At the end of each year I take some time to reflect and to write out new goals and resolutions for the coming year. This exercise is about more than just the goals themselves, though–it’s about really taking a moment to check-in on my growth and to find alignment between my values, how I choose to spend my time, and my overall life direction. These words were written to inspire a future, struggling version of myself to stay the course and keep pushing to grow despite bouts of discomfort or laziness (both of which are natural parts of the journey).

I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and for the last couple I’ve chosen to make my goals public here on my blog. I don’t publish these to show-off, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers–if you spend 20 minutes reading this blog you’ll quickly realize that, while I have some strong convictions, I’m very much a work in progress. In fact, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that not every goal I’ve ever written down here has been accomplished. (Fortunately, though, many of the really important ones have.)

I publish these in the hope that, if I’m lucky, my journey to improve myself and an account of what I learned along the way will inspire or enlighten even just one other person. I hope that by writing about living my ideals and leading by example–with all of the bumps, blemishes, and bloopers left in–I may lend someone else the courage, the discipline, the perseverance, the authenticity, or even just the awareness to start living their own. Life is about the journey, and this is how I make the most of mine.

 

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2016’s theme was discipline, concluding in an Ironman triathlon. 2017’s theme was courage, culminating in leaving my job to pursue my own path. 2018, in a sense, is going to be a combination of the two. There are two main areas that I really want to work on:

  1. Learning to deal with uncertainty, and to fight against my instinct to plan and control everything.
  2. Learning to identify, trust, and follow my authentic inner voice.

Learning to Deal with Uncertainty

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
–The Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr

We spend the first two decades of our lives with an abundance of externally-defined structure. Grade school, high school, and college all provide relative rigidity with our parents, our teachers, or our majors delineating a path forward and giving us a definition of success to strive for. Then we graduate, and suddenly all of that structure evaporates. In the vacuum, the game becomes about defining meaning, purpose, and success for ourselves, before learning to apply them in the face of life’s fundamental uncertainty.

There are two primary ways we learn to cope with uncertainty: 1) creating, finding, or borrowing structure so that we have control over what we can control and 2) learning to let go of the need for control over things we fundamentally cannot control. Both methods are important, and they involve different and opposite skills: the former requires that we learn to be a proactive and creative force in our own lives, the latter that we learn to go with the flow and not burden ourselves with what we can’t control (e.g. the past, the vast majority of the future, how others think and act).

In my limited experience, most people I’ve met excel at one of these strategies, but not both. In fact, in a funny way, those who naturally excel at one strategy are often awful at the other–when you have a hammer, everything kind of looks like a nail. Personally, my hammer has always been proactivity and control (that’s why I started writing these goals in the first place); acceptance and going with the flow has always been a weakness. Ideally, one masters both of these strategies. Once that’s done there is a third challenge: learning when to apply each strategy for maximum effect.

In the past, I’ve written a lot about courage and discipline. In fact, last year I wrote, “I believe that I need two main virtues in order to accomplish everything I want in life: the courage to dream, and the discipline to execute.” I don’t think I realized it then, but those virtues map pretty well to the methods of dealing with uncertainty I just described: discipline involves creating and following through on structure, while courage requires a learned acceptance of the things we cannot control so we can function despite fear.

Though I still have a lot to learn about both courage and discipline, and though I’ve made a lot of great progress in the last couple years, I’m realizing now that a piece has always been missing from my thesis: learning how to use courage and discipline together, and when to apply one over the other. As it is, my instinct is still very much to control, plan, and analyze. I think in 2017 I learned a bit more about how to let go, but I still struggle with when to let go. Finding or creating opportunities to practice this skill is one of my top priorities in 2018.

Learning to be Authentic

Learning to deal with uncertainty is a little like learning to sail a boat: you have to learn how to trim the sails and weather different conditions at sea. Ultimately, though, you could be the best sailor in the world and never get where you’re trying to go without some means of navigation. Authenticity is our means of navigation on the capricious sea of life; it’s the compass needle subconsciously guided by our deepest values, and the north star that lights the way to who we’re meant to be and what we’re meant to do. I believe authenticity is one of the highest pursuits in life, not because there’s some pot of universal truth or meaning at the end of the rainbow, but because it’s the path that maximizes individual long-term happiness realized through integrity and self-actualization.

Sometimes, however, the compass spins or the night sky is cloudy, and we can’t seem to find our way. This is because the concept of authenticity is complicated–certainly more complicated than “just being yourself,” as the platitude goes. There’s a multitude of different influences in our lives–our parents, our peers, our significant others, the culture or environment we grow-up or live in–that can passively or actively push our internal compasses away from true north. Completely avoiding any of these influences on our lives is impossible, and not entirely desirable: sometimes pieces of external influence create resonance, shedding some light on what we truly value. Other times, though, our internal compasses point us in directions that lie in direct conflict with where external influences would have us go. When this happens, one of two things occurs: we choose to go someone else’s way, thereby learning to wear a mask; or we follow our inner voice, moving us closer to our authentic selves.

That process is, of course, also not as easy as it sounds. The more external voices there are and the louder they are, or the meeker our inner voice–if, for example, we aren’t very secure about ourselves–the harder it can be to identify, trust, and listen to our inner voice. Ultimately, I think the goal is to be able to remain true to self especially in the presence of strong external influences. Personally, this is something that I’ve struggled with quite a bit in my life to date, and there have been a few key points where I’ve caught myself walking a potentially inauthentic path, not the least of which led to my leaving Palantir and Silicon Valley.

I’m very much still learning to trust myself, to feel internally rather than externally secure in who I am and who I choose to be, and to follow my internal compass. I think that these are among the most important things I can learn in life, both because I believe it’s the path to truly internalized happiness, and because life is full of stories about the archetypes played out by the alternatives: the entrepreneur or creative who regrets never believing in herself enough to take a chance; the ego-driven playboys, businessmen, and politicians who believe attention or money lead to happiness only to find themselves feeling hollow inside; and the go-getters who climb the corporate ladder in a desperate desire to “get ahead” without ever stopping to wonder what it really means to be ahead.

Goals

How will I pursue the two priorities outlined above?

  • Running my own business
    • Uncertainty
      • As I’ve been learning for the past few months, trying to get a business off the ground is sometimes overwhelmingly uncertain. By continuing to pursue this path, I think I place myself in an environment where I have no choice but to apply both courage and self-discipline, and where I must learn to accept the occasional inevitable negative outcome that I cannot really control.
    • Authenticity
      • Being self-employed means that I’m solely responsible for setting my priorities, giving me the freedom to pursue work, growth, and meaning the way I want and at my own pace.
      • Learning to create value on my own will help me to learn to trust myself (or, perhaps, require that I learn to trust myself). I think there’s also no baser sense of personal security than knowing that if I have to fend for myself in this world, I can.
    • Key results:
      • As hard or as scary as it gets, stick with it for the entire year. Don’t take on consulting projects unless they’re actually really interesting, or I somehow really need the money (I shouldn’t this year).
      • Launch 4-6 (more ideally, 8-12) different projects this year. These don’t all have to be of the same magnitude or significance, but they should all have some monetization plan from the beginning. Learn to scope projects well, learn not to be afraid of throwing something over the fence before it’s perfect, and really get the process down to a science.
  • Travel
    • Uncertainty
      • I’ll be moving around a lot in 2018, and I think doing so will help to create an environment chock-full of uncertainty. I expect to encounter situations I couldn’t predict, and I think this will challenge me to learn to find the balance between acceptance and proactivity.
    • Authenticity
      • Traveling around to new places, meeting new people, and encountering new perspectives will give me opportunities to learn more about what I’m drawn to.
      • Pulling myself away from past influences, including my parents, my college peer group, my existing friends, Silicon Valley’s culture and environment, and all past and current romantic interests will help to turn down the volume on the external voices that sometimes drown out my own voice.
    • Key results:
      • Meet new people and have adventures wherever I go. Try to spend every weekend doing something exciting, new, or terrifying. Don’t get so singularly focused on running a business that I become a shut-in.
  •  Mindfulness
    • Uncertainty
      • Mindfulness has and continues to be one of my most important mental tools for learning to deal with uncertainty. My mindfulness practice has taught me skills to accept my thoughts and emotions, as well as other external situations that I can’t otherwise rationalize away or control.
    • Authenticity
      • Many of the same mindfulness practices useful for accepting external situations are also very useful for accepting myself. The more I accept myself, the stronger my inner voice becomes.
    • Key results:
      • Attend a 2-week mindfulness retreat.
      • Complete the Headspace Pro series in one continuous streak.
      • Meditate for at least 20 minutes every day.
  • Reading
    • Uncertainty and Authenticity
      • Books exist for pretty much every topic imaginable. Some books I’ve read have addressed topics relating to uncertainty and authenticity directly. Others have characters and plots that explore questions and themes that are central to my own life, and so are inspiring, or instructive, or at least thought provoking. Still others, simply introduce me to new ideas and new perspectives I might not have otherwise considered (and some of which I’d never have found by just meeting people). The more of these I’m exposed to, the more I get to see what I do and don’t resonate with, refining my internal compass.
    • Key results:
      • Read or listen to 52 books this year.

I have just a few other goals unrelated to this year’s primary objectives:

  • Compete in the Boston Marathon
    • Why?
      • Exercise is an important part of my health and happiness, but I’ve found that I honestly don’t do well with just exercising 30 minutes a day to stay healthy. I need something larger than that to work toward, or I don’t end up putting my heart into it. I’ll also be moving around a lot next year, and though other exercise equipment may not always be readily available, running is pretty much always an option. As a runner in high school, and now a post-college amateur endurance athlete, qualifying for the Boston Marathon represents a huge accomplishment in speed, not just endurance. (Qualifying times for my age and gender require running a full marathon at an average pace of 7:00/mi.)
    • Key results:
  • Become conversationally fluent in French
    • Why?
      • This is part of a larger desire I have to learn several foreign languages. This time, though, I actually have a one-way ticket to France in May 2018, and I’m going to need to work on my French both before and during if I want to survive/thrive while I’m there.
    • Key results:
      • Spend at least 3 months in French-speaking countries in 2018.
      • While in French-speaking countries, actively push to have a conversation in French every single day, no matter how uncomfortable, awkward, or broken my spoken French is.

I’m purposefully trying to keep my list of goals leaner and more focused this year, so I’ve cut several threads from 2017 that weren’t totally completed. Rather than overtax my focus and willpower, this year I’ll narrow in on a few larger things, and will consider throwing in more if I seem to be totally crushing it with lots of time left in the year.

October marked the beginning of the part of this journey through the “Trough of Sorrow.” It was like sailing into a section of the map ominously labeled “Here There Be Monsters…” True to analogy, October was littered with what felt like small failures–early marketing experiments flopped, there were moments when I let my fears consume me, and it didn’t seem like I made tangible progress toward having any working products. By contrast, November was a month of small victories–not enough to banish my fear, but enough to start learning to be curious instead of just afraid.

In a sense you could say that in October I saw the tip of an iceberg and, thinking myself clever, gave that iceberg an extremely wide berth, believing that it must extend for miles below the surface. In November I dove below the surface to find that the iceberg was exactly as it seemed from above, and that I put myself through a lot of extra misery for a false assumption.

In October, I had run a set of ads on a test marketing website I built for a product concept called Strive. I had launched some ads on Google AdWords and Facebook Ads and got exactly 0 email subscribers. When I actually examined the results in November, I realized that I had spent less than $10 between both ad platforms, and had only gotten ~25 actual clicks–not nearly enough data to draw conclusions from. I decided to up the ante and spent 10x the money on ads, hoping to get enough data to reach the truth. My new campaign performed much better. Without changing the test marketing site at all, I ended up with 6 email addresses for $59.18 in ads, which was surprising to me because the marketing copy is vague and the site has no screenshots to make the product real in any way. While it’s hard to quantify the value of the email addresses themselves, and hard to predict how many email subscribers will ultimately convert to paying customers, this did loosely validate the market need, and reset my expectations on how difficult it should be to get someone to leave an email address.

Despite some marketing success with Strive, I chose to divest from the project early on. I realized that the product wasn’t well-defined enough for me to have a sense for what to build and what would actually provide value, and I was coming to realize that the scope of the product was nebulously expanding to include other potential products. Instead, I broke Serenity off of Strive and started working on that, loosely piecing together a library of reusable code for marketing websites and web applications. Contradicting my October declaration that I would focus more on building than selling and designing, I actually found a good groove in November for designing with Figma. Wanting to improve on the marketing materials for Strive, I actually spent a good amount of time designing a few mock screenshots for Serenity to make things look a little more real. (App Launch Pad’s mockup generator was also invaluable here.)

I finished the Serenity marketing site in time to pour a friend’s unused Facebook Ads credit into the site to see how it would perform. Somewhat discouragingly, I found that $250 in Facebook Ads led to only 4 email sign-ups, with dismal click through rates and dismal on-page conversion rates. Rather than despair, however, this time I got curious and started designing some new experiments, including a salvo of Google AdWords ads to test different text copy.

When my AdWords experiments came back at a 3.61% click-through and a 10%+ email sign-up conversion, I started to realize something was up with my Facebook Ads. Though I’m still inexperienced, I’m coming to the conclusion that the kind of test marketing I’m doing works much better on AdWords than it does on Facebook. Part of this may just be a failure to target the right people with the right ads on Facebook, but it’s clear to me now that a user searching for a keyword on Google right now is a way stronger signal of potential interest than a user having liked some page in the entirety of the lifetime of their Facebook account. I’m also learning that Facebook is a more complex and harder to master ads platform, as there’s an order of magnitude more options to try and compare for any given ad, often making it difficult to declare a clear winner (e.g. where does the ad get placed? what image do you use? what specific audience do you target? what text copy do you use for your ads?).

I had a few other wins in November as well. While I’m still far from having a full MVP that I’d be willing to show-off here, the product for Serenity is beginning to take shape, and I’ll hopefully have something useful enough to show to some close friends before December is out. I also successfully finished all of my November rejection challenges!! It’s still on my list of things to do to write a longer debrief and reflection about my experience, but I think the most important thing I internalized is to get curious rather than upset when things don’t go my way.

Being honest though, despite November wins, I’m sometimes still finding much of this really difficult. It’s easier overall when things are going well, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenging days. I share this not because I want pity–remember, I chose this, so save your pity for someone who didn’t–but because it’s an important part of my truth. The world has enough manicured stories where the protagonist tries to air brush his past and pretend he was stronger in every moment than he really was. This is not one of them.

In my darkest moments, I’m frustrated and impatient. I’m now four months in and, while I do have some good learnings, the beginnings of a reusable library of code, and a few loosely validated ideas to show for it, I can’t help but feel like I should already have a complete product out and done by now, perhaps even have found my first paying customers. I keep expecting myself to fly, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that I’m just now learning to crawl.

In my darkest moments, I also worry about everything. I sometimes worry that I’m wasting my time and the best years of my life. I worry that my growth thesis is wrong, and that in the name of chasing growth, I’ve run away from other important things like commitment or responsibility. I worry that after a year or two of doing this I won’t have enough to show for it, and that I won’t know how to recover. I worry that I’ll lose touch with the people in my life who matter, that I’ll miss out on important events in their lives, and that I’ll fail to be there for them when they need me. I worry that while I’m out exploring the world and the depths of my own soul, the dating pool will thin and that I won’t ultimately find someone to share my life with. Trust me, if there’s a way to worry about something, I’ve worried about it.

The darkness sometimes leaves me feeling a little like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde–like there are two versions of me, and I don’t always know which I’ll be when I wake up in the morning.

One version seems fearless, unafraid, and undaunted. He embraces uncertainty, excited for the adventure of discovering his life one page at a time. He is optimistic, but not naively so. He understands that risk, pain, failure, and mistakes are all a natural part of the journey of life. He accepts them without worrying about them or overly identifying with them. He knows he can handle whatever life has to throw his way, and he trusts himself to make the best decisions he can in each situation. He has a will and a zest for life that is infectious–inspiring, even–to those he meets. He acts from a place of hope, not one of fear. He is unquestioningly the captain of his own soul.

The other version is anxious, fearful, and constantly worrying. He seeks certainty through a fragile sense of control over the future he’ll never truly find. To paraphrase my own words: the quest for certainty biases him towards defining things in blacks and whites, towards over planning and overthinking, and keeps him from fully embracing life which can so often be beautifully messy, gray, and uncertain. He fears that failure and mistakes imply that he is incapable or fundamentally flawed, and therefore doesn’t handle them well. He worries he won’t be able to handle what comes his way, he doubts himself, and he agonizes over every decision. He is terrified and his fear taints his experiences and his perspectives, desperately seeking comfort instead of adventure. He acts from a place of fear, not one of hope. Fear consumes his soul.

The fearless side of me knows that no adventure comes without struggle and unexpected challenges. He knows that hardship often means one is headed the right way because few things worth finding in life come easy, and that very few stories worth reading feature a perfect protagonist who experiences no hardship. By contrast, the fearful side sees hardship as a sign that he’s made a mistake. He sees monsters in these waters, not realizing that he is, himself, the only monster that might sink the ship. He thinks about turning back before he can no longer see the shore, forgetting that, in the words of Christopher Columbus, “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

That’s why my last major update for the month is that I’m forcing myself to lose sight of the shore. For better or for worse, I’ve booked myself flights to spend the majority of next year abroad, and in a sense there’s no turning back from that, at least not unless I feel good about abandoning a small wealth in cash and travel points. I leave February 1 for Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia, each for a month), returning only very briefly to the States in May before continuing on to France (most likely Marseille) for 3 months, then likely Morocco for 3 months.

While the fearless side of me smells adventure and can’t help but be excited, the fearful side of me is terrified by this. It’s not that I don’t love travel–I’ve been all over the world and experiencing new places and cultures is still one of my favorite things to do–but that I know this isn’t exactly the most sane business decision I’ve ever made. I don’t have a product yet. I’m not making any income yet. My pace is likely only to slow when presented with a new place to get used to, especially if there are interesting things to explore and I’m moving around every month. Sure, some of these places are cheap to live in, but they’re nowhere near as cheap as living at home. However, as I mentioned when I initially set out to do this, this has never been as much about starting successful businesses as it has been about personal growth and conquering a set of fears that clearly controls me. That obviously isn’t to say that I don’t intend to put my all into my business ideas, but it is to say that financial success has always been secondary to self-mastery (I don’t always remember this in my darkest moments). That this scares me so much tells me that I’m moving closer to the heart of my fear–the heart of the monster. In the end it will be me and the monster, and either I learn to tame him, or perhaps he and I will sink together.

Given the facts above, my goals for December are pretty simple. First, while I clearly believe some cliffs just need to be jumped off of that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in checking, double-checking, and triple-checking my parachutes before doing so. Tangibly this means taking the necessary steps to prepare to leave the country including figuring out how to find cheap long-term rentals abroad, acquiring visas, renewing my passport, getting all of the proper vaccines, and gathering supplies/equipment I’ll need abroad. Second, since time is clearly running short and I really would like to have a real product before I leave the country, I’ll be putting my nose to the grindstone to make progress on Serenity. I’m aware that there are still clear open questions about the market viability of Serenity like whether or not people will actually pay for what I build and whether or not I can establish any sustainable growth channels. At this point, I’m going to build it anyway and if it fails I’ll learn, pivot, or work on something new. Lastly, I’ll need to find some time to write this month, at the very least to reflect on the year, my growth, and progress towards my 2017 goals so that I can define a new set of goals for 2018. If there’s time, I’d also like to reflect more thoroughly on what I learned from my November rejection challenges.

Welcome to the Trough of Sorrow

I want this to be an honest, raw, and vulnerable account of the ups and downs of my journey, so I’m not going to sugarcoat it: October was a challenging month, and it may be the first of many very challenging months ahead. When I say October was a challenging month, I don’t mean that I pushed myself particularly hard mentally or physically–I didn’t work 100 hour weeks, I didn’t lose sleep, and I didn’t solve any particularly challenging problems. Rather, I think October was an emotionally straining month as I began to truly acquaint myself with the realities and unique challenges of being self-employed.

I definitely did not accomplish everything I set out to at the beginning of October. By itself, I’m not overly upset about that; sometimes when I set a goal, I don’t achieve it on the first try despite my best effort, and I’ve found that applying extra self-criticism and pressure to the process is usually counter-productive. I am, however, candidly disappointed with the level of effort I put in this month, and I’m honestly a bit ashamed to admit it publicly. There were definitely a couple of days in there where I literally made no progress on any of my projects. Sometimes I was just distracted, and despite my best efforts couldn’t seem to get myself to produce a tangible work product. Other times, I found myself actively avoiding the work and over indulging in things like video games and Netflix. I’m not trying to give the impression that I’m on my own case because I couldn’t get myself to work over a weekend and indulged instead–the days I lost were during the business week when I had otherwise promised myself I would get work done. In short: I failed to consistently self-motivate in October.

As I ordinarily consider myself an extremely self-disciplined individual, of all the problems I expected to have in self-employed life self-motivation didn’t even come close to making the top 10. Initially, I was shocked, confused, anxious, afraid, and stressed out by my seeming inability to self-motivate. I struggled to understand what was going on, and the more I felt myself spinning my wheels in the mud, the more my morale dropped. Not only did I feel like I was failing, I felt like I wasn’t trying, and like I didn’t even know how to try.

While there were many factors, the two root causes I identified were an unexpected manifestation of the fear of failure and a lack of optimization around flow (aka the feeling of being productive or “in the zone” which may naturally boost productivity and focus).

At this point in my journey, I sit squarely in what Paul Graham of Y Combinator refers to as the “trough of sorrow.” This is the emotional rollercoaster portion of the journey when much of the initial enthusiasm and novelty of being self-employed have naturally worn off, but it’s too early to tell if anything is going to work. In theory, somewhere in here is also where the majority of unsuccessful entrepreneurs give up, succumbing to the pressures of emotional inertia rather than learning, pivoting, and persevering.

While books like The 4-Hour Work Week and The $100 Startup (affiliate links) are great for building a vision of what’s possible, they present what can feel like an overly rosy and optimistic view of the journey, and they’re glaringly silent about the trough of sorrow. Ultimately, I feel the right takeaway from these books is simply “it’s easier and more possible than most people think.” While I strongly believe this statement, I came into the journey knowing that it would likely also be harder than I had come to believe, and was under no illusions that there may be a significant amount of luck involved.

In October, I launched my first set of advertising experiments and managed to net a whopping 0 email subscriptions for the product I described. Despite the product being poorly described and not having screenshots, I expected giving up an email address to be a relatively low form of investment and was a bit discouraged by these results. I also had a couple of blogs posts totally flop from a metrics perspective, underscoring that I haven’t yet found the audience I may be writing for. September’s income from affiliate links turned out to be a fluke, and I haven’t been able to reproduce that in any capacity. In fact, I made more money in October (an impressive $10) by helping a friend sell mail-order rubber chickens than everything else I did on my own combined. (Actually, you should check out the rubber chickens haha–they make great gag gifts! You can use the offer code CHIUBAKA at checkout for 15% off.)

Having seen a few indications that early experiments might fail, the scary reality of the trough of sorrow is that I’m beginning to have enough data to validate “it’s likely harder than I think” but still not enough data to prove “it’s likely easier than most people think.” Standing where I am now, I absolutely understand why this is the crucible that makes or breaks entrepreneurs. Learning to navigate the trough of sorrow is going to be an essential part of my growth if I’m ultimately to succeed.

However, since I’m still learning to swim here, my unexpected response to early failure indicators was to freeze up. I discovered that faced with the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, of failure I would naturally rather make no progress than to fully realize a potentially failed outcome. Despite all the years I’ve spent building my self-discipline, my intense fear of failure can still outweigh it if I’m not self-aware and proactive about countering it.

Doing things that remind me of my own power, skill, and self-efficacy helps to chip away at a sense of despair, hopelessness, or paralyzing fear by putting me in a mode where I start to think about what’s possible rather than what’s not. The opposite is also true: doing things that I’m not as good at, or that I struggle with contributes to a constrained sense of what’s possible, and therefore a stronger sense of fear that projects will fail.

I’m realizing that flow is an important part of what separates the things that make me feel effective from the things that don’t. Because flow is good for my morale, it’s important to my long-term productivity that I organize my time in ways that promote it where possible. Unfortunately, the way I set my priorities and built my routine for October didn’t take flow into account, so not only was I hit by a paralyzing sense of fear, but I also mostly engaged in activities that made me feel like I was struggling rather than crushing it.

In large part, flow seems to be the result of conscious competency–engaging in activities I’m good at and know I’m good at like writing or coding. In October, I didn’t spend much time in flow. Pushing to post a new piece on my blog every week forced me to spend more time writing than my energy naturally allows (I usually have about two good hours of writing time in the morning before my energy dips and putting sentences together eloquently becomes less natural). Additionally, my push to test market forced me to spend much of my time writing marketing copy or doing visual design for marketing websites–both tasks I can do, and do reasonably well, but which I haven’t yet put in the sweat to learn to do quickly.

The theory behind why I spend my time this way seemed sound at the time: the strategy was to grow the blog and use it as a cross-marketing tool for software products. I’ve since learned that the blog is unlikely to be a viable short- or even medium-term play. Simultaneously, the strategy for determining which products to work on came from the advice of a mentor, John Vrionis of Lightspeed Venture Partners, to sell, design, and build in that order. I 100% believe that selling, designing, then building is the best way to systematically de-risk a business idea–building something takes a lot of time investment, while generating early signal about market viability can be really simple. Unfortunately, since much of my consciously competent skills specialize on the building stage, delaying building for as long as possible, while strategically sound in abstract, leaves me with fewer daily sources of flow.

What am I actually doing about all this? Firstly, I’ve de-prioritized my blog. Apologies to any avid readers out there who may have noticed the slowdown–I’m still planning to write about topics that interest me, but I’ll be doing so without a real posting schedule (the one exception to this is that there will be at least one monthly set of posts in the Escape Velocity series as I continuously reflect, analyze, and plan to make this all work). I’d love to get to a point where I actually do have something worth publishing every week, but I’m not going to force it at the expense of quality and sanity.

I’m also now actively searching for the right personal balance between selling, designing, and building. Though I know it’s dangerous, I’ve been increasingly biasing toward engineering time because getting something tangible done builds more forward momentum than struggling with the rest. Since I’m taking an approach to engineering that involves building a toolset that should make it easier to build subsequent projects, part of my hope is certainly to bring the time cost of prototyping a new product so low that the risk of building without selling first is minimized. I won’t be putting all of my eggs in that basket, however, as I do need to start building the other skills.

Hopefully the shift in strategy will allow me to pick up momentum to use against any future paralysis I encounter while walking the trough of sorrow. Just in case, though, I’ve also decided to get serious about systematically desensitizing myself to the fear of rejection (failure is, in a sense, a form of rejection). While I don’t expect all of the learnings from my November rejection challenges to map directly to beating back the fear that threatens to hold my productivity hostage, I do think making a habit out of facing my fear will better equip me to counteract it when it comes up.

Based on these reflections, my new priorities for November are:

  1. Complete all 30 November rejection challenges.
    1. Even though it won’t directly lead to income, I am committed to following through on this, so will be making this a top priority.
    2. This will likely be taking the slot of my writing time for the month, so I probably won’t be publishing many non-rejection-related articles.
  2. Complete a prototype MVP for one of my products ideas.
    1. This may end up being rushed, but I will make sure to take the time to slow it down, and factor out re-usable pieces where possible.
    2. Should aim to at least be usable enough that I can start using it on a day-to-day basis, and potentially onboard a few close friends for feedback.
    3. Ideally: should also have a competent looking marketing website so I can start pushing ads to it, but this may be more than I can handle this month.
  3. Run more Google and Facebook ads experiments to refine ad copy, narrow target audience, and determine CPC.
    1. Aim to always have an experiment in flight. Go for impression volume rather than conversions to gather demographics data, and a large enough n to draw real conclusions.
    2. Ideally: should have enough data to design a useful experiment to push $250 worth of Facebook ads credits through.

Was October tough? Yeah, definitely. I have not, however, been beaten. I never asked for this to be easy. In fact, if I really thought this was going to be easy I’m not sure I’d have set out to do it in the first place. I may not always make predictable progress in the directions I want, but I am growing and learning from all of these experiences. I am facing my fears and insecurities on a daily basis. Sometimes they win, sometimes I win. No matter what happens, I am grateful for this opportunity to be in the ring rather than watching from the sidelines even if it means taking a few jabs to the ribs now and then.

Rejection Challenges

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to conquer my fear of rejection by getting rejected at least 100 times trying 100 different things. I have done quite a few things to that end: I’ve taken several Improv classes, and I’ve tried a couple of self-directed rejection challenges here and there. Admittedly, I haven’t kept great track of where I am out of 100 different ways to get rejected, and I still have a moderate fear of rejection which is currently manifesting itself as a resistance to putting my work as a self-employed individual into the world for real feedback.

In an effort to fight back and make real progress toward this goal before the year ends, I’m trying something a little different with November: I’ve asked six friends to each give me five rejection challenges of varying difficulties for 30 challenges total, enough to do one a day for each day in November.

Why am I doing this?

The short version is that I read Rejection Proof (affiliate link), a book about Jia Jiang’s mission to get rejected once a day for 100 days and everything he learned from the experience. Reading his book made me realize that I am acutely afraid of rejection, judgment, and just plain looking silly; that that fear limits me; and that I also could potentially learn a lot from being rejected a whole bunch of times. The longer version of the story is that this is part of a larger campaign to challenge my fears and cultivate courage–topics about which I’ve written a (at time of writing unfinished) series of posts.

Of course, the goal isn’t to reach a point where I completely disregard others’ opinions–that’s called being a sociopath, and I certainly don’t want to get there. The hope is, however, that a lessened fear of rejection, and a weaker preoccupation with what others think of me will lead to a greater sense of self-acceptance, a higher degree of authenticity in all of my interactions, and the courage to ask people for what I really want.

What is a rejection challenge?

Loosely described, a rejection challenge forces me into a scenario where I need to ask someone for something to which the answer could be “no” (or, equivalently, to which the answer could be something I don’t like or maybe don’t want to hear, e.g. negative feedback). The challenges I have here are all over the place ranging from simple and easy requests, to requests that are just completely ridiculous and awkward, to requests that require me to bother people I wouldn’t otherwise bother, to requests for things that I might actually feel somewhat emotionally invested in. These challenges are designed to make me cringe, and I imagine that they will be extraordinarily cringeworthy (and/or just amusing) to watch.

Accountability

By asking friends for challenges rather than coming up with them myself, I’ve added some very acute social pressure to actually follow-through, and by publishing this post, I’m adding some additional public accountability to the mix. I’ll be making every effort to do one of these challenges every day, and if I can figure out how to make it work, I may even vlog them on YouTube so everyone I know can make fun of me (in a sense, this is its own rejection challenge). At the very least, you can expect that I’ll write about the more interesting or informative experiences.

The Challenges

Without further ado, here are the challenges rank ordered by approximate relative difficulty scored out of 10:

  1. 2: Smile, make eye contact with, and ask for a high-five from every person you encounter while walking down 2 blocks of street (or equivalent distance in a mall).
  2. 3: Ask a waiter to take you to the kitchen and meet the chef/see how things get made.
  3. 3: Ask a homeless person if they will eat dinner with you.
  4. 3: Ask a homeless person to tell you their life story.
  5. 4: Ask to make your own sandwich at Subway.
  6. 4: Go to a mattress store and ask to take a nap in one of their beds.
  7. 4: Go to a convenience or grocery store and ask to speak over their intercom system.
  8. 4: Go to a burrito joint and ask if you can come behind the counter and call out a few orders.
  9. 4: Ask to help prepare something in a food truck.
  10. 4: Call the office of the Mayor of San Diego and ask for a meeting.
  11. 5: Challenge a stranger on the street to an impromptu chess game.
  12. 5: Ask 3 strangers if they will play a quick game of Simon Says with you.
  13. 5: Ask to walk a stranger’s dog.
  14. 5: Ask a running stranger if you can jog with them.
  15. 5: Ask 2 people to jump into the Pacific Ocean with you.
  16. 5: Offer to autograph a stranger’s hand with a sharpie.
  17. 5: Try to sell a roll of paper towels to a mall stall vendor or street-side vendor.
  18. 6: Ask 3 strangers if they can text you a screenshot of their phone’s home screen.
  19. 6: Ask someone if you can create chalk art in their driveway.
  20. 6: Ask 10 people on public transit (or at the beach!) what they’re listening to and try to turn it into a conversation.
  21. 6: In a crowded place, ask a stranger if they’d be willing to pose with a potato mango as if they were in the Lion King while you take a picture.
  22. 6: Ask a stranger to join you as you walk like a crab for at least 1 block on a fairly busy sidewalk (or until you pass at least 3 people, whichever happens last).
  23. 6: Ask a stranger to swap shoes with you for a block.
  24. 7: Carry a rubber chicken around, and ask a random stranger if they will kiss it.
  25. 7: Ask someone to give up their seat for you on public transportation. (Bonus: Do this when there are empty seats around them.)
  26. 7: Ask a stranger to apply sunscreen to your face.
  27. 7: Try to convince a stranger to feed you a banana.
  28. 8: Spend at least 30 minutes busking in a crowded place. Explicitly walk up to someone at the end of a performance and ask for some money.
  29. 8: Go to a karaoke bar, a stand-up venue, or something similar. Perform, and then explicitly ask a stranger from the crowd for feedback afterwards.
  30. 9: Apply to be a chef on Feastly. If approved, host a pop-up kitchen event and cook for a bunch of strangers through Feastly. Ask them for their honest opinions after the meal.

Closing Thoughts

Are some of these challenges incredibly socially awkward? Yes. Do some of them force me to break social norms? Absolutely. Will they get me in trouble? I’m really hoping not. Are all of these completely realistic rejection scenarios? Of course not. Do I think they’ll teach me something anyway? Definitely.

Regardless of whether they are realistic or contrived, socially acceptable or socially awkward, all of these challenges will put me in situations that make me at least a little bit uncomfortable. As I’ll elaborate in a soon-to-be-published post, learning to act in spite of that discomfort and that fear is an important part of what I’ve learned to call courage.

Wish me luck!

 

* * *

 

Interested in keeping up with the challenges? Please consider subscribing to be the first to know as new content comes out!

Have a great rejection challenge idea? Tell me about it in the comments below, and I may end up doing it later this year!

Related Posts

2017 New Year’s Resolutions

Fear: The Invisible Prison of the Mind

Emotional Inertia: The Secret to Unlocking Potential

Self-Awareness: The Everyman's Superpower

This is the second post in a three-part series on Fear and Courage. While this post is designed to stand alone, you can get caught-up by reading Fear: The Invisible Prison of the Mind.

If you could be dipped into a vat of radioactive liquid and granted any comic book superpower, what would you choose? The ability to fly? Invulnerability to everything but Kryptonite? Laser vision? Personally, I’d love to be able to learn how to do anything perfectly after watching just once. Since, unfortunately, I’ve never met a vat of radioactive liquid that wouldn’t also kill you 10 times out of 10, however, I want to talk about a superpower that all humans are born with, but don’t always fully utilize: self-awareness.

Self-awareness is our ability to examine our own character, emotions, motives, and desires. It’s an important part of any good definition of what separates humans from machines and artificial intelligences (at least for now). In a lot of senses, self-awareness is also what differentiates humans from animals: rather than continuously react to our environment, we seem to have the ability to step out of situations, self-examine, and proactively choose a response. We literally have the ability to think about our thoughts–otherwise known as metacognition in psychology–which, when you think about it, is pretty damn mind-blowing. (No pun intended.)

Our self-awareness plays an important role in our lives on multiple levels: it’s what allows us to identify our emotions, it’s what gives us the choice in how we respond to events in our daily lives, and it’s what allows us to ask deeper questions about our lives and our motivations. Developing a sense of self-awareness can be helpful for understanding and promoting virtually any quality of mind: among other things, it allows us to understand when and why we feel lazy so that we can foster discipline; it allows us to understand when and why we despair so that we can learn to persevere; and it allows us to understand when and why we feel afraid so that we can cultivate courage.

Developing self-awareness requires that we question ourselves and our motives. We must first acknowledge that virtually every action we take represents a choice, conscious or subconscious. Then we must ask ourselves why we choose what we choose, and ask why again and again until we understand the deeper motivations behind our choices. This process can, however, be difficult, and, for some, it can be downright terrifying to question deeply. Sometimes in the short-term this process leads to more questions than answers, and the ensuing uncertainty can be overwhelming. Ironically, it takes a certain amount of courage to even ask ourselves questions like “what does it mean to live a good life?” because occasionally we’ll find that the answers aren’t congruent with the how we’ve chosen to live our lives. Sometimes it’s easier to banish the questions and change nothing than to acknowledge that we are not living way we hope to. In the long-term, however, giving ourselves license to ask these questions even when we don’t have the answers or don’t like the ones we find builds self-awareness and helps us to lead more authentic, and therefore happier lives.

Self-awareness of Fear

While self-awareness can help us understand and identify complex emotions, most of our emotions can be generalized as extensions of two primary emotions: hope and fear. Ultimately, therefore, our choices are made from either a place of hope or a place of fear. For example, someone who has had a bad romantic experience, and lets that experience color all of their future romantic entanglements may make choices out of the fear of being hurt again rather than the hope that they will find a love that is fulfilling and true. Similarly, someone who has tried and failed to accomplish something may choose to give up out of the fear that they will continue to fail rather than the hope that they will eventually succeed.

The essential question we seek to answer when confronting fear is: what would I do if I weren’t afraid? If self-questioning and self-awareness come easy to you, answers to this question may come naturally. If not, don’t fret–I have another trick up my sleeve for you to try.

Sometimes fear is so deeply ingrained in our psyches that we struggle to connect with our hopes, and so can’t imagine an alternative to fear. When this happens, we can either wait it out–all emotions are transient, including fear, and so will pass if we don’t give them time and don’t actively hold on to them–or we can use a mental exercise called visualization. Both options are often paired with a meditation practice, but a full overview of the power of meditation and how to start your own practice is out of the scope of this post. (Check back in the future for a separate post on that topic.) For now, this simple exercise should suffice for the purposes of combating our fears and reconnecting with our hopes:

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit down where you won’t be bothered or interrupted, and where you won’t feel subconscious about what you’re doing.
  2. Sit comfortably, but erect. Leave your hands comfortably on your legs or in your lap. Keep your eyes open for now.
    1. I’m going to ask you to close your eyes so you can visualize without sensory distractions, but if you’re too comfortable you might fall asleep (been there, done that), and if you’re not comfortable enough you’ll be distracted by your posture.
  3. Take 10 slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, paying attention to the physical sensations of the air filling your chest and lungs.
    1. The purpose of the breathing is to relax and calm you. Paying attention to the physical sensations grounds you in the present, and helps you to focus your mind and your senses on what you’re doing rather than on random thoughts or on the world around you.
  4. Return to breathing normally in and out through your nose and close your eyes. Maintain your focus on the breathing by thinking “in” as you breath in and “out” as you breath out. Do this 10 times before you move on.
    1. We’re now lowering the focus on the breathing, but still trying to maintain it as a loose touch point to keep you present and grounded in the exercise. Closing your eyes helps to block out additional visual distractions as we ease into it.
  5. Recall a time when something really good happened that made you feel powerful or unstoppable (e.g. I often think back to hearing the news that I landed my first job out of college).
    1. We’re going to take this feeling, and use the human brain’s awesome power to replay and reexperience memories of emotions as if you were experiencing the same thing now. Essentially, if you’ve ever been in a state of mind where you felt less afraid because you felt powerful, you can always get back there by visualizing and replaying those emotions.
  6. Imagine that feeling embodied as liquid sunlight. Everything it touches, it soothes, cools, and infuses with that feeling of power. Visualize that liquid sunlight entering and then sort of filling the body from above your head, starting with each of your toes, then up your legs, then your stomach, torso, arms, and finally filling your head until it overflows out of you.
    1. As you visualize the feeling filling your body and overflowing, what it’s actually doing is permeating through your mind, amplifying that replayed emotion and fixing it squarely in your mind.
  7. Now, with your eyes still closed, stop focusing on the visualization, and just let your mind do whatever it wants for the next 20-30 seconds.
    1. This time is so that your mind can just get used to resting and being in that emotional space we’ve just created.
  8. Open your eyes to conclude the visualization. Now that you hopefully feel less afraid, ask yourself whatever question you were struggling with again and see what answers you come up with.

Even just having the self-awareness to recognize that we are influenced by fear loosens its hold on us. However, once we know that fear manipulates our actions, we have two choices: we can accept the fear and the boundaries it creates in our lives–sometimes in the face of unacceptable real risk or danger, this is preferable and rational–or we can decide that something we value is more important than avoiding fear.

In accepting fear, it’s worth pointing out that as we build more courage our perspective of what is too terrifying, too risky, or too dangerous can change. What’s impossibly scary today could be very manageable in the future, and the only way to really know is to cultivate courage so you have as much perspective as you can when faced with something that scares you. However, there is a difference between courage and recklessness: courage is facing fear and taking a potential risk when fear is irrational or when something we value or hope for is truly more important than the danger we expose ourselves to; recklessness is putting ourselves and others in real danger just for the sake of it and without principle or reason to guide us. Courage is a virtue; recklessness is a vice.

Cultivating courage, however, will be the topic of next week’s final post in this series. Stay tuned for that, and in the meantime in the comments below tell me: what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Other Resources

Disclaimer: this section may contain affiliate links where, at no additional cost to you, I receive a small amount of compensation for things you purchase through links on this website. I never list things here that I don’t personally use and believe in, and the money goes toward supporting this site and allowing me to continue writing.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one of my favorite books, and contains much of what powers my personal philosophy today. The first time I read it, it blew my mind, change my perspective, and ultimately altered the course of my life. The first habit, Be Proactive, has a lot of echoes to the concepts of self-awareness. Stephen Covey claims that the space between stimulus and response is what makes us human and gives us choice. I’ve expanded on this concept to place self-awareness in this space.

 

 

 

Headspace LogoHeadspace is a mindfulness and meditation app that’s gained a lot of popularity recently. Despite my parents insisting that I try various forms of meditation for years before I found it, Headspace is what really got me into meditation. Rather than frame meditation as a spiritual practice (which it does not have to be), Headspace frames it as a set of mental exercises that help us to learn and maintain different states of mind.

 

 

Related Posts

Fear: The Invisible Prison of the Mind

Emotional Inertia: The Secret to Unlocking Potential

Fear: The Invisible Prison of the Mind

I was about about two-thirds of the way to the top of a rock climbing wall when I realized I was too tired to keep going, and too tired to climb down. A slack rope snaked up the wall beneath me and hooked into several anchor points before finishing in a knot at my waist. Looking down the 30 or so feet to the ground, I felt myself break into a cool sweat. I had two options at this point: intentionally fall anywhere between 10 and 15 feet before my partner below trapped the rope and arrested my fall–perfectly safe, in theory, in the controlled environment of an indoor climbing gym–or live the rest of my days on this wall.

As stupid and melodramatic as it sounds, I seriously considered what it would be like to spend the rest of my life right where I was. The idea wasn’t pretty–how would I get meals? how would going to the bathroom work? would I ever find true love up here?–but in that moment I wanted nothing more than to not have to take that fall. That singular fear overrode all else, leaving me completely paralyzed.

In fact, I’m writing this from that same climbing wall–no, of course not. Obviously I eventually made it down the wall. I wish I could say that in my moment of panic, I gave myself a rallying pep talk and confidently leapt off the wall. Unfortunately, instead, I spent another 5-10 minutes up there wondering why I had ever been born and why on earth I had decided that coming up this wall was a good idea in the first place. Then, with a bit of a whimper, I individually unwrapped each of my fingers until I was no longer holding on to the wall and I fell.

 

* * *

 

Fear is one of our oldest and most primitive emotions. Once upon a time, fear kept us alert, and kept us alive; it was our sixth sense, the superpower that prevented us from becoming food for sabre-toothed tigers, giant flesh-eating kangaroos, or demon ducks of doom. Over time humans evolved and moved up the food chain, and all of these predators went extinct. Our fears, however, did not.

Everyone is afraid of something. Personally, I’m afraid of a lot of things. There are physical fears–spiders and heights–and there are psychological fears–failure and rejection. While there are certainly many things to legitimately fear in the modern world, just as many of the things we commonly fear are not life-threatening. These fears are vestigial, but they are often nevertheless pervasive and pernicious. Sometimes they affect our lives in conscious and obvious ways: the fear of physical things like spiders and heights may lead us to go out of our way to avoid these things, even when our rational mind knows there’s no actual danger; the fear of failure might make you afraid to quit your job and follow a dream, or even just to take risks at work; and the fear of rejection might make you afraid to talk to someone attractive, or even just to be authentic with yourself.

Psychological fears can also control us in more subtle but no less nefarious ways. The greatest deceptions are the lies we tell ourselves to justify avoiding the things we fear the most: you might convince yourself that what you dream of doing instead of holding a stable, traditional job, is whimsical, irresponsible, or impractical, when really you’re just afraid that if you tried you might fail; or you might convince yourself that someone you find attractive is “out of your league,” when really you’re just afraid that if you made your interest known they might reject you. Because we are afraid, we let these things stop us from being authentic, from living with integrity, and doing what we really want to do–perhaps, even, doing what we were really meant to do.

Ironically, despite the Western Democratic ideals of Liberty and Freedom, many of us unwittingly live in the invisible prison of the mind constructed by our fears and insecurities. Whether we are aware of them or not, our fears define the limits of our realities, and in order to become all that we can be we must learn to see them, to challenge them, and ultimately to overcome them.

The mission to escape the confines of this mental cage and other forms of emotional inertia is what led to my being on that climbing wall despite a lifelong fear of heights and of falling. I eventually did get to the point where I could confidently leap from the wall, and not let fear stop me from getting to the top. In facing that fear, and a few others, I’ve cultivated the courage to face larger and more life-altering fears like the fear of failure.

In the process, I’ve learned that courage cannot exist without fear anymore than light without darkness. I’ve learned that courage isn’t so much about banishing fear, as it is about accepting it so completely and so thoroughly that it loses its hold on us. I’ve learned that mastering courage means learning to re-frame fear in real time so that we can act with clarity, confidence, and integrity in defiance of its influence. As I continue to push the bounds of my comfort zone, I’ve found that my perspective of what’s possible has naturally shifted, leading to a sense of greater fulfillment, a more authentic life and disposition, and a more consistent belief in hope rather than fear. Now I want to share with you how you can have that, too.

What are you afraid of? What are the lies you tell yourself to avoid those fears? What would you do and who would you be if you weren’t afraid? Tell me about it in the comments below, and stay tuned in the following weeks to learn how to recognize fear, cultivate the courage to conquer it, and live the life you’re meant to. Until then, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

Related Posts

Emotional Inertia: The Secret to Unlocking Potential

Going Rogue: Living with Integrity

2017 New Year’s Resolutions

Escape Velocity: First Income

The three weeks I had of September weren’t quite as productive as I’d hoped, but I did make my first $0.68 from Amazon Affiliate links, and I nevertheless learned quite a bit about digital marketing, how to run a blog, and how to keep myself efficient, motivated, and productive. Blog analytics suggest that people are actually engaging with the content I’m publishing, but I have some early concerns that the Amazon Affiliate model may not work long-term. In October, I’ll be committing to fewer, but more focused goals, and ideally applying my learnings from September forward to make them happen. I’ll primarily be focused on new content for my blog, boosting search rankings for my blog, and validating/implementing Strive, my first software product.

September Reflection

Milestones Reached

  • First income, however small, from a monetization tactic on my blog.
    • I made $0.68 from Amazon Affiliate links! This happened in my second week of self-employment, though the trend has unfortunately not continued week over week so far. My mother also jokingly remarked that I’d save $0.68 in a month if I just remembered to turn the lights off in the bathroom. Still, I remain optimistic that as the amount of content and links on my blog grows, and as readership numbers increase that I’ll start getting some more significant signal as to whether or not this will work.

Blog Metrics

Google Analytics

  • 408 unique users and 568 sessions.
    Chiubaka.com Google Analytics September 2017

    Number of new users by day at Chiubaka.com in September 2017.

    • There were two large anomalies, however: I got a strangely large number of views during the late evening hours from Canada one day that I still can’t explain, and I accidentally messed with the metrics by hitting the site with Google Pagespeed Insights over and over one day.
    • Regardless, this number is beyond my immediate social media influence, which indicates that my social media cross marketing strategies are working a bit, and that a few people have helped me out by sharing my posts.
  • 36.8% bounce rate (A “bounce” is when a user visits a webpage and then leaves without browsing any other pages on the same site. It’s usually a good indication that people either got there by accident or weren’t interested, though it’s important to analyze this along with session length.)
    • This is likely heavily skewed by the two anomalies mentioned above.
  • Average session duration of 3 minutes 32 seconds.
    • This is likely heavily skewed by the two anomalies mentioned above.
  • There’s about an even split between desktop users (55.6%) and mobile users (43.3%), so I need to make sure I keep checking that content works well on mobile.
  • The overwhelming majority of my users came from the United States (72.9%). The next closest country was… Ukraine (?!) at 11.8%.
    • Ukraine showing up here seems pretty sketchy. Either my writing has really caught on over there, or someone’s probably trying to do something malicious to my blog. Since the Ukraine traffic is relatively new in the last 7 days, perhaps it’s possible that the Ukrainian readers came for the language learning post? Otherwise, I really need to double-check my site security measures…
  • Post Popularity
    • The most popular posts were:
    • Relative post popularity suggests that the more philosophical topics like Emotional Inertia are so far less popular than practically applicable topics like how to learn languages. That or Sundays are really poor days to post blog posts (Emotional Inertia was published on a Sunday–all other posts on a Monday). I find this result a bit disappointing, and intend to keep playing with it–the philosophical posts are the ones that I actually really spend a lot of time and thought on.
    • Average time on page for each of the posts suggests that, on average people actually read through the entire post with the exception of Going Rogue, which on had an average time on page of 4:41.
      • This is actually really encouraging–the average time on page for the monstrous How Busy People Learn Languages post was a whopping 29:13, suggesting people actually found the post valuable enough to spend that much time on it. That, or a crapton of people just left their browser window open and walked away haha.
  • Acquisition
    • 47.5% of my traffic came from social media channels with a 21.13% bounce rate.
      • Facebook accounts for 72.31% of all new social media users and had a pretty low bounce rate of 16.10%.
      • Reddit was surprisingly the second most successful social channel with 19.49% of new social media users, but had a pretty high bounce rate of 42.50%
        • This suggests that my efforts to cross promote on Reddit are working, but that I might not be hitting the right communities with my content, or that my content is just naturally a lot more interesting to people who know me personally (probably currently true, and something I’ll need to fix if this is to keep growing).
      • Twitter did surprisingly poorly as a social channel, bringing in only 3 new users despite having received a retweet from a fairly large influencer in the language learning space.
    • 43.8% of traffic came from directly inputting my website into the browser’s address bar.
      • I find this pretty suspicious, but it’s also pretty unclear what actually constitutes direct traffic. I have a sneaking suspicious that either a bunch of these are somehow me, or there’s something going on here I don’t understand. I’ll have to monitor this number in the coming months to see how it trends.

Amazon Affiliates

  • 37 link clicks at a 10.81% conversion rate
    Chiubaka.com Amazon Affiliate Metrics September 2017

    First income! Amazon Affiliate metrics for Chiubaka.com in September 2017.

    • There was a spike of 21 clicks on September 29th that I can’t explain and looks seriously suspicious, though. Before this, the highest number of clicks in a single day was 3, and none of these clicks seem to have turned into conversions.
  • 2 items shipped for a total of $0.68.
    • Both items were Kindle e-books.
  • Surprisingly, there weren’t that many affiliate link clicks and no conversions after publishing How Busy People Learn Languages, which I admittedly wrote in part because the first item that made any earnings here was a copy of Fluent Forever (affiliate link). Ironically, since an average page view time of ~30 mins suggests people actually read the entire post, perhaps I did too good a job of explaining my methods and people didn’t feel there was much added benefit to buying either of the books? I’m going to choose to be proud of this rather than take advantage by purposefully limiting how much I say in future posts, but this is concerning because it does suggest that the affiliate link strategy may not work long-term.

Done

  • Monetize my blog.
    • Create/update blog content.
    • Affiliate marketing.
      • Learned more about affiliate marketing in general.
      • Went through old posts and added affiliate links where I mentioned a book or product that I use.
    • Optimize blog for monetization and audience building.
      • Increase resolution on metrics I’m gathering for my blog.
        • Added a scroll event to Google Analytics, so I can track how far down the page people are actually reading. I haven’t actually spent much time interpreting the data here yet, though–mostly taking signal from bounce rate and page views per session.
        • Updated the Home page so relevant content is easier for new visitors to find, and so I can better track what people are actually reading.
      • Search engine optimization (SEO).
        • Read SEO 2017: Learn search engine optimization with smart internet marketing strategies (affiliate link).
        • Installed Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress.
          • This plugin is super powerful, and really well done. Tackles a lot of the points made in the book I read automatically and makes other SEO-related tasks really easy to do. I’m still getting my sea legs here, but am very happy this tool exists. I haven’t sprung for the premium version yet, but as it’s a one-time fee as opposed to a subscription I’m strongly thinking about it. I’m still not using all of the power in the free version yet, so will probably wait until I’ve mastered what’s available to me for free.
        • Fixed some performance issues with Chiubaka.com, which were likely hurting user experience and hurting SEO.
          • This was primarily solved by installing and configuring the free version of WP Fastest Cache.
      • Installed a plugin to connect WordPress to Mailchimp so that I can collect email addresses for people who want to subscribe to the weekly newsletter.
      • Considered re-branding my blog to DanielChiu.com, but thought better of it as it would require a reasonably large overhaul of existing content. Instead, opted to just redirect DanielChiu.com to Chiubaka.com, making it easier to tell people how to find my website.
    • Outreach.
      • Spent some time updating a few of my up-until-now-lesser-used social media accounts (Twitter, Quora, Instagram).
        • Was able to get a fairly well-known influencer in the language learning space to retweet one of my blog posts since I had mentioned him and his book, Fluent Forever (affiliate link), in a post.
      • Set up some Google Alerts so that I know if my name, or anything relevant to my blog comes up on the web.
  • Sell software to solve problems I have or am very knowledgeable about.
    • Read Give: The Ultimate Guide to Using Facebook Advertising to Generate More Leads, More Clients, and Massive ROI (affiliate link).
      • This ended up being less of a book about Facebook Ads, and more about marketing in the digital age in a social media context. Had some great points, which I hope to take to heart and test against other approaches.
    • Set up an account on Google Adwords.
      • This surprisingly and unfortunately ended up requiring a full hour on the phone with an agent.
    • Did some general research on what user stories are, why they’re helpful, and how to write good ones.
      • This will help me to focus my product vision on important user outcomes.
    • Strive, the platform for setting and achieving goals.
      • Did some research on the space of existing visioning exercises, and started experimenting with running visioning exercises with people I know.
      • Did some research on the existing psychological research behind goal setting.
      • Started building a test marketing website for Strive, but unfortunately did not complete it, and have not yet launched ads to test its performance.
    • Development
      • Bought a new laptop, and got my development environment running on it.
  • Spoke with a friend about her experience with due diligence in the growth equity and consulting industries.
    • This conversation gave me some insights into how to think about new potential markets and product opportunities.
  • Spoke with a friend about experiences with consumer products, consumer marketing, and consumer growth, and reached out to a few of my networks to learn more about these topics from friends who have experience with them.
  • Applied and got approved for a Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card, which, with its sign-up bonus and 3 points per $1 on things like online advertising, travel, Internet, and phone services, will help support my ability to live and work abroad in the near future.
  • Researched merchant bank accounts and came to the conclusion that I should definitely start with third-party payment processors like Stripe and PayPal. These typically have higher processing fees, but no monthly fee to hold the account open. They’re also much less of a hassle to set up and start using.

Not Done

  • Did not tackle low-hanging fruit for putting my blog out there (e.g. popular blog boards, etc.)
  • Completed 0 full iterations of a test marketing site for Strive. Made it part way through an iteration, but not finished to the point where I’m ready to launch ads for it yet.
  • Did not get to any serious development work on Strive.
    • Did not complete or scope out work for login functionality.
    • Did not complete basic execution functionality.
  • Did not finish migrating away from SquareSpace for test marketing websites.

Why didn’t these things get done?

I think primarily there was a failure to maximize my energy against my time in a way that kept me moving in the right direction along multiple types of work streams. In particular, most of what I didn’t get done this cycle is engineering work, which seems to have gotten dropped in favor of time to write and time to read. Part of this was waiting for my new laptop to arrive, as I expected to be doing most of my development work on it, part of this was also being overly cautious not to fall into the typical engineer’s trap of building before selling or designing a product, and part of this was just not blocking out time for it.

I ended up a little overcommitted, and since the activation energy to start writing or start reading was lower than getting back into engineering work, I chose not to start the engineering work. At a certain point toward the end of a few weeks, I ended up in emergency/disaster mode for writing and had to spend all of my time working on blog posts, even during times of day when the energy would have been better spent on something else (there were a few afternoons of staring at a blank or partially finished blog post going “derrrr”–writing is usually a morning affair for me).

Learnings

Make Sleep Hygiene a Priority

I lost a day or two of productive time to not having gotten the sleep I needed and then not being able to translate a very limited amount of energy into outcomes. Sleep hygiene seems especially important when there isn’t external pressure which might force me to push through moments of extremely low energy or work on very small amounts of sleep. Getting myself into more of a regular sleep schedule has helped mitigate the risk that time and energy are wasted.

Wake Up With a Plan

You know that “lazy Saturday” feeling? The one you get when you wake up late on a Saturday morning without a real plan for how the day is going to go and you just kind of lounge your way through the day lackadaisically? It’s great on a weekend, but it turns out when you’re self-employed, you can get this feeling pretty much any day of the week if you’re not careful. When I worked for a company, I always at least loosely knew what other people were expecting from me the next day, and the structure and routine of my day was already loosely dictated for me: wake up by 8am, get to the office by 9am, work for most of the day, go home, lather, rinse, repeat.

As a self-employed individual, I find that if I don’t explicitly add structure to my day and a sense of what I need to do tomorrow so that I have a mission when I wake up, it can be easy to be lazy about getting my day started and moving. This usually means setting today’s priorities the night before and at least figuring out what the first thing I’m going to do in the morning is and when I plan to get started.

Optimize Energy for Different Task Types by Scheduling Chunks of Time Proactively

Primarily, I’m finding that my work now falls into three categories: writing/planning, reading/researching, and engineering/implementation. I found that without specifically and proactively chunking out time to do each of these at the right points every day, I’d naturally gravitate toward the easiest tasks to do–usually in the reading/researching category–at the risk of starving everything else.

I’ve started to get in the habit of actively chunking out 1-2 hour blocks of time on my calendar the night before to give my day structure ahead of time based on my stated priorities, and to make sure that I get a little bit of each thing done at the right time each day. For example, I now make sure the first hour or two of productive work every day is spent writing since I tend to get into flow with my ideas early in the morning when I feel like I have all the time and space in the world to think and play with the phrasings. Engineering work is well-suited for pretty much any other time, since when I really get into working on a problem I can get caught-up in it for hours. Reading makes a good after-lunch break, or something to mix in with blocks of engineering time so I don’t get burnt out of any single thing.

Over-committing Leads to a Lack of Focus

I found that when I over-committed myself in a given week that I’d actually end up a lot less productive than if I had given myself fewer, but more focused priorities. In the absence of this focus, I think I instead get a feeling of constant behind-ness no matter what I do, which often creates a counterproductive sense of stress rather than a helpful sense of flow. I’ve started to get in the habit of giving myself fewer, but more focused priorities for a given week, usually giving myself about as much or a little less than I think I can actually do, then setting a couple of stretch goals for myself. This works because things almost always take longer than expected, but if they don’t I get to build momentum around feeling like I made some stretch goals happen!

Be Wary of the Urge to Constantly Check Metrics and Social Media

One of the things I actually hate most about trying to seriously run a blog is how much more I have to engage with social media in order to cultivate outreach channels for ideas and content on my blog that I actually feel really passionate about and want people to read. I’m finding that it can get really easy to mindlessly check the blog’s metrics throughout the day and when I wake up, especially in the couple of days after publishing a new post. Additionally, I know that likes, reactions, and comments by people on social media are important in order for news feed algorithms to show my content to more people, but I really don’t like how fixated this can make me on social media or on the opinions and reactions of others. In fact, in general I think social media can be a very negative influence on people’s psyches since it encourages a fixation on what other people think rather than rewarding people for authenticity and vulnerability.

Both for my mental health and for my productivity, this is something I think I need to be very careful about, and short of making sure I’m responsive to people who comment and that I’m monitoring for potential problems with my blog, I think it would make sense to get into more of a regimented routine on this. For example, perhaps I only check once a day in the morning, and only really spend a significant amount of time analyzing the data and extracting insights once a week.

Keep Calm and Make Room for Time Off

Especially in a self-employed environment, I think it’s really important not to put too much stress and pressure on myself. That absolutely doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work hard, but it does mean that I should be careful about getting into a mentality where I don’t let myself take breaks, or expect myself to work every weekend, or always work late into the night. These kinds of things are exactly what I think creates a toxic culture in typical work environments, and I think if I’m not careful I can actually accidentally recreate that sort of toxic culture for myself.

This week, I almost pushed to finish the marketing website for Strive over this last weekend of September, but thought better of devoting my entire weekend to the task rather than giving myself a day or two to actually have no obligations, take care of some important personal life matters, and just plain recharge a little bit. I think there will be a time and place for grinding work out over weekends and during late night sessions, but killing myself just to meet a very arbitrary deadline which I clearly missed because I planned poorly the days and weeks before, seems like a very short path to burning myself out. Instead of doing this, I decided I’d make sure to really spend time to reflecting so I understood why I failed to have time for everything I wanted to get done and re-calibrate so that I don’t make the same mistakes on the next run.

October Planning

Priorities:

  1. Write a new blog post each week.
  2. Complete the test marketing website for Strive, and start running ad campaigns to validate the idea and its framing.
  3. Make significant progress on the MVP for Strive.
    1. Define user stories for each component of Strive.
    2. Determine the MVP feature scope.
    3. Implement MVP features for the execution component of Strive.
  4. Read more about the psychological field of goal-setting theory so I can pull research-backed ideas into Strive.
  5. Bring Chiubaka.com to the top of obvious search ranking key terms like my name and “Chiubaka.”
  6. Stretch: Continue talking to people in my network about their experience with consumer product marketing and growth.

Though I made my first few cents of income through my blog, it’s still too early to tell if the blog is going to work as an income stream. Nevertheless, the actual cost to run the blog so far isn’t much more than ~$10/mo, so other than the time it takes me to write the blog posts, which isn’t insignificant, it’s pretty cheap to keep running as an experiment. I’d therefore like to make it a priority to continue writing content for my blog. I’d also like to make it a priority to explore organic growth channels, which means I need to step up my SEO game and improve my blog’s search rankings.

Project-wise, I have a couple of immediate priorities, which include finishing the test marketing website for Strive so I can begin to collect data about the viability of the idea, and then to start actually implementing Strive. My actual MVP deadline for Strive is likely to be mid-November, so I have about 6 weeks to get something up. This is likely to take the majority of my time this month, and if for no other reason than that it helps me build momentum around project implementation, it’s likely to be time well-spent, even in absence of initial validation of the idea. Since one of my hopes is to make Strive a research-based project, however, I’ll also need to carve out a bit of time to continue reading about the psychological field of goal-setting theory. As a stretch, I’d like to continue talking to people in my network about their experience with consumer product marketing and growth, to help inform my strategy going forward.

 

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Further Reading

Disclaimer: As an Amazon affiliate I make a small percentage of the sale of the books below, all of which were mentioned in this post.

Give turned out to be more than just a book about Facebook advertisement. Give took me through how and why marketing has completely changed in the digital age. It explains the reasoning behind how people interact with ads in the modern world and how to successfully add value to people’s lives in order to build a relationship with potential customers that may eventually turn into a sale. This isn’t a great book to read if you’re looking for an in-depth understanding of the actual mechanics of Facebook advertising, but it does feel like a book that every modern day marketing professional should read at least once.

 

 

 

SEO 2017 is a pretty good overview of the ins and outs of Search Engine Optimization for the total beginner. I knew very little before reading this book, and felt like I came away with a good understanding of the space as well as the tools available for helping someone diagnose and fix common SEO problems. Some of this information can be found online rather than buying a book, but this book does caution that a lot of SEO information on random blogs is conflicting and out of date. If you’re interested in learning more about SEO, consider picking up this book or reading articles on Moz, one of the de facto leaders in the space.

How Busy People Learn Languages

The two biggest myths of language learning are that it takes years to learn a language and that you need a lot of time to do it. In fact, many languages can be learned in a year or less with a time investment of no more than an hour a day, but this doesn’t happen learning languages the way most of us have been taught.

As an aspiring polyglot, I’ve tried learning languages in just about every imaginable way: I took Latin classes in grade school, I tried night school Japanese at a local university, I’ve had private Chinese tutors, I completed the Duolingo tracks for both Spanish and French, and I even spent an entire summer at a Chinese immersion program run by the famed Middlebury College. Some of these things worked better than others, but most have either felt inefficient or unsustainable; classroom and self-taught curriculums often require large time investments and don’t emphasize real-life conversational fluency, and immersion, while great, doesn’t teach strategies to retain hard-earned progress long-term.

If, like me, you’re a busy person without all that time and energy to spare, you can’t afford huge time investments with low long-term returns. Fortunately, there are strategies and techniques used by successful polyglots that can take you to fluency quickly and maintain that fluency with minimal effort. I’ve personally been able to use many of them to get myself from beginner to intermediate/upper-intermediate in French in under a year.

Disclaimer: as a fledgling writer and aspiring digital nomad, I do sometimes receive compensation for sale or use of products and services mentioned on my blog. I do, however, only mention products and services I have used personally and strive to always provide my honest opinion positive or negative. I will never compromise the integrity of the content on this blog for financial gain.

The Shortest Path to Conversational Fluency

Trying to speak a new language can be embarrassing!

Trying to speak a new language can be embarrassing! (Image Source)

When it comes to conversational fluency, the real problem with most approaches is that they don’t force you to confront what’s really holding most people back in foreign language conversations: fear of rejection and sounding stupid. Instead of challenging themselves in a difficult and potentially embarrassing situation, most people retreat into book studies, telling themselves that if they just memorize a little more vocabulary or if they just keep studying those conjugation tables, they’ll be ready soon. Except that soon almost always turns into never, and even when it doesn’t no amount of book studying can save you when you panic and your mind goes blank. (If you read last week’s post, you may recognize this as a form of emotional inertia: talking to people in a new language and risking sounding like a lobotomized second grader is terrifying, especially for recovering perfectionists like myself, so it’s easier to just avoid that situation altogether.)

When you force yourself into real conversations with native speakers, you start to overcome the anxieties that make these situations scary. As a result, you begin to open yourself up to more opportunities to learn by speaking to people in new and different contexts. Furthermore, the quickest way to learn the vocabulary and phrases you actually need to carry on conversations is, well, trying to have conversations. (Captain obvious saves the day!) Each time you have a new conversation, it highlights new areas for directed growth toward your weak areas. (Contrast this with the sort of shotgun approach taken by most structured curriculums.) Didn’t know how to say “hello,” “thank you,” or “how are you”? Go memorize them. Couldn’t figure out how to express a thought or opinion? Figure out how to say “I think that…”. Struggled to answer a certain question about your life? Prepare an answer offline that you can practice and deliver the next time someone asks. Your conversations may last as little as 10 seconds before switching to English, but over time you should be able to push this further and further until you’re having full and rich conversations in your target language.

Learning Mindset

It's all about the mindset.

It’s all about the mindset. (Image Source)

With the right mindset it’s almost never too soon to start talking to people in your new language. In fact, Benny Lewis, an accomplished polyglot and author of Fluent in 3 Months, encourages people to start having foreign language conversations in their first week of learning. The trick is to remember that the goal is to understand and be understood without reverting to English for as long as possible, and that failing and making mistakes is totally OK. In the beginning, everything is fair game–pointing to objects, bizarre and convoluted hand gestures describing abstract concepts, or interpretive dances–just try not to revert back to English in fear or frustration. Don’t let yourself get caught up on the mistakes you’re making–the words you mispronounced, the grammar you botched, or the vocabulary that left you when you metaphorically shit yourself–instead remind yourself that perfection takes time and practice, and that even native speakers make mistakes sometimes. Your speech may be broken, and you may sound like you were repeatedly dropped on your head as a child, but so long as the gist of your meaning is somehow getting across, you’re doing great. You don’t need years of classroom instruction, you just need, as with most goals, a few ounces of courage to get started, a dash of discipline to consistently keep at it, and a pinch of perseverance to help you through the most embarrassing moments.

Immersion programs work so well because they give you no choice but to fall into this mindset, and then force you into uncomfortable situations where you don’t know what to say or how to say it. Conversely, some of the more popular language learning tools like Duolingo aren’t as helpful because they give you the illusion of progress without actually dragging you into real conversations. This isn’t to say that things like Duolingo don’t work–if you spend enough time with a tool or set of tools, you’ll eventually reach a certain level of fluency, but then, if you spend enough time trying to crack a coconut open with toothpicks, you’ll eventually succeed. (Don’t quote me on that–I’ve, uh, probably, never actually tried this.) Don’t get me wrong, I love Duolingo–I think what they’re doing is great, their product is moving in the right directions (chatbots are beginning to help close the conversational fluency gap), and I love their mission of providing free language education for all, but having graduated from two of their language tracks, I can attest that it never took me to a sense of real fluency in either language. Tools like these are great supplemental resources, but they’re not going to get you where you want to go on their own.

Language Exchanges

If we’re on the same page at this point, you’re probably thinking, “Great, thanks Daniel, I get that having real conversations is important, but I don’t know anybody who speaks Klingon, so what gives?” Fortunately, it’s a wonderful time to be alive and we have this amazing thing called the Internet (maybe you’ve heard of it?). The primary mechanism I use for having conversations with native speakers is called a language exchange, wherein I connect with someone on the other side of the planet who speaks the language I’m trying to learn and is trying to learn English, so we’re able to trade competencies. There are a lot of websites out there to help facilitate language exchanges, but the one I currently use is called italki. (Disclaimer: this is a referral link, so I do have a small incentive to advertise here. You and I would both receive $10 in italki credits if you take a lesson with one of italki’s very affordable–sometimes as cheap as $10/hr–community tutors. That said, I primarily use italki for the community, not for the tutoring, though both are great.) Through italki, I’ve connected with native French speakers in Europe and Africa. It honestly still freaks me out every time, but doing more of these was one of the improvement areas I identified for my French-learning goals during this year’s mid year review. Aside from italki, I’ve also found that there is a wealth of language-related meetups, so it’s usually not hard to find other language learners to practice with. If you’re feeling really brave (or really desperate?), it can be surprisingly easy to find people to practice with spontaneously in the real world as evidenced by this video of a couple polyglots speaking 12 different languages with random strangers in Ohio of all places.

Efficiently Learning Everything Else

If having real conversations is the strategy for getting us past our anxieties and identifying our areas for improvement, the next natural question is: what’s the best way to improve once we know what we need to improve? And how can we maintain our language gains with minimal effort?

Spaced Repetition

Spaced repetition allows you to review information efficiently.

Spaced repetition allows you to review information efficiently. (Image Source)

The answer to both questions is a memory technique called spaced repetition, which is actually already in use behind the scenes in some popular language tools like Duolingo and Memrise. Spaced repetition involves reminding yourself of a piece of information at an interval that optimizes your likelihood of remembering it without overexposing yourself to it, theoretically resulting in better long-term retention of the data each time you review it, while minimizing the number of reviews.

In practice, if you’re using spaced repetition with a deck of flashcards, rather than review those cards every day, the first day you would review all of your cards. Then tomorrow, you would go back and review your cards again, and you’ll save the cards you remembered correctly to review again in two days. The cards you didn’t remember correctly, you’ll review again the next day. Each time you successfully remember a card, its review interval increases exponentially (so if it had been two days since you saw this card, now you’ll snooze it for four days), and each time you fail to remember a card, it starts over in the process. Eventually, you won’t need to review some of these cards for months or even years. In order to avoid having to study hundreds of cards at a time, you can also break the deck up and just learn a few cards every day to keep things manageable.

There are a few software tools out there for automating the spaced repetition process, but the main two I’ve come across are Memrise and Anki. I personally prefer Anki because it’s more flexible and customizable and virtually every polyglot I’ve ever talked to uses it. It’s also free so long as you can get away without it on your mobile devices. It is however, a lot less sexy and modern-looking than Memrise. Of note, Gabriel Wyner also has a Kickstarter out for a new language learning app, which promises to be a solid competitor to these existing options. (In fact, many of the tips in this section originate from Gabriel’s book Fluent Forever, which likely does them better justice than I can.)

So what is it we’re actually using spaced repetition to memorize? Well, truthfully, you can use this to memorize anything (I’m looking at you, future doctors and lawyers), so long as it comes in small, quizzable chunks. That said, for learning a language, the main things you’ll want to memorize are vocabulary and grammar, and primarily you’d be doing that through flashcards.

Memory Hacks for Flashcards

To get the most out of each flashcard, you’ll want to abuse a few memory tricks. First, every flashcard should have an image. We have visual memories, so associating a foreign language word with an image is much better for you than associating a foreign language word with an English one (which would more-or-less sets you up for translating word-by-word in your head later on). It can be fun to Google image search foreign words because sometimes the subtle differences in the connotation of the word as it’s natively used and its English translation become apparent. (Gabriel Wyner calls this “spot the differences” in Fluent Forever.)

Second, choose an image that is really provocative. Our minds tend to remember things that are really out there: really strange, really funny, really sexy, or really violent. (No joke, I have some pretty racey flashcards–it doesn’t help that a non-trivial number of French words turn up unexpectedly sexual image search results.)

Last, if you can, write a word or short phrase that reminds you of a memory you have that is somehow associated with the vocabulary in question. When this card comes up, try to remember what this phrase was as well. Since our memories operate as sort of associated networks of information, the more connections you’re able to make between a new word and other new or existing memories in your mind, the easier it will be to remember.

Learning Vocabulary

When it comes to learning vocabulary, you need to get yourself to the point where you’re picking up new vocabulary words in the wild–as opposed to from a list–as quickly as possible. This ideally means finding new words and sentences to learn from in their natural contexts–from easy reading, from watching YouTube videos in the target language, or from playing video games in the target language, for example. Unfortunately, the shortest path to getting to this point does involve memorizing vocabulary from lists, but not the lists you’re used to finding in your textbooks. Instead, you’ll want to grab a list of the most frequently used words in your new language. This works because the most frequently used words in a language appear disproportionately often in context so, for example, by learning the 600 most frequent words in a language you can actually learn most of the words you’ll expect to see in the wild, which will typically leave you able to guess at the meaning of most simple sentences, even if you don’t recognize all of the words.

It’s typically not terribly hard to find a list for your language free and available on the Internet, but I personally bought a frequency dictionary for French and don’t regret the investment. I’m also a big fan of Gabriel Wyner’s frequency lists, as they offer a more visual and thematic experience.

When it comes to vocabulary, one of the really important points is that you make your own flashcards. There’s an abundance of existing flashcard stacks on the Internet for any language you could want to learn, but the experience of creating the flashcards in the first place, if done right, is a valuable first step in establishing a concept in your memory. For each word, you’ll want to create at least a couple of flash cards using as little English as possible: 1) picture of something on one side, word itself and other info (like gender, pronunciation, similar words, or relevant memories) on the other side; 2) word on one side, picture and other info on the other side.

If you use Anki, check out Gabriel Wyner’s Anki card templates and use Forvo to grab native speaker pronunciations for words and sentences you make flashcards for.

As a bonus tip here, for languages with those pesky gendered nouns, you can actually shove this information into your visualization centers by associating a descriptive verb with each gender. For example, I like to use “freezing” for feminine words and “burning” for masculine words, so if the word is “farm” and it’s feminine, I’ll picture the image of the farm that I have on the card, but with everything frozen over. Anything that creates a provocative image when combined with the images on your cards will do–melting, shredding, eviscerating (disemboweling? ._.)–let your imagination run wild :).

Learning Grammar

The mechanisms behind learning grammar are similar to that of learning vocabulary. Use all the same memory hacks, but generally use sentences rather than words now. For grammar, it’s easiest to use a sentence you’ve either written yourself or found somewhere and create a blank in the sentence that you have to fill. For example, if I’m trying to learn a verb conjugation, rather than make myself a flashcard for the second person singular of that verb, I’ll just create a sentence flashcard that implies second person singular and leaves a blank for the verb form. I’ll usually give myself the verb infinitive, since the goal here isn’t to test if I know the word, but rather the form of the word that fits here. You can also do the same thing for other grammatical constructs like learning which preposition to use. Eventually, you can also use fill in the blank sentences to learn vocabulary words.

Again, I would check out Gabriel Wyner’s Anki card templates for this if you use Anki.

Learning Pronunciation

Some example minimal pairs difficult for English learners.

Some example minimal pairs difficult for English learners. (Image Source)

Some languages have pronunciation systems or just consonants and vowels that are really different from English. For example, Mandarin Chinese has a tonality system that English speakers find excruciatingly confusing, and French has some very, very subtle pronunciations that sound similar. Sometimes you’ll find yourself staring dumbly at a native speaker who insists that two things that sound exactly the same are actually completely different words or phrases. (Fun fact: these words/phrases are actually called minimal pairs.)

Don’t worry, you’re not dumb. You really can’t hear it. When we’re young, our brains automatically learn to cluster the sounds of our native language into vowels and consonants we recognize. Some languages have slightly different sound clusterings that other languages get easily confused because they get lumped into a sound clustering that we do recognize. But don’t lose heart, it is possible to train one’s ear and one’s tongue to hear and say these sounds.

I recommend checking out Gabriel Wyner’s resources for minimal pairs. He even has Anki-based pronunciation trainers for most languages, which I’ve found helpful for French.

Keep it Fun

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho in French.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho in French.

When it comes to learning a language, don’t forget to be creative and keep it fun! Search for new and interesting ways to immerse yourself in the language. I try to read easy books, I watch TV, and I play video games in French. I’ve even changed the native language of my phone to French–Siri now only does things for me when I talk to her in French and my pronunciation is sufficiently non-shitty–and have gotten used to things like navigating app interfaces in French or having Google Maps tell me how to get where I need to go in spoken French.

Don’t stay chained to a textbook or to flashcards! Your ultimate goal is to be able to function in your new language the way you function in English–don’t forget to find pleasurable ways to do that. Just remember to occasionally make yourself a flashcard or two when you encounter a new word or sentence structure you didn’t know before ;).

Conclusion

I spent my whole life learning languages the wrong way, and up until recently have always felt frustrated by the slow pace of progress or the inability to hold on to a new language over time. Much of that has changed for me after discovering the techniques described in this post, none of which any of my language teachers in school ever bothered to teach me.

With regular conversations in my target language, I’m able to get a better sense of how actually fluent I feel, and with all of the memory hacks I’m able to download a huge amount of information into my brain pretty quickly. While I can’t guarantee the same results for everyone, and you definitely get more out of a language the more time you put into it, I’ve personally put less than an hour a day on average into learning French this year and, though my written and spoken communication still lag behind a bit, I’m able to pass diagnostic tests placing me into intermediate and upper-intermediate French levels. By the time my spoken French skills catch-up–hopefully in the next few months–I expect I’ll be fairly conversationally fluent!

I hope this information will help inspire you to pick up a new language or finish learning a language you started in the past. It doesn’t take years, and it doesn’t require chaining yourself to a textbook for multiple hours a day!

 

* * *

 

This was just an overview of some of the language learning methods and hacks I’ve learned this year.

If you found this fascinating or helpful, please consider taking a moment to react to this post on social media, or even share it with your friends.

If you have questions about any of this, please leave a comment on the post, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

Lastly, you can expect more posts on this blog outlining smart ways to accomplish common goals in the near future. Become an email subscriber to be among the first to know when new posts come out!

Further Reading

Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World breaks down a lot of the barriers that people run into when trying to learn languages: fear of jumping into conversations, the belief that they just don’t have a talent for language learning, and the idea that one has to fly halfway across the world to really get exposed to a new language. This book is the basis for this blog post’s section on “The Shortest Path to Conversational Fluency,” and also contains a number of cool memory hacks and language learning tricks that I didn’t have space to cover in this blog post. I’d also recommend checking out Benny Lewis’ website and blog.

 

Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It is an excellent and comprehensive resource for language learners. Many of the memory hacks and techniques outlined in this post under “Efficiently Learning Everything Else” come from this book. It’s also worth giving Gabriel Wyner’s website and blog a look, and checking out the Kickstarter he’s running for the Fluent Forever App.

 

 

 

Emotional Inertia

The natural human reaction to discomfort is avoidance–if I don’t feel like doing something, I just won’t; if I hate being rejected, I’ll just stop meeting new people; or if I’m afraid of getting hurt, I’ll just play everything safe. Left alone, our instinct is to pursue what’s easy and what’s comfortable, often trading long-term growth and fulfillment for short-term safety and gratification. Over time, this tendency creates a psychological momentum that keeps us rooted where and who we are–a concept I call emotional inertia.

Emotional inertia is responsible for most of the behaviors we consider stereotypically average: the people who say they’re going to do something–start a business, write a book–and then never do; the people who choose the stability of a 9-5 desk job over the chance to discover and pursue their passions; the people who give up at the first sign of struggle rather than persevere. There’s nothing objectively wrong with being average, or comfortable, or safe, but I will argue that it is less satisfying; if you’ve ever wondered if there’s supposed to be more to life, odds are you’ve succumbed to emotional inertia, and that’s OK–most of us do at one point or another, and every extraordinary individual was average in some way before becoming exceptional.

The truth is being average is a choice and it’s one that we often subconsciously make each and every day. It’s the habit of reacting through our lives rather than proacting. It’s the mode of conceding control to our emotions–our fears, our doubts, our insecurities–instead of taking control with our minds. It’s the practice of waiting for things to happen to us instead of acting to make them happen. When we exist this way, life lives us, not the other way around.

The development of emotional inertia is subtle, but its effects are pervasive. Each time we make a promise to ourselves and break it, emotional inertia grows. Each time we betray the calling of our souls for what is safe and comfortable, emotional inertia swells. Each time we give up without giving it all we’ve got, emotional inertia expands. Eventually we convince ourselves of the highest forgery: that we were never capable in the first place, so we were right not to try.

Emotional inertia leads us to choose comfort over courage; to choose what is fun, fast, or easy over what is right; and to choose to simply profess our values rather than practice them. We combat it by putting virtue into practice. In the immortal words of Marcus Aurelius, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Each time we take action in defiance of sloth, we develop discipline. Each time we press forward despite our fear, we cultivate courage. Each time we endure even though we’ve taken a beating, we promote perseverance. Though some people have an affinity for one or more of these qualities, none are innate. Like muscles, each must be individually strengthened and maintained. The choice to do so is always ours.

The beautiful irony of emotional inertia, however, is that it works both ways: it creates an ennui that prevents us from starting, but also fuels an internal resolve that keeps us from quitting. Like a boulder rolling down a hill, we gain momentum as we go and it gets easier, and easier to persist. Still, the struggle is constant and perfection is forever elusive. Yet the promise of pushing that potential to its peak is staggering: mastery over our internal worlds, power to control our perceptions rather than let them control us, courage to dream, discipline to execute, and perseverance to rise again boldly when we fall.

This vision of mastery is what I strive for every day. It’s what inspired me to train for and complete an Ironman triathlon, it’s what motivated me to start pushing myself past my fears, and it’s ultimately what impelled me to take responsibility for my own future by quitting my job. None of these things has been easy. There have been times when I couldn’t get myself excited to do what I needed to do; there have been times when I turned around and went home instead of facing a fear I set out to break; and there have been times when I have wondered if it would be better to just give up, to quiet my inner voice, and go with the flow. But I haven’t. And I won’t. Because ultimately I choose to see what I’m capable of, not in terms of wealth or fame, but in terms of inner strength and character.

While I won’t begrudge those who prefer safety and comfort, I do believe you deserve to become all that you can be. So what’s holding you back? What are you avoiding? What fears do you let control you? Will you rise again? And which destiny will you choose?

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Further Reading

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is one of my favorite books, and likely the book that has most strongly influenced my personal philosophy. The first habit, “Be Proactive” is a major theme in this post. The other six habits were, in my opinion, equally profound. Nothing in this book is non-obvious, but putting principle into practice is one of the hardest things we can do as human beings. This book is one of my guides for doing so.

The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday is an entire book written about the philosophy behind Marcus Aurelius’ immortal quote, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” This is book about grit, about courage, and about perseverance as understood through Stoic philosophy and the expressed in the lives of many of history’s greatest figures like Demosthenes Amelia Earhart, Ulysses S. Grant, John D. Rockefeller, and Steve Jobs.

Rising Strong by Brené Brown, a renowned vulnerability researcher now of Ted Talk fame, is an inspiring book about resilience. This book is the source of a quote I’m often fond of paraphrasing: “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” Like this quote, the rest of the book is written beautifully, and contains extensive grounded theory research on the process of being brave, falling, and getting back up. This is actually Brené Brown’s third book, and her other two The Gifts of Imperfection, about vulnerability and shame, and Daring Greatly, about courage, are both also well worth a read.

It’s been two weeks since I quit my job to go it alone. I gave myself that time to rest and recover, making today the first day of actual self-employed life. I already know why I need to do what I need to do. Now it’s time to get down and dirty with the how, starting with clearly defining the goal conditions and milestones.

Goal

The primary goal is to reach self-sustained passive income (escape velocity) as quickly as possible. This is important because reaching a self-sustained state defuses the time bomb that’s currently my steadily dwindling war chest.

At an absolute minimum, this will require $2000/mo of average gross income with a very small time input, which I’ll define as one or two days of full-time dedicated work a week. This amount would be enough to keep me going in cheaper places abroad like Marseille, Lisbon, and certain cities in Morocco.

Higher monthly averages will allow me to sustain a more expensive lifestyle (e.g. in a city like Paris, Tokyo, or San Francisco), purchase things that I’d like to have or do (e.g. a really nice road bike, advanced scuba diving training, cooking school at Le Cordon Bleu), or save and invest my money to grow long-term wealth (e.g. IRA, investing in an index that tracks the market and beats inflation, or re-investing money in my own new or existing businesses). The obvious most ideal case is to be able to have all of the above while working less than a single full-time day a week to sustain it. I’m pulling this number out of my butt, but I’d guess that I’d need somewhere between $10000 – $15000/mo in average gross income to make this happen–this would leave me living comfortably, even luxuriously, most places while not having to compromise on funds to pursue personal growth, interests, and hobbies or compromise on long-term savings.

A good middle ground number for the kind of lifestyle I was used to while in Silicon Valley is probably around $5000/mo of average gross income, though this number assumes a minimal amount of long-term saving (maybe a little less than the $5500/year IRA contribution limit), and potentially some clever tax engineering (e.g. spending enough time abroad to qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion). This same number is likely sufficient for me to live just about anywhere in the world, though not necessarily luxuriously (and in some cases, not totally comfortably, but that’s alright; if comfort were the goal, I might not have quit my job :P).

The secondary goal is to take some risks, experience some failures, and learn a crap ton! This is actually much more important to me than making it out of all of this financially OK, but I figure much of this will come naturally from trying to make ends meet, so I don’t need to put an explicit focus on it.

Strategy

Great, the goal is pretty clear. What are some of the ways I think I can build income quickly? Or, since income is really just a proxy for value, the better question might be: what can I do that’s valuable to other people? Where can I find the intersection of what people need, where my strengths lie, and what I’m passionate about?

Based on my strengths, skills, and passions here are a couple of high-level directions I can already take to start trying to create value:

  1. Monetize my blog.
    1. Writing and communication are two things that I excel at. I also enjoy thinking deeply about life and am not afraid to share the details of my own life for the benefit of others, so I believe that I have interesting and valuable things to write about.
    2. Time input for a blog is approximately the time it takes to post ~once a week, which isn’t a whole lot. Plus, I rather enjoy the process of writing and sharing :).
  2. Sell software to solve problems I have or am very knowledgeable about.
    1. I’m a professional software engineer by training and am well-versed in Silicon Valley methods for effective engineering and product management. I may have quit my job, but I do actually enjoy writing code and solving problems!
    2. At a certain point, my software will likely reach a relatively steady and stable state. By its nature, it runs itself without input, but I may occasionally need to do work to fix issues or scale infrastructure.
    3. Solving problems that I have myself probably isn’t a winning strategy if I wanted to build the next Facebook, Google, or SnapChat, but it works great if my win condition involves thousands of users rather than millions. This also greatly reduces the product management overhead–I won’t need to agonize about whether or not a product or feature solves a real need; I just ask myself if it effectively solved one of my own needs and market to people who are similar to me (there aren’t millions of such people, but there are certainly thousands).

Fortunately, if I operate along a theme the two methods above have synergistic properties. Even more fortunately, I do have a theme of helping people self-actualize and living with integrity.

Normally, profit for a consumer product boils down to whether or not the user acquisition cost is acceptably below the lifetime value of acquiring that user. The major factors in the equation are how much it costs to show an ad to a single user, what percentage of users actually click on the ad, what percentage of those users actually convert to paying customers, and how much money a typical customer pays over their lifetime use of the product.

Unfortunately, but predictably, there’s a humongous drop-off at every step: good ads lose about 95-97% of potential customers before they even click on the ad, and then from there every page a user has to go through to decide whether or not to purchase the product deters a similarly large number of people. All told, it wouldn’t be ridiculous if less than 1% of 1% of users exposed to my product actually purchased the product. The deficiency here is that a potential customer has no relationship with the product creator until the ad makes the first impression, and they’re making a purchase decision based on how much they trust you in the 30 seconds it took for them to click on your ad, read about your product, and check out your offering. Talk about judging a book by its cover, eh?

With a well-oiled blog, however, I can build a consistent audience of people who have already self-selected themselves as similar enough to me to find my content interesting. The more focused the theme and content of my blog, the more focused this self-selection will be. Now if I create a product that solves a need related to the theme of the blog, not only have I identified a bunch of people who are similar enough to me to likely be interested, but I’ve also had the opportunity to build a real relationship with them. I don’t have an exact number, but I think it’s safe to bet that conversion through this channel is likely to be much higher than 1% of 1%. Even better, if done right, marketing through this channel costs nothing and doesn’t feel intrusive the way traditional marketing does. There are tons of clever cheap and free ways to build readership on a blog, not the least of which is simply writing compelling content that resonates with people so that they share it with others.

Milestones

Cool, the goal makes sense and I have a few workable ideas for how to get there. The next question is how do I break the goal down so that it’s more manageable?

Here are some milestones I’d like to hit organized by method:

  1. Monetize my blog.
    1. My blog is the first thing that comes in Google when someone searches my name.
      1. This will prove that I’ve established my online presence and that search engines are properly indexing my content. Right now I show up on the second page. Time to blow all those other Daniel Chius out of the water!!
    2. First subscribed user that I can’t claim to know personally (and doesn’t look like a bot).
      1. This will prove that something I’m doing is starting to work and that the content on my blog is actually compelling enough for people outside of my immediate social network to read on a regular basis.
    3. First income, however small, from a monetization tactic on my blog.
      1. This will prove that the monetization channels I’ve chosen can actually work, which means that income from my blog should begin to scale linearly with the number of regular readers on my blog.
      2. This will also prove that I can make money from my blog without “selling out.” I don’t really intend to fill the space on my blog with cost per click advertising. Instead, I’m hoping to use affiliate programs to make it easier for readers of my blog to buy products that I actually really believe in and have mentioned here.
    4. Generate enough Amazon affiliate purchases that Amazon decides to approve my affiliate application.
      1. I’m pretty sure Amazon affiliate purchases are going to be my main monetization channel, and I don’t think I get paid out until they actually approve the application, sooooo… this would be a big deal haha.
    5. Reach a point where I’m posting to my blog once a week or more and getting relatively consistent readership numbers without losing people.
      1. This will prove that I can consistently produce content that’s worth reading.
    6. Reach 100 subscribed users.
    7. Reach 1000 subscribed users.
    8. Reach 5000 subscribed users.
  2. Sell software to solve problems I have or am very knowledgeable about.
    1. First re-used piece of code between two projects.
      1. There are going to be some commonalities between many of the products I try to create (e.g. social login and payment integration), and I’m hoping to make my software modular so that each time I build a product I can reuse large chunks of it to make it quicker to build the next one.
    2. First successful test marketing page.
      1. I’ll be test marketing my ideas by creating offerings for products that don’t exist yet, then measuring how well they do when I funnel real ad traffic to them. In my mind, successful means that a) users actually took an action indicating that they would purchase based on the information they’ve seen and b) user acquisition cost falls below a reasonable pricing for the offering.
    3. First product launch.
    4. First paying customer.
      1. This is a big one. The biggest fear of every entrepreneur is that they’ll create something and nobody will care. This proves that I’ve created something that has some value for someone. Scaling that value from one user to n users is much easier than going from zero to one.
    5. First recurring paying customer.
      1. This proves that the product is compelling and sticky enough to generate recurring revenue (likely on a subscription basis).
    6. 100 recurring paying customers.
    7. 1000 recurring paying customers.
      1. Depending on pricing, this could be sufficient to push me over $5000/mo if each user pays $5/mo.

Actions and Timelines

This Week

  • Monetize my blog.
    • Create/update blog content.
      • Write this week’s post for my blog. (This is it!)
      • Write next week’s post for my blog.
      • Update the about page on my blog to clarify what this blog is about.
    • Affiliate marketing.
      • Learn more about affiliate marketing in general.
      • Go through and add Amazon affiliate links where books or products are mentioned in old posts.
      • See if affiliate programs exist for other products I love to use and use regularly to help me accomplish my goals.
    • Optimize blog for monetization and audience building.
      • Increase resolution on metrics I’m gathering for my blog.
        • Find a way to measure how far down the page readers scroll so I can decide whether or not my typical post length is too long (it probably is).
        • Re-work the home page so it isn’t possible for a reader to read the entirety of more than one post without me being able to track which posts they read.
      • Search engine optimization (SEO).
        • Learn more about SEO in general.
        • Figure out what I need to install/configure to optimize my WordPress blog for search engines.
      • Find a system for allowing readers to subscribe to my blog by email that I actually like using and don’t think is too intrusive.
        • Ideally, allows people to subscribe/unsubscribe by post category.
      • Outreach.
        • Do some research on best channels for increasing blog traffic.
        • Make sure I tackle all low-hanging fruit for putting my blog out there (e.g. make sure it’s indexed on popular blog boards, etc.)
        • Set up Google Alerts so I know if I or my blog are mentioned somewhere on the web.
      • Look into re-branding my blog.
        • Chiubaka.com, while fun and pithy, may not be the best brand for the theme I’ve chosen to blog about.
  • Sell software to solve problems I have or am very knowledgeable about.
    • Ideating and planning.
      • Brainstorm new product ideas.
    • Strive, the platform for setting and achieving goals.
      • Write-up a pitch, value proposition, and detailed execution plan document for Strive, a platform for setting and achieving goals.
      • Experiment with visioning exercises.
      • Do some additional research about the science behind effectively setting and achieving goals, as well as forming good habits.
    • Development.
      • Get my development environment setup on my home desktop computer.
  • Open a merchant bank account.

This Month

  • Monetize my blog.
    • Write a new blog post each week.
  • Sell software to solve problems I have or am very knowledgeable about.
    • Strive, the platform for setting and achieving goals.
      • Go through 2 iterations of a test marketing site for Strive, collecting data on performance by launching real ads.
      • Scope out work and effort for building an integrated social login backend for Django.
        • There’s an existing solution, but I’m not quite sure it does what I want it to do. I’d like to make it really easy for my products to allow a user to connect their Google and Facebook accounts and, if desired, authorize access to data integrations that may provide additional value.
      • Build login and basic execution functionality.
    • Development.
      • Migrate away from SquareSpace for test marketing websites and consolidate my own tooling/documentation for quickly creating these.
        • At $28/mo SquareSpace is a bit pricey for the purposes of test marketing, and as an experienced Web Developer I don’t think I get that much more out of their what you see is what you get interface for site building.
  • Reflect, re-evaluate, and re-strategize at the end of this month in order to plan appropriately for October. (You can expect this to be blogged as a progress update!)
    • Loosely speaking, I already know that I’m aiming to have a working and marketable MVP for my first product by the end of October, but will take new information into account when planning for this at the end of the month.

Travel?!

Since I mentioned living abroad in my last post, some people have been wondering when I’m actually leaving and where I’m going. Both are TBD at the moment.

I’m currently living in San Diego with my parents (I know, not sexy at all), and am planning to stay here until after my first product launch or, more ideally, after I acquire my first recurring paying customer. If I’m really lucky, I’ll leave the country shortly after Thanksgiving. More realistically, though, I’ll probably move abroad at the beginning of 2018 and stay abroad for the vast majority of the year.

Destination-wise, I’m still deciding, but am pretty certain my first destination will be Marseille in France, likely followed by Taghazout in Morocco, and maybe another stretch in Marseille (or elsewhere in France). I’m primarily prioritizing French-speaking countries so that I can finish learning French, since that was one of my goals this year. There are however, some other great options in Portugal, Eastern Europe, and South East Asia that are very affordable. I’ve found that Nomad List is a great resource for identifying candidate cities.

Further Reading

Stay Tuned!

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