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Excuses

Everything that I've leaned about excuses comes from playing ice hockey.

I've played hockey for the vast majority of my life. I've traveled throughout North America to play at the highest level that I possibly could.

I've visited vast wastelands, frozen ponds, and state of the art stadiums to play the game I love. I've made incredible friends, seen amazing places, and have acquired monumental amounts of knowledge and wisdom.

The one piece of wisdom that I never credited to my experience playing hockey was the decline of my usage of excuses.

Most of my career was spent tending the net as a goalie and I had the fine opportunity to play with some of the greats. Many of them were far better than I ever was. Blake GeoffrionJared Tinordi, and Jamie Fritsch all come to mind (there are many others, too). I was truly lucky.

As a goalie, it was my job to keep pucks out of the net. There are defensemen that help, and usually there's a few offense men back checking too, but when a puck crosses the goal line all efforts have failed.

It could have been the center who didn't back check and cover the high slot, or the winger who left the point open to rip a cannon from the blue line. It could have been the refs fault for not blowing the whistle sooner or the score keepers fault for not letting time expire.

Sure I could blame any one of those factors and make excuses and I did. I blamed the refs, the scorekeeper, my defensemen, the quality of the ice, the non-back-checking offense men and sometimes even my own equipment.

I kept doing this until I realized that excuses are pointless. They make no one feel good and only work as a ploy to convince yourself that you couldn't do any better – that you were fine and there was nothing you could do. It didn't actually matter if it was my fault or theirs, they are one of the worst things about the human race. They are an illusion. It's easy to make them but they are worthless.

After acknowledging this on several long car rides home or walks back from the rink, I realized that making excuses wouldn't help me keep pucks out of the net. I quickly learned that it doesn't matter how the puck got across the line, it's about how you bounce back and stop the next one.

Thanks to Mary Kay and Carolyn for reading drafts of this.

Ineffable

You know, it's like a similar feeling I had when I was younger. I visited 17 boarding schools when I was only 14 years old. I was part of a hockey team that came up from Florida to visit the great boarding schools in the north east. We toured each and every campus and played against almost all of them within one week.

Seventeen places in one week and I wasn't sure where I wanted to go. Some places had amazing architecture and some had incredible views. There were buildings that inspired parts of Hogwarts and ice rinks that would make you drool in awe, but none of them stood out as the one I wanted to attend.

Then I visited one school in the outskirts of snowy Connecticut called Canterbury. Immediately, as I stepped foot on the campus in the below freezing temperatures, I got a warm feeling.

I wasn't sure what it was. It wasn't the photogenic buildings, incredible dining halls, and beautiful scenery (that certainly didn't hurt). There was something more important than those things. There was something bigger.

It was ineffable1. I couldn't explain it to anyone, but I knew this place was different.While I was walking around I had this feeling inside of me. It just felt right. It wasn't like the others. I remember they would brag about how many culinary chefs they had or the number of ivy league acceptance letters they've already received. None of that really phased me.

It felt like I was home like I was meant to be there.

Some of the others had bigger dorm rooms or better food, but Canterbury felt right. It felt nice and that's why I chose it.

And I'm starting to get that feeling again.

It's home.


1. Thanks Mrs. Omaña!

I learned so much more from there than any place, it was amazing. I always told them that I wanted to make a donation to the school. Sort of in my style (somewhat comical). They said whatever I would donate they would put my name on the building. I thought great, I'll donate a Shed!

Don't Break the Chain

The best way to get better at anything is to practice and to practice often. If you want to lose weight, then working out every once in a while doesn't cut it – you have to do it frequently if you want actual results.

Repetition and practice are the best way to become awesome at something. Jerry Seinfeld wrote every day and hacked his routine for maximum effectiveness.

He had an idea that if he were to write every day, then he would become a better writer and comedian, however, he wasn't inspired to write every day. He was able to achieve this by a unique calendaring system that pressured him into writing every day. Each day that he would write for 15 minutes, he would draw a red X on the day. For each following day he would force himself to write for 15 minutes, then draw another red X. Eventually, he'd have a streak going.


After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.

Jerry Seinfeld via LifeHacker


I decided to give this a shot. I wanted to hack/create 1 one thing each day.

For the past 10 days, I've built something cool that either didn't exist, solved a problem for me, or made routine things more efficient. For the past 10 days I haven't broken the chain and I'm having a lot of fun doing it, too.

I've built things such as a google map mashup of my friends from Facebook, an iPhone app that helps me remind my friends when they ask, "can you remind me to…", and build some neat features for a few of my existing side projects.

I'll start to share some of the things that I've built in the near future. I like this technique so much that I am also considering another chain for writing.

I strongly suggest trying this. It's helped me become a better hacker and I feel like I'm becoming a better developer/hacker/thinker (there's always room for improvement). I've learned a lot from doing this and it has definitely helped make myself a better me.

Here's a neat tool to help you get started.

You should follow me on twitter here.


1. "To the popular press, "hacker" means someone who breaks into computers. Among programmers it means a good programmer. But the two meanings are connected. To programmers, "hacker" connotes mastery in the most literal sense: someone who can make a computer do what he wants—whether the computer wants to or not." - Paul Graham


Focus and Passion

It's awesome. It's going to change the world and I'm going to become rich because of it. No one is doing this and no one has done it. I'm a genius, I can't believe I'm the first.

All of the above? Bullshit. None of that actually matters.

Each and every day I come up with new ideas. I listen to other people's ideas and get a brief surge of inspiration to want to build something. It's in my nature. I'm curious about almost everything (and if I was a cat I'd surely be dead many times over). Many of my friends are the same way.

I want to constantly try new things, but every time I do I forget where I really am. I get distracted long enough that I forget why I started it in the first place and I totally blow off what I was working on.

This is a problem of focus.

Focus is immensely important. It seems that you can't really do too much without focusing on one thing. The more things I do at a time, the worse I am at each one. In order to tackle the focus problem, I have to tackle something even bigger. It's totally cliché. It's passion.

Passion helps you ignore everything else. Passion keeps you motivated and focused.

I've noticed that I have 49 domains and most of them are for different projects. I'm going to sell off 80% of them. They are preventing me from being able to focus. They are preventing me from being able to be passionate because my attention is all over the place. If I'm going to be passionate about something, I need to give it my all. I need to devote myself to it; I need to kick ass at it and be the best.

I noticed something when I sold everything and drove over 5,000 miles to California: the less you have, the better you take care of it. The same applies to focus. The less you have to focus on, the better you can focus on the things that you keep.

About the Toy Room →

I'm not a parent, but I do have part time kids. Three of them and a dog. If there were any more, it would be too hard for me to share my attention and care for the four of them. If there were less, then I could give each one more time. Each project you take on is like having another child or pet. The less you have, the more care you can give.

Why Work Doesn't Happen at Work

Make a Purple Cow and Be Remarkable

Ideas and Businesses

There is a stark difference between an idea and a business and it's not that one can sell products or has employees. It's much more fundamental than that.

An idea is like a seed. In order to grow it into a business, it needs to grow into a plant, however, the process of growing isn't enough to consider it a business. There are many stages of the idea's growth just like there are many stages of a seed's growth. The seed needs sunlight, watering and a good environment. It takes care and nurturing and is very delicate during the early stages. It takes a certain formula to grow the seed into a plant and if you don't know the formula, you must experiment.

Ideas are free. Everyone has them. They are sprinkled around like a landscaper throwing seeds in attempt grow grass; not all of the seeds make it into resilient blades of grass. They don't all grow continuously after being mowed down and stepped on week by week. The best way to turn an idea into a business? Experiment first.

Start with the idea and launch an experiment. Test if the idea is any good by building a prototype and seeing if people are genuinely interested. Do they actually they use it? That is, they don't only say that they'd use it, but they really do.

Landscapers throw thousands of seeds per scoop, but not all of them turn into grass. Each one of these seeds represents an idea. Each scoop thrown is an experiment. The amount of water is an experiment. Not all of those seeds will grow into resilient blades of grass, but eventually some of them will. And if enough of them do, then you have a lawn.

The outcomes of the experiment lead you in a path of either starting a business or trying a different experiment with the same or a new idea. There's nothing wrong with experimentation. It's smarter, cheaper, and faster to experiment than to skip this stage and try to beeline it from idea to business.

Don't skip the experimentation stage for any reason. If you're afraid to fail because of uncertain outcomes, then either move on or experiment. Some of your experiments will fail and some will be more resilient than others. That's a good thing. It shows that you're trying. There's nothing worse than not trying – there's nothing worse than not experimenting.

Test your hypothesis; see if it floats.

I built Better Invoices because it was a product that I wanted. It's more than an idea, but it's not a business yet – it's an experiment. If it doesn't work out, or I don't keep testing, then I won't lose much time or money and I'll learn a lot (more than I have already). It's fun to experiment. 

You don't know unless you try so don't skip that part.

If the experiment goes well and you're gaining traction? Then you know that your seed can continue growing into a business. You know that it floats.

Thanks to Tom and Greg for reading versions of this.

Startup Ideas →

Paul Graham: 
Why do so many founders build things no one wants? Because they begin by trying to think of startup ideas. That m.o. is doubly dangerous: it doesn't merely yield few good ideas; it yields bad ideas that sound plausible enough to fool you into working on them.
So I shouldn't make that social network for dogs with spots on their ears or the Instagram for squirrels?