difficult to filter and find only the best, most valuable content that I can learn from to help make Clarity the best it can be.

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I believe that it takes more than innovation to succeed. It requires a great product experience. Apple definitely set the standard, but many new companies have embraced this trend and the bar has been set higher.

Product design will be a huge differentiator going forward especially when it comes to mobile and consumer applications.

Mobile web, displays and browser technologies have all elevated what’s possible now online and the expectation of our users. They expect more.

.. and I want to give it to them.

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Big Thinkers
Big Thinkers

I’ve had an epiphany.  It hit me the other day that no matter what’s happened to me in my life, I’ve always been able to work it out.  Sure I’ve hit some crazy walls and got stopped in my tracks, but at the end of the day I figured it out.  Things weren’t as bad as I thought and good things always came from those experiences.

So the big realization was that I wasn’t thinking big enough.  Or better yet, I wasn’t taking big enough risks.  Or said even simpler, I didn’t give myself enough credit to solve the problems that those risk would certainly entail.

Well enough of that.

It hit me that no matter what issues I’d faced in the past, or will face in the future, that I’m more than capable of handling them.  That doesn’t mean that I’m going to be reckless in my business or personal life, or think that I can succeed at anything I put my mind too, but I do believe that no matter what – I’ll be able to handle it.

That’s a huge realization.

The impact has been incredible.  I’m focused on bigger projects, moving way faster and looking for bigger opportunities to create massive value.  My sights are set higher than ever before and the cool part is that it’s polarizing others to join me and help out in a way I’ve never experienced before. In some ways, it’s actually easier – sounds crazy, right? We’ll, it’s not.

The future is brighter than ever before and I think we all need to give ourselves more credit then we do.  We’re capable of achieving way more than we give ourselves permission to persue.  Holding back isn’t doing anyone any good. The world needs us to.

“Too many of us sit on the sidelines of fear and doubt, unable to contribute to a world in need of our brilliance.” Chris Guillebeau

So with that I challenge you to take bigger projects, take more risk, trust in your abilities and set your sights higher. Who knows – you might just learn that the only thing stoping you, is you.

It’s that time of year again – conference season. Below is a list of events and talks I’ll be giving at each.  So far I’ve got 11 nailed down with a few more being figured out. I love speaking and connecting with amazing people – it’s what fuels me. If you’re going to the event (or want to and need a discount code ;), or you’re from that city, leave a comment below and be sure to include your twitter username. I would love to connect in person.

InboxLove, Feb 25 in Mountain View

Email and Social Marketing

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LeadsCon 2011, Mar 2 in Las Vegas

Getting Social & Mobile

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1K On The Side w/ Ramit Sethi, Mar 7 (Online)

Marketing Metrics and More

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Mar 3: Berkeley-Columbia Exec MBA Class

Startup Talk

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Social Marketing for Startups, Mar 7 in SF

Social Marketing 202

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The Lean Startup SXSW, Mar 12 in Austin

Lean Product Development: Timely.is Case Study

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Dogpatch, Mar 20 in San Franciso

Activity Streams and Cohort Metrics for Startups

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BigOmaha, May 11-13th in Omaha,

Lean Product Development: Learning is the Killer App

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The Michigan Lean Startup Conf, May 19th in GrandRapids

Lean Product Development: Learning is the Killer App

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Startup Lessons Learn Conf, May 23 in SF

Case Study: Flowtown

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MoSo Conference, June 16 in Saskatoon

Social Marketing: Hustlin’ for ROI

Be sure to leave a comment below if you’re attending any of the events and want to connect in person.

Foot in mouth

Here’s a lesson in how to put your foot in your mouth – email your start-up friends and tell them that no one is doing anything to create a community in Canada.  That was me today in a Maple Butter update. I choose the wrong words and lacked context to make a point. Canada has some amazing groups – like Startup North, Sprouter, StartupCampLaunchParty, NextMontreal, StartupDrinks, DemoCamp only to name a few - working hard to build this community.  I know when I’ve made a mistake.  I’m sorry.

There's a pool party at sunset - everyone mark your chair with a towel

January 1st is a great day to look back and reflect on what you’ve accomplished.  As I think about my time, and how I’ve spent it, I’ve realized there’s some good habits I’ve created that have given me the most leverage.  Here’s a few ideas on how you can get more time back, and keep your new years resolutions in 2011!

1. Structure Your Day

The best advice I ever received was to create positive habits.  Simple, yes – but powerful.  For me, that means doing certain types of work, and in a certain way, at specific times of the day.  Overtime I’ve learned that starting the morning figuring out my big rocks, and moving those forward have the highest value for me.  Also, paperwork and creating “work products” are best done in the morning or at night – with the afternoons spent talking and collaborating with others – its keeps the energy flowing.  Having this structure means you can quickly understand where a task fits and know what you can realistically get done.

2. Ask For Help

There’s no reason to go in it alone.  If you know there’s someone out there than can get you moving along faster or in a smarter way, you’re best to ask for help. Even if you have to pay them – this can provide huge leverage and accountability.  I’ve had a virtual assistant for 5+ years now and have hired many consultants, trainers and specialist for various projects – if chosen correctly, it can be money well spent.

3. Have Them Follow Up

When people send an email or call and say, “hey, I’ll be in town next month – we should connect”, the best way to respond is to ask them to follow up a couple days beforehand.  This keeps your calendar clean and puts the follow up action on their plate, not yours.  It’s only fair.

4. Politely Say No

The great part about being in a startup and having some many great people in the community as supporters is that you’ll frequently get asked to participate in something; conference, demo, business development deal, etc.  however, these can be a huge time commitment.  The best way to approach something is to say no by default, until otherwise given reasons where the alignment with your new years resolutions make sense.  Yes, I know, sometimes you’re doing someone a favor, and you should help out – but I’m taling in general.  Respect your time – it’s easier to say no to something up front, then commit and back out at the last minute cause you’re getting pulled from your team. (I’ve had to do this, it sucks).

5. Share With Others

The best way to hold yourself accountable is to tell the world what you’re planning to accomplish. This way, you’ll have positive peer pressure implemented and it will certainly help you keep that commitment with yourself and others.

6. Leverage Your Health

If you’re trying to implement a time management process and you eat like crap, then I think you’ve got it backwards.  Most tasks or projects require energy, not time management – and if you’re not healthy, especially eating really bad lunches – only to go into a comatose for the whole afternoon – then you’re missing the point.  You need to have your health – energy is the biggest leverage for getting anything done. Think about it.

7. Learn To Communicate

If you’re trying to get anything done in life, it’ll probably require some level of collaboration.  The ability to communicate your ideas and vision is crucial in getting anything done.  It’s why I learned how to use OmniGraffle to create product mockups (also LOVE Balsamiq) and decided to blog more this year.  The biggest gain in productivity are simple ideas with huge impact communicated with clarity.  Invest the time in learning a new application to help with this, even if it’s only excel or powerpoint.

8. Less is More

Instead of making a list of 10 things you want to get done this year, why not choose 1?  What single goal, that if you accomplished, would have the highest impact on your life.  Do that.  Don’t “try” and do 10 at a time.  Pick one, say no to the desire to do too much, and you’ll likely get it done. Having 10 things half tried and not completed won’t make you feel good.

“.. most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!” ~ Tony Robbins

9. Bring People Together
This is a super high value tip.  If people are constantly asking you for 15 minutes to pick your brain, or want to meetup – it’s actually best to bring 3-5 of those people together with you and connect them all together.  Not only will it add tremendous value to their ideas and conversations, you can kill 2 birds with one stone and actually get way more out of the interactions.

Bonus: JFDI

You can google the definition of JFDI, but I’m sure you can figure it out.  At the end of the day, take the first smallest step.  Action always trumps thinking about it – there’s so much more you learn when you actually do.  Get rid of the knowing, doing gap in your life and you’ll be amazed by what you can get done.

Got any other tips? Love to hear from you in the comments below.

Here’s to a kick ass 2011!

Entering the Forest Alone

Photo – Entering the Forest Alone

If I wasn’t doing my startup in San Francisco, here’s some random thoughts on how I would do it in another city – most likely in my home town of Moncton, NB.

1. Start.  Build something. Launch. #JFDI

2. Ping friends on Skype and ask them to full screen share and do ad-hoc user testing.

3. Sit down once a week, in person ( you need to see their pupils dilate ) with potential customers to learn about their reality and problems.  Go to their office, see how they work and watch them try and use your application.  #Humbling.

4. Spend at least 50% of your day writing code and fixing things that you learned from your in person meetings. #Iterate

5. Read books (not blogs) on psychology, marketing and persuasion.

6. Build an admin dashboard that monitors high-level conversions (visitors, signups, activation, upgrades) and customer activities (essentially a “news feed“) so you can learn.

7. Once a week I would call (not email) someone brilliant who lives in the valley to get their advice on a specific marketing or product idea.  Call it getting the “pulse” of whats working and whats not.

8. Once every 2 weeks I would host a call with 3 other amazing Entrepreneurs and ask them about their top challenges, try and help out and keep in touch.

9. Run paid ads ($10 / day) to a landing page application so you can have a consistent amount of signups everyday to learn and iterate.

10. Survey your users in cohorts and try and understand why they signed up, what problem they thought you were solving and the greatest benefit they received from your application.

11. Keep the team small (2-3 people) and insure they are all extremely talented (only hire A+).

12. No government programs or grants.  They distract you.

13. Read TechCrunch, Eric Ries, Steve Blank, Dave McClure, Marc Suster & Chris Dixon

14. Follow everyone on Twitter from this list

15. Only hang out with entrepreneurs (any industry will do).

Anything you would add?