Tag Archives: business

Johnny Boursiquot on building a software agency from scratch, learning Go for Rubyists, and server-less software architectures.

Listen to this episode of Hacker Practice on iTunes today.

Sometimes you start a conversation with one intention, and digress into something completely different.

This happened to me recently, in a conversation with an old friend and mentor, Johnny Boursiquot.

Johnny and I were supposed to do a deep dive into Go Lang and Ruby in this hour long conversation. Instead we spent half an hour talking about Johnny’s experience building a technology agency from scratch.

Then we got around to talking tech XD.

Johnny is well-known as one of the pillars of BostonRB. He also helped to organize the Boston GoLang meetup before moving to Maryland where he founded Baltimore’s GoLang Meetup.

He was listed on New Relic’s list of 18 Go Experts to Follow Online.

In the episode we talk about:

  • Johnny’s lessons learned from founding and building a tech agency, lots of juicy business advice for consulting companies and agencies in the first half of this talk
  • The relative pros and cons of using ruby vs go in different domains
  • How to get started using a new language

  • A quick primer in serverless application architectures

  • How intermediate devs can 10x their workflow

And a lot more.

Enjoy.

Notes

[00:00] What brings Johnny to Maryland after living more than a decade in Boston

  • What brought him to Boston in the first place

[02:30] Major lessons learned from time in Boston running a technology company

  • Running a company means that you’re responsible for other people’s income
  • Many unexpected challenges: biz dev, legal, etc

[05:15] How did Johnny get started in technology business.

  • Started with entrepreneurship in high school

[08:00] Learning how to do business

  • Dealing with clients
  • Managing expectation
  • Touching on the difference between hacking and building a product

[11:00] #1 Lesson? The difference between a service business and product business

  • Agencies do not scale the same way a product scales
  • Most agencies do not end up producing a lot of reusable technology or internal products
  • It’s hard to do internal product development because your staff is busy with revenue generating service activities
  • It’s risky to invest in product development

[20:00] What would Johnny do differently if he could start over?

  • Start a product company: raise money.

[23:00] What about the reverse situation? Making a profitable, successful agency.

  • Protect your margins
  • Be flexible with workflow; Agile doesn’t always work smoothly in an agency environment
  • “They want warez”
  • Your job is to tease out the specifics of what the client actually wants
  • “You’re not in control of your own product roadmap”

[27:30] How to mitigate risk of scope creep

  • Establish a relationship; a partnership to guarantee future work
  • Get a Master Services Agreement

[32:00] Segue to technical discussion. What is Ruby good for vs Golang?

  • Ruby for developing something fast. “Getting a web app out there as fast as possible”
  • GoLang is better for heavy lifting, whenever performance is a consideration

[37:45] What are Johnny’s tips for learning Go (or any language)

  • “Leave baggage at the door…appreciate the differences of Go”
  • There is a “Go Way” of doing things

[41:15] What kind of project should I try using GO in

  • Anything with heavy duty network requirements
  • Microservices (“Something you can throw away”)
  • “Gnarly, performance-critical jobs”
  • Concurrency in Go is super-awesome

[45:00] AWS Lambda and Serverless 101

  • Not actually “serverless”. That’s a marketing term. There is always a server somewhere.
  • Monolithic App > Microservices > Lambda functions
  • Everything is a discrete functional unit
  • Very cost-effective because the server only runs when you call the function

[51:30] What can an intermediate Rails developer to 10-20x their workflow

  • Look past the magic of the language (Ruby) or framework (Rails)
  • Learn the underlying properties of the WYSIWYG
  • Understand how SQL, HTTP, Databases, and CURL — fundamentals of the web — work
  • Learning the underlying complexity enables you to use the higher-level abstractions more rapidly

[59:00] Johnny’s relationship with the command line

  • Used to work in Windows, and mostly everything was a GUI
  • Put together command-line tools to build Flash experiences
  • Started using Ubuntu – understood that there are discrete tools to use and stitch together from the command line
  • Now uses a Mac. Everything can be done from the terminal

[1:05:45] Running swift on the server

[1:07:00] Johnny’s new life hack

  • Modified Pomodoro with a physical twist

[1:10:00] Johnny’s child-rearing hacks

    • Every child is different
    • Reward effort over innate qualities
    • Lots of people squander innate talent. Working hard never fails.

[1:14:00] Johnny’s new job at an education non-profit

  • Serving under-served school districts
  • Exposing diverse groups to the world of technology
  • Bring education equity to the communities that need it most
  • Mostly doing ops work these days
  • The biggest challenge is always dealing with people
  • Johnny loves pairing with more junior members

[1:20:00] Final requests to the audience and where to find Johnny

What now?

Go become a better programmer. And subscribe to the show on iTunes.

Caricature Artist Julia Kelly on Art, Business, and Bookkeeping (e011)

Listen to this episode of Hacker Practice on iTunes.

Julia Kelly and Justus in the Cayman Islands

Do you know somebody who loves to argue?

I’m one of those people. So is Julia Kelly.

We’re great together.

Julia is the most renowned caricature artist west of the Mississippi. She built her business from scratch and is currently starting business #2.

I guess I caught her at a good time.

When I asked her to do an interview with me. She made an interesting request: “Let’s wing it!”

She’s been on some pretty awesome podcasts including: Entrepreneur on Fire, Double your Freelancing, and Afford Anything. She says: the less scripted the show, the more fun the interview.

My old college buddies would agree: Justus loves “doing it live”. So I agreed to do the episode with ZERO PREPARATION.

Typically I prepare for interviews with rigorous research and outline a list of topics to talk about. In this case I did no such thing. Shoot, I didn’t even take notes until after we recorded the conversation.

The result was a fascinating conversations that covers art, business and everything in between. Enjoy 😀

[00:00] This is an unconventional episode. Julia explains why.

[01:55] How Julia introduces herself as

  • A Bookkeeper
  • A Caricature Artist

[4:30] How to be a success without trying very hard

  • Morning rituals and meditation are for the birds
  • How to be successful without them: Show up, do good work, and keep your word.

Sine qua non noun

  1. an essential condition; a thing that is absolutely necessary.

[07:00] Some ways Julia and Justus are different

[10:00] Why Julia is moving into the bookkeeping business

  • Recurring revenue, predictability, stability
  • Partnership

[13:30] Julia shoots down the concept of “following your passion”

  • It’s a fleeting feeling

[16:00] How Julia developed the craft of caricature art

  • Time on task is the most important aspect of developing artistic ability
  • Got a job at LEGO Land
  • The job had a 6-hour training program where everything was done in a marker
  • No erasing
  • Don’t be a perfectionist (“If it’s 80% good, ship it!”)

[24:00] Julia’s and Justus’ artistic influences

Julia Kelly’s Bust of JRR Tolkien

[32:30] The story of the Captain’s hat and lessons Justus learned from an experiment in fame

  • Fame is cheap
  • Anonymity is priceless

[37:30] Julia’s struggles with identifying her strengths

[40:30] Julia’s friend who knows Tom Cruise

  • Confidence is extremely valuable.
  • Fake it ‘til you make it

[42:30] Julia’s story getting started freelancing

  • Market focus made all the difference

[45:30] Selling to trade show marketers

  • Tracking ROI is important
  • “Connect what you do to the outcomes they want.”
  • Attract traffic
  • Create follow-up opportunities
  • Create the right marketing language and identify with their needs
  • Get one customer and drill them for what sold them
  • Get feedback to improve (Peter Dunbar echoed this in episode 8)

[53:30] What lessons from caricature art transfer to bookkeeping

  • Pricing for bookkeeping is more custom, so don’t advertise fixed prices
  • Longer sales cycle for bookkeeping

[56:30] Successes and failures in bookkeeping

  • 3 client since August
  • Cold email works!

[57:30] How to cold email effectively using LinkedIn

  • Julia sends 70 canned emails a day
  • The 556th email hit!

[1:00:00] Justus tells a story about canned cold emails that worked on him

  • Follow up 4 times!
  • Follow up again!

Yet Another Mail Merge Google Sheets Extension

[1:04:00] Julia’ Bookkeeping goals and differentiating factors

  • 7 figure business
  • Totally remote
  • Flat monthly fees

[1:05:45] Julia’s ideal client is hands-off, casual, comfortable with remote bookkeeping, and wears plaid

  • Rapidly growing startups are a good fit in many cases

[1:08:30] Julia wants everyone to go read Slatestarcodex and talk to her about it.

Check Julia out at

Also, Julia thinks GMO’s are safe. That is all.

What else?

That’s all. Actually, wait, no. Go to iTunes and subscribe to the show. And leave us a review 😀

How to Get Shredded, Break World Records, and Write Killer Copy with Stan Dutton (003)

Stan Dutton has multiple world records in power lifting.

Stan Dutton overseeing a small group class

Stan Dutton is the co-owner of UpLifted Inc. in Boston. He was one of the top 20 165-pound powerlifters in the United States in 2014. He completed 300 hours of hands-on training at the American Academy of Personal Training and earned his Training for Warriors Level 2 certification. He is a second degree black belt in Taekwondo.

I met Stan Dutton while recording the CEO of my startup doing squats at his gym. For form. But that’s not important.

Stan and I immediately hit it off. Two young college dropouts trying to make it as entrepreneurs in the city of higher education (Boston). It was practically destiny that we became friends.

Stan and his partner Nathan were running a Training for Warriors franchise location when I met them. Stan impressed me with world records in powerlifting and constant enthusiasm for life and business. He’s also a genuinely nice guy.

Now, Stan is undergoing a transformation. I feel very fortunate to interview him in the midst of transition.

In our talk, Stan tells me about his philosophy of fitness. He teaches some breathing exercises that helped him break world records in powerlifting. We talk about creatine and copywriting. He shares about the latest developments in his career.

I tell a story about poop.

It’s an exciting time to be a top-flight personal trainer. The zeitgeist around diet and exercise is constantly changing and Stan is right at the edge of what normal people can engage with.

Find out how Stan gets crazy results with ordinary people in episode 003 of Hacker Practice:

Notes

[2.10] Stan discusses being the personal trainer for the CEO of Pavlok and how he met Justus.

[5.20] Stan describes his philosophy on fitness:

  • An empathetic approach without having to a stereotypical “burn them down” trainer and rather “build them up”
  • Built on a foundation of integrity
  • Stan puts the “fun” in functional fitness.
  • Train for consistency and focus on having fun in the process.

[10.30] Stan gives tips on how he would go about training up Justus to become an elite level athlete in only 6 months.

  • Train to your genetic physical strengths
  • Intensive training needs to be supported with longevity training

[15.00] Justus shares a story about how he broke 2 hours in a half marathon after taking a poop!

[21.30] Stan shares details on the records he broke including lifting 3 times his bodyweight as well as the importance of breathing exercises

  • Stan explains how he uses specific breathing exercises to enhance his lifting capability
  • Proper breathing is fundamental to a great posture which is critical to effective and efficient powerlifting.
  • Breathing needs to occur through your diaphragm. You want to feel like you are breathing through your stomach. Your collarbone should remain relatively stable if performed properly.

[31.00] Discussion on Stan’s preferred protein supplements and common misconceptions around creatine

  • Creatine, monohydrate for strength and mass building
  • Creatine essentially gives your muscles extra energy to be able to max out repetitions. The cells will draw in extra water to enable this process which can cause dehydration. So it’s especially important to be vigilant of hydration when using creatine supplements.
  • Stan shares how taking too much creatine as an adolescent resulted in severe nausea, loss of appetite and the beginnings of dialysis.
  • Taking hormones can result in Gynecomastia (enlarged breasts)

[40.00] Pros/cons of fasting

[42.30] Stan says why he thinks college is a waste of time and explains how getting hands on experience, has set him up for success in the personal training industry

  • Not going to college taught Stan how to deal with uncertainty in business relationships

[48.00] “At one point a degree used to be a differentiator…now not having a degree is a differentiator”

[49.15] Why suffering is the best thing that can happen to someone because it forces them to grow and change

[51.00] Stan describes his tips on writing epic emails and copy

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action
  • Learn how to be empathetic and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Remember, people buy from people.
  • Stan suggests Paul Mort as a fantastic resource for writing quality copy

[58.50] Stan describes specific tactics for selling high value coaching services

  • The power of specific personal examples and sharing vulnerability with clients

[1.04.00] Why having a personal coach will help you become a better version of yourself

[1.08.00] Stan describes the “black swan” event that turned his life upside down

[1.15:30] Stan describes his latest venture – busyguyfitness.com an online platform for busy professionals to complete workouts in time constrained environments

[1.18.40] How Ryan Holiday’s, Ego is the Enemy helped Stan reframe his decision to work as intern and take a “pay cut”

How you can get in touch with Stan:

Instagram: @standutton165

Website: busyguyfitness.com  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StanDuttonTraining

Conclusion

If you enjoyed today’s episode please subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review!

Michael Alexis: International Investor and Philanthropist on Growth Hacking, Mastering Craigslist, and Surviving Chinese Parasites (e001)

Michael Alexis (left) and myself (right) in Georgetown in the Cayman Islands

My first ever podcast features investor and philanthropist Michael Alexis. I’m so glad to start with Michael because we are good friends and he is a master at making people feel at ease.

Michael got started in adult life as a lawyer, but quickly moved into startups and investing (but not investing in startups). Now he is a growth consultant for some of the highest performing startups and an international investor with stakes in places like China.

Michael and I worked together at an award-winning startup and have since built a relationship around challenging one another to do better everyday in life and business.

Our discussion revolves around investing, growth hacking, marketing, security, startups, business, ethics, life hacks, and risk mitigation while gallivanting in foreign countries (travel is a favorite past time for both of us).

You can hear our conversation here:

  • Michael helped Pavlok win the Shopify contest. (1:55)
    • Have a great team + a great product idea
    • Best Practices = Average Results. Test assumptions by challenging existing models
    • Michael discusses specific conversion results.
    • “Build the email list and prioritize getting people on it over prioritizing the sale right away.” – M.A.
    • Trade email address for price information on low-price consumer products.
    • Simple, single column websites can convert 3X better than “flashy” bootstrap-style websites.
  • Michael talks about his investment thesis [15:30]
    • Why he is an Investor / Philanthropist hybrid (hint: Building wealth is not the end-goal)
    • Why he invests in projects that pay dividends and NOT STARTUPS
    • Why he is willing to lose everything.
    • Michael’s ideal emergency fund lasts for years
    • Why Michael invests in competitive markets (because the model is proven)
    • Better Marketing + Better Service = Winning Strategy
    • Why startup employees should be open to equity compensation even though they likely won’t exit
  • Michael talks about the podcast he convinced me to start (31:30)
    • Risks are low
    • Networking opportunities are high
    • Are podcasts the new blogs?
  • What would you do to market Hacker Practice (36:20)
    • Write up guest posts based on the content. Try to get 8-10 posts out of each interview. [For this episode: Growth Hacking, Drastic Changes, Simplicity as a Philosophy]
    • Interview high profile people and retarget ads at their followers (on top of native promotion)
    • Think about SEO: use transcripts and notes etc to capture long tail [POTATO MARKETING]
    • Multiple Win Scenarios
    • Why you should start a podcast
  • Experiments I should try on the podcast [46:30]
    • Connect with someone for intentional practice. (PEN TESTING, NVC, DIFCON)
    • Make a sale on the podcast.
  • What Michael would ask Mr. Big Data, Jesse Anderson [50:00]
    • How did Jesse teach himself complex skills?
    • How did he acquire his big, impressive, clients?
  • What single critical system should I develop to make the Podcast awesome?
    • Have a great process for ensuring that you have an ongoing flow of guests.
  • What does Michael think of 2-factor authentication [54:50]?
    • Most people should use it. Especially for email + banking
    • Using 2 factor auth is difficult across many accounts
  • Other security measures everybody should do[56:45]
    • Make passwords difficult (long 8+ characters)
    • Diversify your passwords
    • Use a password manager (like LastPass, Michael and I both use this)
    • Encrypt your computer and external hard drives.
  • What’s the worst Black Swan event that’s happened to Michael? [59:45]
    • He picked up a vicious parasite in China
    • How to mitigate the risk of terrible sickness in China:
      • Don’t eat from sketchy street vendors (China is especially bad)
      • Look for hygiene markers
  • How does Michael manage Celiac disease that could kill him? [1:50:50]
    • Cook at home. Some restaurants that claim to be gluten-free aren’t concerned with cross contamination because they don’t take the risks of Celiac seriously.
    • Eat the same things every day.
    • Over-communicate the seriousness of your food allergy.
      • As a side note: Seems like there is no such thing as over-communication. Great teams talk more than you think they should.
  • How Michael makes money sleeping on great mattresses [1:08:15]
    • Good mattress = good sleep = high performance
    • Buy a Tempurpedic mattress on craigslist, negotiate the price down
    • Use the mattress
    • Sell the mattress on craigslist when you’re done at a higher price using superior sales writing and copywriting skills.
    • Negotiating heuristic for Craigslist: offer 20% off posted price, accept 10% off.
  • How Michael stole Groupon’s business model for fun and profit [1:14:30]
    • Steal models that are “hot”, resell them on Craigslist.
    • How he improved his programming skills and made money at the same time.
    • Repeat
  • Michael made a podcast because of the Mixergy podcast (see link below for Interviewing your heroes)
  • Michael talks what he learned working with Ramit Sethi [1:22:30]
    • Ethical Persuasion: If your target customer had all the information available, would the buy your product?
    • Reminds me of Simon Sinofsky’s great question: “Am I inspiring you to act, or manipulating you to act?”
    • Create a product that is totally aligned with your audience’s interests
  • Copywriting Resources and Tactics [1:28:10]
    • You should read George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language (LINK BELOW)
    • Name dropping works. Soundbites work.
    • Read and re-read everything you plan to publish. Reconsider every single word.
    • Headlines should convey benefit and target market: “Learn Practical Copywriting Tactics from the Masters”
    • Subheader should say HOW you’ll deliver: “This 8-week video course includes ____”
    • WHY > WHO > HOW
  • Michael advises me on my blog strategy [1:38:55]
    • What’s the goal?
    • Systems for blog promotion
      • Syndicate the material everywhere: Medium, LinkedIn
      • Post to aggregators: Reddit, HackerNews, GrowthHacker
      • Post to social: FB, Twitter
  • How does Michael cultivate respect and relationships? [1:43:20]
    • Be authentic and honest with yourself.
    • Be truthful even when it’s to your detriment. In the end, it won’t be.
    • How I improve client relationships by applying honesty to my detriment
    • How I talk to girls by being honest
  • Michael says: interview people who do big things that most people have never heard of.

Links

 Conclusion

If you liked this episode, please subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review!

15 Negotiation Habits to Build Better Deals and Relationships

The last five years have seen my dollar per hour revenue skyrocket from about $10 / hr to now hovering just around $300 / hour on average, and as high as $500 / hour on some projects.

Charging this amount allows me to focus half of my working hours on personal development. It also allows me to live nomadically, taking on passion projects as I see fit. I spent the last four months working this way: travelling around Europe and the Caribbean, studying art and architecture, working on 2-3 projects part-time for clients I really like.

I don’t believe success comes as a result of one single skill. However, there are “first order” skills that will consistently be useful in personal and professional settings.

Negotiation is a first order skill, useful in all walks of life.

I’ve spent last week working on a thorough review of 2016. In doing so, I’ve reviewed goals, notes, and materials I have from as far back as 2014.

In this review, I found my 2014 notes from Professor Deepak Malhotra’s video on negotiating a job offer.

14 of the following points come from that video. I’ve expanded on them based on my real-world practice.

Here are my notes on negotiation, summarized into a handy list of 15 points.

1. They need to like you.

AND YOU NEED TO LIKE THEM.

This is a no-brainer. The most important failed negotiation of my career was the result of several parties deciding that they simply did not like the opposition.

They had righteous cause for their assessment, but that does not matter. There needs to be an implicit desire to work together on both sides of the table or else the negotiation will be lose-lose.

2. They need to believe you deserve it.

Simple. I practice this by selling only to referral business. I do not do outbound sales because convincing an non-believer is much more difficult than doing great work with people who are already 100% on board.

3. You need to be able to do the work.

Duh. I never promise someone: “I can deliver you an MVP”. Because it’s impossible to know if I can build a minimally viable product in a given domain without giving it the old college try. I can promise a prototype. Prototypes are contained. Prototypes have a binary spec sheet. Either the prototype is or is not completed. The prototype either fulfills the spec or it doesn’t. The spec is either feasible or it isn’t.

Promising someone a market response is false prophecy.

4. You should be flexible regarding currency.

What do I want out of a job? Well, it’s mostly the same as three years ago:

  1. The work should be morally compatible with my worldview.
  2. Cash.
  3. Equity / Profit-share
  4. Respect.
  5. Learning.
  6. Mobility.

These are all forms of currency that I consider when looking at a job. When I’m considering a job, these are all on the table as compensation. I’ll take $100 / hour job if it means I get equity in an awesome product I can work on from anywhere with a great team I can respect and learn from.

On the flip side, there is no money in the world that would convince me to work on something that has demonstrable harm to human life or the environment with people I don’t like.

5. They have to believe they can get you.

If I quote too high a number, the other side might walk away thinking there is no way they could afford me. This is why it’s important to discuss the above issue of currency openly so they know that there are levers they can pull to help me engage in the project happily.

6. Do not negotiate for the sake of negotiating.

If they offer you precisely what you want, don’t negotiate just to get a bit more. Sure, you’ll see financial upside. But you’ll get it by taking advantage of the other party. I’ve killed client deals by getting greedy. I should’ve stuck it out and seen about long-term upside with a more positive relationship outcome.

7. You have to understand them.

Think in terms of the other person’s interests. I have to work at this every day in a variety of contexts. It’s an exhausting, laborious mental effort. And it’s worth it every single time.

8. Negotiate multiple issues simultaneously. (Don’t waste anyone’s time).

This should be obvious. A lot of novice negotiators take some terms of a deal for granted. It’s best to get everything you can nailed down the first time. Otherwise you’ll find difficult and distracting negotiations right around the corner.

9. Ask why the answer is “No”.

This helps you understand the other person (see #7) and counter objections. It’s something I need to remind myself of all the time. You’ll also learn a lot about your market by frequently asking “Why?”

10. Stay at the table.

Sometimes negotiations get exhausting. Don’t walk away from deals because of fatigue, anger, or boredom. Take breaks but always set a time to reconvene. Emphasize the importance of resolution to the other party so they take the matter seriously.

11. Prepare for the most difficult questions.

You already know the honest responses to easy questions. It’s the difficult questions that you should prepare for. Prep for negotiations by considering their interests and extrapolating which questions might arise that will make you squeamish. Lean into that discomfort and prepare honest responses that leave you authentic and confident.

12. Everybody has a plan until they’re punched in the face.

I write scripts for just about every single important meeting or conversation I walk into. I do this as an exercise in rehearsal. I don’t expect the conversation to go the way I scripted. The real difficult questions will come up that you did not predict. The other person’s interests will be different than you thought.

Do not rely on your powers of foresight to have a positive outcome. Rely on optionality to capture upside because you can never be certain that you have a useful informational asymmetry.

13. The person who needs it the least, usually wins.

Tim Ferriss talks about this a lot. I used to enter a lot of negotiations where I needed a “Yes” more than the other party. It was a constant uphill battle. It wasn’t until my abilities lined up with my expectations that I started going to negotiations that were simply “nice-to-have”.

In other words, if your basic needs are covered, then winning the deal is “nice-to-have”. Any deal should be gravy on the steak of life.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring passion to the table. I don’t even show up if I’m not super excited about the deal. Why would I?

Like Derek Sivers says: “If it isn’t a hell-yes, it’s a hell-no!”

14. Ask yourself why they’re asking the question they’re asking.

Again: this will help you understand the other person and their interests.

One time, I sat at the table with three executives and the CEO of a startup. The negotiation had a bad ending and after the fact I said to the three (former) executives: “I would have done the same thing in his position.”

In that case, I recognized the CEO’s interests after the fact. If I had more carefully considered them before the negotiation, I wouldn’t have wasted my time sitting at the table to begin with.

15. Avoid making ultimatums (and ignore them if they come from the other party)

I’ve fortunately never dealt with such a situation in a business environment. If you follow rule #1, then this shouldn’t become a problem.

Ultimatums do, however, rear their ugly head in all sorts of personal situations. In this case, ignoring the ultimatum will serve you well. Just move forward, because people who try to coerce you via ultimatum are generally not worth being in a relationship with.

A new year of negotiation

Already this year I’ve been lucky enough to sit at the table with TWO potential clients I would be excited to work with. I’m glad to say I’ve followed most of these rules and can expect positive outcomes and relationships from these folks no matter the result of current negotiations.

I wish you the best possible 2017 as you go about your career and personal lives. If you can think of additional negotiations tips and tactics I’d love to hear about them.

The five kinds of friends and how they will impact your business.

To change your social habits in 2017, try out the 2017 ONE CAL wall calendar that I made specifically to help with habit tracking in my own life.

These are some of my best friends.

The average angel-backed startup is running on one thing: Trust.

They’re mostly comprised of 20-somethings. They don’t have wives or kids. They have friends. They live with them, they hire them, they eat their breakfast, lunch, and dinner with them. Their co-founders are their oldest friends. They share studio apartments paid for up-front on maxed-out Amex’s. They invest in each other’s companies and they cover each other’s bar tabs.

Now that I work with startups around the clock, I’ve seen how friendships can affect business: How college roommates can become effective leaders in the private sector. How starting up with your family can tank the company in six months. The nature of the relationship makes all the difference.

There are 5 kinds of friends when you’re involved with a startup. They can exist within your organization or come from other places. They can be family members, mentors, or some combination.

They are, in no particular order:

1. Bad Friends
2. Good Friends
3. Best Friends
4. Imaginary Friends
5. Demons

The differences lie in the costs and benefits as well as the corporeal existence of the entity in question.

Bad Friends (Waste time, waste energy)

Bad friends are toxic. They take up time and energy. They have bad habits. They are bad friends to you, and to themselves. They make you feel judged. They are not in alignment with your goals. They have expectations that can’t be managed. If you don’t spend time together, they stop being friends.

You should stop spending time with these people. They consume your time and your energy. There’s a compound effect for every toxic relationship you maintain.

Sometimes, bad friends are extravagant. They convince you to spend precious time and money on toxic behaviors. They want to party. You want to work. They want to eat fancy, you want to eat healthy.

They’re fun, but they’re bad for you.

If you’re wondering if a specific person is a bad friend, they probably are.

Drop these people from the team. Simply stop communicating with them. With they text, ignore them. When they call, ignore them. When they email, ignore them.

Some people will say you’re a being a bad friend. I contend that you’re saving everybody time and energy and being a good friend to yourself.

Good Friends (Spend time, gain energy)

You might spend most of your free time stressing about the things you’re not getting done. Good friends get you to forget about the to-do list for a while. The best entrepreneurs are present in the moment and soak up this time together.

You should get energy and insight from your friends. This is what separates the good friends from the bad. They both take up time. Good friends give you something in return: energy.

Good friends have different goals from you. They are working towards a different end.

Good friends are good people. They feed your soul. They don’t cost you any money. They barely cost you any time. They are supportive, understanding, and considerate. You have to spend time on good friends. You have to keep in touch and hang out together. If you weren’t regularly in contact, you’d drift apart. This is a sad but necessary fact of friendships. Drifting apart doesn’t have to be painful. A good friendship can be rekindled without hard feelings as long the mutual energy transaction is still present.

Best Friends (Save time,  gain energy)

The best friends take up no time at all. Every moment spent with your best friends is a moment spent on the cause. They are working towards the same goal you are. These are the people you found companies with. People who you partner with for 10 years to achieve the moonshot that is your life’s work. They come around once or twice in your lifetime if you’re lucky.

These relationships are not strategically planned. They are serendipitous.

You gain energy from these people. You save time by knowing them. They are the ultimate force-multiplier. They are your secret weapon, your competitive advantage.

Imaginary Friends (Save time, spend energy)

In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill suggests the formation of a personal cabinet. This is a set of imaginary friends that you consult regularly to get advice. These are usually role models and icons that live in your head and help you think from the perspective of a genius you admire. Here are mine:

1. Jesus
2. Gandhi
3. Elon Musk
4. Tim Ferriss
5. Steve Jobs
6. My future self

I go to these people with different issues. Jesus reminds me to love my fellow man. Gandhi reminds me that the truth will set me free and that I have to be the change I want to see in the world. Elon reminds me to focus on big problems. Tim asks me if I’m working on the right things. Steve keeps me focused on quality, because if it isn’t quality it’s shit.

My future self is on the cabinet as a reminder to check in. How am I treating myself 12 months from now? How about 12 years? How am I treating the person I should (ostensibly) care the most about?

Maybe you haven’t put together an imaginary cabinet.

That’s fine, I’m kind of a freak.

But, you certainly have mental schemas and representations about people in your head. One of my portfolio CEO’ssays, “I just ask myself what my mother would think of what I’m doing”.

That’s the same thing. Those mental representations require energy, but they can save you a ton of time by giving you an outside perspective.

Demons (Waste time, lose energy)

Demons are your internal saboteurs. Positive Intelligence lists the ten saboteurs as follows:

  1. The Avoider
  2. The Controller
  3. The Hyper-Achiever
  4. The Hyper-Rationalizer
  5. The Hyper-Vigilant
  6. The Pleaser
  7. The Restless
  8. The Stickler
  9. The Victim
  10. The Judge

These have been described in depth in Positive Intelligence (which, yes, you should read). They all affect us in some capacity at different times.

I’m certainly a victim of my own demons. I tend to judge others harshly. I tend to be restless, bouncing from task to task. I frequently wonder if the task at hand is the most important task I could be doing. A regular mindfulness practice has helped me be aware of and address these tendencies in a constructive way.

Demons waste our time and our energy. Whenever you catch yourself engaging with your demons, you should consult with your cabinet instead.

Understanding your friends, real and imaginary.
The real Tim Ferriss once said that if he could put anything on a billboard, anywhere, he would put it on the campus of the country’s biggest college. It would read: “You are the average of the five people with whom you associate the most.”

This a popular concept and really potent one. It’s critical to professional and personal growth to accept that our social circle is individually formative.

I include our good and bad imaginary friends on this list to emphasize that time spent in reflection is at least as important as the time spent in action.

High performers are good at asking: “What am I spending my time doing?”

The question I’m suggesting we ask is: “Who am I spending my time with?”