Ryan goes to Thailand

A few months ago I experienced a jolt of inadequacy, bolstered by frustration. I had been let down for the last time by software developers who weren’t building the products I assigned them.

I remember saying to myself, “If I was a developer, all I would do is ship…

Fast forward to September. I hop on a plane to Thailand for 32 days and only one thing is for certain: this will not be a vacation. I wrote a few goals in my notebook:

  • Code
  • Read
  • Write

With the ground rules in place it was time to get started.

First, I went heads down into programming la la land. Besides HTML/CSS my only solo attempt at building software was last October when I launched this. While that product now boasts 2,500+ users and 5-10 new signups /day, piecing it together was frankly a mix of copy, paste, confusion. I never understood how it really worked, a reminder that even broken clocks are right twice.

Next, I substituted moments of debugging hell with books. If you spend just enough time failing at a code problem and then walk away, a sort of “background job” happens in your brain. Several mornings I actually woke up from dreams where fixes to my problems presented themselves. If you don’t believe me, ask a developer.

Lastly, I needed an outlet to interpret various observations and express myself. This is pretty self-explanatory because I already do it on a regular basis (example: you’re reading it).

I spent the majority of my time at the apartment. I ate 1-2 meals /day, drank only water, and slept 4-5 hours. My usual schedule: awake by 9:30a, coding and reading all day, some tv at night, and bedtime around 5:30a. Throughout this minified routine I found that warming up a new skill requires letting another part of your life get hypothermia. The areas I chose were friends, clients, American food, and speaking English. I think it worked out OK.

Without further ado, here’s what I did last month:


  1. Is Palindrome? — the longest palindrome wins
  2. Book Worksheet — business frameworks, saved to PDF
  3. Facebook is Lying — how many friends do you really* have? (joke)
  4. Before reddit — prediction algorithm for reddit post performance (joke)
  5. Get Myspace Back — create a nostalgic Myspace profile in 1 click (joke)
  6. PartnerFriendly — open-source Ruby gem for making user emails more marketer-friendly
  7. Speedrail — supercharged boilerplate codebase for building new Rails apps
  8. Scaffold Wizard — simple spreadsheet that helps Rails developers with data modeling
  9. Enrolled in Tealeaf, an online programming bootcamp


  1. Why Foursquare will Destroy Yelp
  2. What sucks about AngelList
  3. Case Study: Spirit Cares
  4. Everybody is a programmer


  1. Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis
  2. Meatball Sundae, Seth Godin
  3. Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore
  4. David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell
  5. Rails Tutorial, Michael Hartl


  1. Watched all 5 seasons of The Wire
  2. Bought my first harmonica, can play simple songs in C major
  3. Made a trillion dollars on Billionaire (first iOS game I’ve ever played)
  4. Many many Thai massages ($6-8 /hour)
  5. Inbox Zero daily
  6. Explored cafes, bars and restaurants
  7. Took a few photos
  8. Watched movies: Everest, Maze Runner, Southpaw, Cartel Land, etc

Income / Expenses

  1. $10,000+ in
  2. $800 out ($350 furnished apt, $100 entertainment, $200 groceries, $150 restaurants)
  3. $9,000+ profit

I flew home to NYC on Monday. I’m sitting on a plane to Miami currently. Next week I’ll be in San Francisco, then Dallas, then back to San Francisco. So it goes.

With just a month of focus I was able to ship meaningful work and have a bit of fun doing it. But what if instead of coding I trained for a marathon, or learned Thai, or took scuba diving lessons? Better yet, what would happen if any of us focused on something for an entire year?

One of my favorite lines from Shawshank Redemption is when Red (Morgan Freeman) is narrating a clip of Andy (Tim Robbins) who is contemplating an escape from his jail cell:

“Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes, really. Pressure, and time.”

In life we never have time for anything — we make time. Now ask yourself three questions:

  1. What do I want to do, that I’m not doing?
  2. How can I make time for it?
  3. What scenario would provide the right amount of pressure to get it done?

I’d love to hear what you accomplish. I hope it blows my list away.

To shipping,