How to Get 1% Better

One of my favorite bloggers, James Altucher, notes that if you improve 1% per day your value doubles every 72 days.

Think about this — we can become 500x versions of ourselves in < 2 years. (Double every 72 days, x9 cycles, 2^9 == 512).

Here are a few areas I want to 500x:

  • Speech
  • Programming
  • Physical health
  • Sleeping
  • Dental health

And here’s what I’m doing to improve 1%:

  • Calling out other people when they say ‘like’ to encourage accountability (yes this is unsolicited)
  • 10-15 hours /week of online courses
  • Running on treadmill or Metaconda, 7 days /week
  • Olly, a new OTC gummy for better sleep
  • Crest white strips, 30-45 mins /daily with no ‘off’ days

Some milestones from last week, in the same order:

  • Started teasing my girlfriend for saying ‘like’ and now she’s calling me out when I do it
  • Built my first single-endpoint API from scratch
  • Beat my 5k personal best, clocked 22:41 (7:18 /mile)
  • Went to bed before 1am, twice
  • Teeth look… whiter

This post started with a different title, ‘Bacterial Thoughts.’

I was going to write about when cynical ideas enter our headspace and discourage us from taking action / making tough decisions / standing up for ourselves.

But I don’t have a cure.

I don’t know how to expel bad thoughts. Thanks to a little-known learning disability I look at letters and see numbers and sometimes need 5 minutes to read a page in a book because I’m balancing vowels and consonants for each sentence like there’s a master grammar conspiracy (explanation of this in a separate post if demanded).

I can’t tell you that another coffee will give you the energy and focus you need to succeed and I certainly can’t claim that a good night’s rest will provide clarity. I’m not a lifehacker with 7 Awesome Tips to help conquer your to-do list, nor do I even care about your to-do list.

I own 3 computers because I hate walking around with a book-bag. Last week I didn’t respond to emails from 2 good friends because “I didn’t feel like it.” My ideal weekend is at home, alone, updating my Mint account and avoiding people. I’m voting for Donald Trump.

My brother and I haven’t spoken in months because “I don’t feel like it.” I owe thank-you cards to several people for Christmas gifts but I didn’t buy any thank-you cards until last night. Last night I watched Demolition starring Jake Gyllenhaal and in the movie his wife dies, and he doesn’t feel sad. Often I think I would feel that way if my wife died, because sometimes I wonder if I even have emotions.

Everybody at my company is great but if it were up to me I’d work remotely and never go to any of our meetings because I hate meetings. A few people I used to look up to lost their minds so I had to unfollow them. Yes, when I look up to someone the highest praise I give is a Twitter follow.

Most of these sentences start with ‘I’ because I care about myself more than you. If I go to my high school reunion it will be to see how fat the skinny people got and how much richer I am than the smart people. Most people probably share this sentiment but won’t say it out loud. I will.

So no, I’m not perfect. But I’m getting better.

Are you?


On User Onboarding

Yesterday I did a product huddle with one of our portfolio companies.

They’re in a somewhat regulated industry and customer privacy is a chief concern shaping their product.

Like most passionate teams we’re convinced that once prospects experience the ‘aha’ moment of our offering, they’ll convert / pay / evangelize to help disrupt an industry.

But we’re not there yet.

Because to provide this kind of experience, we need a lot of information.

We need to know intimate details about a customer’s sales, purchasing power, and business relationships. We need to know if the prospect is a decision-maker, aka credit card holder, and we might even need to hop on the phone to vet you.

These requirements do not a great first user onboarding make.

In discussing this issue, the idea of eventual vs immediate needs was born.

What information do we need immediately, before we can grant the user that aha experience, and what do we need eventually, before we can follow through on the promise of that experience?

With this approach to user onboarding we’re going to trim down the form fields, time investment, and prospect headspace as they consider our solution.

Indeed, the last thing we need is friction between pain and relief.

Don’t Change My (User) Behavior

Working in venture capital means all kinds of founders pitch me their solution on a daily basis.

It’s funny because I don’t have a business card. I stay home as often as possible. I don’t even make the investment decisions. But I exist near the waterfall, and founders want to get rained on.

Perhaps the worst kind of pitch, though, is when the product requires a change in user behavior.

It goes something like this:

“Everyone is doing ____, and it’s stupid/inefficient/expensive/bad/unhealthy.”


“Yeah. And we’re going to change that.”

There is a fine line between providing a better way to do something, and a new way. Uber? Better way to hail a taxi. Airbnb? Better way to find a place to stay. Dropbox? Better way to store files.

Uber doesn’t ask you to ride on a motorcycle. Airbnb doesn’t tell you to sleep in a tent (although at this point there are certainly tents on the platform). And Dropbox isn’t a network of well-trained carrier pigeons. They’re all just superior forms of the things you already do.

My buddy David used to tell the story of a large college campus, where the best strategy is to let the students’ natural trails serve as the blueprint for paved sidewalks. Let the student shape the path.

The same principles can be adopted in software. What do your users already do, why do they do it that way? How can you inject your solution into their existing workflow, instead of creating a new one?

Zoom, a popular meeting tool, knows that when you want to create a conference call you’re likely in the middle of sending a calendar invite. So instead of requiring users to log into their website to generate a link, they provide a Chrome extension that overlays Zoom in your Google Calendar.


With this simple, 1-day-of-code tool, Zoom users are empowered to use a Google Hangout alternative, while in the midst of creating a Google Calendar invite, every time they need a conference call component to their meetings.

Zoom is Smart. Be like Zoom.

How to do 100s of Pushups Every Day

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

I’m like most people. I work out, lose 50 pounds, love my new lifestyle, then digress.

Over the past few years I’ve fluctuated from 175 –> 240lbs and back again, thrice. Currently I’m 190 and content.

There are more important things to do with my time than hit the gym, so I compensate by eating lots of salad, generally not snacking, and drinking far, far less than I used to. Maybe one day I’ll start running again, but it’s not a priority right now.

One habit I have picked up, however, is pushups.

You don’t need any special equipment, athletic clothes, or even time.

Every day at 3:30p I hit the roof (or basement, pending SF weather) with several office mates and we do as many pushups as we can in 3 minutes. That’s it.

We started at the end of November, and in my first day I did 48. Nowadays I routinely log 100+, and my personal best is 120 in 3 minutes.

Sometimes I do multiple sets in a day. Just last Friday I logged 100 at 3p, and another hundred at 3:30p. Because when all you’re doing is pushups, you recover quickly.

Inspired by this new habit, over Christmas break I built Pushup Metrics. While it was intended exclusively for my workout team, now it’s striking a chord with people all over the country. In the past 2 weeks alone, several dozen folks have signed up to log their pushups.

Here’s what my personal dashboard looks like:


There’s an addicting quality to micro-tasks with singular metrics like “quantity.” Combined with my adornment of quantified-self, I’ll do just about anything harder, faster, and more competitively when it can be measured with charts and graphs. Maybe you will too.

If you want to geek out and get stronger at the same time, I encourage you to join us.

Protip: create a private team for your friends by logging in or signup up at and the app will do the rest. For inspiration, here’s my office team.


Smell vs Taste

Do you have a favorite dish that doesn’t smell good, but tastes great?

Then you’ve pinned the truth about most things worth having in life.

The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people?

Successful people can hold their nose.