You Don’t Start at the Top of the Charts

One of my favorite shows is Parks and Recreation, an NBC show staring what’s now considered an ensemble cast in a mockumentary-style TV show, like The Office. It ran for 7 years and is beloved by many. And if you watch Season 1 without knowing anything else about the show, you’d probably be surprised it lasted beyond those 6 episodes.

If you look at Scrubs, which is a strong contender for my favorite show, it’s very different when we compare Season 1 Episode 1 to Season 2 Episode 1. That show lasted 8 Seasons and got a short spin off.

And while Friends’ pilot does a great job setting the tone of the show, it’s very muted compared to what we saw even later in that season. Friends lasted 10 years and is considered one of the most influential sitcoms from the 90s, a pretty great era for sitcoms.

Each of these shows started as an idea that a bunch of people took a shot on; but they all needed some time to refine the details. Heck…The Janitor in Scrubs wasn’t supposed to be such a central character at first, and in Friends, Joey…well let’s just say he was quicker on the uptake in those earlier episodes.

You Will Not Start On Top

Recently I saw the question posed on Twitter: “What’s stopping you from launching your podcast?” A few comments were people saying they weren’t as good as the top podcasts, which caused me to tweet this:

My friend Laura pointed out this isn’t just applicable to podcasting, but nearly any field.

In-fact, this was a common theme on Season 1 of How I Built It…ironically a season where I was finding my voice before it become a relatively popular show. I, and many of my guests, drew the comparison to Olympians that I made in the tweet.

Most of the time, you see only the success, not the journey.

Start the Journey.

Naturally, my advice to anyone who wants to do something, and is able to do it, is to start. Launch your podcast. Your first few episodes will be bad. My first 2 podcasts, now offline, were terrible. My 3rd one — where I applied what I learned from the first 2 over the preceding 3 years — was a hit.

But to go back even further than that, I had been teaching in the classroom for 5 years before my first podcast.

I was doing client work, and teaching my clients, for years before standing up in front of a class.

I was in drama club from 2nd grade through high school, learning how to interact, entertain, and think on my feet…especially when I forgot a line.

I learned how to become an entertainer, then a teacher, then a podcaster on a show that combined both. My journey got me to a place where my podcast supports my family.

I’m not saying it will take you 20 years to be successful at podcasting (or whatever you choose). But if you start today, you’ll be one step closer than if you start tomorrow.

So at first, don’t worry about being the best. Just worry about being.

Favorites of 2021

I’ve been doing this post for 8 years now, and this year I was finally smart enough to keep a running list right from the beginning of the year. And I’m glad I did, because for some of my picks, I forgot they came out this year!

As a refresher, at the end of the year, I like to list my favorite technology pics (gadget, app, and thing I learned), as well as media pics (book, movie, music, TV show, and podcast). This year was especially good!

Technology Picks

Gadget: iPad Mini

This one was a no-brainer. As soon as Apple announced the new iPad Mini, I picked one up. It’s the perfect size for reading, watching videos, research, sketching, and note-taking. I wrote all about in back in October.

Since then, I’ve also created a great workflow for reading and taking notes with Quick Notes. It’s been by my side since the moment I got it, and love doing my morning routine and triage on it. It was also a great companion in the hospital after my daughter was born.

Honorable Mentions: Honestly nothing even comes close to the iPad Mini for me this year, but I did pick up some other cool gadgets. I’m enjoying my M1 MacBook Air, my Stream Deck continues to impress, and I love my Lutron Dimmer Switch; I plan to get more soon.

App: Craft

As Federico Viticci mentioned on AppStories, 2021 was a bit of a renaissance for note taking apps. It’s also the year I switched away from Evernote for all but one very frustrating thing. I also moved away from Bear Notes, which has been my favorite notes app for a few years.

Craft has been the perfect way for me to capture ideas, do long form writing, and work out content and plans. It’s perfect for me and the way I think. My only request: Zapier integration. Then I could leave Evernote forever.

Honorable Mentions: Todoist and Parcel. Both of these apps replaced what I thought were irreplaceable apps. Todoist is the final result in my multi-year sojourn for a task manager I actually use. Omnifocus was great but got too crowded. Things was fine, but too focused. Todoist is just right. The ability to add projects but only surface what I want to see, create sections and tagging, view Kanban boards, AND it has Zapier and Shortcuts integration.

Parcel is a delivery tracking app; it replaced Deliveries, an app I loved, and for one reason. Parcel automatically pulls in Amazon deliveries.

Thing I Learned: You can’t send too many emails.

To be honest, this topic is getting a little stretched these days. I came up with it when I was in my mid-late 20s, at a new job, constantly learning a new programming language or coding process. Now I’m learning in the open, and it’s mostly around running my business. Nothing felt concrete all year…until Black Friday. And it’s only loosely technology-based.

Over Black Friday I learned something every business owner needs to learn: you can’t send too many emails. I elaborate on this in my Black Friday Wrap podcast episode, but every email I sent (9 over a 5 day span, 10 over a 2 week span) lead to at least one sale.

Emailing your list is the best way to make money. So build it, and don’t be afraid to email them.

Honorable Mention: Skip the Grind and everything I learned there. From micro segments to product ladders, I gained a ton of actionable advice that changed the direction of several of my offering, as well as my podcast.

Media Picks

Book: Stop Asking Questions by Andrew Warner

This book is definitely helpful, and came at the right time: as I was working to update my podcast. Back in July, I released an updated trailer to better reflect the show’s mission. For 2022, I wanted to make big improvements to the format and the interviews.

Stop Asking Questions got me thinking differently not only about how I approach guests, but research, membership benefits, and more. If you do any interviews for your podcast, this book is a must.

Honorable Mentions: Honestly, I read a lot of great books this year, all of which you can find on my Goodreads profile. Some I’d recommend:

TV Show: Wandavision

The first TV show I watched in 2021 set the bar so high that even in TV’s new golden age, nothing dethroned it.

At first I thought it was weird and didn’t really get it. But after my brother Robby told me to get to episode 3, I was hooked. Like drop everything and watch as soon as I could hooked.

WandaVision set an incredible tone for Phase 4 of the MCU and and the mind-bending topics it’s going to tackle. The show was beautifully shot, and incredibly performed. I have not a bad thing to say about it.

Honorable Mention: Loki was a very close second. Tom Hiddleston is one of my favorite actors and Loki is such a great character that I was psyched to see him get his own series.

I also just finished my first viewing of Newsroom, and let me tell you: it’s better than West Wing, which I didn’t think was possible…especially watching it in 2021. The parallels are haunting.

Music: Lifeforms by Angels and Airwaves

As a guy who grew up in the 90s, and whose musical coming of age was 1999-2001, 2021 seemed like a resurgence of old school pop punk that saw people like Avril Lavigne make a big come back, and Machine Gun Kelly release a successful rock album1.

But as a huge fan of Blink 182 and early Angels and Airwaves, Lifeforms is a return to…well, form…for them. I love the album and basically had it on repeat for the month of October.

Aside: No honorable mentions here, but I switched away from Spotify for Apple Music this year, and I really miss Spotify Wrapped. The best thing I can say about Apple’s “Replay” is it exists.

Movie: Spiderman: No Way Home, Probably.

Look I’m just going to be straight up with you here: I intended to see No Way Home before the arrival of our 3rd child, but she came a few days early so I haven’t seen it yet.

But like…it’s going to be my favorite, right? How can it not be?

Honorable Mention: Otherwise, thanks to direct to streaming2, I got to watch several movies I probably otherwise wouldn’t have: In the Heights, Encanto, Luca, etc. As I write this, next up is Matrix: Resurrection.

Zooming out, I’m excited and hopeful to see this trend continue into 2022 and beyond. I’d be happy to pay a little extra for the ability to watch movies from home…especially now that we have a family of 5. The theater experience is a nice one for certain movies3, but the comforts of home, especially with small (and very small) children, are great.

Podcast: Downstream

I listened to a lot of new podcasts this year, but my favorite is a show that was spun of from my favorite Upgrade segment. It’s called Downstream, and in it, media data analyst Julia Alexander and media enthusiast and podcaster Jason Snell talk about streaming and TV trends, and I love it.

Honorable Mentions: Continuing my motif of Russian Spy stories, Spy Affair is a short run podcast about a Russian woman named Maria Butina, who wants to improve US-Russia relations and ends up being accused of spying on the US. SUPER interesting. Bad Blood: The Final Chapter recaps the Theranos story. As a member, you also get weekly coverage of the trial, which I was all about.

That’s a Wrap on 2021!

I definitely consumed more in 2021 than I did in recent years, and it shows. I’m happy with that pace and plan to continue it for 2022. Though hopefully I’ll actually get to a movie theater.

What were your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

  1. Travis Barker having a hand in both of those! ?
  2. Or going to streaming faster than usual. ?
  3. With as few people as possible because no one seems to have manners anymore ?

How Skip the Grind Showed Me to Focus my Business

A common question I get is, “What exactly do you do?” Generally when I answer, I get a response of, “Wow! You do a lot.” Even my wife says, “I’m not really sure how to answer when people ask me what you do.” That is awful for a business owner.

It’s easy to think doing more = more revenue. But that’s usually not the case. It’s usually the opposite. You’re not focused, you’re trying to promote too many things, and you lose prospects because they aren’t sure you really know how to solve their problem.

This is why I knew I needed to focus my business, and why I signed up for Skip the Grind. I was not disappointed.

Creating Clear Definitions

In order for this event to have the most impact, Chris Lema made sure to get a good group of business and product owners together so that we could all brainstorm together.

Once we were together, he provided a framework to help us define our audience and offerings. We’d work on that — actually work — over 3 days. After each session, we’d get together and each of us would be in the hot seat to share our ideas and get feedback.

The result is that we’d come home with some very clear action items to bring to our team or start implementing ourselves. Heck, I starting implementing some of it the same day we discussed it.

Simplifying my initial offer based on brainstorming at Skip the Grind.

Achievement Unlocked: Focus

Skip the Grind was by far the most helpful event I’ve gone to with respects to defining my audience. Chris’ framework, along with the group’s feedback, helped me get specific enough to create impactful offers. Then I was able to define and position them in a way I never have before. Like I said, parts of my website changed mid-event.

On top of that, I know there are lots of things I’m working on that I’m going to stop…at least for a while. Course updates no one is asking for, services I thought would be quick wins but made more work for me, etc.

I also have a great direction for my community. While I might lose some folks who aren’t focused on the customers I’m serving, the people who do sign up (or stay) will get much more value because we’ll have a clear set of goals in mind.

Do I Recommend Skip the Grind? Heck Yes.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I first heard about Skip the Grind. But I spoke to Chris and he told me I’d benefit. Boy did I. In fact, every time I go to one of his events, my business grows1.

  1. Plus, as usual, there was a pool. ?

Iterating to Grow Your Podcast: Next Steps for How I Built It

I often talk about how course creation is not passive income, which I think is an increasingly less common misconception. What’s generally not a misconception is, “podcasting is passive income.” For one, podcasting is something you need to show up regularly to do well. Second, most people aren’t making money podcasting. But still, growing complicit in your podcast format and process can really stifle your podcast’s growth. You need to iterate.

With that in mind, here’s what I’m doing to continue growing my podcast, How I Built It.

Read More “Iterating to Grow Your Podcast: Next Steps for How I Built It”

SavvyCal vs. Calendly

A few weeks ago In my newsletter, I talked about how I’m considering switching to SavvyCal over Calendly. There are a lot of great features to like about SavvyCal, including how calendar overlays work, one-off links, reusable hours, and recurring time blocks based on calendar events.

Plus with teams, you can do “round robin” scheduling, allowing you to easily combine multiple people’s availability – something that while SavvyCal requires a team account for, Calendly doesn’t offer at all. But I’m not quite ready to switch yet. Here’s why.

Read More “SavvyCal vs. Calendly”

What is the Best CTA for Podcasts?

We’ve all experienced analysis paralysis. There are too many items on the menu at a restaurant and you’re not sure what to order. There are seemingly a million Apple Watch bands – which do you pick? What’s really the difference between the Honda Odyssey EX and EX-L?1

What’s the balance between offering choice and getting people to take action? That really depends on the medium. For example, you may notice podcasts have a ton of calls to action (CTAs). Maybe you do. My podcast does at times. Is that really the right route? And if not, what should your podcast’s CTA be? Let’s explore.

Read More “What is the Best CTA for Podcasts?”

5 Ways to get More Podcast Downloads

There are times in life when you have a fairly captive audience. You’re giving a lecture at a college where attendance is required. You’re the keynote speaker at a conference. You’re leading a meeting at work. You’re explaining to your wife why CSS Custom Properties are the bee’s knees1. But a podcast…and most online content…is the opposite of that. In-fact, unlike all of the examples names above, the audience might not even know your podcast exists. To get more downloads, you not only need to engage the audience. You need to find the audience.

Read More “5 Ways to get More Podcast Downloads”

Why the / Spotify Deal is Bad for Podcasting

Imagine going to one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant. He makes you his signature dish – Beef Wellington. After eating what is sure to be the best Beef Wellington you’ve ever had, you go to the kitchen to give your compliments to the chef. You notice he has some cooked steak left over. You say, “You’ve already done the hard part. Why don’t you just serve it for lunch tomorrow?”

He’s going to explain to you that the left overs won’t be nearly as good tomorrow as it is tonight. That the steak was made for his Beef Wellington and he’d need to exert effort to create a dish fitting for lunch, for the left over steak.

While I’m no Michelin chef, I do create a lot of content. And you can’t just throw the left overs out there and expect the same quality content. So why are and Spotify telling us to do that?

Read More “Why the / Spotify Deal is Bad for Podcasting”

Do I Need Video on When I Podcast?

Until recently, I’ve been a staunch defender of “video on” when you’re doing a podcast interview, for reasons I’ll get to in a second. In fact, I haven’t heard a really good argument for not having it on…until recently. So in this post, we’ll weigh the pros and cons and determine if you should have video on when recording a podcast.

Read More “Do I Need Video on When I Podcast?”