How I Helped Create Hollywood Blockbusters While Making $Millions Selling a $300 iPhone App

($300 for this?!)

($300 for this?!)

Warren Buffett says “price is what you pay, value is what you get”

But would you pay $300 for an iPhone app?

Jessica Livingston and Paul Graham are famous in the tech world. They were the first people  to start a tech “incubator” where investors put money into a lot of different startups at once and advise them through the early years. Today their incubator is worth an estimated $500MM and has produced companies like Reddit, Airbnb, Survey Monkey, Heroku and Dropbox.

Paul also writes about startups and has a famous drawing he loves to shares with founders:

(small group of very urgent users)

(small group of very urgent users)

Finding small groups of users who urgently want or need a product to solve their problem is more important than making something that seems useful to a lot of people, but isn’t.

Microsoft started with a small group of customers urgently demanding their product (an Altair BASIC interpreter), Facebook started the same way, &c. Because once you have traction with those users, you may be able to scale, as Google did. His drawing points out that although it is tempting to think a site like a social network for pets sounds like a good idea, it is better to solve problems for a small group that throw “things” at large groups of people that won’t use them (Pet social networking).

(this sign is in 3D in the hills above LA)

(a 3D sign in the hills above LA)

2010 was the age of 3D, remember? No one could get enough. It was everywhere and our company went public that summer, at the height of the fervor.

I flew to New York for some business meetings and to attend an outdoor screening of “Monsters vs Aliens 3D” in the new Brooklyn Bridge Park. I did a deal so our technology would be used in the first outdoor 3D movie screening of its type. 1,000 people were expected, 5,000 showed up including the mayor who gave a little “I like 3D, this is awesome” speech.

(unfortunately he wasn't there)

(unfortunately he wasn’t there)

Then I went to Tribeca Film Center and did a deal with Robert De Niro’s team. Everyone at TFC became my friends, as did 1/2 the studio and post production world in New York. And the New York Technical Institute, Brooklyn Academy of Music and all the screening rooms, even the private ones of famous directors and producers.  And I got to know everyone at SoHo House and did a deal for their screening room, too, so I’d be at SoHo every time I went to NY seeing all the famous people do the things they do.

I was hustling deals with every studio or production company I could find, and got the same feedback: 3D is hard to make. We need it to be easier. Our screening rooms need to show good content.

But did you ever stop to ask why 3D came back so strongly? It’s a very hard medium to work in, to film in, and to produce/post produce.

Shooting live 3D (like “Gravity” or “Avatar” or “Hugo”) is more expensive and time consuming. Using two cameras simultaneously is aggravating.

(it was powerful and saved $$$)

(powerful, interactive & solved a huge problem)

Companies were raising huge amounts of money to provide a 3D production service where they’d send vans full of engineers to sets and “assist” shooting. But they’d wing it. Most of the work still happened in post production and these vanloads of engineers would charge $hundredKs.

The public didn’t know and didn’t care about the difficulties. All everyone knew was 3D is huge and “the future.” We checked our stock price in the cab to the airport – $18 – $20 – $21 – it went up and we counted our money (even though we were locked up for 6 months).

The windows were down and the sticky New York air hugged us.

It was summer.

It all felt right. If I closed my eyes I heard “Empire State of Mind” in the background, distracting me from the smokey piss smell in the cab. There were challenges but we were riding the high tide and I kept my eyes open for more opportunities.

And in the middle of it I got a call from a friend who said “hey so I’m building this app and I wanted to see what you thought of it.” Of course I said “I’d love to see it.” It was early but he modeled the complex calculations and instructions of filming movies in 3D on an iOS platform – as an app. It was amazing.

(simplified complex calculations

(simplified complexity)

It wasn’t super pretty and clean yet but it was beta and its potential was clear:

An iPhone app that makes filming in 3D easier by giving Directors of Photography and Cinematographers the calculations they needed to properly shoot. It reduced setup time and improved shot quality, saving huge $.

I’ve been on tv and movie sets since I was a teenager. My oldest brother has made films and tv shows in Hollywood for almost 30 years and I’ve hung out with him at 3 of his 10+ shows, getting to know the organizational structure and watching filming take place. I found out what each person did.

Cinematographers and Directors of Photography make the important technical decisions for directors and producers.

(interactive virtual set)

(interactive virtual set)

So when my friend Ken Shafer of Innoventive Software showed me his idea we immediately partnered and a few months later launched “The RealD PRO Stereo 3D Calculator for iPhone”…then the iPad version.

We had what Jessica and Paul would call a “small, urgent group of users.” Because we were solving enormous problems for them. This app literally helped make some of the modern 3D blockbusters, which is partially why 3D took off so heavily, and made Cinematographers’ jobs easier. They could shoot and adjust real time.

We priced the app at $300. One of the top 10 most expensive iPhone apps ever. At that price, we didn’t need 10 million downloads to make som money. But the price was significantly below the value it brought to the users.

We sold thousands of them within months.

All the filmmakers and cinematographers bought it. 3D enthusiasts bought it. Braggarts bought it to show off.

Most of the 3D movies you saw in 2010-2012 used the app on-set. It saved them tens-of-thousands of dollars, sometimes that much daily, so $300 was a bargain. We probably could have charged more.

After a year or so we dropped the price to $69. Today you can get it in the app store for $54.99. We launched a lower featured consumer version for $29 which now sells for $9.99.

The app made over $1MM in revenue within the first 18 months, and is still selling.

We created a tool that virtually eliminated vanloads of engineers and ushered in the production of 3D content everywhere.

We could have leveraged the app and created other similar filmmaking or entertainment products to grow our user base but didn’t. That’s another story I probably won’t ever write about (and since I did this on behalf of a company I was not receiving the windfall from the sales of the app).

It proves you can throw out what anyone tells you about how to do something and focus on the value, not the price.

Find a product-market fit with a solution to a problem, serve those customers well, then scale.

Even starting with a $300 3D app for your iPhone.

Download it in the iTunes store here.

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How A Garbage Man Became Your Broker

(this was not in the truck)

(Cosmo was not in the truck that day)

Raunchy porn magazines littered the dashboard. It smelled like rotting fruit, stale beer and dirty diapers.

“The other driver loves to keep the dirty stuff. He picks it out of people’s trash” he said. “I wouldn’t touch those without gloves on.”

We were 19 sitting in the sweltering cab of a recycling truck in suburban Chicago, in August. The grass was tall in the ditches next to the roads and the humidity held our sweat to our skin beneath our shirts. Something for the stench to cling.

He invited me “On The Route” so I went, now regretful, nose burning.

recycling_truck.jpg

(what goes around comes around)

My friend confessed “it’s a good job but I don’t want to be doing this my whole life. I just can’t go to school. It’s a waste of time. Who are these teachers? They just throw stuff at you. This is real education.”

(all the gold, guns and girls. is it ever gonna be enough?)

(all the gold, guns and girls. is it ever gonna be enough?)

My friend was the epitome of the James Dean type. Every girl ogled him but he was faithful to his girlfriend, contrarian, reckless but smart (once crashing his Dad’s new Mustang while driving underage, ditching it to avoid the police), questioning authority philosophically, appearing always like he stepped off the pages of a JCrew catalog (the most influential mail order of the time). I was not much like him, but we became best friends. I wanted to start a jazz club in Chicago called “Birdland.” We were obsessed with jazz. We had big plans. Always circling around how we’d leave our mark on the world, not sure how to start. Uncertain when our break would come, chasing.

We’d both dropped out of high school the same year. I tested into college and he went to work driving a recycling truck.

(we wanted to go back in time)

(we wanted to go back in time)

He drove the route every day while I tore through classes, tripling credit hours to graduate early.

But I didn’t have a job plan. I felt like I should. Anxiety was growing.

Sitting in the parlor of the house I shared with 4 girls and another guy, watching ticker symbols stream on CNBC two weeks before graduation, I had a flash: “can someone trade for a living?”

I graduated in December with two interviews at brokerage firms.

“Hey man I’m going downtown Monday to interview. You should come.”

“What are you talking about. I’m not going with you to your job interview.”

“Dude, it’s just an interview. You can introduce yourself and see if they have anything else. Seriously, no big deal. Come with.”

He agreed.

We took an early train from Barrington and met a guy in the office of Eurospread Associates, where some of my cousins un-coincidentally worked. “I didn’t expect two?” he said. We acted dumb and shrugged. He ushered us onto the trading floor. “People are gonna say shit. Just ignore them. Don’t take it personally.”

It was nothing we’d seen before: mass chaos, colored jackets, hands in the air, faces screaming, spitting and sweating. The floor was littered with paper.

Traders & clerks laughed and pointed at us chanting “fresh meat,” flipping trading cards our way like flat paper bullets.

We were overwhelmed by stimulus, captivated. You could feel the money.

“I didn’t know we were hiring two” one broker said.

My friend and I looked at each other “I guess you are” I said.

“Okay, fill out these forms. You can start January 3rd. I’ll put one of you in Yen and the other in the LIBOR pit. You’ll start as runners.” He got Yen, I got LIBOR.

We rolled out of the building laughing, high-fiving. “What just happened?!”

Two weeks later we walked onto the CME floor and started our future.

A year later I was hired at Michael Stoltzner’s Futrex Trading, training with Jeff Goldman (one of the largest EuroOptions traders) on weekends and went on to develop trading systems at Specialists DPM and Edge LLC until I left to pursue my dream on the West Coast.

People will tell you the better path is the path in pursuit of something they can see. The path that looks good on paper and reflects well when you tell your new girlfriend’s parents. They don’t like recycling trucks they like money and power and sophistication and houses in suburbs.

But when you climb the unfamiliar trail in front of you to the top of the first mountain, only then can you find the next mountain beyond.

16 years and witness to suicides, rehabs, parties, stories, more money than God, investigations, lawsuits, lies and fistfights, he’s a successful options broker at the Chicago Board Options Exchange. He didn’t need a college degree to get educated but he had to have the guts to hang on.

(this place smells like the cab of a recycling truck on a hot day)

(this place smells like the cab of a recycling truck on a hot day)

And I’ll tell you the secret they don’t want you to know: it’s not the cab of a recycling truck but it’s still filled with raunchy porn, smells like stale beer, rotting fruit and dirty diapers. There’s just more money and more pixels, and looks better on TV.

Me? I just like to watch.

Sell the Sizzle: How to Turn $500 into $Millions With Your Minimum Viable Product

(what $8000 looks like on the web)

(what $8,000 looks like)

I spent $8,000 developing a web based visual media platform in 2011. It’s cool, and it works, and it’s out there on the web behind a password protected portal but it’s wrong. It should be prettier, easier to use and mobile. I lost money and time. I overbuilt the product before I had traction. I didn’t apply the idea of The Minimum Viable Product properly.

(lean and mean)

(lean and mean)

The Minimum Viable Product is a concept written about in Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup. It’s now the de facto standard for startups. Before you waste money and time overbuilding an idea, you create something minimal first. The biggest problem with the concept of “The Minimum Viable Product” is what “Minimum” and “Viable” actually mean.

I’m working on a new product-based company and it has major traction. Starting this company cost $317. I had an idea for something I needed. I made 4 prototypes, each a different color. I posted some photos of it on social media and my friends said “Cool! I want one!”

But I didn’t believe them. You can’t trust your friends.*

So I took the prototypes to 5 stores. If 3 of 5 stores wanted it, I’d move forward with figuring out the details and getting them produced.

Four of the 5 stores wanted it NOW. Everyone said “Yes.” The product worked but wasn’t finished.

We figured out the details, took a few orders launched into 3 stores and sold out in 4 days. We refreshed the inventory and sold out again. Every new store we’ve opened sees a similar trend. We’re validated and now we’re going big.

We even developed a no-lose negotiation strategy that converts stores who say “no” to “yes” instantly and even makes them long-term customers.

We have revenue, demand and our idea is validated. Now we are confidently allocating more capital with a high expected return.

We’ve filed patents and invested in infrastructure. We’re refining our logo and branding. We’re getting better product photography and making promo clips. We’re begging media not to publish anything about us because we’re just a few steps away from being able to fill massive demand. We’re going to blow the doors off of a category that has been stale for 30 years or more.

We had revenue before we had a real product. That’s what matters. Now we can hunt without starving first.

(sell the sizzle)

(sell the sizzle)

The key to the MVP is one goal and one goal only: accelerate the sales cycle. The MVP should get you from concept to traction. If no traction move on immediately.

Don’t waste your time on infrastructure or paperwork or permission or overly ornate packaging or a business entity or lawyers or following “the rules” you think are required. Time is your greatest asset. You don’t even need a business plan. Whatever it takes to get to your customer saying “yes”, or better yet “holy crap I want that” is the point of the MVP. Any business can use the MVP philosophy.

Everything starts small.

Validate first, scale and grow later. Talk, date, marry, have kids.

Sell before you spend, promote before you develop, get users and customers before you dig a hole, don’t overdevelop your MVP. Don’t commit too much too early.

Sell the sizzle.

(lizanne falsetto started ThinkThin products in her kitchen. p.s. they're really good)

(lizanne falsetto started ThinkThin products in her kitchen. p.s. they’re really good)

Want to sell cookies? Bake a batch in your kitchen and sell them. Have a product idea? Prototype it cheaply and get orders with the prototype. Got a great beer recipe? Brew it and get restaurant or bar owners to try it. Mobile app? Design it in MS Word or Photoshop. Think of all the corners you can cut. It’s like speed dating for business. You talk, flirt and if there’s a fit you go on a date. You know very quickly whether or not you’re attracted in the first 6 seconds (aka “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell).

That’s the point of an MVP. If you can’t sell the sizzle, put it to bed and move on. Don’t lose your hard earned cash or your time.

Want more? Read my friend James’ guide to selling anything and the story of how he started stockpickr.com for $500 and sold it for $10mil.

This is how to make $millions with a minimum viable product.

So what’s your idea?

*Unless they are honest or have a solid history of being accurate in their opinions

Ideas Are Everything, Execution Is Meaningless

(is this execution?)

(is this execution?)

Patagonia has sales of over $500M annually but when Yvonne Chouinard started he was selling rugby shirts and hand-forged climbing gear to dirtbag climbers in Yosemite out of his car. Was he “executing”? He was chasing freedom from a job so he could afford another Summer climbing in The Valley and another winter surfing in Ventura.

(who would guess this was a $100M business?)

(this became a $100M business?)

Yakima car racks grew from a $5,000 purchase to over $50M in annual sales. The founders bought a kayak footpeg company. Their business struggled until a consultant told them “these patents for carrying stuff on car roofs that you bought with the footpegs are a better idea”. So they tried it because they thought it was a few thousand extra dollars in sales.  The owners sold Yakima in 2001 for $90M to Arcapita (formerly Crescent Capital). They had no idea it would ever become such a business. Were they “executing” in the beginning? They were just chasing ideas and some freedom from corporate life.

(the beginning of the future)

(the beginning of the future)

For thousands of years people tried flying but it was two brothers from Ohio that showed the world how to do it. Hundreds of prior attempts were perfectly executed: well engineered, well financed, well prepared, but the wrong idea. The Wright Brothers, underfinanced, working out of their bicycle shop, had the right idea. Was this execution? Their idea was still bad. Compared to modern wing designs and technologies their idea was remedial with poor execution. But the idea was still approximately correct and gave other engineers better and better ideas.

I worked at Watermark Paddlesports (later Yakima Products Inc) when it was owned by Arcapita. Yakima attempted to launch a ridiculous home organization product (I put one in my closet and hated it). They got a lot of press, had a lot of retailers carry the product, but it didn’t sell through. Consumers hated it. The company scrapped the idea and took a heavy write off in less than a year. You could argue they “executed” perfectly, but were exactly wrong.

Warren Buffett says “it is better to be approximately correct than exactly wrong.”

What is the value of “executing” if the idea is bad and noone buys it? $Negative.

Have you ever tried to make anything and sell it?

It’s hard.

I’m working on a new product. It’s not that complex, but we’re working with UL, sourcing components, finding quality suppliers and responding to customers.

Every day a new, unexpected challenge comes up.

My mantra every day has become “F* it. We’ll try again.” All expectations about the “plan” continuously change and the process of letting go is constant.

When everything changes, the creativity muscle flexes and sometimes fails under the weight of immediate decisions. Many times the decisions have hidden implications only visible after the decision is made.

It highlights how incredible some of the success stories are. There are so many opportunities for failure at the intersection of every decision. Navigating those decisions, consistently, is incredibly hard.

Ben Milne is a hero of mine and an example of the value of ideas. I’d call him a mentor, though he doesn’t know me.

He’s a straight-talking, f-bomb-dropping, corn fed Iowa kid. From what I can tell, he’s easily annoyed at the inconveniences of life, and doesn’t hide it. He’ll tell you if he thinks something is bullshit and he’s usually right.

(Ben, iterating)

(Ben, iterating)

But Ben doesn’t fit your normal geekapreneur profile. He’s not a royal. He didn’t come from money. He didn’t go to a fancy school. He didn’t roll with a group of vcs or geek out coding apps when he was 8. He’s just another kid from the Midwest who had ideas that are worth a $billion.

Ideas are the blood of life. Whatever you want starts with ideas.

From nothing comes something and the space in between is the idea. Like the spark of the big bang. Everything after that is meaningless unless it is fed a strict diet of ideas every day.

Because ideas are experiments. Experiments yield information which yield decisions which yield results that yield problems requiring more ideas. But the game doesn’t stop when someone “wins”. You can “exit” a business or idea, but as long as the business is alive, ideas must continue.

Which is exactly the problem with the statement “execution is everything ideas are meaningless”.

Execution for what and for whom? When they say “execution is everything ideas are meaningless” I want to puke.

There is no “execution” there is only “experimentation, adjustment and experimentation”, hopefully with enough time to figure out where there’s traction before you go broke. It’s the “Build-Measure-Learn” loop mentioned in “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.

The ideas are important and “execution” isn’t “execution” at all.

Execution is Ideas In Action:
1. persistence – going under, over, around or through barriers
2. flexibility – switching course and letting go of your “plan” when it’s not working; doubling up when it is; trying new ideas and recognizing assumptions about the market may be wrong
4. ideas – the foundation for everything: constant ideation to overcome hurdles
5. effort – drawing more than you may have in your energy reserve. you have to make that one more call. send that one more email and hear yet another “no”: “no, we can’t do this for you”, “you’re not our kind of customer”, “no, we won’t invest”, “no we don’t like the idea”, and keep going.
6. selling – because without sales, you have nothing

You’re never “done” it’s never “executed” unless you consider a sale or taking cash off the table the “execution”.

Dwolla handles billions of dollars in currency transactions, charging a straight fee no matter the size of the transaction. It’s the best deal out there and I’ve used it for everything from collecting payments from customers to paying software developers in Russia.

When Ben started, he heard nos from all angles. He didn’t have the background, or the connections, or the knowledge. He had a vision, but as he dug in, things changed and he had to be flexible. The recently released Dwolla apis for example. Dwolla needs new “ideas” to adapt their product to the market: iterate, test, launch, cancel.

When Yakima misstepped with gear organization they correctly cut their loss. They learned and iterated. We built new products that recreated categories and revenue poured in again. Flexing creativity and new ideas in the face of mistakes.

It happens all the time in startups: execution is good, but the idea is bad and it dies; investors lose their money.

The key to success are the ideas that get you through the challenges. You can call ideas “execution” but don’t call ideas “worthless”. They’re the most important thing you have and the one thing that costs you nothing in the beginning.

They’ll also save you after a failure. Or during depression. Or after your girlfriend breaks your heart. Ideas crack open the weight of the world and let light flow through.

So don’t dismiss your ideas with the overused but useless adage “ideas are meaningless, execution is everything”. Instead, go for it.

Your dreams might be waiting within your ideas, where everyone else is afraid to go.

inspiration:

7 Ways To Make Money NOW

(i rented a room in this house where i started my first business)

(i rented a room in this house where i started my first business)

When I was in college I was pretty broke so I started a business in Missoula, Montana in my tiny 75 square foot bedroom in a 6-bedroom house where I lived with 4 girls and 1 other guy.

I had no space and very little money but sometimes our constraints are advantages.

I was an outdoor athlete along with many others in Missoula, so I used my Dad’s company “Equipment Sales Company” (a company that built machines for the ceramic wire industry) to open accounts with outdoor gear companies. I posted handwritten signs around town “Wholesale Outdoor Gear 30-50% Off. Call 406-555-5555”

They would order the gear they wanted, save a ton of money on gear and I would get a 10% cut risk-free. It wasn’t huge but it paid rent. I’ve gone on to start 3 or 4 more businesses, help turn around a $50M company, help raise money and build a company into its IPO and I’ve got a few new projects I’m working on. I have a different perspective on things, but sometimes you need money NOW.

A lot of us are broke but the thought of starting a company is intimidating. We don’t know where to start or what to do. We’re afraid we might do something wrong or we need an accountant or an LLC, SCorp, CCorp, and so on. In short, we talk ourselves out of doing it because we’re afraid of the scary monsters in the lurky business forest.

But it’s not that scary. You just haven’t seen the forest during the day when the ferns and trillium are lit by sunlight. There are no monsters, just opportunities, and you’re standing there in the middle and I’m going to try to help.

(the forest seems scary at night)

(the forest seems scary at night…)

(...but it's not so scary afterall)

(…but it’s not so scary after all)

Before you start, this is what I recommend:

1. Write down ideas every day. What’s an idea? the idea and the next step it takes to start the idea.
2. Look around at your resources: somewhere to live, a talent, a car, bikes, boat, skills like cooking or drawing, maybe you know something unique, maybe extra space, a dock, a piece of land.
3. Be specific about how much money you need. Maybe it’s $50 for food or $1,000 to pay your mortgage.
4. See where you can cut expenses now so you can relieve some pressure. Give yourself some freedom.
5. Forget about the big details. Once you get traction (money coming in) worry about the rest. Maybe you never need a business structure and can just stick to nothing and file a Sole Proprietorship at the end of the year with your taxes.

With our smartphones and the web in full force, you have a powerful platform and tools to make money.

Here are 7 of the ways you can make money NOW:

(rent a place to crash on airbnb)

(rent a place to crash on airbnb)

1. Rent your space. Use Airbnb, Vacation Rental By Owner or Craiglist. I was in Maui and people were renting tents in their back yard in Hana for $45/night with sleeping bags, refreshments and breakfast. There are no boundaries anymore. Rent your couch, rent your deck, rent your sleeping bag. Turn a room into a pirate ship and rent it. Throw in an eye patch and hot buttered rum. Offer your space for storage-  use a small corner of the garage and rent it for $100/month. Maybe your shed. Anything you have – get creative. Rent the space that is just sitting there.

(rent your tools on craigslist)

(rent your tools on craigslist)

2. Rent tools. Growing up I was oblivious. We had a barn full of tools we hardly used: a wood splitter, a chipper, power tools, several lawn mowers. I could have put an ad in the paper and rented the tools and made a ton of cash (well, a ton for a kid anyway). Use Craigslist and rent your tools. Someone needs that tile saw in your basement.

(sell your cookies!)

(sell your cookies!)

3. Sell your food. My aunt won Illinois State Fair awards for her chocolate chip cookies. Her recipe could be bigger than Famous Amos. In grad school I built her the front page of a website called “Aunt Bee’s Bakery.” It had bees buzzing around a chocolate chip cookie and the chips were each a different menu option that popped up on scroll over. She hasn’t done it but maybe you can. Sell food in parking lots in front of busy stores, rent a small space and start a little tail gate restaurant at a food truck lot. Offer to cook for parties. Sell at Farmer’s Markets or other events. Dave’s Killer Bread started this way and is huge today. Grow something (no, not that) – trees, flowers, vegetables, anything, and sell it to local stores or florists or nurseries.

(build stuff people want)

(build stuff people want…)

(the bubble tea collar from the  pet product company i cofounded)

(…like the bubble tea collar from ii inu)

4. Build stuff. In 2004 I cofounded a company called ii inu (ee-ee-new; Japanese for “Good Dog”). It was a designer pet products company started when my partner created a cool looking collar for her dog. People stopped her to ask where they could buy. First we built them ourselves, then I outsourced manufacturing to a company in Seattle. Within 6 months we were in stores in 36 states and 12 countries. Our cost was $2.40-$4.30 and they sold for $42-$60 retail. It was a good business. What can you make that someone else can buy? Sell it on Etsy.com, eBay,  get a Shopify web store or in local stores. No local stores? Find other stores and call them or send a free sample.

(do this, but not creepy like this guy)

(do this, but not creepy like this guy)

5. Offer other services. If you’re a student you should launder peoples clothes for $7.50/basket. 100 loads is $750/month. Maybe it’s 1,000 loads. Offer to create facebook pages and twitter accounts for $20/month for businesses. Get 10 businesses and you’re making $200/month for just a little effort. Get 100 businesses and you’ve got $2K/month. Would that change your game? Do yardwork, mow lawns, serve elderly or handicapped by running errands, offer a coffee delivery service to offices near you. Drive someone – sign up with Lyft or Uber and user your car as a service. People in cities are making $50K/year doing this. Think of a service you can offer right now to people in need. One idea I think would be a great business is helping other people convert their extra space to being Airbnb ready or driving people to airports at 1/2 the cost of a town car. Decorate Christmas trees, power wash decks, string lights or shovel driveways.

(entertain people)

(entertain people)

6. Entertain people. Can you play music, edit video or do some other fun thing? Offer to perform at parties or services for local active events. Teach music or sports or tutor kids in those activities. Belly dance. I know one girl who teaches belly dancing and practically owns the market for belly dancing costumes.

7. Help local businesses make money. What local business can you help? Approach restaurants, stores, anyone and offer to help them advertise or run special events. Take a % of the money from each event or that day’s sales. Help a different businesses every weekend and observe to find more services they need or opportunities to extend the money you make.

But there’s just one catch. In any of these ideas, do it differently. Be remarkable. Give people more than they expect:
-if you’re mowing lawns, dress up like a clown. Be “Clown Mowing”. Every time a car passes they will be like “hey there’s a clown mowing a lawn!” When they need their lawn mowed, they will want you. Maybe they’ll start using you every week just for laughs
-if you’re renting a space on Airbnb throw in more than the guest expects. If they rent your couch, throw in dinner or a free Netflix movie. Surprise them to the upside so they give rave reviews or come back again
-if you’re cooking something throw in a sample of something else you cook or give them a recipe for anything they’re interested in. Help them learn to cook themselves

Being remarkable will do two things: 1. It will get you a lot of attention. Imagine how many people would share “Clown Mowing” on facebook, twitter and Instagram. 2. It will make you more money. More people will want to have that experience and they’ll be willing to pay more for it.

Colonel Sanders started KFC by selling chicken at his gas station. Ray Croc wasn’t too good to flip burgers. Conrad Hilton started with one crappy hotel, built a business, lost it and rebuilt it. You’re not too good for whatever idea you have. Just do the work.

When I feel uninspired or unmotivated I remind myself that everything, EVERYTHING, starts small. Microsoft was just a few guys in a room. Facebook was one kid in his dorm. Famous Amos cookies was an eccentric guy and a recipe. McDonald’s was a single diner. One thing is all it takes.

Right now I am working on at least 3 projects. I’ll share the details when it’s time. Some of it won’t work out, hopefully some of it will. No matter what, I’m not going to stop, because everything I want is just ahead.

And when I feel like stopping, I go to Wikipedia and read about Colonel Sanders, Conrad Hilton and others who started from nothing.

Sometimes I wonder what is missing in the world today because so many other people quit just before they became a huge success.

If you feel like quitting, read these stories and don’t give up. I believe in you:

Colonel Sanders

Ray Croc

Conrad Hilton

Sarah Blakely

John Paul DeJoria

Howard Schultz

Nick Woodman

(inspiration)

(inspiration)

How To Run 50 Miles (part II)

(cliff young is one of my heroes. he was 61 when he won the 544 mile ultra race in Australia and changed the way modern runners run distance)

(cliff young is a hero to me. he was 61 when he won the 544 mile ultra race in Australia and changed the way modern runners run distance races)

Running far means being on your feet for a long time and eating right.

Using the tricks I’ve discovered over years of training I can run about 30 miles any time I want.

The two keys are: Nutrition (what you eat) and Conditioning (how you get and stay fit).

Not all food is the same. Not all conditioning will prepare you the way you need.

Most people overemphasize their training and underemphasize their nutrition. It’s almost better to do the opposite so let’s start with food.

Recap:
1. no more than 300 calories per hour; avoid sucrose aka Gatorade, Powerade, junk food, and so on
2. no more than 16-20oz water per hour
3. you need electrolyte supplements if you are prone to cramping or are exercising past 2 hours
4. you need to take in protein supplements if you are exercising past 2 hours or your body will cannibalize itself

(I only use hammer products because they keep my stomach calm, taste good and work)

(I only use hammer products because they keep my stomach calm, taste good and work)

Specifically, I use Hammer Nutrition supplements. I use them exclusively because they use long-chain carbohydrates that do not upset my stomach in flavors that are easy to digest, and they explain each of their products so you can tweak your intake to specifically what you need. Everyone has their preference and I’m not compensated by them in any way.
The products I use from Hammer are: HEED carb drink with electrolytes, Perpetuem protein fuel, Endurolytes electrolyte pills, Hammer Gel energy gel (with electrolytes) and Recoverite recovery drink.

This is how I fuel (based on time, not distance):
1. runs up to 1 hour: 1-2 Endurolytes prior, generally nothing while I’m running unless I just feel crappy that day in which case I’ll take 8-10oz water with 1/2-1 scoop HEED mixed in
2. Runs up to 2 hours: 1-2 Endurolyte pills beforehand then a 16-20oz water bottle with 2 scoops HEED; if it’s a tough 2-hour run I’ll take 2 water bottles (each with HEED) and carry 6-9 Endurolyte pills – 3-4 per hour (1 every 15-20 minutes); if it’s hot, I’ll take 12-15 Endurolyte pills (4-7 per hour with a couple extra in case I drop them)
3. Long runs of 2+ hours: 1-2 Endurolytes ahead of the run; 16-20oz/hour in a camelbak or I’ll plan a run past a water source where I can fill up. Along with this I’ll take a multi-hour bottle of Perpetuem: mix 1-2scoops perpetuem + I mix in 1scoop HEED per hour of exercise (3 hours would be 6 scoops Perpetuem + 3 scoops HEED mixed together for me) and add water. This will be my fuel source for long runs – a single thick gooey bottle of running food, then 16-20oz of pure water (48-60 oz for 3 hours) from a Camelbak. On top of this I’ll plan 4-6 Endurolytes per hour or 12-18 Endurolytes for a 3-hour run + a few extra in case I drop some along the way (inevitable when you’re juggling them as you run down a steep trail).

Summarized:
1 hour – 1-2 Endurolytes + 1/2 bottle of water mixed with 1-scoop HEED
2 hours – 1-2 Endurolytes prior + 1 bottle per hour containing 16-20oz water + 2 scoops HEED; 4-6 Endurolytes per hour (1 every 15 minutes, more if it’s hot)
2+ hours – 1-2 Endurolytes prior + 16-20oz water per hour in a Camelbak + a bottle filled with 2 scoops perpetuem + 1 scoop HEED for every hour planned (3 hours = 6 Perpetuem + 3 HEED scoops in the bottle mixed with water to form paste + 48-60oz water in the Camelbak I use to wash the paste down and sip frequently)

This food model is scalable, so just adjust it to the length of your run and your personal needs. Some people can run for two hours without drinking anything. I am not one of those people and you shouldn’t try to be. It’s dangerous, especially when you’re considering ultra-marathons. You might feel good one hour and completely blow up the next.

Also important: as soon as you finish a 2 hour run or longer, you need to take vitamins right away. I used to get sick when I was training hard because my immune system was compromised. Taking vitamins post-run will help recharge your body and protect your immune system. A single big general supplement is good or you can buy vitamins from Hammer.

And I always drink Recoverite after any run. Replaces protein and muscle glycogen that will prep you for the next run. This is critical and shouldn’t ever be skipped. If you skip a recovery meal it’s likely your next run will be harder and more painful.

As for the actual running part…

When was the last time you were on your feet for 10 hours nonstop? It’s probably been awhile. So we have to start small when we’re training for an ultra and this is how we start. Start standing up for 3 or 4 hours. You can start by going for a long walk (time, not distance). Anything to get you on your feet.

Once you can stand for hours at a time start jogging. Walk, jog, walk, jog, walk, jog.

Set the bar low, then build it up once you have a base.

Actually, this is the key to finishing ultramarathons that few people talk about. Until you’re ultra-conditioned to run for 50 straight miles, the way to do an ultra (and any other longest distance run as you’re starting out) is to avoid redlining.

You avoid redlining by jogging flats and downhills and walking uphill or walking any time you feel like you’re starting to overexert. The key to going far is going slow.

As my pro athlete friend Chuck once told me “go slow to go fast.” And I say “go slow to go far.”

Once you can do that, you switch it so you are running while taking walking breaks whenever you need to: jog, walk, jog, walk, jog, and so on.

Once you’ve got that, you start running, slowly, for short then longer runs.

Once you can do this, you start running short and fast, then mixing in really slow long runs. This builds muscle and endurance. The skyscraper on the foundation.

Running short-fast sets followed by running long-slow sets is the training method we’ll use to build your foundation.

After doing this for a few months, you’ll be ready for anything.

So here’s the specific program I follow when I’m training for a long race:

During the week I hate going on pre-planned long training runs. It’s hard to find the time and it’s boring. I’d rather have fun with running, so here is the in-week plan:

Go outside or to a trailhead and just run at a moderate pace (for you) for 15 minutes to wherever you end up. Note exactly where you end up and remember it. You should be working a little bit but not stressing the distance or overexerting. This 15-minute distance point is your new benchmark, and around which your running plan will be built.

Turn around and run back to the start. This should be about 30 minutes of running total.

On weekends, we’re going to do subsequent longer, slower runs consecutively both Saturday and Sunday.

So your plan will look something like:
Tuesday – 30 minute(ish) run
Thursday – 30 minute(ish) run
Saturday – long run
Sunday – long run

That’s it. This is where you start.

Your weekly runs (Tuesday/Thursday) don’t change in length, but they do change.

Once you have your 15-minute benchmark, you are now going to stress yourself on these short runs.

You will run these short runs for speed.

Every Tuesday and Thursday you’re going to do the same run. But you’re going to do it as fast as you can on the way out. On the way back you can run at a slow recovery pace, but try to go a little faster than that.

You will find that your 15-minute mark actually drops to 14 minutes, then 13 and even 12 minutes one-way and your total 30-minute run drops to 25-27 minutes total as you get faster.

Why? This builds strength, power and your VO2 max (lung capacity). And as your weekend distance runs increase you will be going out tired from the weekend run and stressing your body on these short, but hard runs.

Also, this becomes a palatable running program that doesn’t force you to run for 3 hours after a long day at work or when it’s dark. You can run in the morning before work, at lunch or whenever is convenient.

Just be sure you’re running as fast as you can to your original marker along the same route, then back to the start. It will feel very hard.

If you travel a lot, you can still do this program during the week while you travel. Just use the 15/30 minute run as a guide – run as hard as you can for 15 minutes sustained, then turn around and run back at a slower recovery pace.

You can also use  a treadmill with the same program.

As your base builds, you build your weekend distance:
Saturday – 1.5 hour run
Sunday – 1.5 hour run

1 month in:
Saturday – 2 hour run
Sunday – 1.5 hour run

2 months in:
Saturday – 2 hour run
Sunday – 2 hour run

3 months in:
Saturday – 3 hour – 3.5 hour run
Sunday – 2 hour run

4 months in:
Saturday – 5 hour run
Sunday – 2 hour run

By the time you reach a 6 hour run on Saturday you’ll be at about the 60% distance (30-31 miles or so) that is long enough for you to be ready for the Ultra.

It’s important to rest. If a weekend comes and you feel totally destroyed, drop down to consecutive 1-hour runs, do a really slow long run or even take a day off. Recovery is crucial and risking injury can sideline you from your goal.

You’re also allowed to use the run-walk strategy during training. It’s likely the first month that 1.5 hour runs on consecutive days will be very hard for you, especially through the mountains or hills. In that case you jog (slowly) flats and walk anything uphill. OR, you jog until you feel tired, then walk until you feel better. Just keep repeating the jog-walk-run strategy as you progress.

And don’t beat yourself up. The goal is to finish, not to break a record. There are no additional points for suffering.

Put it all together and you get short, fast runs during the week building your power and then long-slow runs on weekends building your endurance and teaching you what your body needs and when it needs it.

You will start “feeling” your muscles craving food and electrolytes and you will see what the effect is of various caloric intakes.

Most importantly, listen to your body. My guide is just a reference. If you’re cramping more than you should, bonking or feeling tight in your legs: increase electrolytes and carbs during your run. If you’re feeling bloated or salty, reduce electrolytes or food. Tweak slowly and look for the response.

Don’t run through injuries and remember why you’re running. It should be fun, not torture (sometimes torture is fun, but be smart).

(overtraining is a serious problem. go slow to go fast. go slow to go far. go slow and have fun. don't overtrain)

(overtraining is a serious problem. go slow to go fast. go slow to go far. go slow and have fun. don’t overtrain)

This plan will get you ready for your first 50-mile ultra marathon and it works for other endurance events too.

Let me know how this works for you and if you have any “tweaks” I’d love to hear about them.

Oh 1 more thing: use sunscreen always, wear a hat with a bill to protect your face, get some arm warmer sleeves that peel away, invest in a good thin running shell and always have a great playlist – those runs can get boring after a couple hours. Email me or add a comment below if you want my gear suggestions.

That’s it. Have fun. Go run. Stay healthy.

(I run in Altra zero-drop shoes exclusively. wide toe box and zero-drop is comfortable and prevents injury. these are not minimal shoes, but they do help you run naturally)

(Lastly: I run in Altra zero-drop shoes exclusively. wide toe box and zero-drop is comfortable and prevents injury. these are not minimal shoes, but they do help you run naturally)

A Secret Way To Control Yourself In Any Situation (Micropost)

(there are people that make us feel like this, but they don't control us)

(there are people that make us feel like this, but they can’t control us if we know His secret)

She said something to me on the phone.

Actually, it was a text message so I kept it.

It was awful. One of the worst things anyone has ever said to me.

Someone else said something to me with their mouth.

It doesn’t matter what they said, you know what it feels like:

It burns you and you force every cell in your body not to lash out.

Sometimes it doesn’t work and I lash out with words puking all over. Uggh.

The words stick to the brain like flypaper trapping a million dying flies.

Putrifying, the words rot year after year until you let them go.

But in the moment, you want to react. You want to puke out the horrible thoughts at the instigator.

Or you might be like me and do what our brains are trained to do: run, eject, disappear.

Why stay and subject ourselves to repeated offenses? Sometimes we have to, but not always.

(sometimes I wish my life had an ejector seat)

(the secret is like an ejector seat)

If you’re in an abusive relationship, and verbally abusive relationships can be just as bad as those physically abusive, we should disappear: Andy Dufresne the heck out of there. Don’t be afraid of burning bridges, just go.

If they are people you work with, heed this advice first.

How we react is important.

Our reactions often determine the course of the future.

So, what would you do if you knew a secret that allowed you to control your reaction in any situation, especially when someone boils your blood?

Viktor Frankl figured out this secret. I use it; now you can too:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

(how it feels when we use Viktor's secret)

(how it feels when we use Viktor’s secret)

No one controls us. No one can force our response, even though they want to.

We can do anything.

Let’s do it.