Thailand Announcement

Beach near the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand

Since I read the Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss in 2010, I’ve wanted to build a company that would allow me to travel. For close to two years, I worked on a food startup in San Diego. I lived and breathed the company, gained valuable skills, and experienced the rush and grind of running a small business. However, I realized that I don’t want to report to anyone again - I want to work for myself. I bought a one way ticket to Thailand in May. I am going with my good friend Josh Voydik.  I want an adventure and I want to control my finances with my laptop and the internet.

In the beginning of 2014, it was clear that I was going to move on from my startup.  I started looking for new jobs and saw myself as a great fit at a handful of other startups. It was exciting to think about the value I could add to another company and being a part of something cool. But I didn’t pursue another job.

Why not? It’s boring. It’s a known outcome – I’ll work hard and make money and have objectively less control over what I am working on compared to my last company. I see the possibility of living an independent life anywhere I want. What greater challenge is there than to travel the world and figure out how to make money on my own terms? Nothing excites me more.

If you have any questions, ask me on twitter @caseyknapp

How To Start Your Creative Work

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” We don’t tell ourselves, ‘I’m never going to write my symphony.’ Instead we say, ‘I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.’” – The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

You told yourself all week that you would have time this weekend to work on that project. Now it’s Saturday morning, you actually have the time to work, but instead you watch Netflix in bed and hate yourself for wasting four hours. Now it’s 1 in the afternoon and you’re not sure if you should take a nap or eat lunch. The solution is momentum. Here are some ways to jump-start your creative work and keep your momentum building:

1. Write Down What’s In Your Head – When you have a few things you want to do, but don’t know where to start, grab a piece of scrap paper or a note card (always have these within arms reach) and write down what you want to do. Accept that you will not complete most or possibly any of these things today. Next, ask yourself, “what’s the most uncomfortable project? What’s the hardest? What are you convinced you won’t be able to do?”

2. Set a timer for 10 minutes - and start working on the uncomfortable project. Too long? Try five minutes. Once you start, you’ll figure the initial roadblocks and by the time the timer ends you’ll probably want to keep working.

3. Block Junk Food Websites – If your work involves anything online, accept that you’re vulnerable to distraction and indulgence and block the junk food sites. You know what I’m talking about. Remove the same sites from the bookmarks bar and use one of these plugins to block them: Chrome- Website Blocker, Safari – Mindful Browsing.

4. Turn Your Phone Off (Silent or Do Not Disturb Don’t Count) - When your phone and internet and Vine videos are seconds away, it’s too easy to get distracted. When you’re phone is off, you can’t rationalize turning it back on to check it for two seconds only to turn it back off again.

5. There Is No Perfect Time To Work – Start working for 10 minutes and see what happens.  “I’m not in the zone” “I need coffee” “I’m expecting a call and I don’t want to get in the zone and be interrupted.” “I need to exercise soon and don’t want to start.” Rationalizations like these are nasty and really hard for everyone to beat. Accept that they will never disappear and that you can only muscle through as they arise. If you need coffee, get some coffee and get to work.

6. Celebrate Victories – Finish the 10 minutes? Nice job, you’re gaining momentum. 10 minutes is better than doing nothing, and it’s way better than most people. 10 minutes a day will be felt after a year.

Approach these hard projects with a “death by a thousand cuts” mentality. There is no epiphany where it all makes sense. It’s about putting little pieces of work together to build toward accomplishment. The hard part is getting started. Sit down and see what you’re capable of.

 

Use Your Power For Good With These Four Books

“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.”     The Prince, Niccoló Machiavelli

If you want to use power for good, start with these four books. They’ll arm you with knowledge on correctly challenging yourself, protecting yourself against other people’s power, and amassing power of your own. 

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – Like 9/11, you’ll always remember where you were when you first started reading this book.  Pressfield explains the switch from living like an Amateur to living like a Professional by illuminating the universal force of the Resistance. The Resistance is what keeps you from doing to work that is truly challenging, it’s what keeps you in an unfulfilling relationship, and it’s what makes you say, “I’ll start (whatever excites you and you know you should do) tomorrow.”

48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – Read this you will be able to defend yourself against other people’s power, you’ll see what’s coming around the corner, and you will know learn how to use power to get what you want. This is politics, people, red herrings, cunning, navigating the real world and picking out people’s true motivations. This book has helped me avoid countless blunders.

Mastery by Robert Greene – I wish I had this when I first started college. Greene dissects the stories from many masters, alive and dead, to reveal a relatively clear path to becoming a master. The overall lesson is that mastery comes from constantly being creative and pushing yourself. But he also tells the stories of potential masters who lose it all through complacency, arrogance, and ignoring social mores.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser – You will need to communicate through writing at some point, and the better you are the more influencial you’ll gain. The main takeaways here are that everyone’s first draft is terrible and that powerful communication comes from cutting the fluff out of your writing. Think of this Winston Churchill Quote “Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all.” Another useful article on writing here

It never hurts to be prepared. Obviously these books are not silver bullets for real life but they’re a good investment. What books have been most helpful to you?

How To Analyze A Project

When you start something new, whether it’s a marketing project or a habit, it’s helpful to see why and how everything turns out the way it does. Analyzing starts before you launch and ends after you finish. It’s impossible to ever know exactly what happens, but the frames below give you a good idea:

1. What is the best case scenario? [5 sentences]

2. What is the worst case scenario? [5 sentences]

2. What do I think will actually happen? [5 sentences]

[execute]

3. What actually happened and why? [5 sentences]

This exercise roots you in reality. You can never get predict the future, but this is as good a system as any to attempt to.

Improv Classes and Vulnerability

Vulnerability is hard to embrace but when you do, you get to know yourself better. I found a way to safely confront it: improvisational comedy. I took a six-week training and left with some unexpected insights. The stage is a social equalizer that exposes everyone’s personality in a fair and brutal manner, quickly exposing how people really feeling. I learned that the best way to confront vulnerability is through boldness. Finally, I realized that being vulnerable is a way to quickly feel comfortable with people.  Improv is a seemingly therapeutic environment where people can be vulnerable without suffering social ridicule.

Here’s how improv works: people play a series of games with around four people who invent a story or jokes based on the rules of the game, what the other actors say, and audience prompts. My class was a diverse group of about fifteen; one guy owned a construction company, there was a psychologist, a pediatrician, two guys were podcasters, and a bunch of others. Throughout the six weeks, everyone was overwhelmed on stage, had their minds freeze, broke character, and felt extremely embarrassed. A Ph.D doesn’t save you from stage fright. Everyone was forced to reveal a sensitive part of themselves to strangers, something that most people never do.

Most are desperate to avoid confrontation and be socially accepted by others.  They mask vulnerability behind an arsenal of words and actions. Improv forces people to leave that armor backstage. One improv constant became clear within the first few minutes: feel embarrassed and make people laugh by being bold and energetic, or feel embarrassed, act embarrassed, and people will feel bad for you.  The inner voice that is always suppressed is forced into the spot light, and when the spotlight hits it, parts of yourself you never knew were there come alive on stage. In my case, I usually think of sexual jokes, or my first reaction to things has some kind of sexual undertone. It’s weird, whatever. That combined with a higher than average aversion to social confrontation means that I tend to keep that part of me quiet. In improv, even though I am embarrassed and my mind tells me a thousand different ways that people think I am weird, if you’re bold and come out guns-a-blazing, you can pull it off, it feels amazing because you’re being yourself, and the audience laughs.

I did not think that I would relate to any of my classmates on the first day. I was the youngest by at least 8 years, but surprisingly the entire class became really close to each other on the first two hours. Much more so than say, a defensive driving course could have brought people.  After the second class, I joined everyone at the bar next door to the theater. Even before we got our glasses, everyone started honestly sharing and relating to each other about how the stage made them feel and act. We felt comfortable being open because all the awkwardness came out during class. We all shared a hidden part of ourselves on stage, so it was fun to talk about it afterwards. We were proud of each other for allowing ourselves to be judged.

Improv brings people to the cutting edge of reality that makes people feel vulnerable, but it’s an environment where you can feel safe too. It helps you get to know yourself and others in a way that would not be possible in a coffee shop or a bar. It’s a great beta-test for embracing boldness in other parts of your life. Because of improv, I am more comfortable being myself.

Changes Since September

Here are some of the new things I’ve started since moving to San Diego

1. I wake up at 5:30am during the week

2. I meditate for eleven minutes five to seven days a week, usually right after I wake up

3. I am active (run, gym, surf, yoga) at least six days a week

4. I write three to four days per week

5. I read one to two books per week

6.  I drink/party way less than I did in college.

7.  I am taking improv comedy lessons

8.  I use the 4 Hour Chef to cook more

The things I want to change

1. Instead of bingeing TV shows on sites like coke and popcorn, watch one episode at a time

2. Eat more food. I am not making the most of going to the gym

3. See a therapist. Not for anything serious, just to have an empathetic listener who knows how the mind works to listen to me

4. Find something with coffee-like effects so I can drink less coffee. In only drink two cups a day, mostly for saving money

5. Save more money

6. Meet more girls

7. Post here more

 

 

Turning my pitches upside down

Unless you’re in sales, this won’t be that relevant to you.

I watch an interview with Oren Klaff and finished his book last week. In less than a day, I adopted some of his tactics and have seen enormous changes in how my pitches are received.

Over the last three weeks, I’ve cold approached more than 180 businesses and pitched about 50.  When I read Klaff’s book, a lot clicked. His method is all about controlling the frame of the meeting. His book is sort of like The Game for the conference room.

The main thing I have been able to API right into my performance is the idea of time contraints.

The customer, in my case larger businesses in San Diego, are used to the vendor kissing their ass so hopefully they make a sale. There’s an underlying neediness in most sales people that makes the customer a little uncomfortable but also know that they are in control. One way to to make these people 1. feel at ease and 2. know that you are in control is to immediately impose a time constraint. Say, “I have another meeting after this, so I’m going to  stay for 15 minutes, then I have to go.” It doesn’t really matter how long I stay, but everyone knows that my time is valuable and they are now working on my schedule. After a strong performance/pitch on Thursday, I had one of the top law firms in San Diego reassure me that they are a respected company and that they pay their bills on time.

I added these tactics in two days and have barely explored what this power will bring me. The main question is how does that increase sales and get more people eating our food. That’s what I’m working on next.