Why A Former Night Owl Became an Early Bird

 Photo by  Chris Spiegl  on  Unsplash

When I was a kid, I loved staying up late.

I would play video games and get my homework done at the same time. Super efficient I know.

I think this is how I tricked myself into thinking I was a night person.

Middle school me thought cool people stayed up at night and lame adults slept early and woke up early.

But that was just culture playing a trick on me. As a kid, I wanted to rebel against the norm, so if the norm was waking up early and doing my job, then I wanted the opposite of that: aka fighting against my natural circadian rhythm as a human.

But I suffered for this.

I wasn’t getting the things I wanted done. I felt tired throughout the day. The human body was designed to react to the chemicals that sunlight releases to wake us up. When computer screens interfere with that natural chemical reaction, we end up unlocking the ability to work late at night — but that doesn’t mean we should.

Advantages of Being an Early Bird

Early Birds have more discipline. Try waking up sometime between 5-7 AM every day. It’s a challenge that early birds adhere to consistently. And in conquering a mini-challenge every day, we train our discipline to handle more difficult things.

I understand it sounds awful to some people “what ew, I don’t want to wake up that early”. But discipline gets you what you want, and getting up early helps you get more discipline.

Early Birds have more quiet time to focus. When you wake up earlier than the norm, you have this period of quiet in the morning that is beautiful. No one is rushing you, no one is bothering you. It’s just you doing what you want to do.

This is the perfect time to write, exercise, meditate, or work on that passion project of yours. No one will ask you to run an errand or text you at this time.

Early Birds have guilt-free nights to do what they want. If you deliberately push your hardest work towards the early morning, then by the time night time rolls around, you can celebrate each night fully. Night Owls push things off until it’s late at night, whereas Early Birds get their work done immediately as soon as they wake up.

They are allowed the spontaneous nights while also making progress on their responsibilities/goals.

Early Birds will make more consistent progress on their goals. When you have the discipline and time in the morning to prioritize your tasks, you tend to get sustained success. Simply taking a step every day to improve is a surefire way to long-term benefits.

Disadvantages of Being an Early Bird

Early Birds can’t always spend crazy nights out. If you have friends who like to go out on late night adventures and taco runs, you’re going to miss out on these.

Early Birds put in more effort upfront. It takes time to build discipline and habits. It’s hard to stick to it when you want to sleep in.

Conclusion

I hope that helped explain why I’m an Early Bird now.

You don’t have to be an Early Bird to get your best work done, but it has a lot of advantages over being a Night Owl.

If you are serious about losing weight, getting fit, or writing your first novel, then I don’t think there’s a better way to do it than getting it done in the morning.

You Can't Have It All At Once (Q1 Reflections)

I've previously written about my goal-setting strategy in the past.

Summed up, I do this:

  • At the beginning of each quarter, plan SMART goals out in 3-month increment.
  • Assign tasks or habits that I can do on a daily basis to contribute towards goals (The 20-Mile March).
  • Evaluate progress with accountability partner on week-by-week basis.
  • Reflect on past quarter by last week of sprint (Week 13, which is this week for me).

Here's an excerpt from my reflection for Q1:

 Photo by  Ali Inay  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ali Inay on Unsplash


What were the 3 biggest lessons you learned this Q1?

1. You can’t have social goals and feel really accomplished.

Most social goals are uncontrollable and not satisfying when you complete. Because what you want most is connection, and that is impossible to control with the many random variables of life. For example, you may want to talk to five random people every day, and although you will reach this goal, you may find that completing the goal in itself doesn't make you feel any better. However, simply choosing to start a conversation with anyone on your path as a life principle rather than a numbers-oriented goal will make you feel as if good things are happening to you on autopilot.

2. Don’t try to track everything.

There are some things that you must focus on and spend all of your bandwidth on making successful, and others you must accept the consequences of less focus. You have to accept the shitstorm of other things being okay, while you excel in a few select areas — else you risk mediocrity in all areas. Be careful with this because sometimes the things you track become less fun.

3. You have a strength of health goals and social goals if you set up the right infrastructure. You need to set up the same system for your work life.

This past quarter, I was easily training and eating right - I had a powerlifting coach leading most of my training, and I simply had to follow it. College has made social life a lot easier this year compared to last year on the road in Chicago to Houston. Easier to go on autopilot. Now you just need to cultivate that discipline with your work — I know it’s hard, but you have to create focus periods and endure in order to become great and provide the right life for you and your family in the future.


Hope you enjoyed that sneak peak into my reflection on my top 3 lessons I've learned this past quarter on goal-setting!

Next post, I will talk about my top 3 wins for Q1!

A product I think will change the world

 Photo by  Andres Urena  on  Unsplash

When’s the last time you felt absolute glee the first time you used a product?

I got that feeling when I used my first Amazon Echo Dot that I won in a game of Salesforce Jeopardy at a networking mixer. Before I had used one, I thought they were totally unnecessary, like why would you pay money for a little speaker. What difference does voice make?

To my surprise, it was so much more awesome than I thought.

For the first time in my life, I felt like Tony Stark talking to Jarvis. Every morning, I had an alarm clock that would stop when I told it to. I would start my morning shower playlist hands-free and if I wanted to change songs, I didn’t have to get out of the shower. I could even request weather and a daily briefing of news instantly while I was putting on clothes. And it was all intuitive for me to use.

The Amazon Echo Dot, at $40, is proof that the future of voice-controlled AI can be affordable to the average person.

But Alexa as an AI is going to be so much more than she is now.

In the next decade, nearly anyone in the United States will have access to an affordable voice-controlled assistant that will save them time, entertain them, and allow them to live their lives more fully.

I believe that voice-tech is in a relatively infant state and that it will get so much smarter in the future. Right now, it’s only one-directional response (Alexa only responds to you) but once she can recognize presence or voice differentiation, she’ll be able to initiate conversation as well.

Maybe she’ll be able to pair with your CRM and alert you when it’s time to call your contacts.

Maybe she’ll know when it’s your birthday and call all of your close friends to send a pre-recorded Happy Birthday message to play when you wake up.

There’s so much possibility.

And when voice-tech becomes wearable and easily spoken into (Apple’s Siri doesn’t cut it for me), we’ll reach that next level of usability.

If I built a company (IBAC): Denying Applications

 Photo by  Niklas Hamann  on  Unsplash

I’m starting a new little series called If I Built a Company (IBAC) to play around with different scenarios. In this case, this would be if I built a company, what would it ideally look like?

You know that moment when you apply to a job and two weeks later you get that dreaded “Thanks for applying. Unfortunately…” email. You know what’s coming.

It’s such a sour note, and it really is such a disservice to people who take the time and write amazing cover letters about why they want to work for the company. The least we could do is treat their application with the respect it deserves.

Most companies don’t offer any solid feedback to applicants, and so applicants never know what to fix. So they will continually send shitty applications to other companies.

My company would give a detailed feedback on why your app sucked. And be brutally honest.

Now I hear about a lot of companies that get thousands of applications. “We can’t possibly respond to all of them” they would say. But we don’t need an in-depth analysis. I think a simple 140-280 character-sized response would be easily doable.

It just shows that we read your application, and it was disqualified because X.

Now the potential benefits of adopting a straight feedback model of hiring would be:

  1. A more detailed and transparent knowledge base of who we hired and why we hired them, so it’s clear to others
  2. Job applicants would appreciate our honest feedback and increase brand loyalty
  3. Society as a whole would benefit from better job applicants

Potential drawbacks would be:

  1.  Wasted resources (money, time, and opportunity cost).
  2.  Pissed off applicants (some people can’t handle the truth)

In the end, I think it’s the right thing to do if our goal is to hire the best applicants. This practice would go viral on major industry websites and cause an influx of talent to apply to our company.

How to Get the Life You Want with 2018 Goals That Work

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It’s a new year my lovely readers. And with a new year, comes new gym-goers, new dieters, and new “I’m going to treat myself nicers”.

Often with well-intentioned goals, most people are beginners when it comes to goal setting.

Why?

Because like anything, goal-setting and goal-achieving are skills. They can be mastered and done well. And unfortunately, a lot of people were not taught how to create goals that they can actually execute on.

Not you.

You’re going to make 2018 the year you get shit done.

My philosophy is by defining 3 things: why, what, and how.

Specifically, I create a vision (the why) of who I want to be, then I define that with my progress goals (the what), and create a plan to get those things by creating habits (the how) that will advance me towards those goals.

Here is my process of how I do those 3 steps.

Step 1: Create Your Vision

This is the step of asking yourself:

  • “who do I want to be?” and
  • “what do I want?”

When I try to answer these questions, I try to come up with 3-5 categories that define my life. For example, I use the traditional “health, wealth, and relationships.”

Then I write down what I want my health to feel like in one year or even further. The same goes for my wealth and relationships. You can use bullet points or paragraphs.

The key with this step is creating clarity. When you have clarity, the way ahead is less stressful. When you don’t have clarity, you get frustrated with putting in so much work towards something you’re unsure of.

It’s okay to not have 100% level of clarity, but the closer you can get to it, the better.

And it’s okay to be vague at this point. Your vision can be being a good role model for your future kids. If it’s unclear of what it takes to be that at this point, just keep iterating on it and defining it as you live life.

Treat your Vision Statement as a living document.

Once you’ve got a good page or so, set up a daily practice to revisit your Vision Statement. I like to read my Vision Statement aloud every morning before I start anything.

Step 2: Create Your Progress Goals (SMART)

Once you have a clear vision of who you want to be in a year, it’s time to create progress goals that measure whether you have accomplished your goals or not.

I prefer to make these goals SMART. If you have never heard of SMART goals in elementary school, then it stands for: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-based.

Some good examples of SMART Progress goals are:

  1. I want to go from 175 lbs to 165 lbs (aka lose 10 lbs) so I can fit into my old jeans.
  2. I want to make an extra $10,000 on the side for a family vacation.
  3. I want to write and publish a book.

These goals are great “what’s”: they define what we need to do to achieve our vision of ourselves. They’re specific, and realistic in the time-frame given (one year).

Note: I recommend a maximum of 5-6 progress goals at any given time. Why? For focus, and less of a chance of overwhelm. There will be chances throughout your life to get what you want to get. You can’t be greedy and want it all within a year. So really think about what are the 5-6 priorities for you for the next 12 months.

Now in some cases I will use vague goals such as:

  1. Be a better friend
  2. Learn how to code
  3. Learn how to cook/dance/etc.

Some goals are just hard to concretize. So I’ll explain in the next step why that’s okay and how we can still accomplish them.

Step 3: Create Your 20-Mile March Habits

Now that you have your WHY, and your WHAT, it is time to get down to HOW.

It’s a cliche phrase, but Rome wasn’t built in one day.

Any 2018 goals of yours should take longer than a day as well. That’s why we get to this section called the “20 Mile March”. You’re not going to lose 10 lbs instantly. It’s time to put on your rucksack and prepare to take one step every single day. The way you do this is by defining daily or weekly habits that will move you towards your progress goals in Step 2.

The great part is once you define these habits that will move you forward, you won’t have to think; you’ll simply take action and trust that it’s moving you towards success.

Now let’s revisit the SMART goals we made earlier and add habits that will lead us to accomplishing the goals we set forth:

  1. 1. I want to go from 175 lbs to 165 lbs (aka lose 10 lbs) so I can fit into my old jeans.
    1. Go the gym 3x a week.
    2. Eat 2,000 calories at least 6x a week.
    3. Sleep 8 hours daily.
  2. I want to make an extra $5,000 on the side for a family vacation.
    1. Work an extra hour daily.
    2. Sell one $100 product a week.
  3. 3. I want to write and publish a book.
  4.     1. Write 1,000 words a day.
  5.     2. Review and edit my text 1x a week.

See how much these goals have been concretized? When it becomes this clear on how you’re going to do it, all you have to track whether you’ve done the habits you needed to every week to see if you’re making progress on your goals.

Now let’s not forget the vague goals:

  1. 1. Meet new people
    1. Talk to one stranger a day
    2. Attend a class or event 1x a week.
  2. Learn how to code
    1. Do 30-minutes of coding daily
    2. Finish a new project or feature of a project once a week.
    3. Write a blog 1x a week to explain what I’ve learned.
  3. Learn how to cook/dance/etc.
    1. Go to hip hop class 2x a week.
    2. Practice solo 2x a week.
    3. Perform in front of at least one person 1x a week.

And that’s how you concretize vague goals.

When you define the practice it takes to execute on your vague progress goals, you make them way more real and actionable.

One extra step: Share your goals regularly

Many people start a new year’s resolution with: “I want to be a nicer person”. They post it on social media and then they end it there.

You’d think by telling people what your goals are, that you’d be more accountable to them.

For some people this may work, though for others it gives them enough dopamine to tell people about it, as if they accomplished something, and then they try it out for a while and then give up.

To combat this, I’ve found that having regular weekly or bi-weekly meetings about goals either with yourself or with 2-4 other people helps tremendously.

Optimally, you want to find 2-4 other people who are supportive and smarter in different areas of life to help you achieve your goals.

This has 3 effects:

  1. They can tell you if your goals are too overwhelming (sometimes you get ahead of yourself and create goals that are too ambitious OR create too many goals to do at once)
  2. They can hold you accountable for your shit
  3. They can lend guidance on their areas of expertise

This is by far the most effective way I’ve found to tackle the issue of 1.) creating good actionable goals, and 2.) executing and accomplishing them.

Let me know if you enjoyed this post by commenting below!

4 Tips to Win As A Freelancer on Upwork

Being a freelancer definitely has its perks: flexible hours, flexible location, and the freedom to choose which clients you work with.

But freelancing is not easy.

You have to handle insurance, taxes, and accounting all by yourself. You have to develop real discipline for getting shit done without someone telling you what to do. And, you have to constantly persuade new bosses why they should pay you.

Thankfully, Upwork helps make this process a little bit easier.

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Upwork is a website that provides freelancers with short-term and long-term projects to work on. While it comes at a cost (20% off your paycheck, ouch) it’s a brilliant place to get started in the world of freelancing if you have no current network of business contacts.

I got started in early 2017 and have since found success getting a constant inflow of new job opportunities almost daily.

If you’re starting out as a freelancer on Upwork, follow these 4 tips and you’ll be getting job offers your way in no time.

1. Write a headline and bio about the benefits the client will receive from working with you.

Always lead with what you will do for the client. People want to know how hiring you will benefit them. So you need to create the picture in their mind for them.

Explain what makes you different — why your life experiences make you such a unique person, the right guy/gal to get the job done. Detail work or related experience you’ve done in the past to show what kind of results you get.

Complete your profile to 100%, meaning 1) list the skills you want to get hired for, 2) adding some samples of your work to your portfolio, and 3) filling out the rest of the background information (certifications, work history, and aptitude tests).

Bonus points if you create a personal video for your profile. I haven’t tested this out myself, but I’m eager to know the success rate of a well-made video.

2. Get a friend to create a client profile and give you a 5-Star ranking.

Yeah, I said it.

It sounds cheap, but if you’re just starting out, you need some type of “recommendation” or rating that gives a signal that you’re a real person and/or dependable. Otherwise people will think you’re spam or too green (which is true but you have to get that first opportunity somehow).

This starts you off on a good foot on Upwork. I don’t know the exact numbers on it, but I believe that after getting that first 5-star rating, the trust factor goes up exponentially higher for freelancers.

3. Make each pitch personal.

We all know we’re not supposed to shotgun a bunch of standardized proposals to everyone (though that’s not stopping some people). It’s so ineffective and no one talks about it, but it’s a HUGE drain on your mental battery. Getting high rejection rates can do that.

Instead, take the time to craft proposals that reference the original job posting, and give them confidence that you’re the right person to handle it, however you see it best to do so. When clients start responding to you, reply within 24 hours, to give them a taste of what it will be like to communicate with you.

The goal of a proposal is not to win it outright. It's to give you a chance to start a dialogue. The goal is to want them to be so impressed with your proposal that they have to respond immediately after seeing it.

One extra thing that worked for me was including a video pitch in the proposal. It was not something that took more than a minute, it was simply a video message that stated “Hi, I’m Evan” (a real person who can speak English), and what I wanted to help them get done. Not necessary, but I attribute the human touch to winning me a couple more replies than I would have.

 

4. Earn a Rising Talent badge.

This badge program is the accelerant to your success on Upwork. Literally, you will get so many more job offers THROWN TO YOU instead of you having to pursue them yourself. Upwork does the job searching for you and sends you things that you may be interested in (depending on your profile skills).

This is by far the best way to earn more jobs rapidly.

You’ll show up in search near the top way more often for clients who are looking for talent, and you’ll have a shiny badge next to your name that just makes you look so much more credible. Clients will reach out to YOU so that you can interview for their job.

You can get the badge by following Upwork’s guide to becoming a Rising Talent.

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I hope that was helpful to all of the new freelancers. It's a fun life and the flexibility is awesome if you're the type of person who wants it!

Who else has had success on Upwork?

Comment below if you have any unique tips of your own!

What Use Is Unstable Crypto?

 Bitcoin cracks 12k as of Dec. 5, 2017, 6:39 PM PST.

Bitcoin cracks 12k as of Dec. 5, 2017, 6:39 PM PST.

I'm still trying to figure this out.

Why is the value of crypto so volatile? Is it because the technology is so early?

Is the goal of Bitcoin, Litecoin, or Ethereum to ever be usable as an everyday currency? Then that would require a massive economic shift to strictly crypto. Because that instability compared to other currencies, while exciting to some, will likely be a huge turnoff for the majority of people (who are generally risk-averse).

I don't trust economists anymore to predict any sort of bubble (they usually get it wrong), so I have no idea when this Bitcoin bubble will pop. I mean going from 3k to 12k in a matter of months is INSANE.

But can it keep going? And why will it?

On a side note, I was talking to one of my engineering professors, John Carlsson the other day, and he mentioned a very interesting brain problem that may help us understand the power of anonymous payment that cryptocurrency is capable of. It's called the "dining cryptographer's problem".

So imagine there are 3 people at a dinner table. One person wants to pay for the whole meal, but doesn't want the other two to know that he paid it. So how does he pay for the meal, while also retaining his anonymity?

Think about it for a second.

The secret is by using a coin.

No, not a Bitcoin in this case, but just a normal coin that presents a binary option. So what the cryptographers do at the table is that they start off with the coin facing one way (let's say it's heads). Then they pass it around the table, and if the person who receives the coin paid for dinner, she would flip it over (moving it to tails).

So by the time the coin returns to the starting point, the group would know if someone had paid for the whole meal if it's different than when it started. If the coin returned as a heads (the original side), then it may be assumed that it was the NSA that paid for the meal, and not one of them.

Therein lies some nugget of wisdom for being able to transmit information (whether that's money, data, or message) while retaining near complete anonymity.

People could send money anonymously to organizations. How would anonymous payments affect our world?

I'll keep thinking about it.

Why people are raised to fear failure

Synopsis: I have a theory that young people are raised to fear failure. Nearly all entrepreneurs claim that they couldn't have succeeded without being allowed the freedom to fail. So what are the factors that push young people to avoid failure?

  1. Parents trying to live their lives through their children
  2. Low exposure to role models who show whats possible
  3. 12+ years of permanent grades on a permanent transcript

Body: I'm curious about what makes people who they are. Currently most of the people I interact with daily are college-aged people and I'm starting to notice trends.

A lot of them are super scared of trying new things. They don't want to fail their parents. Often, their idea of being "adventurous" and taking a risk is doing a double major. When my friends tell me about their dreams, they tell me a lot of excuses why they don't pursue them.

When I get into a funk, I ask myself: why am I not pursuing my dreams? I've hypothesized that for me, it's these 3 things:

1. Parents trying to live their lives through their children

Although most clearly prevalent in Asian "tiger" parents, any young person can have over-controlling parents. These are the ones who have such high expectations for their kids -- enrolling their kids to be football players, learn piano, or performing well academically -- and end up suffocating kids for their early years.

Because parents often pay for their children's college tuition, the children take on a mixture of gratitude and guilt. They feel bad that their parents are paying so much for something towards their "future", and so they fear making any moves in a different direction because they feel they should be grateful.

2. Low exposure to role models who show whats possible

When you grow up in a small town, you don't get to meet that many diverse people. It's a feeling of being chained to your location that makes you yearn for adventure and exploration. Your role models are often people in the media or internet, and so they seem really far from the life you currently live.

And because we spend 50% of our lives in schools, the people we hang out with for 8 hours a day are other people who are too young to have done anything with their lives. We don't have that perspective to know what is possible.

Young people need to meet people of all ages who have reached various levels of success. That's the only way to know that people have failed and have become successful regardless. When we're kept away from these people, it looks like everyone around us should be striving to minimize failures.

Sidenote: most people aren't aware that their role models are a DM or email away.

3. 12+ years of permanent grades on a permanent transcript

One of my college professors recently said, "I want you guys to have fun with this project, and be curious about your learning."

Well that's mighty hard to do when every mistake you make results in subtractions from your final grade on a permanent transcript (her grading policy). Why would you risk that? It's so much better to do the bare minimum than fly up to the sun and fail.

Teachers can't honestly encourage their students to not be afraid to fail without first releasing the premise of permanent grades. Because as long as that expectation is there, there is always going to be supplicating to what the teacher wants, and less on what the student wants.

Conclusion: For other young people, it's not always our fault that we don't want to fail. Part of it is the environment that we were raised in. What we can do now is realize that the system has raised us to fear failure. When you can embrace failure as a learning experience that ultimately helps you, that is when you can say the shackles have been released.

10 Things I've Recently Failed At (Nov 2017 version)

Maybe it'll make people feel better at themselves to see all my failures. They'll see everything I've failed at and be like "oh my god, what a loser, this dude fails at everything he tries". That's fine with me. Let them talk.

My hope is that eventually, I'll have enough failures to make everyone jealous.

Things I've failed at recently:

  1. Not getting a TEDxUSC talk
  2. Auditioning for FEAR Factor and not getting it
  3. Asking a classmate out near the end of semester and getting curbed
  4. Not getting a job at a local standing desk company
  5. Not spending time on my business and instead procrastinating
  6. Not getting to the gym 6x a week when I plan to, instead going 3-4x
  7. Failed an exam or two
  8. Ate healthy maybe 60% of the time, aiming for 80%
  9. Sleeping about 6-7 hrs a night, aiming for 8 hrs
  10. Staying at home and feeling mopy and depressed, when I should go out and explore

Fail on.