Design for yourself

A lot of business advice will tell you to focus on the customer. I think that’s misguided. The best way to design anything is to design it for yourself.

When you ask yourself, what product would I really love to use, you get access to another level of insight and wisdom. It’s subtler. It opens up to new inspiration, new ideas, to creativity. Instead of asking other people, ask yourself. You will be able to come up with ideas that wouldn’t surface from your customers in a million years. Apple didn’t ask people what kind of phone they wanted, because people wouldn’t have known. They asked themselves, what kind of phone they wanted.

That’s how you get to the genius.

It also requires that you take responsibility for it. You can’t leave it to a committee. You can’t say “well, it is this way because our customers wanted it this way”. If something’s off, it’s your responsibility. That also means, it’s something you can fix.

 

Translating bad service into business ideas

Whenever I encounter bad products or bad service, I can’t help but think about how I would create something better.

Last week I was at Calamigos Guest Ranch in Malibu, a place that I love dearly. Yet, as great as that place is, it’s clear there’s a couple of weak points.

One is honoring agreements: Promise after promise was made and broken. Simple things like bringing a mini fridge, a rollaway bed, calling when the room’s ready, picking up all of our stuff from the room when we were checking out, keeping our car nearby in the shade, and more.

Also, the food is sub-par. We had dinner twice at Malibu Café, which is part of the property. It’s a gorgeous, fun, outside place to eat, with oversized games to play, and the most incredible design and decor. But the food! At the sit-down restaurant, it’s not too bad, but certainly not great, either. On the second night, we ate at the self-service part, and everything we got there was barely edible.

Also, my wife’s pretty picky about what she eats, so she really wanted the Brussels sprouts from the sit-down restaurant, while the rest of us at the self-serve, but they don’t do that, because it’s two separate businesses. That kind of thing is just lame. It’s all part of the same bigger property, why should customers be inconvenienced by how they’ve chosen to organize themselves? Just figure it out and make it work!

Point being, all of this got me thinking about how I want my hotel/resort to be when I open that up.

We will, of course, create our own software to run the operation. Every team member will have an iPhone or iPod. Each time a commitment is made to a customer, if it’s not being fulfilled by the person that made the commitment within a few minutes, it needs to be entered into the app, and assigned to someone. Every commitment made must be honored, no exceptions.

Also, the whole “leave the towels on the floor if you want them changed” concept is fundamentally flawed, and yet almost every hotel sticks to it. As a guest, if you shower in the morning, your towels are wet. Now, when you come back from the pool in the afternoon, you want to shower again.

If you leave the towels on the floor, and you come back to a room that hasn’t been changed yet, you have to dry yourself in a towel that’s still wet from your morning shower. If you leave the towels hanging, and the room has been changed, you didn’t get fresh towels. Either way, as a guest, you’re forced to play a game of guessing when your room will be cleaned. How is that a good idea for anyone but the housekeeping staff? Why hasn’t anybody that works at a hotel realized this and come up with a better solution? It boggles the mind.

While we’re at it, don’t patronize me by claiming you’re doing this for the environment. Sure, it might help the environment a bit, and that’s a nice bonus, but please be honest and say that you’re primarily motivated by your own bottom line. We can all appreciate that.

I was at an airport hotel a few years ago, and they had a sign in the elevator trying to pitch their restaurant as the hottest new place. Come on, people. Just be real. “Yes, this is an airport hotel, and of course this isn’t going to be a French Laundry type experience. But we care about making the best food we know how to make, and we really come to life when your diners leave satisfied and happy, so stop by and give us a try”. I think something like that could work really really well.

Back to the towel situation: Wouldn’t it be great if you could request a specific time to get your room cleaned through an app? And get a notification when your room had been serviced, so you know and can plan. Or get a notification when that mini fridge or rollaway or your luggage had been delivered? That would be pretty fucking neat. Almost everyone has a smartphone thees days. The app would tell the house keeping staff in which order to clean the rooms, and they’d tell the app when they start cleaning a room, and when they’re done, so both the guest and the front desk knows right away. I can’t think of any reason not to do this.

Also, booking is crazy. Calamigos has booking on their web site, but it’s so bad I ended up booking through a third-party app, probably costing them about 25% or so. That’s money coming right out of the bottom line because their booking sucks.

Every time I experience things like this, my mind goes into creative mode.

Right now, I’m sitting on board a Boeing Dreamliner, and it,’s like sitting in a strong, cold wind, that’s how bad the air condition is in my seat. How can you design an air condition that successfully replaces the air in the cabin, so it’s fresh and the temperature is kept reasonable, without creating winds for the passengers? I don’t know, but I’m sure if enough smart people dedicated themselves to figuring it out, it could be done.

The federal government comes cheap

Google spent just $6 million lobbying the federal government in the latest quarter, which comes out to just about one tenth of a percent of their PROFITS, or just about a quarter of a tenth of a percent of their revenues for the quarter.

Would you say it’s fair to assume they’re getting their money’s worth from that investment?

I’m guessing yes.

As long as the government is fundamentally (and legally) corrupt, nothing else will matter.

This was one of the things Trump kept hammering on during the campaign, and it worked, because everyone knows it’s true. Of course, he has zero intention on making good on his promise, quite the contrary.

The one candidate that was serious about doing something about this, Larry Lessig, was shut down by the democratic party. That’s right, the democratic party. The democratic party is as corrupt and undemocratic as the other party, the big ancient one.

Inspired Entrepreneur book

I’m working on a book that’s going to lay out my approach to entrepreneurship and life. I’ve got a pretty solid structure, a solid outline, and a couple of solid chapters down. I figured I’d start sharing works in progress here, and get some movement going that way, instead of laboring away in secret for months and months.

It consists of two half. The first I’ve called “Pillars”. It’s like axioms in math. They’re the philosophical or conceptual underpinnings behind everything. It’s what my approach is built on.

The second half is called “Technique”. It’s more practical, hands-on type stuff that looks at specific areas that tend to cause struggle for entrepreneurs and other humans.

Here’s the outline:

Pillars:

1. Reality
2. Genius
3. Vision
4. People
5. Authority
6. Creativity

Technique:

7. Time
8. Money
9. Action
10. Pitfalls
11. Union

Things might shift around a bit, but so far, this structure has help up pretty well.

I’m going to start publishing some content for each of these areas, and I’m going to put them all into one category on the blog, so you can follow along.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, what made sense, what didn’t. What inspired you, what didn’t. Thank you for participating!

Track in progress: Hey Dive

I’m working on an instrumental track, titled Hey Dive. I always have trouble naming my instrumental tracks.

This one was named after a headlong dine my wife did in the pool at Calamigos that was so impressive it has etched itself indelibly into my memory. I made most of the track while at Calamigos while the others were at the pool. I simply can’t do vacation for more than a few days, then I have to be creative again.

After putting it aside for a few days, I was just listening to it again in the taxi to the airport. Here are my notes for what I want to change about it:

Intro:

  • Birds too loud
  • Pad more in tune
  • Shaker awful … find another shaker sound
  • Fill way too much

Verse/Build:

  • Kick too plump
  • Snare too sloppy
  • Fill and Rise & Hit is too much
  • Snare roll too sloppy
  • Pluck is awesome!

Drop:

  • Pretty good soundscape & groove
  • Fills a little on the loud side
  • Could have more in the left front side of the mix
  • Try carving out midrange EQ space for voices other than the main vocal hook

Arp section:

  • 2nd half: Put rim or snare or clap on 2 & 4
  • Bass dropping out: Try just highpassing it, or dropping one of the voices

Call & Response section:

  • 4th time call lower, let response be the same
  • 2nd time response da-da-dum doesn’t work
  • Delay on response too heavy
  • Response could be a bit more processed

Bridge:

  • Try messing with the rhythm of the call & response
  • The hats/shakers are a bit much … one too many sounds, a bit too loud, too much movement?
  • Fill a little much

Build:

  • Hook comes in a little abrupt … bring it in filtered in the bridge already
  • Bass has a sharp attack on the fourth bar, doesn’t fit
  • Fill the style
  • Kinda like the organ but doesn’t sit great in the mix
  • Beginning of snare roll doesn’t groove
  • Could we use a drone to build tension?

Final drop:

  • Again, lead hook drowns a bit
  • Mid-way fill stops too much … we want to keep the momentum going
  • I like how the snap comes in the last 8 bars
  • Hi hat could lose a hit

Take a listen for yourself and let me know what you think.

Starting vs finishing

When you first start a work of art — a book, a piece of music, a painting, whatever — all the possibilities are open, it can become anything.

When you’re putting the finishing touches on it, your options are much much more limited. There are only so many words, so many plot lines, so many sounds, so many notes, that are going to fit whatever you’ve created.

The first part is more open, head in the clouds. The latter is more closed, more grounded.

We need both parts. I happen to be really good at both parts, though I do tend to shy away from the grounding part sometimes. It can feel so overwhelming.

I want to create a hotel/resort in California. How do I do that? I’m going to have to find a plot of land. Find the financing. Find the people. An architect. Decide the color of the towels and carpets and screws, and on and on. It becomes overwhelming. It’s easier to just stay in fantasy land and imagine how great it could be.

But the grounding is so good for me when I do it. Sit down, dig in, get it done.

The important part is to make it fun and playful. Don’t make it feel like a drag. Make it be easy and flowing. If it’s not, figure out how you could make it that.

Do you want to go out to do it? Do you want to dance it out? Move your body? Do it with someone?

Q&A: Should I start my business in my local language and market, or go with international and English?

Got this question from a customer, and thought I’d share the answer here.

This is my answer:

I’d say that if international and English is where your heart is at, go for it from the start.
 
It’s not much different from Danish. The main difference is, the market is much larger, and there’s a ton more competition, so you have to have an even more tightly defined niche in order to stand out. Your people have to really know it’s for them.
 
After that, it’s all the same. Figure out where your tribe hangs out, what their pain points and desires are, and help them get where they want to go. Be of service.

How to translate a coaching program into an online course

A customer asked me about this, and I figured I’d share my answer here.

The question was:

With personal coaching you talk to each client and develop unique progress plans for each client. With an online course I feel I need to create a generic plan and pre-plan everything (write the whole course first) and I struggle with creating manageable to chunks of lectures… How much info in each lecture? How many learning points? How many modules?

Here’s my answer:

How about, instead of trying to make a one-size-fits-all plan, you teach them how to make their own plan and how to be their own coach, or how to get a friend to be their coach?

How many lectures, learning points, modules? I feel like about six modules is usually good. You can cover a lot of ground in six modules, but the longer you make it, the more people are going to feel overwhelmed and drop out.

How many learning points? As few as needed to get the outcome. You can always add extra material as bonuses.

Also, don’t try to make the whole thing in advance. Sell the course based on outcome, with a guarantee, telling people it’s a pilot program, which means they get it cheaper, they get more interaction, and they get to shape it to suit them!

Then before each module, tell them about the topic, and ask for their questions, what they want to learn.

Then you make the module based on that, and ask for feedback, additional questions that have opened up. Then you answer them.

And then you rinse and repeat for the next module.

That way everybody wins. It’s simple and easy. Trying to guess is futile. Just ask them.

Young explorers

Fantastic short films following toddlers who have just learned to walk as they explore their world.

We grownups get so scared on our kids’ behalf. We teach our kids to be afraid, probably the least useful emotion after guilt and shame.

We’re a society of terrified people with generally nothing at all to be terrified about, as compared to humans in history who could die from starvation, lack of water, disease, being eaten by an animal, or war with another tribe, any day or night.

Recently with my kids at a motel in California, we gave them their own room, and we took a room next door. Somehow that scared me, the idea that they were lying there by themselves. What if someone came in there, did something? But, honestly, what’s the likelihood of that happening?

Sure, in our minds, anything could always happen. We make up scary stories and we use them to scare ourselves. I realized, it’s not the kids that’s the problem. They loved having their own room. It’s the parents. We get scared, and then we start trying to control the kids so we don’t feel scared, instead of just being there for that port of us that’s scared.

The part of me that got scared is the part that’s not scared of something happening to my kids, but other people being scared that something might happen to them, and then taking their fear out on me. I’m afraid of them. That’s my fear. That little boy inside that’s afraid of mom’s or dad’s is the boy I need to take care of in that moment. Not my real-life kids. They’re going great.

Let’s teach our kids to be less afraid than we are, shall we?

I think it’s the only way forward for humanity. It starts right here, at home.

Via Kottke.