Oct 05

I’m reviving a tradition on this blog whereby I do a concise summary of anything I’ve learned over the past quarter that’s a game-changer. To be clear this is any idea, tool, hack or lesson that has in some way either saved me time, led to fun, minimized headaches or improved the quality of my life somehow.


It’s also an excuse to rekindle conversations with people I haven’t seen in a long time. I’ve been an ostrich over the past years with all that went down with JumpBox, then my own consulting gig and now with my role for Pagely. I’m stealing a play from my buddy Andrew Hyde’s playbook with his “Highly Impersonal Updates” newsletter. Rather than posting these distilled lessons here I’m putting them into an exclusive email sent only to the folks who opt-in to hear from me.

If you want to receive that email add yourself here:

Highly Impersonal Update Signup

I have only two guiding principles in writing this update:

  1. It has to be readable in < 10 min.
  2. It has to deliver > 10x value for time spent reading it.

This is my attempt to concisely summarize the most important & useful stuff either I’ve learned or taught since the last update. You can read past “Kernel Dump” posts from this blog if you want to get a flavor for the tone and content or read this Evernote sketch of the 2015 Q3 update I’ll be sending out next week.

This will be valuable knowledge and experience but also an excuse to provide some extra surface area and a means to keep friends, family and acquaintances in my circles better updated with what I’m thinking / learning / teaching / doing over time. This will only be available as an email so signup above if you want to get it.

The next lengthy post I do here will cover my takeaways from an excellent book I finished recently called “The Talent Code.” The concepts from this book when paired with Kathy Sierra’s “Badass” principles are IMO the answer to Arizona’s education problem. Every educator should have a copy of both of these books. If you’ve signed up above to receive my email update you’ll be getting that shortly. Talk with you then.

Sep 03

Yes, it’s true that after 10+ years of various entrepreneurial endeavors and solo consulting I once again have a job. It’s just that it doesn’t feel like a job.


I’ve been unofficially working with Pagely since mid-July assisting with their sales and marketing efforts. Pagely pioneered the space of scalable managed WordPress hosting and developed a PaaS offering that allows any business ability to defer IT concerns and focus on using WordPress. It’s similar to how a service like Heroku enables developers to be free of IT worries and focus on the application. Anyways I’m happy to announce today that I’m officially on board with them as their new Director of Sales & Marketing.

At PressNomics 2013 I heard the founder of iThemes speak and give a simple bit of advice from the stage. It was so seemingly inert and obvious that I’m guessing it went right by many people. But it’s something that has stayed with me. The advice he gave was this:

Do something you enjoy
for people you like
with people you love.

That’s it. That was his grand wisdom for finding happiness in daily work. And while it sounds obvious to the point of being silly, it’s proved to be a profoundly-useful lens through which to evaluate decisions.

I have no less than one metric crapton of things I’m planning to write about over the coming months. I have knotted feelings and lessons from the rise & fall (and resurrection) of JumpBox and then slogging it out as a lone wolf consulting as Grid7. I’ll leave all that for later. For now I’ll try to relay wisdom I’ve come to in the past months.

Like that famous MC Escher painting where the hand is sketching the hand, that sketches itself, we are all in this recursive dance of authoring our own story while simultaneously becoming a character in that story who can become captive to the role and feel compelled to live up to the character. I didn’t know if I was employable after having worked for myself for so many years. I consider entrepreneurship to be core to my identity and as an entrepreneur admittedly had internal strife about the notion of going back to work and having a boss again. But like just about every fear, this has proven to be completely unfounded. We get knotted up by our fears and crises of identity but in the end growth comes from leaning in and unraveling the knot.

Anyways, I’m stoked to be working with Josh, Sally and the rest of the elite Pagely team. Going to battle for someone requires ultimate faith that he/she has your back. When your General & CEO thinks (and more importantly acts) this way I’m all in.

As Grammie would say, “more anon.”

Jun 22

I just got back from hiking the Grand Canyon with five friends. We did 30mi in 3 days leaving from the South Rim with full packs, camping out at Bright Angel campground, visiting Ribbon Falls and hiking back out via Indian Springs. Here are some photos:


Friday was one of the most physically demanding days I’ve ever had (2nd only to hiking Cotopaxi back in ’95). Before I jump back into the grind I want to take a few moments and preserve some of the “afterglow” of this experience. I don’t have a structured post in mind here but there were a handful of little things that stood out that I want to jot down for posterity:

  • It’s mind-blowing. Pictures (even amazing ones) don’t do justice to the sheer hugeness of the Canyon. I know that sounds cliche but it literally robs you of your breath when you first step to the edge of the Canyon from above. Hiking into it yields a whole next level of appreciation of how huge this thing is. I had just watched Episode 8 of “The Cosmos” where they talk about how the Canyon offers scientists “chapters of an open book” for being able to look back to the formation of the Earth. It’s one thing to watch this on Netflix and hear it academically but to put your hands on rock that’s been around for over 1 billion years is just surreal.
  • Bullfrogs at night sound like crying newborns. We stayed a stone’s throw away from a running creek and at night on the walk back from Phantom Ranch you hear all the night sounds of the creek. The bullfrogs have this eerie cry they make that messes with you because nowhere at the bottom will you see a newborn baby yet at night there’s this constant sound of like 20 crying infants. It’s weird.
  • Speaking of the creek: both days we were there we would just lie in the creek and let the water rush over us. Zoning out with friends just staring up through the cottonwoods at the high walls of the Canyon was one of my favorite moments of the trip.
  • Appreciation for mornings: I am not (and never have been) a morning person but due to the extreme heat there (113F deg the day we left) we had to wake up at 3:45am. As jarring as that was, once you get over the grogginess it’s absolutely gorgeous in the early morning. I’m planning to try and morph my sleeping habits to become more of a morning person. I feel like after dark I gravitate to time-wasting activities while in the early morning it’s just more geared towards time-appreciating activities.
  • We went when it was a new moon so it was pitch black at night. I was the only one who didn’t have a tent (I had a hammock instead) so I slept in the open under some of the brightest clearest stars I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it was satellites or UFO’s or whatever but there’s a lot going on up there we don’t normally see. I wish I had a better camera that could have captured the night skies down there. It was amazing.
  • You’re capable of far more than you think- physical limitations are largely mental. It took us 3hr30min to hike down and 6hr15min to hike back out. On the way out I was out of gas shortly after the halfway mark so for another three hours I was running on some alternate fuel source. Chris, Tyler and I hiked as a unit most of the way and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have made it on my own. But that’s weird if you think about it. Hiking as a unit you become part of a larger organism that has more energy – you cannot underestimate the power of others to help summon this elusive “mental fuel source” that is always there buried within you.
  • I forgot how much Motley Crue kicks ass. Chris had thought ahead and brought a little bluetooth-enabled boombox. At one point after some particularly grueling switchbacks we were all exhausted but he fires up “Kickstart My Heart” and instantly we all get our mojo back. Crazy how music (like friends) can summon that alternate fuel source.
  • Hiking poles are essential. I (stupidly) thought I’d save the $20 rental fee and just go without them. That was a mistake. I’m 6’7″ and my height makes my knees extra-susceptible to impact – they were blown about 75% of the way down. We then had a 12mi hike the next day and still had to get back out. Fortunately Chris loaned me one of his poles on the way back out but the damage by that point had already been done. Ace bandages and Ibuprofen helped but if you’re considering doing it just spend the money and get hiking poles for reducing the impact on your knees. Also, don’t buy new hiking boots the day before the trip. That was just idiocy on my part and I’m paying for it with a blister the size of a 3rd big toe right now.
  • Social media fasting feels good. I’m too wired-in and slave to the dopamine hits of checking my phone for useless stuff in situations where I should just look up. Man it was nice to not even have the capability to use the Internet down there. I slept for 17hrs straight when I got back home. Granted, most of that was paying off a sleep deficit and physical exhaustion but I think some component was also the reduction in ADD from being unwired for a few days. I need to make a more concerted effort to ditch my phone in daily life above the ground.

That’s the gist of it. If you’re considering hiking the Canyon I highly encourage it. You can hike down to whatever depth you’re comfortable with. If you do though please respect the people coming up with full packs who are running on fumes. Towards the top we encountered a lot of day tourists who were oblivious and didn’t respect the right of way to the people coming up. That was pretty infuriating given how zapped we were. Also if you go, do it with friends and be conscious of ensuring constant water consumption and add electrolytes. Apparently someone died down at Indian Springs this Thursday. Your decision making becomes cloudy as you get dehydrated so it’s a vicious spiral once you hit that point (I know because on the way out I failed to fill at the last water stop although I stopped to wet my hat, stupid). Anyways the Canyon is amazing. Go experience it.

Oh and lastly, go check out the band The Lone Bellow. We were fortunate to catch them at the Tilted Earth Festival in Cottonwood this weekend after the hike. Magical performance. Just check out these harmonies. Rarely do songs give me goosebumps but this one did:

UPDATE 7/16/15: Chris from our group had a GoPro going most of the time in the Canyon and just published an _awesome_ montage video from our hike. Check it out:

May 06

You’ve wanted to get into running but the times you’ve tried it your joints end up aching afterwards. Or you’re winded after the first mile and wind up doubled over with stomach cramps. Or the most likely scenario: you just find it unbearably boring. I had all of these reactions when I began my running career 1000mi ago.

I made a New Year’s resolution this year to get to 1000mi of tracked runs before I turn the big 4-0. Tomorrow is my 40th birthday and I just today hit the 1000mi mark on carefully orchestrated regimen of 3mi runs.

I’ve never considered myself to be a runner (and frankly I still don’t) yet 1000mi and who knows how many millions of steps later, I have some perspective to share on what I’ve found to be effective. Running this experiment has yielded lessons not just in the act of running but also in the dashboarding and discipline required to “fly the ball” all the way down to the day. I’ll explain.

In the spirit of Tim Ferriss’ “minimum effective dose” I want to share a short summary of a few observations I’ve made throughout this journey that are the 2-3 hacks you can apply to take your running to the next level. Here are the core lessons I’ve had over this journey:

  1. Minimalist running: I wrote about it on Quora here a few years back when I adopted this style with switching to the Vibram shoes (the funny “gloves for your feet”). This has yielded the single greatest benefit to my running by making the runs interesting. For the reasons I wrote about back in 2011, going minimalist brings you more into the present and gives you greater connection to the ground. As hippie-sounding as that is, it just makes the runs more interesting and therefore increases your odds of sticking with them. The other thing it does is forces you to adopt…
  2. Forefront-strike running: which is related but not the same thing. This is a style of running where you land on the pads of your feet. Here is a great video for teaching you how to adapt your form if you run like most people with a heel-strike. The mental visualization that worked for me once I transitioned to this style was thinking about leaning forward like I was on a Segway scooter pawing the ground to constantly catch myself in a controlled forward fall. This eventually becomes less awkward and starts to feel totally normal. You might look a little weird at first but when your joint pain evaporates from running this way, you won’t care how you look. Also, be advised you’ll be exercising a subtly different set of muscles- be prepared to have calf muscle aches and potentially Achilles heel tension when you switch to this style. In my case these aches disappeared after the first 3wks.
  3. Lactic (or Lactate) Threshold running: This was something I adopted at roughly the same time I switched to the forefront strike style. You can read more about it here but here is the crux: people who run and get winded are burning glycogen stores. You can slow your pace initially and train at a level where you don’t get winded and build your stamina, gradually increasing your speed over time to the point where you’re running as fast as those folks who burn glycogen, only you’re burning fat stores and not getting winded. If I didn’t experience this I would call BS but it’s real. It’s like becoming a hybrid car and switching over to running on electric. You can run for ridiculous distances continuously without getting winded and it has the bonus of melting away bodyfat. I don’t proclaim to know all the science behind this but I can vouch that it absolutely works. Some people use sophisticated heart monitors to determine their lactate threshold- I just trained until I knew where my “getting winded” point is and would back off until I wasn’t hitting it. At this point I run 8:30min/mi without getting winded. When I started I ran at the embarrassingly-slow 13min/mi pace. It doesn’t matter where you start- just slowly up your pace to push your limits and then back off until you don’t get winded.
  4. Training at altitude: makes you like Superman when you return to sea level. There’s a reason athletes spend gobs of money on these hyperbaric chambers. They simulate high altitude conditions for training and then sleep at sea level conditions. This basically changes your blood chemistry because your body habituates to operating with depleted oxygen levels so your red blood cells go Chuck Norris and over compensate. I can confirm this definitely has a noticeable effect. I spent two summers living and running up in Flagstaff, AZ (7,000 ft). When I visited a buddy in Santa Monica it was like I was running on the sideways escalator at the airport just cruising at sea level. It was as if the ground gave less resistance. I doubled my normal distance and could have kept going with no issues.

These are the main epiphanies and leverage points IMO that you can take advantage of to ratchet up your running performance. One thing I would NOT recommend is going completely barefoot. I tested the limits of how far to take the minimalist running by doing a run with no shoes at all about a month ago and wound up with a plantar’s wart the size of a quarter on my left heel.

This was a month ago with still 30mi left to run in the challenge. When it happened I was sure given how painful it was that it almost certainly spelt the premature death the whole effort but thankfully, because I had adopted the forefront style, it actually hurt less to run than it did to walk. I was able to run the remaining 30mi without issue and the wart is now nearly gone after getting the nitrogen treatments. I learned that these things come from skin contact with the HPV virus so I would encourage others considering the full-barefoot approach to think twice and wear at least some form of minimal footwear. And use flip flops in any kind of gym shower environment.

vibramsMy friend Bryan uses the Luna Sandals and swears by them. I’ve still got my one very worn-out pair of Vibrams that I’ve been using since 2011.

Anyways, these have been my main observations. I used the RunKeeper free account to track my runs. A nifty feature of that app is the social discovery aspect when you go to a new locale, it allows people to upload their favorite runs so you can show up in a new area and see the ones that are most popular. Very useful if you travel a lot. Let me know if you have any questions and good luck in your pursuit of running. It’s been a great way for me to stay in shape while also forcing mandatory zen out time to clear my head and chew on problems without the distraction of a computer screen. If I can help you get into running let me know what obstacles you’re grappling with and I’ll happily share any wisdom I can.
This is a screenshot of the social discovery aspect in RunKeeper FWIW:

PS. We just today opened up the Grid7 Academy where we’ll be teaching startups and entrepreneurs everything we do for clients. Sales & Marketing Automation, Customer Development, Lifecycle Marketing, Leadgen… be one of the first to enroll here.

Oct 20

Of the twenty books I read recently I would put this one in the top three as being a must-read. I have a bunch to say about this book but let me just hit the main points:

  • It provides a much-needed dose of optimism in the face of constant doom & gloom predictions about climate change, population explosion, terrorism, drought, food shortages, epidemics, nuclear proliferation, etc. It’s presented in a credible and evidence-supported way (exactly half the book is footnotes and references to other sources). And it gives a prescriptive path offering ideas for things we can do to positively affect outcomes.
  • The first part of the book addresses the cognitive biases that explain why each successive generation tends to believe that calamity is imminent. Two biases in particular (anchoring and loss aversion) lead folks to blind spots that stem from fear and inability to think beyond the current reality frame. A great example of this was the widespread fear in mid-1800’s that the town was doomed to drown in horse manure. Given the situation it was a rational conclusion but they couldn’t have foreseen the advent of the automobile and the fact they’d soon be concerned over polluted skies rather than polluted streets.
  • The mechanism for this unforeseen, quantum leap type progress is what Diamandis calls the “adjacent possibles” or “doors that immediately lead to more doors.”  This was one of my favorite paragraphs explaining this concept:

Twenty years ago, most well-off US citizens owned a camera, a video camera, a CD player, a stereo, a video game console, a cell phone, a watch, an alarm clock, a set of encyclopedias, a world atlas, a Thomas Guide and a whole bunch of other assets that easily add up to more than $10,000. All of which come standard on today’s smart phones, or are available for purchase at the app store for less than a cup of coffee. In this, our exponentially enabled world, that’s how quickly $10,000 worth of expenses can vanish. More importantly, these things can vanish without too much outside intervention. No one set out to zero the costs of two dozen products, inventors set out to make better cell phones, and the path of the adjacent possible did the rest.

  • The author gives his definitions of some fundamentals:
    • what is abundance? everyone maximizing talents
    • what is prosperity? saved time “true measure of something’s worth is the hours it takes to acquire it”
    • what is culture? ability to store, exchange and improve ideas
  • He then goes on to discuss the “Eight exponentials” which are the eight fields that they chose as curriculum for Singularity University:   biotech, computational systems, networks & sensors, AI, robotics, digital manufacturing, medicine, nanomaterials. He posits these fields uniquely have the capacity to compound the effects of the others and yield impossible leaps.
  • He maintains that the “abundance backbone” consists of four disciplines: literacy, basic math, life skills & critical thinking. These four fundamentals provide the essentials necessary for one to then use the internet to attain other. knowledge to make advancements. It made me think of the analogy of a computer BiOS for being able to call a bootloader and load the rest of the OS. As long as you have these core skills you can fetch everything else later. So the challenge becomes to deliver these core skills to more people who currently lack them, along with the means to get the rest from the internet.
  • He says that “creative ideas are the ultimate resource yet our current educational system does little to nourish this resource” and then quotes Sir Ken Robinson. I strongly recommend his TED talk on the subject of education. I’ve written at length on my ideas for how we could revamp education and agree that we need to fundamentally rethink the system from the ground up prioritizing creativity.
  • Apparently the author co-founded Singularity University with Ray Kurzweil. I saw Kurzweil’s “Transcendent Man” film last year and highly recommend it.
  • It’s core premise is that Artificial Intelligence + computing power + Moore’s Law means we’re approaching an inevitable shift where AI will soon blow past the human brain in performance capability. The author points out “whether the lightning fast search results of Google or the speech recognition of Siri like it or not we are already AI codependent today.”
  • Having  Jeff Hawkins’ book “On Intelligence” recently I found it interesting there’s no mention of the Numenta technology. To me that’s the most intriguing advancement for AI (essentially biomimicry of the human neocortex).
  • He cites the the “lab on a chip” innovation as an exciting synthesis of sensors, AI, and network which dematerializes the HIV test: What once required long doctor visits, a vial o flood, and days or weeks of anxious waiting now needs no visit, a single drop of blood, and a fifteen-minute read, all for under $1 using a microfluidic optical chip smaller than a credit card.” When combined with geo-awareness via GPS and machine learning it opens up the possibility to catch and contain epidemics at an earlier stage, which is especially relevant given the current frenzy around the Ebola scare.
  • There are four major motivators driving innovation: curiosity, fear, desire for wealth creation, desire for significance. In addition to founding Singularity University the author is also creator of the X Prize which leverages all four of these motivators.
  • He makes the case that incentive prizes do a couple useful things, namely: 1) raise visibility of big challenges and 2) pave the way by creating a public mindset that the challenge is in fact solvable. Also 3) in areas where market failures or entrenched incumbents have thwarted progress, prizes like the X Prize can serve to break up otherwise impassable bottlenecks.
  • The irony of this is that a fellow company at the last incubator where we were a tenant, Paraslice, had solved the genome sequencing X Prize just before the prize was revoked and the contest canceled.

In all, I found this book hugely encouraging and thought provoking. We are deluged with such negative and substance-less information daily, it was so refreshing to get a glimpse of an optimistic (yet realistic) potential future. For more info see the author’s blog or .

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Oct 08

As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been reading a ton lately. I’m going to do a brain dump series of posts on various random observations and thoughts from the last twenty books I’ve read.  There will be some random meta digressions but all of it with the intent to share the most useful things I’ve learned lately.  I figure it’s best to do this as a series of posts (otherwise this will devolve into a 10,000 word monster post that nobody will read). So here’s the full list and I’ll start tonight with thoughts on the first one:

    1. A Guide to the Good Life

      A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy was my first exposure to the stoic philosophy and came as a recommendation from my friend Bryan Kirch. It provides a solid overview of this philosophy. Rather than taking an academic/theoretical approach it places an emphasis on actionable, practical advice for putting the concepts into practice in one’s life.  Random thoughts that struck me while reading it:

      • “Negative visualization” is the antithesis of the technique of “positive affirmation” espoused by life coaches and books like “The Secret.” The idea is that you essentially immunize yourself against habituating the positive things in your life and taking them for granted. Internalizing the reality that one day you will lose everything makes you more acutely aware and appreciative of what you have today. “Hedonic adaptation” is the term for never being satisfied as you gain more and more luxuries. Negative visualization is the antidote to Hedonic Adaptation.  Instead of thinking positive you basically imagine the worst possible scenarios happening. I’ve dabbled with this since and while I can’t speak to the effectiveness of the “hedonic immunity,” one byproduct has been that it snaps you into the moment and makes you more mindful.
      • On tranquility as the ultimate goal: I have a fundamental issue with the belief that the ultimate goal is to dampen the high’s and low’s of life. I picture a sine wave of up’s and down’s in life’s roller coaster journey and the author seems to be advocating reducing the amplitude of one’s sine wave as the primary goal.  I just don’t agree with that. I actually believe experiencing the full breadth of human emotion to widest possible extent is arguably a better goal.  “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all…” Maybe I’m misinterpreting things but the author’s advice of seeking tranquility seems to run directly counter to a core value I believe.
      • Not surprisingly I also disagree with the notion of embracing a fatalistic view that life is pre-determined and one lacks the ability to affect the outcome. I suppose if tranquility were the ultimate goal having a fatalistic belief system would help the practitioner abdicate a lot of responsibility and feel more at peace, but given that I feel the fundamental premise upon which the fatalistic recommendation is based is faulty, I don’t agree with the recommendation.
      • I do dig the idea of having a codified life philosophy that serves as a filter through which every decision becomes obvious. In the same way that having business process documentation or automation helps reduce cognitive load and uncertainty around decision making for workers, I get the value of having a well-defined life philosophy like stoicism.  There are some useful components but (at least for me personally) trying to adhere to orthodox stoicism would be as futile as my attempt to strictly adhere to David Allen’s GTD todo philosophy. In the end I’ve pulled bits and pieces of his task management framework and developed my own system that works for me. I believe the same is probably true with stoicism- that the optimal framework will be person-specific and folks will be best served gaining exposure to many different philosophies and then making their own Mr. Potatohead philosophy of the components that best serve them.
      •   The Obstacle is the Way: <- I read this book subsequently as another recommendation from Bryan and while Ryan Holiday is a great author and speaker (he narrated the audio version of his book) I didn’t have nearly the number of epiphanies or insights with his book. It’s probably useful to reinforce the stoic ideas but if you were going to read one or the other, definitely read the Good Life.
    2. Abundance

    3. Turn the Ship Around

    4. The Divergent Trilogy

    5. Zero to One

    6. On Intelligence

    7. Shantaram

    8. Art of Racing in the Rain

    9. Ghost in the Wires

    10. Patriots & TEOTWAWKI

    11. Power Questions

    12. Snowcrash

    13. Thinking Strategically

    14. Lean Startup

    15. Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman

    16. Diving Bell & The Butterfly

    17. Thinking in Systems

    18. Pitch Anything

    19. The Power of Now

    20. Start With Why

^ Here’s the book list. I’ll post thoughts on each of these in the coming weeks and use this as an excuse to get in a rhythm of writing again.

On a sidenote: if you read on a kindle device, they now have it so the audiobook typically syncs with the text. This means you can be reading on your laptop, hop in your car with your iPhone and have it continue reading to you from where you left off. Then when you get to the store and are standing in line, you open your phone and the kindle phone reader now picks up where the audio left off. It’s this pervasive reading experience where you’re able to keep plowing through books and not get in a reading rut. They call it WhisperSync for Voice and it’s enabled on many kindle books – super useful.

Up next: a fantastic book I read recently called Abundance with a refreshing positive prognosis for our future amidst all the doom & gloom predictions of climate change, pollution, epidemics, natural resource depletions, species extinctions, etc.

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