If you're tired of all of those marketing emails and newsletters, here's how to get rid of nearly all of them, instantly:
Create a filter in your email, looking for the word unsubscribe in the email body. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 requires that any email offering or promoting a service have a method to unsubscribe in the email. Almost every time, that involves the word unsubscribe somewhere in the footer of the email, since this has become a standard practice.
If the email body has unsubscribe in it, have the filter archive or delete the email immediately.
If you want to make an omelet, you've got to break a few eggs.
Disclaimer: None of this is meant to be financial, legal advice, life advice, whatever. I don't know what I'm talking about. These are just some things that I've learned, that I sometimes forget, but sometimes they guide me. I hope they are helpful to you in some way but that you also have your own experiences which teach you things that resonate with you.
The best way to learn a lot of things is by doing them. So I took an opportunity this past week to teach myself about investing.
Prior to Monday of last week, I have no experience buying and selling securities. As Bitcoin gained some mainstream media attention, I turned my attention back to the cryptocurrency and gave it another chance. I had looked into Bitcoin in 2011 but at the time it seemed like too much of a scam to get in (not enough social proof I guess, but that's a who other post entirely).
After a roller coaster five days in the Bitcoin markets, I've learned a lot (and didn't loose too much money!):
1) The real people whose financial advice you want are not giving it away for free on Internet forums
This is obvious. Of all Internet users, a very tiny percentage of them are qualified to give financial advice, and they're certainly not on Reddit.
I never believed that users entering comments anywhere, really, were the most trustworthy people. I've just noticed how many people on the Bitcoin subReddit and Bitcoin forums seem to be trying to predict what the volatile market is going to do next. They post graphs and charts comparing a day in Bitcoin trading to a chart of the Nasdaq or other points in Bitcoin's past as some sort of proof as to what's going to happen next.
Always remember, no one knows anything, regardless of how convincing their argument may seem.
If someone is giving financial advice on the Internet and they're not charging for it, that's a pretty good red flag. Do your own research. Form your own conclusions. Then act.
2) Don't invest more than you're willing to lose
There were too many stories about people doing crazy shit with money in response to the Bitcoin bubble. I'm not even going to link to them because they're not worth your time.
When you make an investment, make sure you're comfortable losing that money. Betting your entire life on something that you don't have any control over and praying that it works out is a terrible strategy. It's also incredibly scary. Just don't do it.
3) You don't have to invest
This may seem obvious as well but it's something that I learned the hard way.
I filled up my account and immediately bought a few Bitcoins. The price immediately dropped as tweets and media started reporting a Bitcoin bubble burst, what essentially turned out to be new buyers making a bank run when the price didn't keep going up. Then Mt. Gox got hacked (the main BTC exchange that handles roughly 56% of transactions in the Bitcoin universe) a few times, driving the price down.
Luckily, I sold what I bought just a few minutes after I bought it, not losing much. I should have listened to my gut and waited a hours, or even just minutes. Just to see what the price would do.
Which brings me to…
I know we all love instant gratification. Believe me, I do too. But when your environment is absurdly uncertain, waiting a few extra minutes usually isn't a bad thing.
Yeah, I might have lost a few dollars here or saved a few dollars there. Hell, at the very least, you lose nothing.
In my experience, I've found that rushing into things isn't that great of a strategy. Patience.
5) Avoid the Herd as much as possible
This goes back to social proof (something I really need to write a post on). We're all victims of being part of the Herd, where we see a few people (friends, colleagues, other Internet users, people we respect) doing something and we nearly blindly assume that those people know what they're doing. They couldn't be making a bad decision. Therefore, we should do what they're doing!
I listened to a few people without doing more of my own research and synthesizing my own information. It bit me in the ass once. I got really lucky once.
In this brilliant post, Joseph Walla talks about a conversation he had with his brother about how group statistics don't apply to the individual. That you shouldn't focus on the Herd's outcome and patterns, just do what you need to do to make yourself successful. You'll be lumped into one side or another of those group statistics either way.
6) Try to identify where the market will be the lowest, but don't become obsessed with it
I tried to pick the perfect point to buy a bunch of Bitcoins as the price was falling.
I bought some BTC, the price fell. I bought some more, the price rose and kept rising. And fell again. And then rose.
Find a point that you're comfortable entering a market and enter it. Your money will fluctuate but that's the nature of investment.
7) Set a minimum at which you want to get out
Just because you put $100 into something doesn't mean you have to walk away with either $0 or $100+. You can walk away with $54, if you'd like.
Set a point in the market where you no longer want to participate and hold to that, regardless of what everyone else is saying or doing. This is your game to play and no one else's.
I believe that now, more than ever, we should draw deeper lines in the sand. Set our boundaries more effectively. Put up chain link fences with little holes, that keep most things out. I say most things because there's always something that, for a specific reason, ends up being too good to pass up.
One of the resounding psychological traits I see in many people today is the inability to make decisions. We want abundance and endless choice, all the time. All the while, secretly hoping that most people will like us.
Add instant gratification on top of that, constantly delivered by our phones and computers and the software we create, and you have a fairly messy recipe for successful human beings.
In short, we get nowhere.
Once we set up semipermeable standards, we can get somewhere.
Like the membrane keeping the salt out of the right side of beaker, our cells have a semipermeable membranes. These boundaries allow certain nutrients and proteins to enter into the cell while keeping unnecessary items and toxins out out that can't fit through the specially-shaped openings.
Our brains and our time should work like this too.
Here's the thing: our brains love boundaries! When we have boundaries, we're forced to get creative inside of those boundaries.
Our standards should have exceptions too. The world is more grey than it is black and white, after all. Like the holes in a cell's wall, if a particle approaches at the right angle with the right shape, it can squeak through an opening. Events in every day life are much the same.
As an example, I don't tolerate flakiness in people. If we make plans, I want to hang out with you. I understand that things come up that we can't avoid and I'm open to that. If you show a pattern of something always coming up at the last minute, right when we're going to hang out, I'm going make much less of an effort to spend time with you than I would have before.
Maybe we missed our first meeting because of something that came up last minute and maybe this time, you had a family emergency that you had to fly home for. Totally understandable. If you just forgot and didn't show up, that's much different.
But that's the line I've drawn: I don't do flaky. I've had some hard conversations with friends telling them that it both disappoints me and wastes my time when I plan to spend time with them and they don't show up. For the most part, people are pretty responsive.
As a result, I'm not meant to be friends with certain people. You know what? That's okay.
We teach other people how to treat us. How someone treats you in the long term is all about the semipermeable standards that you set and live by.
If you don't want something, say so. If something doesn't feel right to you, say no.
I encourage you think deeply about what you like and don't like. Also think about what you vocalize and portray for others.
Do you act on the parameters you have in your head?
Do you let most things slide by because you're scared of what or who you might miss?
Do you feel stuck sometimes? Mad at yourself for doing something that you don't really want to do, only because you don't want to upset other people?
At the end of the day, all we can control are ourselves.
Instead of being reactive to the world around you, establish some semipermeable boundaries around what you're willing to tolerate.
Be proactive and let world reform around what you're willing to tolerate.
Your personal happiness and focus will be worth the effort.
Last September, I wrote a post called Want to learn Rails? Start here. which has been pretty successful. I've met and emailed a good amount of people who have follow up questions or are in the middle of learning how to build things with software. I've referred a bunch of people to the post as well. I'm proud that the post is actionable and helpful. Since I wrote that post a while ago and developed my engineering skills much, much further. I wanted to write a follow-up post, some revised thoughts on learning how to code.
This post is intended for working professionals who feels a strong desire to code to build things that they want to see exist in the world. This post is not intended for the person who thinks they should code because they hear so much about it. I mean no offense but I've found those people to be lacking in the short and medium-term fire it takes to learn to actually build software.
1) Nights, weekends are bad
Given my personal experiences and a slew of conversations, I've found that learning how to code only on nights and weekends is a terrible way to go about it. When your brain is not trained to think the way coding forces you to think, it's very easy to lose where you were or not remember a key concept you just picked up. Putting in as much time as possible is your friend.
This point of view is reinforced by programs like Dev Bootcamp which not only require a full nine weeks of your life but also make you pay tuition to attend (which is not a small sum). They make you buy in temporally and financially to ensure your success. You have to throw yourself in or you will fail.
2) Forget Codecademy
“I'm learning how to code! I'm doing Codecademy!”
I don't know how many people tell me this. If I follow up with any of those people six-to-eight weeks later, they've fallen off the boat completely.
Here's why Codecademy doesn't work in the long term:
You don't know how to set up a development environment. Any time you have the slightest inkling to build something for yourself leveraging what you've learned in Codecademy, you can't and probably don't know where to start.
You'll need to go through the process of setting up your dev environment which can be incredibly challenging for someone with very little coding experience.
3) Have a real project you want to build
Have something tiny you want to build. One of my first projects was called Today I Learned. It's a text box that you enter stuff into and it shows the date you entered it in descending order. That's all it does.
Your first project is going to be crappy. But it will be done. And it will be done by you. And that's fucking awesome.
4) Everything you build, builds on top of the stuff you've built before
I built Today I Learned and whatever I built next, was better because of one or two concepts I learned while building TIL. You'll constantly be referencing your old code, code other places in the codebase or code from the Internet, once you understand what the pieces mean.
5) Don't copy and paste others' code
Tommy Nicholas wrote a post in December which echoes the same point. You learn things when you write code out. You question what certain pieces mean. Hopefully you Google those questions to learn more and understand more.
6) Stop telling people you're learning to code unless they're technical and you want them to help you
When you're starting out, your goal should be to find a technical mentor or two, not impress your other non-coding friends with the fact that you've taken the first step.
I'm a firm believer that if you talk about what you want to do, you never actually do it. So unless you're talking to someone you hope will be a mentor, close your mouth, put your head down, and keep building.
Loose lips sink ships
7) Coding is failing a ton and understanding why. It's painful and frustrating
The way you learn how to build software is by making the same mistake a few times, learning why that doesn't work, and doing it correctly. The next time you come across a similar problem (and trust me, you will), you'll either remember the way you did it last time or at least the part of the codebase that you struggled in, which you will then reference and remember what you learned from all of that failing.
The rewards for building software are incredible. The feeling of “that came out of my brain” is what I live for. I love it. But the road to get to that point can be tough. Build momentum. Keep going.
8) Stop trying to figure out what you should do and just start.
A friend of a friend kept emailing me with a bunch of questions. He was trying to figure out all of the places he could fail before he even started.
That's the absolute wrong way to go about this. Pick a language, (Ruby or Python) buy a really recent book that assumes you know nothing and just start. Do chapter one. Do it again maybe. The amount that you don't know that you don't know is bigger than you can imagine. Don't worry about that. You'll understand more pieces in time. We all will.
If you have tips for beginners learning how to code, please share them on Hacker News. Your time and effort may really help someone out.
On Friday, after being down by 16 at halftime. Colorado came out and scored 21 straight points on Illinois before Illinois put another point up on the board. Illinois had gone cold. Dead cold. Colorado had all the momentum in the world. I love momentum shifts.
But then Illinois started scoring again and Colorado started missing shots that they would have made when the adrenaline was flowing. Colorado got cold. Illinois got hot. Another momentum shift. Illinois eventually won the game.
What a shame. But it got me thinking a lot about momentum.
It's incredibly hard to start, and continue, a lot of things. A new habit, a small behavioral change, and even scoring streaks (á la Colorado).
One of the primary reasons that it's so hard is because we're subject to the natural triggers of our environment and our diminishing willpower throughout the day.
You were going to work on that personal project on Thursday night after work right? But then work wore you out and your friends were going to that Passion Pit show downtown and just happened to have an extra ticket. Decisions, right?
How do we build defenses against the triggers of our environment other than our willpower? We do it by creating and sustaining momentum.
If there is no net force on an object, then its velocity is constant. - Newton's First Law of Motion
Let's say you're starting a software project, something you've always wanted to build but never really prioritized before. It's lived on a notepad somewhere in your apartment for the better part of six months.
Today you're going to start. No excuses.
Start by making a list of the things you need to do. Then break down each of those pieces into incredibly small pieces.
(Personally, I put things on my list that I've already done, to trick my brain into thinking how accomplished I already am!)
You start attacking things on the list, crossing them off as you go. As you're building, you add things to the bottom of the list. More small steps you need to take, as you pull things off the top of the list and complete them.
Feel that adrenaline? The pulsing and excitement in your body? That's momentum. That's you exerting a force on the previously immovable object. By moving your project, you've established velocity. Every item you cross off your list increases your velocity.
Streaks are incredibly powerful psychological triggers.
Streaks get us to keep doing what we've been doing and keep coming back for more.
When we see that we're on a streak, our brains want to do more to continue the streak. The longer the streak, the greater the disappointment if we break the streak.
If you've done something for 61 days in a row, don't you want to hit 62? Wouldn't it suck to start over again at one?
So today, I encourage you to take the first step in starting a streak.
Make a list. Backfill it with things you've already done today.
Now do the first item on that list. Maybe you do the second one too. Keep it going and don't stop.
The home screen on your phone says a lot about you. What your values are. Your daily activities, rituals, and habits. It speaks to the space that you enjoy and need, relative to the rest of the world. Your home screen has a function as well as a style. It's meant for you; it's meant for showing off to others. In many ways, the home screen is your digital living room.
When I think back to the best living rooms, the ones I've spent to most time in, all of them combined the unique personality of the owner with a high degree of usefulness.
Proximity to other rooms was important but more importantly, it was about the space that the living room allowed for.
Recognize that the living room can be used as both a private (sharing intimate moments with a partner) and public (hosting parties with friends) space. Create living room spaces that foster comfort, relaxation, and refuge.
Understand that hosting guests in the living room may include both formal (e.g., entertaining) and intimate (e.g., sharing personal stories) scenarios.
Recognize that objects placed within the living room may create a connection to family, friends, or experiences during moments of solitude.
The living room is a space of versatile yet limited use. Where you can read a book alone and stare out the window, watching the world. It's also where you can share a bottle of wine and some soul talk with your best friends. A place where your kids can pretend that each block in the sofa is a new world for their action figures to play. A place where you can watch your favorite teams rise and fall. A room for good news and bad news. It's a space for some of the best that life has to offer.
The living room has many uses and purposes but still has its boundaries.
It's a room designed with elegance. Approachable and classy but not stuffy.
That's what your home screen should be.
It should afford you versatility, utility, and connection. Your favorite things; your most frequently used apps. Software that represents you belongs there.
Your wallpaper should represent you in some way yet live in the background, giving enough contrast to your apps that they fly towards you, begging to be opened.
Your other screens? They're for less important actions. Apps you use infrequently or maybe not at all anymore. Things you're trying out. Secrets. Collections of apps that support other apps.
It should echo how you communicate to the outside world. What mediums do you enjoy? Which don't you enjoy? What we leave off of our home screens, and out of our living rooms, says just as much about us as what we put in them.
The beauty of the home screen is the beauty of the living room. A blank slate. The space is yours to create. Impossibly easy to change, with endless possibilities, in its purest form, it's the digital embodiment of you.
If you could overcome any fear that you have in the next six months? What would it be?
Think about it. Write it down.
It doesn't have to be public. It can be big or small. But it should be real. It should come from the real, vulnerable you.
But write it down, stare at it.
Mine (now revised after some reflection), is losing the momentum for changes that I want to make in my life after The Bold Academy.
You can overcome any fear, whatever it may be, but to do that you need to do two things:
1) Pick date that you must smash that fear by (so six months from you reading these words).
2) Find someone to hold you accountable to overcoming your fear by that date.
The template above you can use for conquering just about any fear that you have. The following story is how we used this question and template on a random morning in San Francisco to bring joy and delight to hundreds of passers by.
We looked back at this space like we couldn't believe what just happened - what we'd just done. Five hours earlier this space had looked just like it did now. But taking a look now, we realized that we'd made a difference in the lives of over 400 people and whoever else they came in contact with. Whoever else they shared this story with.
The Bold Hustle
I recently took part in a 10-day personal accelerator called The Bold Academy. Sixteen Bolders, as we were called, plus staff, lived in a mansion in Alamo Square, San Francisco, for 10 days. We listened to talks, examined and reexamined our lives and the work that we want to do, took part in workshops, had some amazing soul talks, committed to changes we were going to make after Bold and found someone to hold us accountable to those changes.
On day six, we were divided into four teams of four and told to create a project that would make the most impact on the world in 24 hours. This was The Bold Hustle.
After a very long night of brainstorming, bad ideas, phone calls to Bold mentors, some iteration and some short naps, Alex, Betsy, Maíra and I came up with The Love Your Fear Project.
We left the Bold house around 7:30 in the morning. We called a Lyft and when the driver pulled up, I told him about our project and asked if he'd be willing to donate a Lyft ride for our project. He agreed (his fear was being burned alive) and drove us over to the Kelly Paper Store where we picked up a 500 foot roll of paper and then over to The Ferry Building where had breakfast and set up for the day.
During breakfast we froze, a moment called The Flinch that everyone experiences before a big decision or event. Thoughts raced through our minds and out loud. “What if no one wrote anything down?” “What if we looked like a bunch of asses standing out there.” “What if this didn't work?”
We left breakfast. We showed up. We rolled out 15 feet of paper, put a few sharpies down, wrote the prompt that you see above and wrote down our own fears.
And then something happened: people started coming up and asking us what it was we were doing. Asking if they could participate. We experimented with different tactics for approaching people. I found that the best way to get people to write down a fear they wanted to overcome was to stand behind the paper, let them take a look at it, introduce myself and the project, tell them my fear and then ask them to participate.
Before we knew it, we were rolling more paper out to make room for more fears. We set a goal of hitting the first pillar of The Ferry Building with our roll.
People, without much prompt, without knowing who we were or why were doing this in most cases, started sharing incredibly intimate, vulnerable things with us:
People shared some incredible fears: A Prime Minister of a European country walked by with his staff and contributed one fear. A woman who was afraid of heights, a native San Franciscan, wanted to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. One man was afraid of being his own race (and gave specific examples why). Stoic businessmen who I never thought would be interested in participating in something like this were. Sometimes they came back and brought friends who contributed. Runners stopped to scribble something down before they ran off again. Commuters. Teenagers. The lunch crowd. Tourists. Husbands, wives, sons, daughters. Your loved ones.
We were interviewed for the San Francisco evening news. We talked to three security guards from the Ferry Building and two from the Port Authority, the last one made us leave.
Betsy, Alex, María and I were kicked off of Ferry Building property at around 1pm just after reaching our goal of rolling our paper full of fears past the first pillar in the middle of the building.
We went home humbled by what we'd just done and the people's lives that we'd touched.
**It's hard to measure the exact impact that we made through this project. Whatever it was exactly, I'm proud.
435 fears on 245 feet of paper contributed by people from 23 countries, on six continents, all in just over four hours.
We ended up winning The Bold Hustle but more importantly, we proved to ourselves that in a short amount of time we could come up with an idea, feel the Flinch, push past it and build a project that truly changed lives.**
I've started teaching myself how to design. It's something that's intimidated me for years because what comes out in Photoshop isn't the same thing as what's in my head. And that's really frustrating!
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through. - Ira Glass
“Designing is hard,” I tell myself. So until this point, that's where I've stopped.
There's something, maybe many things, in your life right now that are just like this. I want to help.
Doing what you want to do in life is so deceptively easy that we think that it's too hard. So we don't do it.
We make excuses, how much else we have going on and that starting that new thing might compromise both the new thing and the old things we were doing.
So here's what to do, to start doing whatever it is you want:
Make an intention statement.
I want to learn to design UI and features for web and mobile apps.
This not only expresses what you want to do, but also where or how you're going to do it. You're giving yourself parameters to follow and keeping the scope of the thing you want in your life relatively narrow (thanks to Buster Benson for the tip on intention statements).
Overcome the inertia of doing the first one.
Install Photoshop. Pay for it (money is a great trigger to inspire action).
Think of something tiny to design, like an ordered grocery list. Start, and be comfortable with the fact that it's not going to be perfect or even up to your high standards for your own work.
Tell people what you're doing.
Have someone else who might ask you, “how's designing going?”
To which you'll reply, “It's tough but I'm enjoying it. Making leaps and bounds each day.” Or “it's not going to so well, maybe I need to take a class.”
Do it again.
Aristotle said that we are what we repeatedly do. If you want to be a surfer, you've got to surf more than a few times. If you want to design, you have to keep designing.
The best way to learn something is to throw yourself in and do it. Do it really poorly for a few days, then less poorly for a few weeks. Then look at that! You're getting better! You're getting good!
If you want something, you've got to get dirty. You have to be comfortable with the change in your life, maybe in your lifestyle. And be comfortable doing really work for a period of time that you're not too happy about. But don't worry, it gets better. Stick with it.
I'll be the first to say it, the Internet can be exhausting sometimes. Everyone has an opinion, status updates from some app just keep coming…or maybe a bunch of people you follow are at a conference this week and tweeting about #whatever. Ever look at one of your social feeds and think, “Is there any way to turn off all of this stuff about CES?” We've all been there.
I've lost track of how many sites are on the Internet or how quickly we can now create the same amount of data as we created between the beginning of letter writing and 1850.
When something big is going on in the news. I don't think it's wrong to say that you can get tired of hearing about it.
We need to be able to Mute the Internet.
So often we refer to Twitter, or news in general, as a “firehose,” Tweetbot gives you the luxury of turning the firehose down, if just a little bit.
With Tweetbot, you can mute users, services, hashtags. It gives you the option to mute something for a period of time like a week. Or mute it forever. You can mute my tweets completely (without unfollowing, if you wish) and I'm none the wiser.
This is just the beginning.
How does muting make its way into every app?
There will be one company that builds a Muting API. The API will keep your preferences stored so that if you mute something in Tweetbot, it's also muted elsewhere.
If I don't want to read anything about the Yankees and I make that known in one app, every app knows.
I believe that you should be able to Mute “#CES” or “CES 2013” in Tweetbot and have Chrome, Safari or Firefox understand that you don't want to see any content about the Consumer Electronics Show. That your RSS reader, Foursquare, Path, any app, should instantly know that preference too and filter accordingly.
This company will go and partner with some of the biggest apps to slowly introduce users to Muting. They'll need to do a whole lot of content marketing to help the world to understand Muting - that it's okay to turn down the Internet.
How do you build this?
Muting has to be a layer that content is filtered through before it's displayed to the end user.
I believe that it needs to be an API that the application will hit. Send JSON, and get JSON back, which may or may not be filtered down. Then the data is rendered and displayed beautifully.
The dangers in Muting
In March 2011, Eli Pariser gave a talk on what he called “Filter Bubbles”. In his nine minute talk, Pariser spoke about the dangers of subjecting yourself to a single point of view, of not considering the opposition's argument. He argues that we're building more ways to enable the behavior of backing ourselves into an intellectual corner.
I certainly see the validity in Pariser's argument. Combine the Internet with our current political landscape, for example, and notice that the vast majority of us don't seem to be seeking out alternate points of view, just reading what reinforces our current world views.
Muting technologies making their way into applications could very easily lead to an exponential increase in the Filter Bubble effect. Though we're already constructing these Bubbles around ourselves – just in a non-technical way, reading what we want, ignoring people and web sites that speak to the other side.
One solution I see to the danger of building Filter Bubbles is for your preferences to have an exponential decay element to them. If I Mute the 2012 Summer Olympics, I'd like to start seeing information about the last Summer Olympics by 2013 or 2014. It seems only natural. I'm overwhelmed in the moment in 2012 by the volume, but that's not to say that I may not be interested when the firehose has diminished to a soft stream.
Muting is going to be very big and it has the potential to be very dangerous if is widely adopted and it's not built, designed and architected correctly.