Harry Potter y el Prisionero de Azkaban

Para mejora mi español, he leido algunos libros en espanol. Y esta vez terminé leer Harry Potter y el Prisionero de Azkaban. Leí todos los libros en la serie de Harry Potter cuando era un estudiante para la escuela secundaria. Pero en aquel entonces leí los libros en inglés para mejora mi inglés. Después de todos estos años, regresé a leer Harry Potter y aún me da mucho gusto.

Es mi primera vez que escribí un post en espanol, entonces perdóname si encuentras muchos errores con mi español. Lo agradeceré si dejame saber mi errores. Entonces, compartiré contigo un sinopsis y mis pensamientos de este libro.
!Atención: contiene spoiler!

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Sinopsis

Harry Potter y el Prisionero de Azkaban es el tercero libro de la serie Harry Potter. Harry Potter tiene 13 años y esta estudiando en un escuela para magos que se llama Hogwarts. Durante el verano, vives con tus tios que son muggles, no se pueden hacer magia, porque los padres de Harry fue asesinado por el malvado Voldemort. Mientras tanto, un asesino serie con magicos poderes, Sirius Black, ha escapado Azkaban. Sirius Black ha ayudado Voldemort y ha tracionado los padres de Harry. ¿Con Sirius Black centrado a Harry, como puede Harry queda en salvo de Sirius Black en su tercer año en Hogwarts?

Opnión Personal

Todos, incluido Harry, creen que Sirius Black he tracionado los padres de Harry y quiere matarlo. Cuando Harry descubrió que Sirius es su padrino y el mejor amigo de su padre, Harry odiaba Sirius aún más. Solo hasta cerca del final del libro, fue relevado que Sirius no tracionó los padres de Harry y es el otro amigo de su padre, Peter Pettigrew, que los tracionó. Para la sorpresa de todo (incluyéndome debido a mi malo recuerdo jaja), Peter ha vivido con las familia de Ron, el amigo de Harry, por doce años como una rata. Me gusta mucho estos giros inesperados y los desarollos de personajes de Harry y los amigos de su padres.

 

No puedo escribir bien en espanol ahora, entonces mi reseña en espanol es muy corto. Espero que puedo mejorar rapido y no escribo como un niño jaja. Gracias por su timepo para leer mi reseña y quisiera saber tus pensamientos de este libro tambien.

Estoy leyendo El Alquimista de Paulo Coelho.

 

Book Review: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Around 5 years ago while I was working as a marketing intern at a startup called The Social Art Movement (TSAM), I was exposed to the Lean Startup’s methodologies. TSAM consisted of a core team of 4 employees supplemented with 8 undergrads, including me, as marketing interns. The startup was trying to create an online artwork shopping platform that charges a low commision. The startup was at the very early stages as the online art platform was still being developed, so we have no customers, let alone revenues (you can probably guess by now the internship was unpaid). The founder, Justin Day, was a practitioner of the Lean Startup’s methodologies. He will tell us to go out on the street and start surveying art lovers and artists to learn about their hobbies, demographics, and interests in different art-related events. Even down to social media, different posts were A/B tested to see what has more reach and engagement. I was glad that I was exposed to how an early startup operates but I didn’t realize that I was practicing some of the Lean Startup’s methodologies until I read this book.

Fast forward to 2 years later while I was working as a user research coordinator, I saw the book again being passed around among my coworkers. I started thinking… maybe I should eventually find time to read this book. And fast forward to now… I have finally finished read it and I’ll say it’s the top 5 books I’ve read.

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Entrepreneurs Are Everywhere

At this point, you might be thinking, “What is the Lean Startup?”. But before I get to that, let me first get to how Eric Ries defines a startup.

A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

The most important part of this definition is what it excludes. It doesn’t specify anything about the size of the company or the time that has elapsed since the company was founded. Even if you are working at an established company like Google, as long as you are operating with extreme uncertainty about who your customers are and how to build a sustainable business, then you are an entrepreneur.

The Lean Startup, which took its name from the lean manufacturing revolution at Toyota, is a set of practices for helping entrepreneurs increase their odds of building a sustainable business. It is the application of lean thinking to the process of innovation and it includes practices like validated learning, feedback loop, and innovation accounting.

Validated Learning

Validated learning is the process of demonstrating empirically that a team has discovered valuable truths about a startup’s present and future business prospects.

Everything a startup does should be an experiment designed to achieve validated learning. Going back to my time at The Social Art Movement, one of our first goals is to figure out what’s the target segment for our online art platform. Surveys were designed with just enough questions to understand the potential target segment’s demographic and it’s potential interests.  All of us marketing interns then surveyed art lovers and artists in different areas of the city. It was a good exercise as we were able to speak to potential customers early on and narrow down the target demographic that will sell or pay for artworks. However, looking back now, we didn’t have an MVP (minimum viable product) when we were conducting the surveys and that cost us opportunities for more validated learning which would have increased the odds of the startup succeeding.

Eric stresses the need of having an MVP early to help entrepreneurs start the process of learning as soon as possible. And anything that is outside of the learning goals of the experiment is a waste and shouldn’t be included in the MVP.

During my internship at The Social Art Movement, the product was never built. If we wanted to learn whether there is a market for an online art platform that charges a low commission, we can build an online platform that has some placeholder artwork that can be found on google images along with a checkout button that does not work. This MVP will be enough for us to get the learning we seek as we can perform usability tests to see whether our target segment will use it and proceed to checkout. However, even this first version of the online platform will require weeks of dev work and will prove to be wasteful. If the learning we seek is simply to learn whether there is a market for an e-commerce platform selling artwork for a low commission, then why do we need to build out the e-commerce platform to learn that? Why can’t we simply use a video that shows how the e-commerce platform will work or perhaps have an interactive mockup that doesn’t require a single line of code?

Startups are scarce in resources, so keep in mind that any learning you seek will need to be able to be obtained as effectively as possible to increase your chances of becoming a sustainable business. So when you are designing an MVP, be clear on what learning you are seeking, define a hypothesis, build the absolute minimum product for you to obtain that learning, and go out and talk to your customers directly by seeing how they use your MVP.

Build – Measure – Learn Feedback Loop

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The Build – Measure – Learn feedback loop is at the core of the Lean Startup model. “Build” is going from ideas to a product (can be a feature or service) that the customers can interact with. “Measure” is using that product to get usability feedback and data from your target customers. And “Learn” is using that feedback and data to get actionable insights that can either shape the idea or go in a different direction altogether. To improve the chances of becoming a sustainable business, we need to minimize the total time through the feedback loop.

Even though the feedback loop is stated as Build – Measure – Learn, the process starts in the reverse order. We first figure out what we need to learn, decide what we need to measure to know if we are gaining validated learning, and then figure out what product we need to build to run that experiment and get that measurement. Once you go through a loop, the hardest decision that an entrepreneur needs to make is whether to persevere or to pivot. Persevere is to stick with the original strategy, whereas pivoting is to switch to a different strategy and go in a different direction (ex. changing the segment you’re targetting or the type of product you are providing). Persevere for too long then you will burn up resources and lead your team to failure. Pivot too early then you might be giving up on a winning strategy before it has an opportunity to develop. This is why it’s crucial at the beginning to establish what are the metrics that will be measured and what are the hypothesis for those metrics. The decision to persevere or pivot is always subjective but with concrete and actionable metrics, you will then be able to make a more informed decision.

Innovation Accounting

Innovation accounting is the process of defining, measuring, and communicating the progress of innovation to hold entrepreneurs accountable.

Innovation accounting has 3 learning milestones:

  1. Establish the baseline
    Use an MVP to determine what’s the startup’s current baseline. Don’t use gross numbers and instead focus on actionable metrics such as customer sign up and retention rate which measures per customer behavior. So for example, if you expect 10% of your website’s visitors will become registered users, use an MVP as soon as possible to find out what are the actual numbers right now. Without real numbers, you won’t be able to know how far you are from your goal and cannot begin to track your progress.
  2. Tune the Engine
    Make product development changes that are not designed to drive huge gross numbers but to make those conversion numbers closer to the ideal numbers. This can take numerous iterations until the company reaches a decision point, to pivot or to persevere.
  3. Pivot or Persevere
    Schedule a meeting in advance to discuss whether to persevere or to pivot. With the different iterations of MVP and the associated metrics, you will have the data to help you decide whether to continue to tune the engine or to pivot. If the company is making good progress towards the ideal scenario, then it makes sense to continue. If not, the management team must eventually conclude that its current strategy is flawed and needs to pivot. When a company pivots, it starts the process all over again, reestablishing a new baseline and tuning the engine from there. The sign of a successful pivot is that these engine-tuning activities are more productive after the pivot than before.

Summary

The Lean Startup laid down the core foundation to build a sustainable business. The materials are easy to grasp and the examples are relevant and engaging. And as Eric mentioned, entrepreneurs are everywhere. This book can be applicable and beneficial to you as long as you are working to deliver a product under extreme uncertainty.

Here’s The Lean Startup talk that Eric gave at Google. I’ll still recommend getting the book but the Google talk summarizes the key insights at a high level.

I’m currently reading Harry Potter y el prisionero de Azkaban.

Book Review: The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

I have been working full time for over a year and a half since I graduated and my income so far has mainly been stashed away in my savings account. It’s not that investing has never come to my mind, it’s more so that I lack the financial knowledge to know where and how to begin. If you are like me, understanding all the financial lingo and the thought of analyzing a financial report is a thought in itself daunting enough to prevent you from exploring any investment options.

I then came across the Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. This book was published in 1973 and later revised with additional commentary by Jason Zweig in 2003. Although it was written decades ago, the core investing principles still stand true to this day. With my limited financial and investing knowledge, my review won’t do the book justice. However, I’ll share with you the core investing insights that you can apply right away.

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Graham’s Core Investing Principles

1. A stock is an ownership interest in an actual business, with an underlying value that does not depend on its share price

In the latest edition of The Intelligent Investor, Graham shortened the “The Investor as Business Owner” section. It was suggested by Jason Zweig in his commentary that Graham perhaps had given up on getting investors to use their rights as shareholders to keep corporate managers accountable. It’s still a right that shareholders need to be aware of but above all understand that the underlying value of a business can’t be inferred by its share price.

 
2. The market is a pendulum that forever swings between unsustainable optimism (which makes stocks too expensive) and unjustified pessimism (which makes them too cheap). The intelligent investor is a realist who sells to optimists and buys from pessimists.

Graham used a great analogy and described the stock market as Mr. Market. Mr. Market tells you every day what he thinks your share is worth. Sometimes he seems very reasonable but other times he is irrational. If you are an intelligent investor, you won’t let Mr. Market’s opinion impact your investing decisions. You will instead sell to him when his opinion of your stock is too high and buy additional shares from him when his opinion of your stock is too low. And just like how you will treat Mr. Market, that’s how you should approach the stock market. Don’t follow the market but instead take advantage of the market price when it’s not priced correctly.

 
3. The future value of every investment is a function of its present price. The higher the price you pay, the lower your return will be.

Always take the present price into account no matter how promising a business is. Even if you have insights into which companies are promising, if the general public shares your outlook your insights will have no value as the share price would have already factored in the optimism. So do your homework and analyze the business to see if it’s over or undervalued.

 
4. Only by insisting on “the margin of safety” – never overpaying, no matter how exciting an investment seems to be – can you minimize your odds of error.

You can never know with certainty whether a stock is over or underpriced. The point, however, is to look for bargain opportunities and be patient. By analyzing the business thoroughly, which includes studying financial statements and earning multipliers, you can get better at spotting any discrepancies between a companies’ market price and its underlying value. Businesses that are having bad press often times produce bargain opportunities if the issues can be addressed promptly.

 
5. If you become a critical thinker who takes no Wall Street “fact” on faith, and you invest with patient confidence, you can take steady advantage of even the worst bear markets. By developing your discipline and courage, you can refuse to let other people’s mood swings govern your financial destiny. How your investments behave is much less important than how you behave.

Following the market is never a good long-term investment strategy. Be disciplined enough to believe in your own analysis, to ignore the public noise, and to stick with your investing principles.

Investing vs Speculating

An investment operation is one which, upon thorough analysis promises safety of principal and an adequate return. Operations not meeting these requirements are speculative.

Many investment mistakes come from not understanding the difference between investing and speculating. If you see lots of people buying Starbucks coffee and decide to buy Starbucks solely based on its popularity, you are speculating and not investing. If you buy a weed stock solely because it belongs to a fast-growing industry, you are speculating and not investing. If you buy a stock solely because your social circle is high on the stock, you are speculating and not investing. Just like you won’t gamble with the majority of your savings, you shouldn’t speculate with the majority of your savings as well. Have a clear budget for your investment funds and don’t mix it up with your speculative funds.

Every security has a speculative component which affects its market price. A business can see it’s market price fluctuate greatly due to public opinion while its underlying value remains the same. So be mentally prepared and patient when the share price is behaving unexpectedly.

Investing Guidelines

Dollar-cost averaging: an investor devotes the same dollar amount each month to buying one or more common stocks

For most investors, Graham said the ideal way to invest is via dollar-cost averaging. This can limit the impact of any bad investment decisions (ex. investing too much when the market price is too high) as you will be investing the same amount each month. Along with dollar-cost averaging, Graham stated that one of the best ways to own common stocks is through an index fund that charges minimal fees. By owning index funds, you are therefore removing yourself from the process and will have returns that match the market your index fund is tracing.

Based on Graham’s studies, most professional investors did not outperform the returns by dollar-cost averaging into an index fund. However, the downside to investing in an index fund is that it’s boring. You are not choosing specific stocks, therefore the human nature aspect of wanting to choose your own stocks and outperform your peers won’t be satisfied. If you still have the desire to choose your own stocks, you can supplement your index funds investment with a small portion allocated for the stocks you handpicked. You can then further adjust the portion you put in index funds based on the results of your investment portfolio.

Summary

The Intelligent Investor is widely regarded as one of the best investment books. It is very thorough and Graham not only broke down the technical aspect of investing but the human nature aspect as well. There are lots of materials that I didn’t cover which includes bond investment, so I’ll highly recommend you to give the book a read if you want to learn more about investing.

 

I’m currently reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

 

Book Review: The Outsiders by William N. Thorndike, Jr.

The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success by William N. Thorndike, Jr. details the commonalities among the 8 CEOs (also referred to in this book as the outsiders) who significantly outperformed their peers. William stated the commonalities right off the bat and used the remaining chapters to go over each outsider’s experience much more in-depth.

You can tell that a lot of work went into this book. Many interviews were conducted and a lot of financial data were analyzed and presented.

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Capital Allocation

Capital allocation: the process of deciding how to deploy the firm’s resources to earn the best possible return for shareholders

CEOs have 2 key responsibilities: running their operations effectively and deploying the cash generated by those operations

CEOs generally have 5 choices for deploying capital:

  1. Investing in existing operations
  2. Acquiring other businesses
  3. Issuing dividends
  4. Paying down debt
  5. Repurchasing stock

And 3 options for raising it:

  1. Tapping internal cash flow
  2. Issuing debt
  3. Raising equity

The outsiders are focused primarily on making capital allocation decisions and usually delegate running the company operations to a trusted partner. When making capital allocation decisions, these CEOs are very aware of the various tax implications. And contrary to their peers, they did not avoid repurchasing stocks and also did not pay any meaningful dividends.

There is no right option for deploying capital. The key message here is to evaluate all the available options and its implications for your organization.

Develop and Trust Your Analytical Skills

One of the key differences between the outsiders and their peers is that the outsiders trust and act on their own analytical skills. They do not fall prey to the Wall Street’s conventional wisdom and their decisions aren’t impacted by the public opinion. The outsiders have their own method of determining whether a business including their own is under or overvalued. Once they determine a business is underpriced, they are able to act swiftly and acquire the business or its shares if it’s the best capital allocation option.

William examined the stock repurchases events made by the outsiders and these events all happened when the share price was undervalued. On the other hand, when the shares were expensive, they often used it to buy other companies or to raise inexpensive capital to fund future growth.

Decentralized Organization

There is a fundamental humility to decentralization, an admission that headquarters does not have all the answers and that much of the real value is created by local managers in the field.

Besides allocating financial resources, CEOs also need to allocate human resources. The outsiders all emphasized decentralization except when it comes to capital allocation decisions. They hire the best people and give them the responsibilities and authority to do their job. The goals set for the local managers are clear and if they meet their goals they often won’t hear from the headquarters.

Turnovers are costly. So when you hire great people, let them do what they do best. Giving them the responsibility and opportunity to learn and grow will be one of the best ways to retain your talent.

Investor Temperament

In both insurance and investing, Warren Buffett believes the key to longterm success is “temperament”, a willingness to be “fearful when others are greedy and greedy when they are fearful”.

What set the outsiders apart from their peers is their temperament. There are numerous CEOs who have the analytical skills who make poor capital allocation decisions. Like in life, it’s one thing to know what the right thing to do is, it’s another thing to do it. Going against the public opinion isn’t easy and this is what the outsiders have done throughout their careers.

Often times, the popular decision is the wrong decision. Be able to evaluate the options yourself and understand that your job is not to please the public but to bring value to your company and its shareholders.

Summary

The book is very organized and does not stray away from the key messages. However, I also find that too many examples are used to convey the same key messages. It’s not a book I’ll recommend but if you are interested in the insights I discussed and the numbers behind it then this is a book you might enjoy reading.

 
I’m currently reading The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham.

Book Review: Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Zero to One is based on a startup course Peter Thiel gave at the Stanford University in 2012. Peter is a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir and an investor in startups, which includes Facebook and SpaceX.

With a commerce undergraduate degree, I have taken a few courses in economics and entrepreneurship. I’ll say a lot of the info relayed isn’t different from what can be learned in these type of courses. Rather than sharing some of the overlapping concepts, I’ll share the key insights that I took away from this book.

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Image source: http://yourstory.com/2014/12/peter-thiel-startups-tips/

Competition is not good, differentiate yourself

Zero to One. It’s the idea of creating something new of value rather than improving on an existing product or service.

A market can be categorized by the characteristics of its competition. On the one extreme, there is perfect competition. This is when there are numerous buyers and sellers and all firms sell an identical product or service in a market where there is a low barrier to entry. In this case, no firm can influence the market price of a product or service. And in the long run, all companies only earn enough profit to stay in the business. If companies are enjoying a profit, other companies will enter the market and drive down the profit.

On the other extreme, there is monopoly. Monopoly happens when only one firm sells a product or service to numerous buyers. This is often due to competitive advantages, such as proprietary technologies, network effects, economies of scale, and/or branding, that the company has that prevents other companies from entering the market.

All happy companies are different: each one earns a monopoly by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.

We grow up in an environment that focuses on competition.  Whether that’s in school through the forms of report cards or sports activities or in the workforce competing for more responsibilities or promotions, we are constantly competing with each other.

When it comes to businesses, Peter Thiel stresses the importance of escaping competition through differentiation. Be mindful that any differentiation that your business has must be relevant and significantly better in both perceived and actual value than the next best option in your market to lead a real monopolistic advantage.

Every startup is small at the start. Every monopoly dominates a large share of the market. Therefore, every startup should start with a very small market.

Aim to dominate a niche market first and once you do, gradually move into other related or broader markets. Starting in a niche market allow you to test out your value proposition as well as not overleveraging your resources.

Invest your time wisely

When you choose a career, focus on something you’re good at doing. But before that make sure that the skills you are developing will be valuable in the future.

Even though startups is the theme of this book, Peter Thiel also cautioned about starting businesses. There are numerous ways to have a successful career and joining a great company while it’s growing is often times a better alternative.

If you can’t count durable relationships among the fruits of your time at work, you haven’t invested your time well, even in purely financial terms.

This is my favorite takeaway from this book. Time is our most valuable asset, so make sure you are spending it with people who you can develop a long-term relationship with. It won’t just make you happier and more productive at work, but also enrich your lives off of work. The more bonds you create the stronger your network is.

Importance of setting a good foundation when starting a business

The founding moment of your business only happens once, so use it to build up a great foundation. First of all, make sure that that you have a history with your partners. Having great synergy is very important. Bad partnerships alone can often kill a business no matter how valuable the product or service is.

Hire people who enjoy working together and share the same vision the company has. If people aren’t aligned, there will eventually be discontent and productivity will suffer as a result.

Summary

The core theme of this book is on creating businesses that go from Zero to One. This book is very well received, however, it’s not a book I’ll recommend to my friends from commerce. It’s more valuable if you have less exposure to economics and startups concepts. If you have a different take on this book, please share it with me as well. 🙂

I’m currently reading The Outsiders by William N. Thorndike, Jr.

Book Review: Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

It’s been three weeks since I last published a post. I’ve been reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris since then. It’s a 600+ pages book which took me longer to finish than the previous books I’ve read. From now on, I want to put more focus on applying what I’ve learned.

If you let your learning lead to knowledge, you become a fool. If you let your learning lead to action, you become wealthy – Jim Rohn

Knowledge itself is valuable but if you don’t apply it, you can’t improve your life for the better. I’ll go over how I applied my learnings from this book and how it has had a positive impact on me.

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Setting Goals

Is that a dream or a goal? A dream is something you fantasize about that will probably never happen. A goal is something you set a plan for, work toward, and achieve – Paul Levesque (Triple H)

Most of us have heard the importance of setting goals. This is the first year which I have set resolutions for the year. It has driven me to put more focus on personal development than I had ever before. However, resolutions are things I want to accomplish for the year and don’t necessarily indicate my goals in life. I had the mindset that if I keep improving myself every day, be patient, and do the right things for me and the people around me, I’ll eventually end up where I want to be. I think this is a good mindset to have and has contributed to why I’m a positive and happy person. This previous mindset of mine will see me make improvements in life, but the improvements I made won’t necessarily lead me to become the person I want to be.

Inspired by the above quote from Paul Levesque, I have a different mindset now. If I don’t put in the work on a consistent basis for a goal of mine, then I won’t be achieving that goal. So first, I detailed the type of person I want to become:

  1. A person who is in a position to help many people
  2. A person who is an expert in his field of interest
  3. A great communicator
  4. A great leader
  5. Spanish speaker
  6. A person who is fit and has an active and healthy lifestyle
  7. The founder of a successful business
  8. A great son
  9. A great brother
  10. A good friend
Once I have this mindset and these goals in mind, I asked myself this question: “what am I currently doing to achieve these goals?”. This is in itself very motivating for me since for example, I wasn’t dedicating any time to become a great communicator and the thought of myself not becoming one led me to action. I did some research immediately and came across an Udemy course by TJ Walker. Since then, I have dedicated at least one hour every other day to improve my communication. I have recorded myself presenting for practice and have gotten feedback from TJ Walker which I have applied to my subsequent practices. I’m still a long way away from being a great communicator but I see the work I’m putting in and the progress I’m making.
Once you have clear goals in mind, putting in the work becomes easier as you will know the reasons behind your sacrifices.
Here are the 3 tips I use to develop habits to achieve my goals:
  1. Put in the work you can sustain on a consistent basis.
    Start out small, if you think you can dedicate two hours per day, start with one hour or even 30 minutes. It’s more important to build up the habit first before you increase your commitment.
  2. Dedicate a block of time just to focus on what you are trying to accomplish.
    One block of time without any distractions. No TV. No phones. No youtube. Put on a timer if you have to which I do. I currently dedicate 1 hour or 2-hour blocks for things I want to accomplish for the day.
  3. Be patient.
    Don’t get frustrated if you don’t see immediate results. Setbacks are expected and the frustration of not improving is the reason why so many people gave up on their goals. See the big picture, put in the work consistently and you will see the results eventually.

Meditate

I dedicate time every day to improve myself, but procrastination, either going on youtube or catching up on NBA rumors, is taking up too much of my time. I often find myself led by my thoughts or desires. One youtube video usually turns into three or five videos. And by the end of the day, I can’t recall spending much time on what I planned to accomplish for the day.
At least 80% of the people interviewed by Tim Ferris at his podcast have some mindfulness practice.
My reward for meditating is getting 30% to 50% more done in a day with 50% less stress. Why? Because I have done a warmup in recovering from distraction: my morning sit. – Tim Ferriss
Recovering from distraction. This is exactly what I needed. I value the occasional breaks, but I want to be able to recover from distraction so it’s controlled procrastination instead.
You are starting your day by practicing focus when it doesn’t matter so that you can focus better later when it does matter – Tim Ferriss
I started to use the Headspace app every morning for meditation. You don’t need an app to meditate, it just makes the process easier for me as I was never exposed to it. I have since meditated for 23 days in a row and counting and I can already see the following benefits:
  1. I’m more mindful and aware of my thought process.
    By being mindful of my thought process and the distractions resulting from it, I am able to recover from distractions more quickly. Being distracted is often fun and relaxing and there are still times I let random thoughts lead me to procrastinate. However, distractions are taking up less and less time of my day and I’m able to recover from it much more frequently.
  2. I have a better idea how my body is feeling.
    Part of the exercise is to scan your body. The idea is to separate your mind from your body and not let one dictate the other. By clearing my mind and paying attention to my body, I’m more attuned to how my body is feeling. Often times I don’t realize my body is aching in certain areas until my meditation session. I’m more aware of how bad posture is negatively impacting me throughout the day. You might not notice it throughout the day, but if you pay close attention and examine your body, you will realize the damage bad posture is inflicting on you.
  3. I learned how to be more effective when I work.
    It is important to prime your state. Putting yourself in a positive mindset can affect the quality of the work you put out. A coworker and friend of mine asked me last week to meditate for 10 minutes near the end of the day. We have done it for the last two working days and it has helped me recharge and regain my focus for the remainder of each day.

Journaling

If you win the morning you win the day. The idea is similar to priming your state where how you start off the day can impact your actions and mindset for the rest of your day.
This is the 5 morning rituals that Tim Ferris uses:
  1. Make your bed
  2. Meditate or mindfulness practice  (10 – 20 mins)
  3. Do 5 to 10 reps of something
  4. Prepare tea
  5. Morning pages or 5-Minute Journal (5MJ)
I have added #2, #3, #5 to my morning ritual. For each morning, I’ll do the 5-Minute Journal, meditate for 10 minutes, do 25 pushups (increase week by week), and make my bed.
The 5MJ asks you to fill in the following in the morning:
  1. I’m grateful for… 1. ____ 2. ____ 3. ____
  2. What would make today great? 1. ____ 2. ____ 3. ____
  3. Daily affirmations. I am… 1. ____ 2. ____
and these questions at night:
  1. Amazing this that happened today… 1. ____ 2. ____ 3. ____
  2. How could I have made today better? 1. ____ 2. ____
It literally only takes me 5 minutes to do the journal. It is an easy habit to build up and can improve your outlook of the day. I have the habit of praying and saying thanks to what I’m grateful for when I’m in bed every night. I enjoy doing it and it helps me be more appreciative. And doing the 5MJ further expands on it as I’m giving thanks at the end as well as the start of the day now.
Whereas “I’m grateful for…” and “Amazing things that happened today…” impacts my mindset, “What would make today great?” and “How could I have made today better?” impacts my actions throughout the day. It’s amazing how simply stating out “what would make today great” will make you conscious throughout the day on what you want to achieve and prioritize. This has helped me become more productive and often times one of the things I’ll write down is “Dedicate X hours to do _____”.
“How could I have made today better?” on the other hand helps me reflect on the day. I’ll see which of the to-do that I set out for the day is not accomplished and what is the reason behind it. Sometimes I’ll write down things such as “Spend more time with a friend or family” if I feel like I’m too focused on improving myself and not spending enough time for the people I care about.

Workout

When in doubt, train your grip and your core. Strengthening your midsection and your grip will automatically increase your strength in any lift. With the abs, the effect is partly due to greater abdominal pressure and partly to improved stability. With the grip, you are taking advantage of the neurological phenomenon of irradiation – tension ‘radiates’ from the gripping muscles into other muscles – Pavel Tsatsouline
I consider myself as having a healthy lifestyle but I’m not a fitness person. I workout twice a week on the weekend and play basketball once a week but that’s the extent of it. I skimmed over most of the health/fitness section of the book, but the one thing that I took away is to train your grip.
Pavel is a former physical training instructor for Spetsnaz, the Soviet special forces, and is currently a subject matter expert to the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Secret Service, and the U.S. Navy SEALs. I took the advice mainly based on his track record and minimal research online. I don’t understand the full benefit of it but that’s enough information for me to give it a try. I have since gotten myself a set of IronMind’s Captains of Crush Grippers and have built up to doing 3 x 10 reps every day. I find it easier for me to do pull-ups and lifting weights now. I’m aware of how it coincides with me doing pushups every morning. However, I do believe it is helpful and will recommend you to give it a try if training your grip strength isn’t part of your workout routine.

Summary

I’ll say this is by far the most impactful book I’ve read so far. I’ll strongly recommend it to anyone. The book is about the summary of the learnings Tim Ferris has by interviewing the “Titans” of the world. It is broken down into 3 sections: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. It is unique in a way where people will likely get very different takeaways. Tim Ferris started out by outlining a guide on how to use this book, which basically says to skip the parts which aren’t applicable to you. I’ll most likely revisit this book sometime in the future. If you have a different takeaway, I’ll love to hear about it as well!
The book I’m currently reading is Zero to One by Peter Thiel.

Book Review: Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham

Jay Abraham is the Founder and CEO of Abraham Group, Inc, a marketing consulting firm that provides strategies to businesses. He has helped many businesses including IBM, Microsoft, and Citibank and is a well-respected voice in the marketing field. Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got details the strategies one can use to grow its business and provides advice on how to reach your personal goal.

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Fall in love with your customers

A common theme that reoccurs is to value your customers. There are numerous marketing resources that talk about the value of being customer-oriented. However, Jay Abraham takes it to another level.

One of the biggest mistakes, probably the biggest mistake, people make in any business is they fall in love with the wrong thing. They fall in love with their product, service or company. You should believe passionately in your product, service, or company. But you should fall in love with your clients. By client, I mean several groups. Not only the people and businesses who pay you for your goods or services. But also your employees, bosses, team members, and vendors. … Fall in love with your clients means taking responsibility for their well being.

Being customer-oriented is not enough. You have to fall in love with your customers and treat them as your valued friend. Having this change in mindset is crucial and will change the way you market and interact with your customers.

A successful business starts with the desire to provide a solution to another’s problem. Put your clients’ need ahead of your own. And rather than asking “What do I have to say to get people to buy?”, ask “What do I have to give?”. See your product as a way to improve your customers’ lives. Once you treat your customers as your valued friend, you will think about ways to improve their lives, which as a result will give you ideas on how to increase your business’ value to your customers.

Growth Strategies

Identify the businesses that are selling to your target market that aren’t competing with you. These businesses tend to be selling something that will complement your product or service. Contact these companies and discuss ways where you can leverage each others’ customer base.

Breakthroughs are unconventionally fresh, superior, more exciting ways of doing something.

Keep an eye on the possible breakthroughs that can be applied to your business. Breakthrough ideas can often be taken from other industries so keep continual access to successful, creative breakthrough developments and achievements. This can come from online resources such as Inc. and Forbes or from networking and brainstorming sessions with success-driven people outside your industry.

USP: The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.
Determine and communicate your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) through all your marketing channels. Consider the obstacles, which can be financial, emotional, or measurability, that might prevent your prospects from dealing with your business. Some obstacles to consider are listed below:

 

  • Financial: what is the potential financial loss if the transaction doesn’t work out?
  • Emotional: how bad would the customer feel or look if his/her purchase fails to perform?
  • Measurability: can the impact your product or service has on the customer’s life, business, or career be measured and evaluated?

The examples above are only meant to get you thinking. The point is to have a holistic view of the different aspects that can prevent a prospect from dealing with your business. Once you have identified these obstacles you can make risk reversal become an important part of your USP (ex. providing guarantees).

You don’t have the right to determine what the market wants, but you have the duty to find out.

There are always ways you can improve your marketing strategy, so make sure you are constantly A/B testing every marketing component, including price.

Jay Abraham said that the single most important strategy you can use to maximize the value of all your strategies is to communicate on a regular basis with everyone who contributes or ever will contribute, in any way to your business success. This goes hand in hand with his belief that you should treat your customers as your valued friend. You should keep in touch and look after your friends and you should do the same for your customers as well. Don’t be bashful, ask for referrals and provide your customers info on how to locate the referrals for you. Customers from referrals usually end up being your best and most loyal customers.

Besides focusing on your active customers also look into your inactive customers and identify the reasons they stop doing business with you. Often times inactive customers just forgot about your business and can be brought back when reached out.

Summary

Jay Abraham talked about goal setting and how a clear destination and precise road map for getting where you want to be is needed to maximize your potential income or success. However, as mentioned, this book is not a personal development book and the emphasis is on the growth strategies one can adopt to improve one’s business. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a business. It can provide you value no matter how successful your business is and will be a book I’ll revisit when I start my own company.

I’m currently reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss and I look forward to sharing with you the insights I learned from this book as well. For more frequent updates on my learnings, you can follow me on Twitter.

Book Review: The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau is a compilation of insights from studying and interviewing people who have built successful microbusinesses. Chris is an author and a traveler who has visited every country in the world. He identified 1,500 people who have built businesses with modest investments, on average less than $600, that have made at least $50,000 per year to identify the common factors of their business success. These business cases show that people with no special skills can build up successful businesses when they merge their passion with a skill that other people value.

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Basics of starting a business

Convergence is the overlapping space between what you care about and what other people are willing to spend money on

Having a viable business idea is about finding that convergence. Chris broke down the basics of starting a business into these 3 points:

  1. You need a product or service
  2. People who are willing to pay for it
  3. A way to get paid

When I think about the basics of starting a business, I think about needing to write a business plan, registering a business, having to understand the rules and regulations of the industry, hiring necessary help, and managing the financials just to name a few. These 3 points that Chris boiled down to forces you to think about the minimum that you need to start your business.

Don’t create invisible barriers for yourself and don’t get bogged down in writing the perfect business plan. Focus on what is required to get your first sale and start doing.

Here is Chris’ one-page business plan that shows what you need to plan out to start your business.

Focus on your customers

Offer is a combination of product or service plus the messaging that makes a case to potential buyers

Having a product or service that people are willing to pay for is simply the first step. You’ll also need to have an offer that will garner the attention of your potential customers. Survey and understand what your customers need and your marketing should emphasize the benefits customers receive rather than the features your product or service have.

Think clearly about the people you plan to serve not only in terms of demographics like age, location, gender, race, income but on interests, passions, skills, beliefs, and values as well. You must learn to think about values the way your customers do and not necessarily the way you would like them to.

Ideas and Opportunities

The hard way to start a business is to fumble along, uncertain whether your big idea will resonate with customers. The easy way is to find out what people want and then find a way to give it to them

Focus on what people want. A product or service that removes pain points is often more powerful than one that fulfills a desire.

An industry with lots of lovers and haters present a good business opportunity. Another sign of good business opportunity is when lots of people are interested in something but have a hard time implementing it in their daily lives.

Get feedback on any ideas you have from your potential target market early on and make sure there is enough demand for your product or service before you invest all your time into it.

Marketing

Hustling is how to get the word out about a project

Developing a product or service is the easy part. The hard part is informing your target market your business value. Leverage any resource you have and ask everyone you know to help spread the word.

Give strategically. You can target influential people who are in need of your product or service and offer it to them for free. It may or may not generate good word of mouth for you but you’ll have helped improve someone’s life. Always think about what your customers need. An additional service like free delivery or an extra coupon can make your customers feel valued and make your business stand out among your competitors.

Having a good product or service is just half the battle, so make sure you are always connecting and looking for ways to attract more customers.

Summary

This book contains numerous small business cases which you can draw ideas from. It shows you how different people are able to transform part of their skills to bring value to their customers.

The emphasis of this book is on starting microbusinesses, so if you are planning to start a resource intensive/high investment business this book might not be for you. However, if you have a passion you will like to monetize, I’ll definitely recommend this book to you.

Book Review: Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk

This is the first of many book reviews that I’ll do. For each of the 20 books I aim to read this year, I plan to write a corresponding book review to document my learnings as well as how it relates to me.

The first book I decided to read is Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk. For those who don’t know, Gary is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO of VaynerMedia. He is well known for his work in social media and digital marketing.

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Love your family. Work super hard. Live your passion.

Gary started out by stating the 3 rules he lives by: “Love your family. Work super hard. Live your passion.”. Although the majority of the book highlights hustling and living your passion, Gary stresses love your family as the top priority. This is something I resonate with strongly as happiness starts with loving and appreciating those dear to you.
What’s your passion? If you are currently living your passion, you would do whatever it is you are doing for free. I graduated with a commerce degree so passion is a word I heard tossed around often. However, I didn’t grasp what it means and even to this day can’t say for sure what my passion is. Back in my university days, we had to choose a specialization from finance, accounting, and management. I went with marketing, a concentration of management because I see it as a field that is less rigid and more creative in terms of problem-solving. With marketing being my clear choice among all the available specializations, I thought and somehow along the way convinced myself that marketing is my passion.
I started taking marketing courses and doing marketing internships. It was great to get experience in the field, but I never looked for ways to get better at marketing in my spare time. It was when I started working on my mobile app that I clearly realized marketing is not my passion. I spent a majority of my time working on my app and would skip hangouts with friends just so I can find more time to improve my programming skills and the app itself.
I’m still figuring out what my passion is, but I know I love to problem solve, learn, and build up and lead teams. In my view, having an industry-centric passion like technology or marketing, for example, is not critical, it’s having interests that you enjoy and want to dedicate the time and effort to get better at. And that I do have.

Develop your personal brand

Gary talks about how developing your personal brand is key to monetizing your passion online. You have to deliver great content, which should revolve around what you are most passionate about. One thing that Gary mentions that most people don’t realize is that your business and your personal brand need to be one and the same. Your messaging across different medium needs to be consistent and authentic.
Even though Gary does not consider himself good at writing, he will not delegate writing blog contents to someone else. This is to allow his messages to be unfiltered and authentic. So if you are not good at writing, find the medium that works for you. Another alternative that Gary mentions is to partner up with someone who complements you. So for this book, he teamed up with someone who knows how to write, but he dictates everything.
As Gary discusses, it’s crucial to develop your personal brand even if you aren’t planning to monetize it. Developing your personal brand is the same thing as living and breathing your resume. And through your content, you’re making sure that people can get to know you personally and professionally. This is my biggest takeaway and the reason I started blogging.

Creating community

Creating community is where the bulk of your hustle is going to go and where the bulk of your success will be determined. It’s about starting and joining conversations about your topic. You need to be deeply entrenched in communities surrounding your topic and better yet be a leading voice in those communities. Remember to always provide a way for people who are interested to get connected with you, which can be a way to contact you or a link back to your blog. Creating community should also be a never-ending task so make sure it’s on a topic you are passionate about.

Summary

I summarized the learnings that are most relevant to me so you might have different takeaways from reading it. It’s concise and provides clear examples and steps on how to monetize your passion that I didn’t detail here. I’ll definitely recommend this book to anyone especially if you have a passion you want to pursue. As Gary sums it up, “Know yourself. Choose the right medium, choose the right topic, create awesome content, and you can make a lot of money being happy.“.