Notes from the Generate Conference 2015 in NYC

It was an amazing Friday last week, at the Generate Conference in NYC.

Here’s a brief recap of topics covered (from my point of view).

Best talks
– Expertise category: Lara Hogan on performance
– Case study category: Jon Setzen on 24-hour experience
– Entertaining category: Dave Rupert on prototyping and play
– Energizing and ass-kicking category: Mike Monteiro on 13 designers’ mistakes

Notable trends
– performance is being taken seriously now. Everyone recommended, and working across teams to educate them on importance of performance optimization, and establishing “performance budget” for your projects
– rapid prototyping helps win business
– it’s a designer’s job to lead a presentation and “sell” the design to clients. “A good designer who can sell work is more valuable than a great designer who can’t.”

Random notes
– Brad Frost cracking up the entire time during Dave Rupert’s presentation. Crowd-energizing talk by Mike Monteiro. It is pure joy to watch someone who’s not only an expert, but also funny and/or brutally honest
– Shopify workshop was informative and inspiring. I built a Shopify store 3 years ago, and it was a great experience. Good opportunity for developers to make money by being experts/affiliates on their platform
– Good format, venue and programming. One day, 2 tracks, great speakers, AND reasonable pricing
– Got Mike’s book and Shopify’s Grow guide. Happy.

Instagram is happy, Twitter is whiny

Agree with Jason Fried’s take on these two platforms.

When I have a few minutes to kill, and my phone is in front of me, I almost always reach for Instagram. I never regret it. I come away feeling the same or better. When I occasionally reach for Twitter, I discover someone’s pissed about something. I often come away feeling worse, feeling anxious, or just generally not feeling great about the world. Twitter actually gives me a negative impression of my friends. I know it’s not Twitter doing it, but it’s happening on Twitter. that’s how Twitter feels to me.

For similar reasons, I don’t use Facebook and almost never check Twitter. I’m not that cool to be on Snapchat or Periscope. But I’m on Instagram all the time. And best way to get in touch is via good old fashioned email:

Who wants to start an online business?

Recently, I took an online course on starting an online business by Penelope Trunk.

Here are the reasons I loved her content:
– a very specific topic: it’s not about startups, not about non-profits, non about million-dollar businesses. It is about a side (some call it lifestyle) online business, that can potentially supplement or even become your main source of income
– she walks the walk: she started a few successful businesses herself
– she is a woman, who has a huge career AND is raising kids. This is a key factor for me: I want to hear from a woman with kids, because I am one, too. (as much as I love Ramit’s stuff)
– she uses personality type analysis in her courses. Everyone has unique strengths, and it is just so much easier to use something YOU are naturally good at for building a business.
– she’s honest and fun. Read her blog to get honest insights on womens issues, educational system, keeping together a marriage and career advice. Watch her videos to see how fun she is. She’s the real deal to me.

Here’s a quick example from Penelope’s summary email:

In short, you can divide people in four categories:

NT’s like to live in the world of ideas and will like systems.

F’s care about people, and feelings, and things that matter in the world.

SJ’s like details as opposed to big strategies

SP’s and NTP’s will thrive with smaller projects instead of long, drawn out projects.

I’m an ISTJ, and here are tips for people like me:

SJ’s are very systems driven. They’re not interested in ideas because you can’t quantify an idea. They want a system to push people through so they can see progress immediately. SJ’s should focus on online businesses and tasks that rely on systems based thinking.

ESTJ’s and ISTJ’s

The ESTJ is going to be a rock star at testing online businesses. No one will be able to launch and test faster than the ESTJ. They’re great with a to-do list, so they should write a list of every business type and just start going down the list and executing. Once they find one that feels right, they should go with that.

The ISTJ isn’t as adventurous in what they want to implement, because they want to know everything they’re doing is right. They will research until they’re sure their idea will work. That’s fine. They should wait for their idea.

That last one is so true. I just can’t dive into something until I know it is a right idea and it will work!

A couple of years ago, my friend Ohn and I had our side online business: an online store for womens clothing, jewelry and accessories. Ohn did a fantastic job running and promoting it, and she had fun with it (she’s an ESTP). I, on the other hand, enjoyed building out the site, coding up the template and anything related building stuff around the website. We since closed down the store, because stores with inventory in a crowded space are really tough to run (lesson learned). It was a great learning experience, and a testament to our friendship – we are still best friends (and sometimes reminisce about days when we had this fun project and did photoshoots modeling our clothes). So if you are doing a business with a partner, pick someone with skills that are complimentary to yours.

Question to all of my friends: do you have ideas for a business? I’d love to hear more, share the learnings from this online course, and potentially form a partnership – let me know!

James Altucher on Reddit

James Altucher is doing AMA on Reddit right now, and I think heâ??s brilliant (I subscribe to his blog).

Just wanted to note some of his answers for reference, they are great.

Q: You said you blew all your money on “expensive toys, trips, and bad ideas” What was the WORST idea?
1) Buying a house. People always forget: a.) a house is an illiquid investment so you cant get your money back when you need it most b) there’s millions of hidden costs when you buy a house c) the bank owns your house. not you. When you sell your soul to a bank, you reap what you sow. d) “choosing yourself” requires freedom. the white picket fence becomes a prison bar.
2) I put $2mm into a wireless device company that didn’t work out. But in general I kept doubling down everywhere because it wasn’t any one bad investment but a psychology that I needed MORE to be happy. Choosing Yourself requires a philosophy that LESS actually creates abundance in life.

Q: On the flip side what is the best thing you used your money to buy and the most fun thing?
The best thing I ever did with my money was just keep it in cash. Cash in the bank lets me know i can watch the river in the morning and not worry about money. Money doesn’t solve all your problems but it solves your money problems.
More important to buy memories than materials.

Q: Can you explain, in a nutshell, how to go about becoming internally healthy? I feel I’m on the bottom right now and really want to get out.
yes. i call it “the daily practice” but really its my practice. What works for you might be different. In the book I also describe a “simple daily practice” to ease into it.

  • I eat well
  • i sleep well. I used to never sleep. Sleeping is the key to ALL health
  • i dont drink. Drinking is a depressant and has a lot of sugar.
  • i dont eat junk food. junk food has jealousy in it, as weird as that sounds.
  • i NEVER gossip
  • i only engage with positive people. Even on this AMA i don’t engage with people trying to bring me down.
  • i read every day. 2 hours. Books. not web.
  • i write 10 ideas a day. Doesn’t matter what kind of ideas. The key is to get the idea muscle going.
  • I am every day grateful. if i start to slip into thinking about scarcity, i change to think about abundance. It is such a pleasure to do this.

Do all of the above for six months. I guarantee its like magic what happens then. Please try it. I dont care if you buy my book or not. Try the above.

Q: Hi James, can you give a quick tl;dr about how you started your most successful business (capital requirement, type of business, length of business) and what are the most important things you’ve learned business wise since finding all the other 19 companies?
what worked, what failed, etc…..

yes: my 2 most successful businesses I will tell you the common attributes:
A) I never raised a dime B) I had a customer from the first day C) I never put the company in jeopardy D) I was always willing to sell the business. I was never foolish enough to think I could be a billion dollar company. 99.99% of successful companies sell eventually.
that’s it. Oh, and also, if you arent getting customers and revenues, shut down the biz immediately or turn it around quickly.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice in getting initial (angel) investment?
A: Get a customer first. Your cheapest money is revenues.

Q: You said one of your best skills is reaching out to people (sometimes ones you’ve never met before). What’s your best tactic on cold calling and your best intro?
I can’t cold call very well. But what I can do is one of two things:
A) idea networking. Introduce a person to ten good ideas they can use to improve their business. Give the ideas totally for free and in great detail.
B) permission networking. Think of two people who can help each other and why. Get their permission to introduce each other. Then introduce.
Just cold calling rarely works. You have to give. Or as Gary Vaynerchuk likes to say, “you have to give give give”.

Q: Where is the legal profession heading and what is the best idea to profit from it?
Lawyers are glorified secretaries who try to scare you into paying them high fees.
3 ways to profit:
A) never use lawyers. be your own lawyer. B) create more sites like legalzoom. Look at that site and see what you can improve. Create sites that are like “quora for lawyers”. C) study bitcoin. Bitcoin is NOT a currency. It’s actually a digital replacement for contract law. Study how bitcoin can be used for everything from wills to escrow agreements, etc. Make a business out of that.

And the shortest and funniest question/answer:

Q: Does money actually get you a lot of girls?
A: I hate to say it: but yes it does.

Food for thought and the Whale

I read Hugh McLeod book (and recommend it), and subscribe to his blog as well.

The post from yesterday had some great highlights, most from a cartoonist life/career perspective, but I think some apply to anyone who is creative and wants to find that unique path of doing something fun/meaningful/hopefully profitable.

I wanted to share a few quotes that made me nod in agreement and think more:

Cons­tantly set­ting new goals, artis­tic or other­wise, is har­der than it looks.

Everything I own would easily fit in the back of a small pic­kup truck. I’ve never been into pos­ses­sions.

One of the smar­test moves I ever made was to figure HGH out HGH that making money indi­rectly off the car­toons was far easier than trying to make the money directly. If I could teach gaping­void rea­ders just one thing, that would be it.

The most impor­tant word in car­too­ning is “con­ti­nuity”. Dra­wing a good car­toon isn’t dif­fi­cult. Doing it repea­tedly, day-in, day-out is far, far harder. (this one resonates with my conversation with Mike yesterday, where he said “Every day, it’s a chisel strike. In the end, you’ll get a beautiful sculpture”)

The lon­ger it takes you to become suc­cess­ful, the har­der it will be for some­body else to take it away from you.

Source: Hugh’s post

Source: The Whale on Gapingvoid

Phone > wallet. Do you agree?

I was meeting a friend yesterday at 23rd street, and as I was exiting the F subway station, someone stole my wallet. I could actually feel my little bag get lighter as I was walking up the steps (or perhaps during the turnstile exit). And of course – it was unzipped open with the wallet nowhere to be found. Silly me, I started to look on the ground thinking I dropped it, instead of looking at people – I’m 95% sure it was a person actually pulling it out of the bag, and not me just dropping it. In any case – it was lost and gone.

My second thought was “Thank goodness it was only a wallet, not the phone!” (first thought was a long train of expletives). Then I thought it was interesting – in today’s world it’s more annoying to lose a phone. Whatever is in the wallet – cards, ID, cash, is totally and quickly replaceable. I called banks within minutes and cancelled my cards (only carry 1 debit and 1 credit card). Then I happily went on my way to meet my friend and enjoy the rest of the evening. She had to treat me, poor money-less person, to dinner – yay :)

Then it also got me thinking about iOS’s Passbook feature, and how it would really be helpful to have everything from your wallet in the Passbook, in my example store gift cards. I had a couple in the wallet (no biggie), but instead of carrying them around, it would be so much better to have them on your phone. If you could have an Apple gift card in your Passbook – why not others? Looks like Starbucks started first to offer it, and now thanks to the app Gyft you can put almost any gift card on your phone. And how soon will we be having everything on our phone, without needing cards or anything else physical on us, at any given time?

One more note of kudos to the New York State DMV site – you can order a duplicate driver’s license online without any hassle! It made me so happy – no need to go anywhere or wait in lines; just pay and submit your info online, and done! I did it lying on my couch from my phone – very cool.

Would you be more upset if you lost your phone or your wallet?

Career panel at the Brooklyn College Computer Science Department

Today I had an honor of speaking at the career panel for CS students at Brooklyn College CUNY.

My friend Suzanne invited me to participate a few weeks ago, and I immediately thought it was a great opportunity, especially since the topic of careers in tech is near and dear to my heart, and I loved being in college and wanted to see what students these days are about.

There were quite a few topics discussed today, mostly focussed on students graduating and entering the job market. A few questions were really interesting and related to today’s hot topics, so I wanted to highlight and recap them here.

Q: What is your understanding of the future or trends in the technology field? What direction is the industry heading in and where are opportunities opening up?

It would actually be funny if someone can predict the future – or we would all be rich. Coincidentally, I just re-watched an old Soviet movie really popular with kids during my childhood, it’s called “Guest from the future”. The movie was made in the early 80s, and there’s a time machine that allows people to travel in time, and in the future circa 2080’s people “flip” in flying little cabins instead of using cars, and have devices that can read anyone’s mind. But if these things will actually happen in the future, and when – nobody knows for sure.

The best thing we can do is to get solid fundamental education, stay curious, and know how to adapt quickly. Also find out who the experts are in your area of interest (be it mobile, connecting tech with physical devices, artificial intelligence, etc.) and talk to them. A great discussion with smart people is priceless, and sometimes you can even find yourself thinking about something that addresses needs of people, and seeing it used widely in the near future.

Q: How is the technology industry currently for women and/or minorities? Do you have any particular advice for women and/or minorities interested in technology?

Technology industry is a great place to be for women and minorities! I did not personally face any prejudice or discrimination either in school or my career, and actually feel that the opposite is true – tech is a very welcoming place to be right now, with lots of jobs and openings and developer bootcamp programs encouraging women to apply. Technology field is very fair and based on merit and actual work you do – so being great is the key, regardless of your background and who you are.

My advice for anyone (men or women) would be the same – do your best, learn as much as you can, excel at what you do, be professional and a good communicator, and the rest will fall into place.

Q: Please talk about graduate school. How necessary or important is it for the field?

My answer would be based on my own experience (so might not apply to everyone), and I really didn’t want to spend time in grad school, but rather get as much hands-on, real-world experience as I could. So no grad school for me. Other panelists suggested to consider grad school if you know already you want to focus on a certain area of your field, or if your employer is subsidizing your education in some way. Agreed on both counts.

Q: What skills, training, classes or experience are important for someone interested in the technology career field?

Some panelists provided very focused answers, targeted to web development with technologies at hand (HTML/CSS). I disagree. Technologies du jour may come and go, but your basic fundamental understanding of how things work, and how and why new technologies were created will serve you long term.

For example, Ruby is a very popular language to know today. There are developer schools specializing in teaching Ruby and making you into a web developer in as little as few months. It is great. But just to know Ruby, its syntax and how to create web pages, is only scratching the surface. If you really understand why Ruby was created in the first place, what MVC is and how it was implemented with Rails, what are the limitations of Ruby that are better done in other languages, you’ll go way further than majority of other self-proclaimed developers.

If you know your fundamental stack and principles, you can program anything from a spiffy web app, to a mobile app, to a tiny-sized app that you put into a watch or send to the moon… So don’t limit yourself to one technology, and stay curious and keep learning every day. Skillshare is a great place to learn new stuff, including non-tech subjects like business, project management, art, etc.

Big thanks to Suzanne, Brooklyn College CS society who organized the event, and my fellow panelists, who each offered a unique perspective and shared their experience and advice. It was a great honor!

Then and now

Two seemingly unrelated conversations with friends this morning gave me this post idea.

First discussion was about big and the toilet was separate from the bath room), sit on the floor and watch them, because it was dark and had a perfect white door to project onto.

Those were such good times! And now, fast-forward to modern day, to the second conversation, which was about Tard, the Grumpy Cat, attending the SXSW. Don’t you love how she looks? And don’t you marvel, that if someone had a cat like this back in the days of diafilm, nobody would know about it, aside from neighbors perhaps. But today, the lucky owner of this cute cat, is an internet celebrity getting flown into the largest conference and sponsored by some big cat food brand. The cat is earning money for it’s parent!

*Image from

I wonder if our future generations will know anything about either diafilms or Tard… because the speed with which we acquire knowledge these days is so so fast, and there’s exponentially more things to know for each new generation. So what will be lost, and what would be remembered?

A time for everything

I have amazing friends. And I was thinking that we are all going through interesting phases in our lives. Right now it happens to be the phase where most are figuring out our life partnerships. Some of us already did, some of us are further down the road and started families (only a few of my close friends have kids though and they are mostly in Russia and Kazakhstan), and some are still searching, and some of us are in the process of making it official. Which is all pretty cool.

Then I remembered my mom said that there’s a time for everything in life. Back then I didn’t really think too much of it, but now it’s starting to make sense to me. We had this carefree time as kids, then kind of a discovery phase as teens in high school and into college, then establishing ourselves independently, finding jobs, interests, friends. And now it seems like as we know who we are and what we want, it’s the next phase – our partnerships.

Of course it’s not all black and white, and we can still be childish sometimes, or keep discovering things, or meet new friends and find new hobbies, but in essence it’s true – there’s a time for everything in your life.

I think another point I’m trying to make is that if you feel like you really want to do something – do it, enjoy being young, take risks while it’s still your time to take them, and don’t waste your time.

Randomly, I found this piece (maybe from Bible, not sure), and I like it, so I’m including it below:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

And this picture that’s also relevant and sweet:

Make yourself dispensable?

As it often happens, had a conversation with Mike about one topic and somehow arrived to Rand Fishkinâ??s blog. In one of the posts, Rand writes about outdated advice to employees on â??making yourself indespensableâ?. This means that your company will supposedly need you so damn much, it will not be able to function without you or replace you. Evil sysadmins come to mind, or programmers that hoard their secrets and obfuscate their code, or sales people who will not share their leads with anyone.

I think itâ??s silly to protect whatever it is you do, only to make your job â??secureâ?. You shoot yourself in the foot, because if youâ??re guarding your current tasks, you canâ??t really move forward. Wouldnâ??t it be better to instead share what you do with the team, and see if they can improve on it, and have a chance to work on something else? Iâ??d also argue that job security does not really depend on how well youâ??re doing whatever youâ??re doing now/hired to do, it is how quick you can figure out new ways to do things better, how good youâ??re with your team and how much you can give to them and help them grow.

Sean, who runs Fluent, talks about it often, and heâ??s mastered the art of sharing and delegation. I remember when they just started he used to be involved in day-to-day tasks, but in the course of couple of years, by sharing what he does and delegating, he was able to move to his strategic role and do bigger things (grow and run the company), while his team keeps day-to-day work going. So I see him as a captain who started as a deckhand :) Imagine if he insisted on staying an indespensable deckhand?

*Captain who mastered the art of delegation

This is another reason why I enjoy meetups and our weekly Show&Tell meetings, because thatâ??s where you find the smartest and most generous folks sharing their knowledge. They are not afraid to lose their â??powerâ?, because their power is in their curiosity, ability to learn and teach. And this can not be taken away.

Visit Randâ??s post for his take on employersâ?? point of view and some interesting comments.