Podcast: Play in new window
Many people dream of a job where they can travel all over the world while they work remotely. Christian Genco lives this dream.
Christian Genco is a software developer from Dallas, Texas. Since graduating from SMU in 2013, he has gone on to develop many projects that make more money than he spends.
On this episode, John and Christian discus different experiences in his life–from homeschooling to traveling–that have brought him to where he is today.
To find out more about Christian, visit his website here.
The Business Design Podcast helps entrepreneurs design and build businesses that succeed on their own even if you take a 6 month vacation. Hosted by John Hwang and Scott Andersen, they share their successes and pitfalls and equip you to make daily progress in your business.
[00:00:00] Welcome to the business design podcast. The podcast that helps enterpreneurs design and build businesses that succeed on their own even if you take a six-month vacation. We are your hosts, Ian, John, and Scott. We’re here to share the successes and pitfalls of many enterpreneurs like you and equip you to make Daily Progress in your business.
John: Can you share with our audience who you are? Your name and where you’re from what you work on.
Christian: My name is Christian Genco. I’m from Dallas, Texas, and I have been full-time making software since 2013 which was the year I graduated college, so I have I’ve never had a real job.
John: Let’s take a step back and talk a little bit about like where you grew up from, did always grow up in the area, or where you’re originally from around Dallas.
Christian: Yeah, I went to high school at Southlake Carroll, and my dad has a urgent care practice in the area, and then I went to college just to just a few miles away at Southern Methodist University.
John: I think you have like a really interesting background because I heard that you were homeschooled and that your parents like obviously you’re homeschooled, and you didn’t go to school until High School. Is that correct?
Christian: That’s right. Yeah. I was homeschooled up until eighth grade. I think it’s a decision that I’m going to be making with my kids too. The things that I’ve seen coming out of homeschooling, the effect that it has on kids, I think is overwhelmingly positive. We were talking a little bit earlier about how it teaches kids to be more independent thinkers, to be more self driven, to be motivated more by internal goals and internal motivations versus just what their teachers are telling them to do. I think it makes people more interesting.
John: So can you expand on that little bit more in terms of can you give me an example of how that how that works out in terms of how did that? How does it get you to be more independent and self study and do things like that like well. We’re specifically about homeschooling that inherently makes you be more like that than as opposed to going Schoo?
Christian: My upbringing in particular was very Loosely structured, and you can homeschool in many different ways the way that I was home-schooled was structured basically as here’s this book that’s your main curriculum. You’re expected to do a lesson every day. You have one for math, you have one for English, you have one for science. You can get through these if you’re motivated in under an hour, and that’s your school for the day. The rest of the day is up to you. You can do whatever you want. You can work on your own independent projects. There are stories from when I was I think two or three that I would just spend hours piecing together pieces of paper with tape. And I made a parachute every one point and tried to convince my mom to let me jump off the balcony to test it because I was sure that it would work. It was reinforced with lots of tape. Um. That’s the environment that kind of shaped the thing that I do in my free time. I got very very comfortable with long stretches of time that were undirected and got very comfortable exploring different options. So I would get a, a passion for something like magic. I used to do magic tricks for birthday parties when I was younger. Just because I had so much time that when I got excited about something I could really dive deep down into it and learn everything there was to know. Go to the library and rent every book on the topic and learn them all, watch videos about it, and practice the same tricks over and over, which is just that kind of long stretch of time, it’s not popular to call it deep work. That’s something that from a very early age. I was fostered in to getting very comfortable with and learning systems for how to deal with and how to how to do productive things during. I think it was incredibly beneficial that shaped now. A lot of the ways that I approach work now. Whereas before I would spend all day, you know, learning trivia facts about Harry Potter or doing magic or making these things out of tape and paper and now it’s spent making software. Which, in talking with other people who have more traditional jobs, is not something that I think other people are comfortable with. Other people are very comfortable in the environment they grew up. Where they are sitting in a room with a bunch of other people and the teacher tells them exactly what to do and defines what success is. The idea of you have unbounded time you can work on whatever you want scares them. Because that’s not that’s not an environment that they grew up in. I find it funny sometimes how how hard it is to convince people of the advantages of your in my lifestyle where you can work on whatever you want. You are in complete control of your business because it’s very scary if you don’t come from a background where you’re comfortable in that.
John: Did your parents didn’t know that was going to be the benefits was intentional on their part? How much awareness did they have of the benefits of those stretches and the kind of practices that you develop and disciplines it develop.
Christian: I think their primary motivation was that they were very disappointed in the level of Education of public schools in Dallas. They looked at private schools. They looked at different public schools, and they both had disappointing experiences in public schools that they went to. So for them it was a it was a educational choice. It was a you get one-on-one attention, as opposed to ideally five minutes of a teacher’s attention per day, if you divide it among the students that they would have. So just educationally you’ll have a better education. The plan I think was for me to be a doctor so everything was designed kind of with that in mind. We’re going to try to get you the best education to prepare you for medical school. And it just so happened that it also prepared me for being very flexible and being able to deal with working on my own.
John: So what was transition like when you went back to school? That must have been one hell of a transition from being unstructured, being able to work on your you know things that interested you alongside with the curriculums and schooling that you had to do. You know they also talked about you know the negatives of homeschooling potentially being about, you know, being sold peeing able to socialize, and that’s the benefit of sending kids to school. Maybe that was one reason why they decided to send you to high school, and what not. But in terms of, why did you go to high school, like a traditional high school? And what was that transition like, I mean, that must have been hard.
Christian: The transition is definitely hard. It’s a vastly different environment. You’re interacting with kids on a very regular basis. I had done social things before like Theater, which I really enjoyed. I think that that prepared me in a lot of different ways. Different sports teams and things, but it’s really not the same. It’s not the same as school and seeing the same people over and over. And the level of social interaction is is definitely different. I don’t know a good solution for that. I don’t know what better way to transition. That’s definitely something that I’ll be trying to figure out with my kids.
John: Do you think College transition is the better time to transition? Or?
Christian: I think transitioning at College. Would have been easier socially. Because the type of work that you’re doing in homeschool is much more similar to college than in than high school is to college.
John: Right right
Christian: it would have been much more difficult socially. Being homeschooled you spend majority of your time at home. In the culture that we’re living in now, there really isn’t a good culture, letting kids go out and play with your neighbors. So it was it was incredibly isolating. And when the internet was invented, and we got AOL on my iMac G3, yeah, I was thrilled because this is now my primary Outlet to the outside world
Christian: I can, I can be involved in these online communities and, and socialize on the internet. There’s I don’t know, I don’t, I don’t know of a better solution. I think ideally the switch would happen around there. I would love to see I would love to see some kind of a model more like a like a Montessori school. Or like the Acton Academy in Austin, I think, is a very interesting model where it’s almost as if you’re getting homeschooled in a group of kids. So you still have the social benefit of your around these kids, and you can learn interactions with people, but the curriculum is still very self-driven. You have to come up with your own ideas for projects. If you don’t want to work one day, you just don’t work. If you want to play video game all day, that’s what you do. You kind of have these Baseline goals to keep track of where you are and where you’re supposed to be. And, you know, do one unit of math everyday. And but you can go at your own pace. I think that kind of model would make a lot of sense today, especially in an age where we have Khan Academy now, and of course era, and crash course on YouTube. Fantastic education. A lot of ways much better than the education that I got even from College. There’s a new course on YouTube from Crash Course about computer science that’s, I think, they’re only five or six episodes in. But it’s already much better than most of the undergraduate lessons that I had in my undergraduate degree in computer science. So that kind of a model, I think, would be very interesting to experiment with.
John: That’s awesome, so let’s dive into in college, you sounded like you were able to travel pretty extensively as part of the kind of program that were part of. You got a scholarship? Is that what it was? Or?
Christian: Yes my wife, and I were president Scholars at Southern Methodist University, which is full tuition full room and board and they pay for you to study abroad for two semesters, so we went to Australia. There was a study program within the Australia program that we got to go to Malaysia Thailand Singapore Vietnam, and then we went to Oxford for the summer. And then from there went to France and went to Ireland. And that was all in college, mostly paid for by SMU through scholarships.
John: How did that kind of contribute to your your worldview and kind of how you see the world? And what not, like what was that like?
Christian: that’s an interesting question. The main takeaway that I had from it was, this would have been I think in 2014 or 15, the world that we’re living in now is so globalized. That I was almost disappointed at how similar everything was. When you go to a major city, it doesn’t really matter what country you’re in the world. If you speak English, you’ll be able to get by right. Transactions work the same way, you can pay with a credit card wherever you go. When you get more rural, it’s a little bit more differen,t and a little bit more more esoteric and quirky. But I was just appointed that, just, kind of how similar everything is. Capitalism and individualism have largely taken over the world. There’s not nearly as many interesting pockets of really strange, really truly foreign experiences.
John: Did you almost get like this desire to travel globally out of your system a little bit because they were supposed similar it was that one of the effects of that?
Christian: Don’t get me wrong. I E. I love travel. And there were definitely new experiences, and it’s fun seeing new sites. And when you’re in a new place and don’t have those habits formed, you form a lot more memories because you’re experiencing all these new inputs. So yeah, I to this day, I love traveling and that inspired, in large part, my– when this software business started taking off, I realized I could work from anywhere and didn’t need to be rooted in a single place. So my wife and I bought an RV, and sold our stuff and drove around the country for about a year. And that was a ton of fun. So yeah traveling is definitely something that I’d like to keep in my life, but it’s an interesting balance of. it’s more about just changing things and getting into different environments than it is about the actual place that you’re going. Every city is going to have a Starbucks and a Whole Foods and people are going to be driving into cars. It’s more about throwing your mind off from the set habits, not making it too easy for yourself to live. If you can just go through life on autopilot. You will live a much less interesting life. You’ll be using your neurons less than if you’re traveling kind of forcing yourself into into uncomfortable positions, that’s more what travel is about for me.
John: You mentioned it was really difficult at times for you to do some of the deep work and the products that you were hoping to continue working on while you were traveling, partly because of the schedule aggressive it was for you guys to move from one city to another and whatnot. What are some of the tips that you give to people like me who want to travel with my family and still be productive? So I’d only be a tourist or moving from one city to another place every week, maybe that’s a little bit longer that we stay in one place, but what kind of similar advice is or things we should keep in mind to balance the desire to experience new things and be present in that City and yet still be able to pursue deep work, and interesting work? What are some advices you give?
Christian: For me in the RV, it was a very interesting experience of just learning more about myself. My wife and I, before we left, planned the trip so that we would be going to a new city about once a week. That seemed very generous when we were planning it out, but in practice, especially in an RV, you lose so much time in transition the day that you’re traveling, that your going somewhere is completely lost to traveling. You take everything up, and you have to pack it out, but then you have to drive to the place, which takes several hours, and you have to figure out where you’re supposed to be parking and what the system is for paying by the end of the day. You just kind of set everything up, and then you just need to de-stress. Your you’re not functional the next day, you spend half the day kind of still distressing, and then you have to figure out. Okay. Where is Food coming from? What are we going to do? Then of course you’re in a new city, so you need time to explore the city. So maybe the second half of the second day is spent exploring, and then oh there’s– you find out about the thing to do in this new place, that you spend the third day doing. So now you’re three days into your week. For you, travel, you have four days left before you leave. The last days going to be lost to traveling again. So you really just have three days. Well, there’s other things to do in the city that you’re going to want to be doing. So it was, it was a struggle. Especially early on to come up with a more realistic goal. I didn’t realize about myself how much enjoyment I get from work. I love solving those kinds of puzzles, and I would be you know three or four days in, having felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything, which psychologically affected me much more than I thought it would. I realized about myself that I need opportunities. I need long stretches of time to be able to do that kind of work. I in a very real way, am addicted to software development. I love the the quick feedback cycle. I love the types of problems. So I know now, going forward scheduling a trip like that, I know more about myself and how to schedule my time so that I can spend time doing that.
John: So what would that look like practically for you if you were to do that again? Whether it be both RV or international travel? Would you schedule a month at a time for location or would you do still pretty aggressive and travel schedule and yet, but what would that balance look like practically?
Christian: I think a month is a good amount of time because that gives you a solid week to explore the city to really get situated. And then that’s enough time that your surroundings can get boring again your surroundings can get more normal. You’re not worried about going to all the tourist routes because you’ve seen them. It’s fine. So yeah, then you could settle into more of a routine. You could settle into more of a work schedule. If I were doing it again. I would be much more generous with scheduling. I would I would schedule closer to a month in each Place.
John: Wow, so let’s dive into this idea of productivity a little bit more. How much time do you need usually for you to really kind of dive into doing deep work? I mean other than saying hey, we need a whole day to work on something like that. Do you find yourself being able to do it in a couple hours or that full days or half days it will how much time do you find yourself needing to be able to get into flow, deep work, and whatnot?
Christian: That was another good self-realization during this travel was really being disciplined with myself about getting in and out of it faster. And so what that means in practice is setting up tools so that I can, with a, with a terminal command I can set up a coding environment for whatever project I’m working on now. That means setting up systems so that I can keep track of the next thing to work on. And the problem that I was in the middle of, I found a lot of success with the Pomodoro Technique, which is spending twenty five minutes completely uninterrupted, and then I mandatory five minute break. That’s extremely beneficial because for those 25 minutes if you get distracted, if there’s something else that you’re doing, you set it aside you have a little list next to you of oh, I have this impulse to check Facebook, after these 25 minutes I’ll check Facebook. And it doesn’t count if you get interrupted during this 25 minutes. So really organizing myself around pomodoro has been a huge boost in productivity because I can now jump in and out of it faster. 25 minutes is a good amount of time that I can kind of spend five minutes getting into it. I’m much better now at really getting into it, so I spent 20 productive minutes. And I have a whole system now where I have EDM music that I listen to that as soon as I’m listening to it. I can just kind of snap in that work mode in my brain says. Oh, this is this is what we’re doing now. This is fine. So the transition is as much easier.
John: You talked about keeping track of the work that you were doing and we’re in a micro conferring now, and you’re probably the most organized person I know at the conference of seeing someone who takes meticulous notes, and who you meet and you’ve written your own systems for doing this kind of stuff. Tell me a little bit about your whole thought around how you capture things, and how you keep track of things to work on. What are some of the systems that you’re using to kind of track of them and be able to organize all that information?
Christian: Sure. Firstly this is constantly in flux. I will take new information I get from new books I’m reading, a productivity or new new research, and adapt the system. So if you ask me this next week, it would be different. What my system looks like right now is I have a central system, similar to how you use Evernote, that’s a system of– its really just plain text files organized in folders in a git repository. So it’s backed up, and I can have snapshots of it, so I can go back at any time and see where it was. Everything else flows into that system, so if I take a note on my phone. I know that that note eventually will make it into the system. If it’s something that I have to do, I have a next list inspired by David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and then I just work from the top of that list. I’m starting now to Branch off specific chunks of it in two different systems. So for this conference I wrote an app that I can keep track of notes about people on my phone, the code name for its “BlackBook.” I don’t I don’t know that’s going to be the the title if I ever end up publishing it. But this system is designed specifically for the problem of keeping information on people. So if I meet someone and they have a really interesting connection, like I met someone a few weeks ago whose Uncle works for the Gates Foundation– super interesting– I will probably never need to know that, but it would be great if several years from now I have an opportunity that I think would be perfect for the Gates Foundation. If I could reach back and you know remember who this person was, how I met them, what my connection is to them just by remembering that oh, I met someone at some time that had a connection to the Gates Foundation. I built the system so that I could search Gates and their name would pop up. Now I’ve, this is this is incredibly valuable for me because I can make links and I can go back and say oh, hey we met at this party. I have this great idea for this thing that would be great for the Gates Foundation. Could you get me an introduction through your uncle? By the way, how is your cat Lucy doing? Yeah? I built this so this would also be in the in the system. I built this because I get very frustrated. This applies to a lot of different things, but the core frustration I have is just in my own biological limitations. I hate how fallible my memory is. I hate that I can have a conversation with the person and a year later not remember anything about the conversation. I can see the amount of information I’m exposed to, and useful connections that could be making, and I feel a very real sense of how limited my own brain is of keeping track of it. So as much as I can, I try to offload the storage of this information into into an external system. I’ll give you one other example of a subsystem. I for the longest time would get book recommendations from people, and just forget them. And sometimes if I heard about a book, you know, maybe three times in a week, then I would actually remember it, and then I would go through the steps to get it and read it. And sometimes they would be good and sometimes they would be bad. So I thought for a long time about what an ideal solution to that would be. And I thought oh, well you know if I had a perfect memory I would just remember every time anyone ever recommended a book to me, and I would keep track of that, and then I would just read the next book that was recommended by the most number of people. So I built a system that’s, it’s kind of a subset of this get system in markdown, where that’s exactly what I do. It’s it currently has close to 8,000 books. And when it’s time for me to read another book, I just sort it by number of recommendations, and I filter out the ones I’ve already read. And it’s a perfect system for me. It’s a perfect solution to me not being able to remember all of these 8,000 books, and how many times they were recommended. So it’s a methodology that I applied to different areas in my life. And yeah usually produces useful things.
John: Is your wife pretty, also into a lot of productivity topics and things like that or does she use any other systems? Or do you find that that there’s a little disconnect between your systems and those around you and kind of how they live in organized their life?
Christian: I’m definitely much more radical than, I think, anyone I know in most of these things. My wife in particular is naturally much better at them. She is very good naturally at remembering names and remembering dates and remembering.
John: funny. My wife is the same way as well.
Christian: I have to, I have to work to give up with her. For memory in particular I’ve been focusing a lot of recently on memory techniques. Selected mnemonic major system for remembering numbers. It’s a system for taking numbers and turning those into sounds, and from The Sounds you can turn it into words and from words you go to pictures. And everyone’s brain is very very good at memorizing pictures. That’s kind of how we evolved if you think of when we evolved hunting and gathering, remembering pictures of places and images was very useful because you can remember this terrain. And even if you hadn’t been in this place in several years, having a map of it in your head and a picture of kind of where everything is is very useful and depends on your survival. So if you can get things to that place where it’s just a picture, you can now remember any arbitrary information as long as you can encode it as a picture. So I’ve been working a lot on the system for remembering numbers, and remembering names, and different fun things like memorizing a shuffle deck of cards. But now that I have this system, I can cheat to be as good as my wife is. And that’s, that’s kind of how I feel about a lot of these productivity systems top. She now, in in productivity specifically, I think with my system. I’ve been able to surpass what my wife can just naturally do. And I think she’s seen that and picked up on something. So she’ll borrow things, like some things from David Allen. I think she uses to do lists, which if I was not a software developer I would probably be using to do lists. I like to be able to to play with things though. But yeah sure, if she sees, if she sees me doing things that are useful that have a positive Roi, she’ll usually pick them up. A lot of things I do though are experiments that don’t pay off for several years. Or I’ll be, I’ll be trying a lot of different things before I settle on something that actually works for me. So she’ll let me be the guinea pig for a while, and then if there’s something that’s provable that it works well, then she’ll usually us it.
John: How do you practice these practices that you find like memorization technique? How do you get better at some things? I’ve I’ve read about, or heard about you know speed reading or memorization techniques of how to imagine and create a story of all the cars that you see or at the words that you kind of like come across and all these other things. But I’ve never been successful at spending enough time or practicing it that becomes something that I can get good at doing and therefore I abandon it. What do you think are some key things that you’ve been able to do or notice and making sure that you’re able to acquire those as skill sets that reliably you’re able to use? What what’s your experience? Or what do you have a practice technique or something that you could share with us?
Christian: Yes, so this, is this is the topic of habit formation. And how you can get yourself to change your own behaviour. Lot of very interesting books by Josh Kaufman and Tim Ferriss and Charles duhigg about this topic. It boils down to you have to set very clear goals for what success is. So a goal like I want a better memory is a bad goal. A goal like I want to be able to walk into a group of five people, hear their names once, and remember it when I leave the conversation is a very good goal. Because you can very clearly measure was this successful, or did I fail. Great. So that’s the first thing set set very clear goals once a goal is set. I guess specifically in habits. You want to be able to Define when practice happens. So coming up with triggers for when you would be thinking about this with an example you would try to install and yourself the mental trigger of oh, if I’m in a group where someone is saying their name, that’s the trigger that I need to remember. Oh, this is the time to practice names. I’m going to pay super close attention to when this person says their name, and I’m going to remember it. This is charles’ digs book The Power of Habit. I’ll talk briefly about habits. The the structure of a habit is you have a trigger, you have the action, and you have the reward. So this applies both to positive habits that you’re trying to install new things that you’re doing, and negative habits that you’re trying to stop doing for a positive habit. Let’s say that you want to when you’re in the kitchen and you notice that you’re out of mayonnaise, you want to keep track of that on your phone because your current habit is not doing anything, and then you get to the grocery store, you don’t remember what you’re supposed to, right, right. So the way that you would practice. You would say okay, the trigger is I am in the kitchen and I notice that I am out of something. You would then want to Define what the Habit is. So first just spend a minute thinking about: what is the correct behavior in this situation? Well I would love to be able to keep track of this in some way. It’s easier if you can do it kind of in the space and make it something that you can do there. So maybe you always notice when you’re doing this maybe the trigger always happens when you open the fridge. So a great place to put the note whether to do this would be on the fridge. You stick it on there with a magnet. The reward would be oh, now I’ve kept track of this. And you feel kind of a sense of accomplishment. So now in the future, when you notice that you’re out of mayonnaise you remember back to the Habit that you installed. You look right up, and oh look, there’s The To Do List this is perfect and you write it down the list. That’s how you install new habits. Replacing old habits would be something like I struggled for a while. I didn’t even notice I was doing this, but I when I would get stuck in a coding problem, especially if I wasn’t working in Poms, I would feel the impulse to go to the kitchen and get a snack. And I didn’t notice this until I started fasting.
John: You said Poms? What does that mean?
John: Okay? So you’re in the middle of a 25-minute kind of pure ok?
Christian: I’m not as susceptible to this when I’m working in Pomodoro, but it still happens at the end of it. So I would feel the impulse to oh, it’s time to go in the kitchen and get a snack and as a separate experiment, I was practicing fasting. So in the middle of a three-day fast I would find myself walking in the kitchen and you know opening the jar of nuts or something and then realizing wait a minute. No. I’m not eating what is this what am I doing? And I was, I was abhored at how many times it was happening. I found myself in the kitchen, you know, ten times within just a couple hours. So in that case I was able to identify. Okay. Why? What was the moment that I decided to walk in the kitchen, and why did I do it? And by kind of taking steps back and okay, well it wasn’t like the I was walking in the kitchen because I had already kind of decided what I was doing. Uh it wasn’t you know when I when I got up because I got up with the intention of going in the kitchen. It’s really this moment of I feel kind of frustrated because there’s this problem that I don’t know the answer to and I’m really just looking for like a dopamine hit of okay. I, you know, I can do something successfully and get a reward from it so looking at it that way, I needed to find something that gave me that same dopamine hit that gave me that quick sense of commitment when I found myself in this search stressful situations. So trigger is I find myself frustrated at a project. I wanted to install a new habit. The old one was I would go in the kitchen and get a snack. Instead of that I would like to do push-ups, or do some pull ups so I installed a pull-up bar between where I work and the kitchen, and I put the little power push up things, a little handles that make it easier to do push-ups, or let you dip deeper right in front of me, right in front of where I work. And that fixed it. You know the next day, I found myself getting up, and I tripped over the the push up things, and I said, “oh yes. I’m going to do pushups right.” and I did and it fulfilled the same thing. I was able to to overwrite that habit of going to the kitchen, and so then passively I was just doing you know instead of going in the kitchen 20 times, I was doing a hundred pull ups, and 100 pushups, so it worked really well. Finding those kinds of things finding the tons of optimizations has paid dividends in my life. The more I ask myself those questions of okay. What are things that I’m doing now that don’t really make sense? And what are what are better ways that I could be doing it? It has just been fantastic. I’ve seen huge huge improvements in all areas of my life. There’s really no problem that doesn’t benefit from this kind of thinking.
John: See you talked about DB inboxes of projects you’ve been working for a long time. You tell us what that is, and you know just like how does it work, and how do you make money with that?
Christian: Yes, deviant box is a tool that I made for myself in college. It’s a file transfer utility that’s used by businesses to receive files from their clients. So if you’re an accountant, or you make mortgages and you need to receive files from your client. I can give you a web page that you send to your clients. Your clients drag and drop files into that page, and then they show up on your computer. I made this for myself because I was at school and I needed to send myself some files, and I didn’t trust the school computers to log into my email to email it to myself. So I threw this together just for myself and used it and it was great. I think I sent it to a few people on Facebook forgot about it for two years. Two years later, I think it was Lifehacker, uh no it wasn’t uh TechCrunch. It was, it was a big news aggregator blog wrote about it, and I looked at the Google analytics and traffic. Shut up. It was I think I got maybe twenty thousand hits in a single day.
John: Through a dbn box of or
Christian: yeah, there’s little side project that. I hadn’t really told anyone about it, and then I saw a huge surgeon signups. It was a need that people had to be able to anonymously receive files. So I thought, I didn’t know about micro conf. I didn’t know about kind of this. I didn’t even know that it was possible to run a one-man business. That was a thing that you could do so I looked at that saying. Oh well. This is neat. I don’t know what to do with it. So I’ll just forget about it for another year, so I did. And then I was reading about stripe. And how cool it was that you could receive credit card payments on the internet, so I said oh well. I have this side project that has a lot of users, and they’ve been emailing me asking for these features, so I’ll put some time into implementing these new features, and I’ll put it behind the paywall so that I can have people actually given me money because I had a donate button on the site before that. And I think I got like maybe two hundred dollars total in donations. So the day that I launched this new version with the extra features and the payment plan, I just launched it I didn’t send any emails about it. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I had 10 people sign up for the $30 a year plans, so I did the math and said oh shoot, this could be a thing. Well, maybe this was just a fluke. Maybe this was just the first day. Second day same thing about $300 of recurring Revenue per year. And the third day same thing. When a week, and I remember very distinctly I was driving in the car kind of doing this Mental Math of O three hundred dollars a day, oh oh my. I don’t need to work. I don’t need to get a job and this was very soon after I had graduated college, so I never had a real job. I never had a 9 to 5 that I had to go to. And I was just elated at you know the the possibility of this. And you know that this was a thing that I could do because in that year before I implemented the payment plans. I was really inspired by Patrick McKenzie, and bingo card creator, and the things that he was able to do with that. That he could quit his job with a bingo card creator. Like how much simpler of a product could you imagine? So from there, I put a lot more work into development, but I still didn’t really understand the market of it went to micro conf, got really inspired by people of the other side of the business, of the possibility of re-engaging people, and really focusing on, on conversion rates and all these other tricks that I, lots of things that I kind of accidentally got right without realizing it. Like product Market fit. I just kind of stumbled into without intentionally doing it. But you know conversion rates, and, and knowing your customer, and having any kind of a channel for being able to advertise it. Were things that I just didn’t have. So it’s been, it’s been a really interesting process of kind of going back and redoing these things that I got wrong. And trying to figure out new ways to do it and since then I’ve developed other projects like this. I really enjoy the process of just making something for myself. So a lot like this system that I’m making for myself of keeping track of people. This is something that could probably turn into a product, but I really enjoy the process of making it, and I enjoy solving problems for myself. So that’s probably what I’ll continue to do is continue making products that are useful to me. And then once they reach a certain point they’ve kind of proven themselves useless to me then then I’ll go off and make a process that I can make money for me.
John: From what I understand you’re letting this products kind of like die almost. Just kind of just continue on without really touching it or having do anything major to it every time. I get the desire to not have it intrude in your life. You know like you’re not interested in maybe working on it, but what’s the motivation and the thought process, Philosophy for not trying to grow this like will raise prices, add more features get somebody else to run it or… What’s your thinking around that? Why aren’t you growing it?
Christian: That’s partially something that I don’t fully understand myself. What I’ve noticed is I enjoy much more making choices that optimize my time than I do for more money. From day one DB inbox was making three times more money than I need. There’s a fantastic Financial blogger called Mister Money Mustache that talks about how the key to wealth is not making more money. It’s limiting how much money you need. So much more powerful multiplier of money and time and happiness. So in a way, it’s already more successful than it needs to be and I know about myself that I I enjoy much more the process of building new things. So when I’m faced with the problem of okay dbn box is at this level. To get to the next level I would need to double down on, you know, finding marketing channels, on really focusing on conversion rates, on building up user personas and trying to figure out who the person is that’s actually using this and then marketing to them through Google AdWords or something. It’s not a problem that excites me right now. Not to say that I won’t pick it up in the future, but there are more exciting problems in my life that I would rather be solving. Things like keeping track of all my contacts, that’s something that has a really useful value to me from break. I’m doing day-to-day dbm box. I feel incredibly fortunate that it gives me more time than anything else, time to kind of figure out. What really is my bigger goal in living? What am I really trying to accomplish in life? These really big deep questions that really don’t have obvious answers. And to me the answer is certainly not that I need more mone. So just as a life philosophy, I’ve been focused heavily recently on trying to make choices that increase my quality of life and happiness. And for me right now Dbn box making more money doesn’t do that. What is doing it for me right now is making new products, and you know learning new technologies. I’m really excited right now about react and fire base, and there’s a new product that I’m building that uses those technologies that is really really cool. And and I’m building with all of these things that I’ve learned and micro comf in mind, so it’s going to make marketing it and growing it much much easier. I know now the mistakes that I made in DB inbox and how to make things that don’t make those mistakes and that are much easier to grow. So I’m, I get really excited about building new things that get those things right from the beginning.
John: So let’s talk about micro conf little bit. This is your 3rd gear in micro comf I remember three years ago you and I we met at one of our lunches or something like that. You set next, right next to me, got to know each other and since then we’ve you know we’ve been meeting each other year after year. Why are you coming back to this event? What made you first initially be interested in it. And you know what’s, what makes you come back to this event out of all the other events so out there in the world? Like what makes it micro comf particularly interesting for you?
Christian: Micro cuff was the first community of people that I found that are in this space of building companies with a small number of people, that are in venture-backed. And I found about it initially through Patrick McKenzie through the the bingo card creator. I think he had given a talk here or written about. It so when DB inbox started succeeding. I remember thinking OK. You know the first whatever $1000 is going towards my micro comf ticket, so I can find him. Thank him in person. I I printed a jacket for him. That was his twilio jacket. With his kazimierz logo, and he was so happy. I loved being able to give that.
John: that’s funny. Yeah, that’s a power and networking move.
Christian: with yeah it in retrospect. I just really I felt a lot of gratitude to him. He introduced me to this community. Unknowingly. I don’t think he knew who I was but I stumbled on his blog and seeing the things that he had done. But micro conf as a community for me has been fantastic. Being able to meet other people like that, other people who are doing this independent software thing. Being in Dallas Texas, there is not a huge Community even of people doing interesting startups. They’re trying. They’re trying very hard but even, you know, looking for people there are not a lot of people doing this kind of thing. So for me Micro Comf is incredibly refreshing to be able to talk to people about, you know, who you don’t have to explain all the acronyms to you can say the word SASS, and CAC, and you know B2B, and people know what you’re talking about you don’t have to explain every every piece of it. I people have made the same mistakes that you’ve made and come up with different solutions for it. People are kind of motivated by the same types of things. People are interested in the same things. It’s a fantastic group of people all you know very very self-motivated. Doing very interesting things. Very up on technology yeah, I’ve made some fantastic friends here. And it’s, it’s very refreshing to have. I would love to be able to do it more than once a year, so I started branching out trying to find out their other things like this, but there’s really no place like micro comf yeah. I’ve just really loved interacting with this type of person.
John: Thank you for joining me today. Where can our audience find more information about you, maybe your blog or Twitter or your website adress, some of the links in different places we can find more information about you.
Christian: Yeah, everything about me all my different projects, and I have probably dozen things that are active that are a little experiments that you can use all my contact information. So my Twitter in my Facebook and everything else is all at my website that you can get to. It’s my last name with a dot in the middle its dot CO.
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