Breathe

My shoulders are hunched and tight, my forehead scrunched with worry. The precious moments of my life wasted with each short, gasping breath I take. My mind occupied with the mistakes from yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Where am I going with my life? Maybe I shouldn’t be so stubborn with my Mom. Am I being a pushover at work? We’re going to run out of oil by 2030. What will I do if I get cancer? China will overtake the US economy by 2020. I should’ve bought that stock earlier. Is my cholesterol ok? What if I fall down these stairs, break my spine, and then live out the rest of my life regretting—

Take a deep breath in. There is nothing really wrong right now. Breathe out. I am alive, I exist, I am lucky and grateful.

I haven’t found an effective way to interrupt my stream of concerns. Regular Google calendar and Apple reminders haven’t helped me. Instead, I need a random reminder to open my eyes a little wider, relax my forehead, and take a deep doctor’s-office-checkup breath.

For those like me, deeply concerned about everything, I would like you to consider adding one more interruption into your life. I’ve partnered with talented people to work on a vision, towards which we are taking our first tentative steps. It’s an iOS App that interrupts your life to remind you to Breathe. We’re including an Apple Watch App so that you don’t have to glance at your iPhone during meetings.

The value I get from this app is 10 random moments from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM to take one deep breath, regardless of what I’m working on, which meeting I’m in, or who I’m talking to. When I can, I try to set aside the weight of my responsibilities, and spend 10 seconds to relax my body and mind. I’m sure it’s good for me, we can collect all the statistics and do the research later and I can tell you about it.

Breathe is basically a polished beta app, so there aren’t very many bells and whistles. And maybe that’s how it should remain. I’d like to know what you think of it, please download and try it out for a few days. Then come back here and comment on what you think, and any benefits you get from the app.

Let’s start a conversation.

Breathe iOS App

Chalak

GodfatherIn Bangla, chalak denotes a person who’s able to pull the wool over someone. This person knows how to manipulate another person, or a group of people.

The term manipulation automatically makes me feel like it’s immoral. Manipulation is a bad thing to do. So I want to detect any tendencies I have to manipulate something and stamp them out.

But is this the right way to go about things? If you think about what separates us from animals, you’ll realize that the only fundamental difference is our ability at manipulation. We manipulate our minds into thinking of things that don’t exist, such as the past or the future.

Don’t be such an animal

Animals constantly live in the present, the past is just a tool to learn from to apply it to the present. A mouse that finds a safe haven once, remembers the safe haven when it needs it again. A man turns that safe haven into home. We create constructs, fabrications of reality that aren’t necessarily true, but they are true to us.

So it’s ok that we manipulate ourselves into creating useful fantasies. But it’s bad to do it for others, right? Especially for the benefit of your own gain with, possibly, loss to them. If you manipulate others to steal from them, of course that is obviously immoral.

But it’s also obviously stupid. Because if you were to manipulate everyone around you for their loss and your gain, then you’ll obviously have less to gain from them each time you go around manipulating them. That’s why something like “protection money” and bribes never work out in the long run.

The looters keep getting less and less because other’s keep having less to loot from.

Corporate CEOs

But if you were to manipulate people so that they gain and you gain, that is noble. But it’s not seen as noble, not in the mainstream. It doesn’t matter how much a person has contributed to millions of people’s lives, that CEO is still a greedy manipulative bastard.

But that’s only 2/3rd  of what they are. CEO’s are greedy manipulative bastards that:

  • Manipulate others so that they gain, and other’s lose. Or,
  • Manipulate others so that all gain, especially themselves.

So I’ll reform my judgement on manipulation. Manipulation itself isn’t immoral. It’s how you’re doing the manipulating, your ultimate goal for manipulation, that is what determines immorality.

Manipulation is ok if everyone gains something.

What’s so great about Steve Jobs?

Steve JobsIn Derek Sivers Ted talk about how to start a movement, he outlines the importance of the first follower. Before the first follower, a leader is just a nut. The leader is an outsider, a weirdo, a person to be held in contempt and ridicule. But as soon as the first follower comes into the picture, the leader is instantly transformed into the trendsetter. The visionary. The leader.

I don’t believe that Steve Jobs was a leader in that way. There’s nothing very special and unique about him. He didn’t have any great technical skills. He wasn’t a visionary in that he created something new that no one else has ever seen before.

What Steve Jobs was instead, was a genius at being the first follower. He was the best cheerleader that a weirdo can ever have. He believed, and he put his entire life on the line for something, and someone, that he believed in. It first started with Wozniak, then the animators at Lucas Inc, which he helped turn into Pixar, then NextTel, then offshoots from Xerox into Adobe. (not in any chronological order because I’m too lazy to do the actual research)

But he wasn’t someone who stupidly bet all his chips into some lame unique technology. He also wasn’t lazy or inept. He was a genius in recognizing the value of something and then he had the courage to lay his entire career on the line for it. Over and over again he bet it all for what he believed in.

He had courage. But also importantly, he had compassion and understanding. He had compassion to be able to be the only support for people who knew that they were doing something great.. but no one else believed in them. And he had understanding to realize the value of what those people were trying to do, what they believed in.

He might not have been the greatest leader.. but he was probably the greatest follower these two centuries have ever seen.

To the followers of my blog

I’d like to thank you for deeming me worthy enough to add me to the list of emails and notifications you get every time I have an idea while I’m pooping or showering (Now you’ll start noticing how erratic my bowel movements and my hygienic dispositions are, I’ll let you guess which one induced the inspiration for this particular post).

Because I’m usually more intimate with the contents of my mind rather than the contents of my activities, I thought that maybe I should formally introduce myself, and let you know what I’m up to.

Hi I’m Mohammed

I recently got laid off from a company that I was, and still am, loyal to. It was a wake up call in a lot of ways. No matter how great a job is or how great the people you work with are, a job is a job and it’s not yours and someone can come up to you one day and say “We don’t need you here anymore. Please leave and don’t come back.” And you usually have very little control over it.. or even forewarning.

I’ve known this for a while. Since reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad and going to seminars such as Millionaire Mind, I’ve known how tenuous a career really is. But I’ve never been that hard up to have my own business that I’d decide to quit a great paying job I enjoyed doing. But now I’m suddenly unemployed, and I can choose to go find an even better job with better co-workers and better employers and maybe a better shot of not getting laid off..
or not.

So I decided to just hurl my body into the void of time and space and see where I’ll land.

I had enough money saved up to hold me over for 2-3 months, granted that I reduce my lifestyle down to a spartan hermit. It wasn’t that difficult to do considering how cheap I’ve always been. I thought I’d do some contracting for people on eLance or something. A cursory look through some of the postings made me slightly disgusted with the entire idea of it.

Most people usually have no idea what time and effort it takes to create a product so they want amazingly complex projects in absolutely no time and for little money. I realized that even in a more formal setting, like with some contracting firm, I’m going to come across a similar mentality. Maybe they’ll be more reasonable because they know just how much time and effort it takes. But even knowing that, they’re gonna try to skin me alive.

PinPinChineseBut I only took a cursory look at contracting, because a very good friend of mine asked me to help him in a side project that he was working on. He had developed a Mandarin Chinese learning app, Pin Pin, that would help people to train their pronunciation of a complex language. It was a beautiful app and I was glad to be a part of it.

He developed and released the app, but sales were dismal and he had no idea how to market it. And neither did I. But I wanted to learn. Marketing, business, human behavior, those are all things I’ve always wanted to learn more about. And so I agreed to help him sell the app.

And I began to take my first steps down the world of marketing.

KungFuMovieIt also happened that this same friend and I were also working on another app that we were hoping would make us “MILLIONS of fractions of pennies!!” As we would joke. We both knew the realities of making money in the mobile world, it was a hard business to do. But we both also had a small naive hope deep inside that maybe this app was going to be a surprise and become big.

The idea was to add kung fu sounds to videos on the iPhone. My friend was the master engineer and he did all the design and development, and it was up to me to market Kung Fu Movie and take care of everything on the business end.

FartMovieWe also realized the opportunity we had to just swap the sounds and images and have a totally new app in a much shorter time. Everyone, including us, would instantly think about about a fart version of the app as soon as they heard of the idea. Hence Fart Movie came out only a few short weeks after the release of Kung Fu Movie.

With Pin Pin, I tried my hand at understanding how to design ads, write copy, emails, websites etc. I did a lot of writing and thinking, but nothing really got done with it. It was my first tip-toed attempts at what marketing was all about and I spent more time on thinking and defining things and researching and learning things than I did on implementing.

But with Kung Fu Movie, I jumped right in. I began to work hectically to setup and understand as many of the social platforms there were on the internets. I was already a modest user of Facebook. Now it became my main dashboard for social networking. And as I learned, I refined my techniques. Some social networks weren’t working so I dropped the use of them. Some were great and had a lot of tools to offer and they became my favorite.

Don’t worry, if you’re interested in the things I’ve learned, I’m going to write posts soon when I feel like I’ve gained enough proficiency in something to say useful things about it.

So I’ve been keeping myself busy.. and a little disoriented.

I now had all these apps to manage, all these new concepts and ideas to learn. Things were jumbled and all over the place. My financial future, the lack of one, was looming over me. The apps were making the fractions of pennies that we would joke about expecting. People weren’t climbing over themselves to recognize me for all the great things I’m doing. Their eyes weren’t bugging out at the apps and using it 24 hours and telling all their friends about it incessantly. I was a failure, I was useless, I’m ineffective. I should just go back to that office and do what other people tell me to do for the rest of my sad, mediocre existence.

I’m not as smart as I thought I was. I’m not as capable. I don’t have what it takes to make it. And when I’m 50 with wrinkles on my old sad face, hopelessness darkening eyes, I’ll face my child and try to tell them wearily that they can do anything that they put their hearts and minds to. But they won’t be convinced because they’ll see that their dad is a pathetic loser.

Calm yo self man.

Nothing was really wrong though. So I naturally got over myself in a couple weeks.

I hate to be one of those people who take a series of fortunate circumstances and say “God is smiling down on me,” that isn’t how I believe things work. And I’m just as suspect of that whole “you created these opportunities to occur in your life through the power of intention” mysticism stuff as well. I know that God is always looking out for me, and everyone and everything else too. So I’m not that special. And I know that my intentions drive me in ways for circumstances to coalesce into opportunities that present themselves for me to grab or not.

And that’s what happened. My first company had some retirement pension thing I forgot about that matured a week after I got laid off from my last company. It’s ironic because I quit the first company because I fell in love with the second company, but the first still continue to support me lovingly while the second dumped me on my ass without any warning.

KanjiTouchIt was enough money for me to survive on for the rest of the year. My friends came out of the woodwork and began to help me out. One of them I already mentioned, we’ve created a set of beautiful and entertaining apps that I’m very proud of. Another got me a small contracting opportunity he wasn’t that interested in, as well as handing over to me an unfinished Japanese flash card app, Kanji Touch. We were taking Japanese classes together before I got laid off.

So where does that put me now?

I found that the things I’ve always loved doing as a hobby can become something I can potentially make a career of doing. Watching documentaries and learning, writing blogs about the things I’m realizing and finding out, spreading the word about the apps my friend and I are developing, and being an ass on social networks.

Now I’m busy learning how to become known on the internet, creating a user base to launch apps and just about anything else that I’ll do. If I work hard enough, by the end of the year I hope to be able to sustain the rest of my life doing what I love:
Writing, programming apps, marketing, and just about anything else I can think of while I’m pooping or showering.

So it was very nice to meet you.

Please comment back and say hi. Let’s get to know each other better. Once I figure out how to find the list of my followers on this blog, I’ll visit you and see what your’e up to in your neck of the woods. In the meantime, thanks for dropping by and I hope you come again.

Update:
I’ve found out how to see the list of my followers. Let the stalking commence.

Progress

Theres been construction on a building near downtown for a year now. It’s coming along nicely. I’m not sure what it was before the re-development, but right now it’s looking like it’s going to be an office building.
ToBeOfficeBuildingA Cross-fit gym attached to my apartment closed it’s business and the building was replaced by offices. On the other side of my apartment a dance studio was replaced by an office space.

Offices are coming up all around me. Is this harking a new age of growth and flourishing industry?

I am cynical about that prospect. I’ve seen the same pattern in the housing crises, so I’m wary of such high level of growth. “It’s hype” is what I say to myself every time I see it, or hear about so and so finding a Venture Capitalist to fund their internet or mobile idea.

Why is everyone investing so heavily on this industry? Lots of people have made money off of it.. in the past. And that’s the key danger that I fear people, including smart capable successful venture capitalists, are falling prey to.

Past results are not guaranteed to repeat itself in the future.

Something is happening in the tech industry right now. Let’s hope that it’s something great.. but I honestly suspect it’s going to be something bad.

Either way.. the best we can do is try to enjoy the rollar coaster ride that is life.

X Player

I’ve heard from some marketing/business gurus that there’s no point in hiring B players and trying to turn them into A players. You have to only hire A players to succeed.

This always bothered me because I’ve always believed that innate talent exists.. but it still can be beaten by hard training.
And I guess these gurus aren’t denying that you can turn B players into A players. I think their point is that it’s not your job to do that.

Your job as a business, or someone who has responsibilities to the business, is to hire based on what’s best for the business. If you feel that is too capitalist, then consider that a business is a group of individuals who interact closely with each other to make money. So when you are looking out for the welfare of a business, you’re actually looking out for the welfare of your coworkers and their families.

These gurus say that hiring B players weaken the integrity of the system. B players drive out A players and hire in C players (because they’re scared of hiring someone who can show them up). So imagine if you hire just one B player, at best they replace and A player with a C player. You can imagine how things disintegrate from there.

Leveling up the B player

It is possible though to turn an A player into a B player.
What would it require to turn a B player into an A player? Could a mentored pair between a B and an A player be the trick?
Likely not. What would happen is that the A player, who is usually the most anti-social type, become very annoyed and impatient with the level of effort they perceive that the B player is putting in. The B player in turn becomes scared and/or resentful of the A player.

This will eventually come to a head and, if the employer refuses to do something about the B player, the A player quits.

One in A..

So it’s obvious that all companies should only hire A players right? Right.

Except that the ratio of A players to any other type os about 1 in a 100. And usually A players are brash, full of themselves, and/or socially awkward. Most humans aren’t socially engineered to like A players. A players are usually the weird kid who always did well in school but people picked on or snickered at.

The search for A players is a slow process. Each A player is a hundred times more valuable to the company, but it also takes a 100 times as much effort for the company to find and attract these people. So any company that wants to actually survive, because some work still needs to get done while looking for these A players, will compromise and hire B players.

The X player

So in reality, how is any company supposed to survive if B players portend utter doom, and A players are so hard to find?
Introduce, the X player.

The X player is the Uber-A player. This is a player who has the social graces of a B player, with the discipline and skill of an A player. This is the rare breed of people that B players can get along with, sometimes to the point of adoring fans. And A players don’t get annoyed or impatient with the B players. They somehow have an infinite well of patience and compassion so as to teach and nurture these B players.
Usually X players inspire B players to step up their game and transform into A players.

The odds of finding an X player is, of course, much higher than finding an A player. But the beauty of the X player is that you only need a few in your company, depending on the size. A single X player can sustain many B players, sometimes you might just need one for the entire company..

These X players do exist. I’ve personally had the privilege, and luck, of working with a few of them. They’re incredible people, and they might just be the X factor between a successful company, and a failure.

Success has some sexy curves

yes this is what my blog traffic looks like.

yes this is what my blog traffic looks like.

This is the sad curve of a pet hobby, pet blog, or a pet idea, whatever it is that exists isolated in your world. Maybe some people very close to you know that you’re doing it, they don’t really care either way, only you care about it and it makes you happy to do it every once in a while. Sometimes those people who are close to you will get interested in what you’re doing and you have an audience. But for the most part it’s an isolated wasteland that only you exist in.
On the other hand if you WANT people to see it, you want people to like your work and see its value and even want to do it themselves or use your work somehow. If you want an audience, then this graph is a horrible shame on your soul that kills your every desire to continue doing this because of what a horrible failure you are since people didn’t instantly recognize your greatness.

Not that I know what that feels like personally.THIS NEVER HAPPENS IN REALITY! (unless something is rotting)

THIS NEVER HAPPENS IN REALITY! (unless something is rotting

 

If you have ever gotten excited about an idea that you know will make you lots of money or bring you lots of fame, I’m sure your heart’s desire and deepest wishes (no matter how much you tell yourself you’re a realist) is for it to look like this particular curve.

But NOTHING grows like that and stays growing like that. The things that do always come to a crash because whatever is sustaining that growth will run out of energy.
In fact, if you ever see something like this, then be scared. Scared because this is either someone cheating, or a short lived anomaly.

Most likely, if you have a product or an idea that you have been able to somehow glean energy from a larger source, then your graph will most likely look like this.typical curve

Large sources of energy or traffic might include things like Facebook, television, news papers, clubs, parties, anything where a large amount of people have their attention focused on one thing for significant amount of time. Obviously the larger the audience and the longer the time, the more energy there is. And vice versa.

It looks much like a roller coaster ride, and it is, but the opposite. Usually on a roller coaster ride your fear and trepidation increase as you climb to the top, and then as you’re going down your fear hits a crescendo and becomes just background noise and you begin to feel the excitement and thrill of the ride and want it to continue.
But in business, this is like a roller coaster ride in a fog where you can only see a foot in front of you. And as you’re climbing, you feel a rush of enjoyment and a feeling of success!
And then the peak surprises you and you come crashing down in fear and despair, not knowing when and how hard you’re going to hit the ground.

And this is why most people stay out of business. Or why most people are too scared to turn their hobby or pet project and make it into something greater. Even though they all (come on, be truthful) would wish they were rich and famous from their little stamp collection or blog.

So if that’s the typical case, how is it that anything ever stays in business? Most don’t. When you have a lot of people looking at one thing, and your project interrupts their attention (Facebook post, tv commercial, newspaper ad), some people who find it interesting will veer off and focus a little bit of their attention on your project. These are the possible outcomes:

  • They love it so much that they’ll interrupt other people and show them your thing
  • They find it useful but not so great as to tell someone and face the fear of that person saying “yah? so what? stop wasting my time.”
  • They don’t find it very useful at all.
  • They hate it so much, it bothers some deep parts of their soul and so they NEED to tell someone how much they hate it and why. Most likely they’ll want to find you and tell you why you shouldn’t exist.

If you somehow end up being a part of the first category. Congratulations, your tail end, or the failure end of the typical graph, won’t hit zero. You’ve made some true fans. And if you can somehow sustain yourself on those true fans, and keep those true fans engaged and interested, then you have yourself a business.
Any of the other results end up in failure. It’s just a matter of how short your fall is and how hard you hit the ground.

The intelligent person with the useful product will realize that all they have to do is repeat the process and find other ways to insert themselves into large amounts of energy and make some more fans. Then they are on the path to success!

Oh YEAHHH! How YOU doin sexy?

Oh YEAHHH! How YOU doin sexy?

And that is what a successful business will look like. I mean.. not really. Usually the second hump and each successive humps will be smaller and smaller than that first initial hump. Why? Because the law of diminishing returns says that the second cup of lemonade on a hot day will make you feel less refreshed and satisfied than that first cup.

But remember, this will usually work for things that a certain percentage of humanity will find to be AMAZING!! It’s the people who love your product that support you up (keep your tail end from hitting zero) so that you can also distribute your products to the larger crowd of people who just like it, these are your money makers.

Otherwise, it will look like this.

Oh the horror

Oh the horror

All effort will just diffuse away and the roller-coaster will continue to slide down to your doom.