Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Sort By Price

Seth Godin had a pretty interesting bit about sort by price. He was saying that in the age of the internet, we now more than ever before have a way to sort by price (or any other single metric). However, if you are trying to sell a good or service. You want to avoid the sort by price game.

If you are a freelancer, you don't want to say. Hey, I'll do it for $5 cheaper than my competitors. It's a race to the bottom. There is always someone willing to do it for cheaper. Instead, you want to build trust and value. You want them to say "we need Jerry for this project, go get him". You can charge a fair price to people who value your service and thus you can afford to better serve them. For those that don't value what you bring to the table and only want you if you are the cheapest you can pass and say "sorry, its not for you".

On a similar note I've been browsing the IndieHackers forums and one very common advice is to charge more money, often saying you can probably double your price as it is, or at least experiment with doing it. It flips the script of sort by price: instead of creating the product and setting what you think it should be priced at, set the price high first and then raise the value of the product or service until it matches the price. If you do it this way then you know you are not selling yourself short.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

It's All About Expectatins

The reason we are angry or sad about something is not because something happened. It is about our expectation of what should happen. I believe it was Tony Robbins who said this but not 100% sure. But its such a good insight.

So let's say your coworker says something to offend you. You react by saying "how dare you say something like that to me". You can see that it is not the fact that she said what she said but rather that you didn't expect her to say it.

Or another example is if you are a manager and your team makes a mistake and the website goes down. You get angry at them because, not because of what they did, but because you expect this to not happen. You might say "I can't believe they didn't test properly" or "If they had followed my instructions this wouldn't have happened".

It turns out that your expectations and reality are not the same. You didn't expect that driver to swerve in front of you, but they did! You didn't expect your team to screw up causing your manager to yell at you, but it happened! You didn't expect your kid to misbehave, but she did! And so you get angry or mad or sad as a way to cope.

If you find yourself reacting negatively. You may need to adjust your expectations. It is YOU that is unreasonable, not reality. This thinking will actually empower you and lower your stress. If you change your expectations to people are human and make mistakes, then if your actions change. Instead when your team makes a mistake, you won't get angry or frustrated, instead you will think "what system can I put in place to make sure this doesn't happen again". If your kid misbehaves you might ask yourself why and provide more teaching, or encouragement.

Its not reality that's that problem. It is what it is. Instead ask yourself if your expectations match reality.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Is It Worth it to Buy a Warranty?

I used to work at a company that sold extended warranties for electronics such as phones & tablets so I'll share a way of thinking about warranties.

A warranty is just a form of insurance. It is insurance for if your product breaks. It protects you from the negative experience of that event. Most people buy warranties because they fear what they would do if their device breaks. If you drop your phone or one day your phone fails to turn on for some reason that can be a hearbreaking and costly event.

Is it worth it to buy a warranty for your phone? One great way to think about it is to take  step back from the situation. Let's say you don't have one phone anymore but instead you own an entire factory of phones. So, now you have to ask if you would buy a warranty for every phone. This pulls one away from the emotional thinking of covering their specific phone because one phone does not have more meaning than another phone. This turns it more from an emotional question into a profitability question.

And now you are looking at expected value. Over the long run would you come out ahead when the warranty pays out vs the amount you spent to buy the phone?

Even before making estimates, you could ask your intuition and it'd probably be right. An insurance company makes money by paying out less money than the risk of insuring the thing. In order to do that it has to win the information game. It needs to properly access the risk of the payout event to happen. And they don't have to be exactly right because they can limit their risk by charging a little bit more for the insurance. And if getting this information is the core of the business, you can be that there are some pretty intelligent people working on that problem.

So you have to ask yourself if you have an information advantage over this insurance company. You don't have more information than the warranty company on the risk of the product malfunctioning for the average person. But you do have more information on your self and if you are average! Do you have a dog or kid that will chew up your phone if left unattended? Are you highly emotional and throw your phone whenever you are angry? In this case you might be in a category where it would be more profitable to own the warranty than to not. *Although if this is true you still have a net loss as you pay deductibles on phones and buying warranties. You may want to adjust your habits and protect your phone more*

And the last part of having a warranty is peace of mind. Even if a warranty is -Expected Value, a lot of people dread the fact of paying $500 or more for a new phone and they would sleep better if they bought that warranty. This would be a valid reason to buy. Back to the example of the factory of phones. If I was the owner I'd be fine not buying the -EV warranty for my thousands of phones where but I'd certainly get fire insurance for my factory burning down and losing it all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Watches Are Not For Telling the Time

We no longer need watches to tell the time. All of us carry a computer in our pocket everywhere we go. So why haven't they gone the way of calculators and point and shoot cameras? What are watches for?

If you are buying a watch today you should be honest with yourself what it is for. It will help you make a much better purchase decision. Its not to tell the time. (Yes, it might be slightly more polite to glance at your wrist during a business meeting or date rather than pulling out your phone but that's not the major reason). The major reason you get a watch is to tell OTHERS something about YOU. Its a signalling device.

What's a signalling device? Human's are very tribal. We create relationships and trust based on people who are within our tribe. Tribes can be based on almost anything. Maybe its the after work drinking crew, or maybe something more general like people who are into fitness. There is a special bond we have with those that are part of our tribe: "one of us!". But in order to find others who are part of our tribe our let others know we are one of them, we need ways to signal it. If you are are into fitness, a signal might be your yoga pants or your bulging muscles. If you like a certain band or sports team, you might wear their t-shirt or hat. Simon Sinek jokingly said that someone with an MacBook would never have a dirty Apple logo. It is always polished clean. There's underlying truth to it. Having an Apple product is like other luxury products and definitely a way of signalling (you don't need a $2000 laptop to do word processing 😁). 

So let's go back to watches. I had a friend who told me that I should get a Rolex because it could actually be an investment that made me money. I scoffed at the time of how ridiculous it sounded but looking back, I think for the right person it this could be true (think a business man in an industry where appearances matter a lot). So it's a signalling device. If you buy one you might ask yourself: What do you believe? What do you want others believe about you? Who do you want to attract?

Fyi at this time I don't own a watch. Maybe that's a way to signal too... 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Want to Change Your Habits? Travel

One way to build new habits or to get rid of negative habits is to travel. While overseas I've weaned myself off of my caffeine & alcohol dependency, I've started the habit of journaling (even created my own app), and started the habit of waking up early. I don't think I could have been as successful without the change of environment.

Credit: https://charlesduhigg.com/how-habits-work/
Why is that? Let's think back to the habits book. A habit has 3 pieces. A cue (or trigger), a routine, and a reward.

To change or remove a habit, the best place to start is the trigger.

And that's where traveling comes in. Because when you travel you put yourself in a completely new environment. That cleans out most of the triggers that you would have in your normal life.

They say 40% of the actions that we do is via unconcious habits. This is because it would just take too much mental processing to have to think about every action we take. Thus it is absolutely necessary to fall back onto habits.

But without all the triggers in place, you are left with a blank slate of habits to set up. Its almost impossible to do the same routine without the same triggers. And that can be used to your advantage. Want to set up a morning meditation habit? You can more easily do that since you are less reliant on old habits.

Hacking sleep is much easier with travel. Use the time difference to your advantage. Since your body will be out of wack with jetlag, you can more easily change your patterns to the ones you want. I've always wanted to be a morning person but could never wake up early because my body was used to waking up at 10am. But I woke up at 5am this morning because I just got back from 3 months in Malaysia. Each time I have traveled I have come back and able to wake up early. Of course each time its reset back to its normal state (mostly due to my friends schedule of staying up late) so there's still the task of maintaining the habit. But changing habits has worked in multiple cases for me.

Change your environment to change your habit. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Overcoming the Resistance

I don't have trouble talking. So why do I struggle to get something down on on paper (or in this case, the web). It's because when I put it on paper, I become accountable for it. My name is there. So I can get attribution. That also opens me up for criticism. And that's a source of resistance.

And when we as humans, naturally try to avoid resistance. It's uncomfortable for us.

However, we don't avoid everything that's uncomfortable. Why do so many people take up the challenge of running a marathon each year? Why go through the difficulty of the training and the blisters? Because we can picture the feeling of success when we cross the finish line. There is enough pull to overcome the resistance.

Humans are great at getting motivated for things that give instant gratification rewards. They struggle much more with long term projects where the reward doesn't come until much later. For my latest Android app, which took a bit over 3 months to complete, I found it helpful to break it down into pieces. As Simon Sinek suggests, we actually get a small hit of dopamine (reward) when we cross off something off of our todo list. It's a powerful driver that even when he completed a task but forgot to write down his to-do, he would write it down and then cross it off just to get that little reward. I did something similar but in Trello. It was rewarding to seeing those cards move over to the next column. Also, once I started to get users and  feedback (and especially when I broke things in production and got feature requests) I was incredibly motivated to keep going.

Whats the takeaway? In order to overcome resistance to complete a big project. Try to break it up into pieces where you can get rewarded. This can be feedback from users or just the fulfillment of seeing the task get checked off.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Starbucks Sells Consistency

I'm sitting here writing in a Starbucks, its the 3rd cafe stop Ive had today. The first stop was a trendy local coffee shop. No one was really working in it though, and it wasn't really set up to work on my laptop (small tables and not really room to spread around) so I mostly consumed stuff on my phone. Then I went to a chill cafe next to the river. A great place to relax but the wifi was shoddy and the seats were laid back, not at a good angle to work. So I just chilled out and relaxed. So finally I decided to seek out this Starbucks. I paid twice as much for my drink as the second place and 1.5x the first place. But There's plenty of room to spread out,  large desks to work on. There's other people with books doing work as well so its work friendly. Its clean and the wifi is as good as can be.

I mention this because in general I usually try to avoid Starbucks as it represents capitalism and average coffee. But in this case I seek it out specifically because of the brand. With their brand I know what I am getting and that's so valuable for me when I need to find a place to work. I reliably know exactly what I am getting and that's worth the extra cost for me.

I remember a saying about McDonalds. No one goes to a McDonalds knowing they will get a super delicious burger. Infact, most people would claim that the themselves could make a much better burger than mcdonalds. But whats special about McDonalds isn't the quality of their burger but the fact that it is incredibly consistent. You can go to any country in the world and know what to expect at the McDonalds.

And that consistency is valuable. Starbucks got me to purchase a coffee today even though I know its an average coffee and even though I specifically make it a point to seek out local coffee houses and not Starbucks. I bought their consistency and not their coffee.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Libaries Need to Adapt

I'm sitting here doing work from the National Library in Singapore. I'm doing a slower type of travel where work most of the days. Then on weekends or evenings I go out and explore (or just whenever I need a break). If there is a library around, I like to check it out as an alternative to working from a cafe. It also gives me another perspective into the culture of the city (who is at the library? students or workers? What are they generally working on? How clean is it? etc.) Anyway I'm not here to go into those details today. But instead I wanted to share an observation and prediction about libraries.

In this library each floor (not sure how many floors but most floors seems to have this structure) consists of about 5 large tables (16 chairs each) at each end. The tables themselves were almost completely packed most of the time and I had to walk to a few ends in order to find a spot.

But the main thing I noticed were that the centers were filled with large shelves of books.

But the entire time I noticed zero people walking around the shelves picking out books. Every single person is at the desks of the libraries with there laptops or study material. So effectively 80% or more of the space is dedicated to books that noone uses.

Well I'm sure someone every once in a while picks out a book. And maybe other floors have the more popular books so I'm not seeing people browse as often. But regardless, a couple factors in combination of this makes me think that this will

View From One end of the Library to the Other. You can (barely) see the desks at the other end.
1) We are moving to digital. If you need to find some information, you will probably find the information you need online. This is more efficient. Even books themselves are being digitized. If you found this blog (everyone) then I don't have to explain. Yes there is information in books that is not on the internet and that will probably always be true but that is the EDGE case. Not the main case. So its not a good argument for having all these books sitting here taking up valuable space.

2) There is an argument that people still like to hold and read a physical book. And that's all good and well. In most cases (like if Im not travelling and don't want to lug around a book), I'd prefer the physical book to reading an ebook off of my Kindle. But, the Kindle experience isn't much worse if at all. And I believe this is a general opinion as evidenced by the rising # of ebook sales and the dying print magazine industry. There will always be laggards like the guy who still owns his flip-phone until he is dragged into modernity because it is no longer supported. That's what I think will happen to books.

So what about libraries? Well I think they will change rather than die. But very slowly. The first thing to remember is that they are supported by tax money so they won't feel the immediate hurt by people using the books less because they get their tax money either way. But I do think the people running the libraries are thinking about the public and the best ways to serve them and will take notice of the trends.

What will they change to?

I think libraries will be more akin to a coworking space. This seems to be what 95% of people are using the space for anyway. Every single person here is at a desk studying. About 80% seem to have laptops (every single person at my current desk has one). Looking around I see 1 person just sitting and reading a book. The libraries will eventually cater to the 95% of what people are already doing instead of the 5%. The process will be slow since it takes time and the pressure to change isn't high, but it will happen.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

We Are Our Habits

We are our habits. Per James Clear our habits are a vote for who we are. Each time we do something we are reinforcing an ideal of ourselves.

James even mentioned that if identify with being someone who is fit, if one day we really failed to prioritize a workout, it would be worthwhile to do just 5 push-ups. Not because this would be enough to make us physically stronger. But because it would reinforce the habit of who we are. We are voting ourselves into the office of fitness.

A good side effect of this strategy is that because starting is the hardest part, once we get started we will probably end of continuing. Those 5 push-ups could lead to an entire sweaty workout.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Perfect Code is the Enemy of Code

I'm trying to add a feature for CustomJournal prompts that auto expand and de-expand. This would come in handy when I do my daily review of 3 amazing things that happened today. I'll come up with 4 or 5 things and then just add them all in on the 3rd line. But it would be nice if a new line could be created instead.

So I'm trying to figure out how to write the code and I'm stuck because I have multiple ideas pulling me each way. I could get the feature done easily but the solution would be quite messy (because my previous architecture did not account for this) or I could do a whole bunch of cleanup and refactoring.

Which led me to think about the tradeoff of FaceBook's famous move fast and break things/Done is better than perfect motto. The idea is that speed and shipping is a feature too and if you take too long to ship you are depriving the customer of using that feature (even while not perfect) and also depriving yourself of getting valuable feedback.

As FaceBook grew, of course, they realized that they could no longer break as many things and move as fast. User's would complain and they had much more to risk than they had to gain. Thus the value of perfect (or near perfect) became more valuable than the value of getting a feature out faster.

I of course have an app that a small amount of user's love (but not many total users: ~150 monthly active to date). Its also making me about a sale a week which is pretty negligible (doesn't impact my life at all) for me.

So move fast and (but hopefully not) break things it is. Refactor when I need to