First off thanks for requesting to receive this email and for taking the time to read it.  My promise to you is that I will respect your time and share the most distilled wisdom & experience I've gleaned that can be useful. My intent is to corral all the ideas, tools, books, art, lessons, stories and anything valuable I've vetted that might help you in some way whether it's overcoming an obstacle, having more fun, creating more meaning, amplifying your voice or recouping your time.

Please allocate ten minutes to read this full email. We live a frazzled, time-starved, ADD existence and I know 10min is a big ask. But this email is the culmination of a lifetime of perspective, a quarter's-worth of learning and no less than 10hrs of work to compile it down into the text you're reading now. If you don't have the 10min to spend at this moment, no worries. Star this email, save it to your desktop as PDF, print it out, carve it on a stone tablet (hahahah) and squirrel it away for later when you do have the time to plow through the whole thing in one sitting. I'm confident there's at least one nugget in here that will make it at least 10x worth your time investment. A byproduct of reading this is that you'll learn a bit of what I've been up to since last update. I'm hoping this will create more surface area for us to reconnect and keep in contact (or meet if we don't yet know each other). 

takeawayAnd if you can truly only allocate 30sec to skim this, I've taken the already-distilled content and further condensed it into impossibly-compact diamond form via these single-sentence bolded takeawaysthat you'll find via my Chinese wisdom takeaway icon ;-) 

So without further ado...

What I've been up to since my last update
It's been a long time since I did a recap like this so I'm not going to pretend to be able to catch you up on all that's happened with me since 2011.  But the condensed version is that I co-founded a startup in 2006 calledJumpBox which ended up consuming the better part of my 30's. We set out to tackle an ambitious computing challenge of domesticating a class of software called "open source" and did a pretty darn good job at it. At our high point we had every branch of the US military, large brands like Nike, VMware and Verizon and all the Ivy League Universities using our software. We invented a whole space that later came to be known as "virtual appliances" by rethinking how software could be distributed and packaging entire virtual computers and sending them instead of just the application. We had a staff of eleven in our hey day and during that time I was in meetings courting some of the top tier venture capitalists in the Bay Area.  We had some crazy up's and down's  but in 2013 the company and product were frought with issues of code debt, diminishing relevance due to the macro trend towards SaaS and then the abrupt departure of my co-founder and our CTO at the time. I was ready to close the doors and wind everything down. In desperation I turned to a buddy who stepped in and to his credit made a miraculous diving catch, salvaged the core business and kept it alive (it's still running today going on 9yrs-old). At that point though, fully spent, I left the company and went in search of a new career. 

During the latter half of my time at JumpBox we scaled back and I left to try my hand first at a music tech startupand then a real estate startup. It was 2009 when short sales were abundant and I had just gone through one myself with my own house in Scottsdale. During the pursuit of that startup we had to solve the issue of babysitting many short sale transactions around the US simultaneously when we had no insight into the deals. This involved ensuring constant communication amongst all stakeholders and ushering deals through the various stages. I picked up a skill called "business process automation" (primarily with a marketing emphasis) for this purpose. Fast forward to 2013, when I left JumpBox for the last time, I decided to focus on applying what I had learned about automation for clients.  After consulting for a year I met a kindred spirit consultant who convinced me to move out to Newport Beach, partner with him and apply what we knew about lifecycle marketing working commission-only helping artists of Laguna Beach market and sell their work. It had been a life-long dream of mine to live by the ocean so I went for it. We pursued that venture for exactly 1.5mos before realizing the clientele we were serving and the commission-only model had some fatal flaws. I stayed in Newport for another 4mos and made a run at a completely different "infotainment" concept called SurvivalSchool.TV.  I still believe there is a viable model to be eked out with that one but getting it off the ground wasn't going to happen on the savings I had left, especially given the rent I was paying at the time living a block from the water.  In the pursuit of SSTV I discovered the Krav Maga self defense system (more in a minute) and began training under a guy who is now a good friend.   At that point I was incinerating money in Newport Beach with a business that was looking more like a hobby. I hadn't really branched out socially yet so I ran the numbers and decided to chalk it up as a failed experiment, pack it up and come back home to Phoenix.

I fell back on my bread & butter of doing consulting performing sales & marketing automation via Grid7 from March until July of this year for a handful of clients. While on a break kite surfing down in Baja, MX with a buddy, a long-time fellow entrepreneur and friend invited me to join his operation, Pagely, and head up his sales & marketing. I had initial resistance as I felt doing so would mean abdicating my identity as an entrepreneur and taking a JOB but the more we talked the more sense it made. I accepted, we tested it out on a trial basis during Aug and by Sept 1st we had tied the knot officially bringing me on as the new Director of Sales & Marketing for Pagely.  I wrote up my thoughts on that whole transition in more depth here. 

I'm now fully-immersed in this role with Pagely handling all sales, running inbound/outbound marketing efforts, automating various retention, lead generation and sales processes and overseeing editorial for the company blog. For the first time since my role joining iTOOL back in '99 I feel like I'm in the right seat on the bus and it's such a relief to finally get to ride shotgun and not have to be the driver. 

Two Powerful Disciplines
In my meandering entrepreneurial journey I've come to learn two disciplines which I believe are THE most powerful weapons an entrepreneur can wield. I found them to be so important in fact that I started and now run the Phoenix user groups for each one. While particularly useful when applied in entrepreneurship, they have value for anyone and are well-worth the time to learn.

Customer Development (CustDev) is a methodology invented by Steve Blank for systematically delivering products people want and reducing waste in a startup. It's been co-opted by the Lean Startup movement in the last few years but CustDev is the original discipline and Steve Blank is the godfather. I've been proselytizing this for awhile now because I've seen first hand how transformative it can be.  You were actually an unknowing participant in a CustDev effort recently if you completed the survey I sent upon subscribing to get this email. Below is a word cloud of the responses from that simple two-question survey. I asked:



As of the time of this writing 70+ people have responded and ^ those are their words (greater size = greater word frequency). I wanted to learn more about the challenges my friends and colleagues face and see if I could detect themes of issues that would be addressable via the stuff I know how to do. These word cloud visualizations above reveal some obvious trends: time & fear and fortunately I have methods for dealing with both.  Detecting these patterns allowed me to adapt the content of this update to be more relevant.  This is an example of CustDev in action.  If you want to learn more about this methodology I've spoken to the past few SEED SPOT cohorts about it. And my buddy Bryan (the guy who is now running JumpBox) and I gave this talk for the Marketing Automation Mastermind Group in San Diego awhile back that will blow your mind. I won't spoil it but we led attendees through an experiential lesson that is the best way I can think of to demonstrate the power of CustDev/Lean.  Even if you never ship a single product, you're always selling something whether it's yourself, an idea, a cause, whatever.  CustDev is a force multiplier that is worthy of your time to learn. 

takeawayCustDev is how you short circuit a traditional learning curve and stop wasting cycles doing the wrong thing. It's a truth excavation mechanism for getting to the right thing faster and helps you systematically carve away potential waste by mitigating risk & uncertainty.

Scaling Personal Attention through Automation is the other powerful discipline I've learned in the past few years. If you own a business you should seek to apply this in your business yesterday. Explaining this topic is  beyond the scope of this email but I've done a handful of talks at CEI and gave my "Tear the Lid Off" talk to the Orange County Marketing Association teaching this stuff. This is basically a methodology for imbuing your sales and customer service processes into automated touch points via software. Most businesses screw this up by trying to extricate humans entirely from the process- I see it more as the art of developing macros and giving sales & customer service reps ability to perform impossibly personalized followup at scale with only tiny movements of the controls.  I was previously a certified Infusionsoft consultant using their tool to render this discipline for clients. After much consternation with their platform I've since switched to a competitive tool calledActive Campaign and am way happier.  Having experimented now with no less than 20 different automation/CRM tools I've settled upon AC and now run their first user group based in Phoenix. 

takeawayTools are subservient to understanding the art form of scaling personal attention. If you want to learn this stuff, Jermaine Griggs is IMO the godfather of this art and his Automation Cliniccourse is fantastic (albeit with a bent towards the Infusionsoft tool)
. This is the podcast interviewthat initiated everything for me.

Personal Improvement & Wellness
Krav Maga is an Israeli-born self-defense fighting system. I stumbled into it in Newport while filming the pilot episode for Survival School TV. I ended up training under a guy who is basically the real Jason Bourne. I was fortunate to train under Joey- he is the instructor who was knighted by the highest-ranked living Krav teacher to train & certify all other USA instructors for KMG. If I had kids of my own I would have them learn this system, not because I believe in fighting but because knowing you can defend yourself and others if attacked gives you supreme confidence. Krav Maga builds off of reflexive movements and instills a wolf-like mindset to simultaneously deflect, defend and attack your attacker in a fluid movement. If you want to see what it's all about take Joey's intro video lessons and then go find a local gym and do some in-person training. I've been taking it atthis place in Tempe and they're the best I've found locally here in Phoenix. I believe we'll see this cross into mainstream the way CrossFit has over the past few years. It's an incredible workout with the beneficial byproduct of being useful for defense.

I started doing morning meditations this summer via an iPhone app called "Headspace" which is basically a guided mindfulness meditation you can do at your own pace. I suffer from two recurrent issues: a racing mind at night and a habit of chasing down mental rabbit holes rehearsing future potential scenarios throughout the day rather than being constantly present. I highly recommend the Headspace program for anyone who experiences similar. The best way I can describe it is the way Tim Ferriss describes all meditation: "a bath for the mind."  The primary benefit has come in the form of learning to observe and dismiss thoughts and gradually reel the puppy dog back.  If meditation is a "bath for the mind" then sleep is a "Zamboni for your mental ice rink." Meditation helps with sleep which helps reset the ice nightly, so they're inextricably related.  This is important because there's a body of research now suggesting a correlation between Alzheimer's and poor sleep.  Having brushed with mental health issues in the past due to extended sleep deprivation this is now something I'm keenly attuned to solving. The meditation exercises (when I make the time to do them) have noticeably improved the quality of my sleep. 

takeawayThe other factors I believe contribute to improved sleep (aside from stress reduction of not being a lone wolf consultant anymore) is the removal of blue wavelength light in the evenings. Supposedly exposure to blue-wavelength light after sundown inhibits our melatonin production and consequentlymesses up our circadian rhythms and causes sleeping issues.  I pulled all the fluorescent lights in my home and office where I work at CEI. When I'm up after 10pm I now have only red lights on at home and use and a free app on my laptop called which removes the blue wavelength from the computer screen after sundown. My friend Hart's company makes eyeware that does this for you in real life if removing fluorescent lights isn't an option. 

If you're at a crossroads in your career and searching for what your next play is, Simon Sinek is someone you should get to know. I went through his "Why University" program awhile back and found his self-discovery process to yield interesting insights. If you haven't been exposed to Simon's ideas start with his TED talk (which now has over 24MM views). I was fortunate to get to see him speak at Icon last year and that talk convinced me to do his online program which was well-worth the $100 or so to dig into discovering my why. This is the output thus far with my evolutionary why statement and growing interview feedback from friends using his process. All told it's probably a 6hr commitment to get through his course and involves extracting stories from highs & lows throughout your life then bouncing them off of trusted friends to discern patterns and finally getting input on why your friends are your friends. If you're in a searching mode to navigate a looming life transition this is a great exercise.

The other things I've tried recently that worked on the wellness front: I did the Paleo Diet fairly strictly for about two years with substantial and immediate results. I subsequently got into making juices in the morning using the Nutribullet.  I went with the Pro 900 model which is basically 90% as good as a Vitamix at 1/5th the price and 5x easier to clean. That's yielded not only a cheaper way to do breakfast but more energy in the mornings. Here is alist of my best juice recipes I've come up with so far. Other stuff on the health front: I tend to get back issues from spending prolonged periods in front of the computer (you know writing long emails ;-). 
takeawayThe combination of a foam roller, standup desk, and rolling up against a Lacrosse ball suspended in a sock against a wall (cheap alternative to a trigger point cane) has helped address these back RSI issues
. That along with therapeutic massage and the occasional chiropractor visit. If you are in Phoenix, Dr. Michael Leff of the Center for Alternative Medicine has worked miracles for various issues of mine ranging from a dislocated shoulder to broken ribs to back issues.   

Business Lessons
I could write four different novels on startup lessons acquired from my career of entrepreneurship thus far.  Here are some the major ones that stand out from recent times:
  • Sales: it's not about your sales cycle, it's about their buy cycle.  I am guilty of this. Understandably organizations want more predictability but with so many buying options, power has shifted to the consumer (even in B2B scenarios).  It's no longer realistic to try and cram a prospect into your desired sales cycle. The sales teams who are winning are the ones who are finding ways to accommodate the prospect's unique buy cycle and chime in at the right time with the right message. Jermaine Griggs' philosophy of Scaling Personal Attention via his Automation Clinic course is the best philosophy I've found for accommodating this. 
  • Flintstoning is a term I first heard coined by the folks of Cambrian House back in the day. It's the idea of taking something seemingly automated (like the dinosaur vehicles from the Flintstones') and powering it manually (running with your feet rather than via an engine under the hood) in the early stages.  While more work initially it yields incredibly valuable insights. You then document all you're currently doing manually and that documentation becomes the recipe that can be actuated via code into an automation.
  • Automation as an exoskeleton that amplifies your movements. I see automation differently than most in that I view it as this superpower extension of your natural abilities to be able to clone yourself and exist in multiple places at once. takeawayThis is consistent with Jermaine Griggs' notion of Scaling Personal Attention. Automation has gotten a bad name because most people deploying it don't do it tastefully.  When used properly it's like that robot suit from Avatar that lets you perform inhuman feats of being seemingly everywhere with just tiny twitches of the controls. 
  • Automation and CRM is useful only insofar as you apply it. I'll discuss this below in the software tools section but lightweight sales enablement is the way to go. People go overboard trying to contort their workflow to use elaborate systems and inevitably they end up ditching everything because the overhead incurred adds too much friction to their routines. It's better to err on the side of lightweight tools that let you live in the apps you're already using everyday. Make small tweaks to existing routines that will actually stick and help vs. asking people to learn an entirely new set of tools or do extra work.
  • Your brand = the mental real estate you occupy in others' minds. Brand is a term that's wildly overloaded and misused. We recently had a killer talk at LeanPhx by a 5th-generation Arizonan, Chris Smith. He shared his method for extracting your story, getting clarity on your brand and communicating that well. Brand clarity is another force multiplier and worthy of investment and Chris' framework is as good as anything I've encountered for doing this.
Recommended Media:
5 Books:
  • Badass by the brilliant Kathy Sierra is a summary of her "Minimum Viable User" concept. It reads almost like a comic book and has game-changing implications for anyone doing UX, designing products or teaching. When used in conjunction with this next book, I believe it's the answer to our education issues.
  • Talent Code studies talent hotbeds in an attempt to sleuth out the causal factors that make unlikely places consistently yield top-performers. It explores neurological and environmental factors, the role of myelin, ignition and gives a blueprint for cultivating talent. This one has profound implications for any parent or teacher.
  • Art of Learning is Josh Watzkin's self-reflective, anecdotal dissection of how he became a chess world champion and then applied the same system to learn Tai Chi Chuan and win the world championship "push hands" competition. While not scientific it's interesting to hear someone gifted attempt to unravel the fabric of his/her skill in an attempt to explain how it's knitted. Listen to his podcast interview with Tim Ferriss to get a good synopsis of the book
  • Divergent Trilogy is a "Hunger Games-ish" dystopian series with a strong female character. It's been since made into a terrible movie- ignore the movie, read the book.  This had a "Sixth Sense-type" twist at the end of book one that made it impossible not to plow through the remaining two books.  It's targeted to a younger reader but still an awesome story. If you like this one you'll also enjoy the Maze Runner series.
  • The Martian recently debuted as a movie with Matt Damon that was pretty impressive. You will like the book better though. If you enjoyed MacGyver growing up (he was my hero), it has the same self-talk internal dialogue as this castaway on Mars has to solve problem after life-threatening problem in a hostile environment against all odds. The audiobook is fantastic. I read the first part on the kindle and listened to the last half on audio book and was blown away by how well the guy did the character voices. 
A sidenote here: I've switched to reading exclusively via Kindle reader on Mac/iPad/iPhone over the past few years. Impulse book buying, portability, searchability were all nice benefits but the killer app for me making this transition was the introduction of what Amazon calls "Whispersync" and as of the last year it now applies to audio books as well. takeawayWhat this means is you can begin reading a book on your iPad, hop in your car and have your iPhone pick up where you left off and read the audio book to you on a long drive. When you get where you're going flip to reading on your iPhone while you're standing in line.  It's a ubiquitous unified reading experience and it has got me reading again. I have a tendency to stall out on books but this pervasive book reading experience has neutralized the preventative friction for me and rejuvenated my interest in books.

5 Movies:
Interstellar, Neil De Grasse Tyson's lecture series, 180deg South, Primer, Martian
Speaking of books... this email is turning into one so I'll try to be brief ;-) Watch these ^.  They're all excellent. If you're into heady, mind-bending sci-fi stuff this Quora thread has a ton of other good ones.

5 Albums:
Ki:theory, 21 Pilots, Brand New, Royal Blood, Phutureprimative. <-These are the albums I've had on repeat lately.

5 Podcast Episodes
Naval Ravinkant on Tim Ferriss, Kevin Kelly on TF, Peter Diamandis & Tony Robbins on TF, Josh Watzkin on TF, and John McAfee on the James Altucher show. 
These are the best five podcast episodes I've heard recently. The McAfee interview is an incredible story. McAfee, multi-multi-millionaire and creator of McAfee antivirus, was portrayed by mainstream media as being a lunatic crazed killer on the run in Belize. This interview shows that he's obviously anything but. The title of the Altucher interview is "The Most Interesting Man in the Universe" and you'll see why. It reminded me of a story my Dad tells on his blog here. I won't spoil that one you should read my Dad's blog sometime- he's a really smart dude. 

Useful Software Tools:
These are a bunch of Mac and web-based software apps I've been using to save time:
Boomerang + Sidekick for Gmail have been key for sales followup and insight on leads before they merit creating a deal to track them in our CRM system. I use ActiveCampaign to create a deal and track the opportunity once the lead represents a qualified prospect. I also use AC to perform nurturing sequences to revive stale leads that go dark. If this type of thing interests you and you're in Phoenix come out to our next user group and learn for yourself. 
I was using Jing previously for capturing and publishing quick screencasts but as best I can tell that tool no longer works. Snagit has been a great replacement tool and can output to YouTube and other video services.
Typinator is a "text expander" and basically allows you to treat sentences and paragraphs as pre-made blocks invokable via keystroke combos. If you do customer service across many different mediums and find yourself typing over and over this is a godsend. 
Evernote is my goto for taking notes and storing business cards, receipts, docs and tracking anything that I need to preserve and have accessible for later recall. 
Uberconference has become an indispensable service I use at this point for running conference calls. It makes it easy to screen share, record audio, have a dial-in option for folks and it's trivial to have it make audio recordings and then append them to the corresponding contact record in your CRM. Oh and it's free.
A super useful hack for anyone using OSX is that you can do simple math right in spotlight. So to solve (5+34)*9/4 do Command+Space, type that equation in and voila. Fastest way to do quick math on OSX.
Calendly is a magical leprechaun who works on your behalf to make it easy to allow people to self-serve get on your calendar sparing everyone involved the back-and-forth email volleys needed to schedule a meeting. Given the volume of calls I do now I couldn't live without this tool. You can use it to get on my calendar here. 
Sales Hack Night = a great local gathering if you're in Phoenix and want to learn new tools like these.
If you struggle with an untamed todo list, check out David Allen's GTD methodology and then get yourself a copy of Things. It's great for managing personal todo's. I've been gradually migrating the more complex project-related todo's into Trello for anything that's bigger and requires the sophistication of a kanban-style todo app. 
Cloak <- at $2/mo this is key for nomadic workers as it allows you an easy way to run your data over VPN so your passwords don't get sniffed when working on a shared network. I had one client who had her site password sniffed while working in a coffee shop and they deleted her blog. Spend the $2/mo if you work out of coffee shops or on shared networks and save yourself the headache. 
1Password: as long as we're on a security kick shoring up our security exposure, this is a handy utility that allows you to maintain a unique login for every service you use but have only one password to remember. If you're currently using one blanket password across all your services it's a matter of time until one is compromised and then all are vulnerable. This happened to me with the Gawker breach and prompted me to finally fix the way I handle passwords.  I recommend biting the bullet sometime and combing through all your logins and switching to this tool with unique passwords for each service. It has a native desktop app, mobile app and browser extensions for all major web browsers that stay in sync.

Gadgets, Games and Purchases:
Whew... we're almost there ;-) 
These Klipsch in-ear headphones are fantastic if you do a lot of traveling on planes and get jet lagged. I find the over-ear noise canceling headphones to be too disorienting - these remove 90% of the noise but without that vertigo feeling. Great antidote to jet lag when traveling and they enable you to zone out when you're working in a noisy space. 
Settlers of Catan: we had so much fun playing this game last New Year's in Napa and I later gave it to my buddy's daughter because it's such a great strategy game- maybe the best ever made. Highly recommend if you're looking for a board game. 
Poleish: just when I thought I knew every possible lawn game under the sun I discovered this one. Awesome game for that next outdoor party in place of the standard horse shoes, cornhole, bocce or ladder golf. We made a set with just PVC pipe - super cheap and fun. 

To summarize some of the recent mile markers for me:
Celebrated my 40th
Completed my goal of running 1000 mi just before ^ aforementioned b-day ;-)
Hiked 30mi round trip in & out of the Grand Canyon <-  video my buddy Chris filmed with his GoPro
Started the new job with Pagely
Launched the Grid7 Business Flightplan Academy to start teaching this stuff to people who want to learn.

Shameless asks
If you know any capable college students in Phoenix (marketing, journalism, comm major types) I'm building out the intern program for Pagely. Details here. We have our first participants and I'll be expanding that to 4-6 in total. This is an unpaid internship to start but with opportunity to go full-time. They'll work directly under me and learn an insane amount of guerrilla warfare for marketing and sales. If you know any students seeking experience please send him/her to that link. 
We're also hiring for a slew of positions at Pagely if you or someone you know is seeking to join a fast-growing tech startup. Remote work is fine- we're scattered all over the world. 
If you need something built I have a fairly deep network of consultants via Grid7 now across a variety of disciplines and can typically intro you to the right resource. Tell me what you're trying to accomplish and I'll connect you with the best consultant.  
Lastly, I'll be rekindling the Charity Makeover effort soon as a part of Pro-Bono Week in Phoenix.  This is a fun way to learn in a Startup Weekend-like experience while helping a charity by doing a "digital barn raising" fixing up their marketing and digital presence. 

If you've made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read my long-winded update. The next one will be way shorter I promise as I will then have a cadence of doing these every three months and will start to address specific challenges readers like yourself have submitted via the survey.  I've made this email a password-protected post here (password = shawshank) and opened the comments for anyone who wants to discuss anything from the update.  Looking forward to chatting with you soon. Feel free to reach out to me privately via email if that's your preference. cheers 

About Sean
I'm Director of Sales and Marketing for Pagely.  If you have a high-traffic WordPress site that's been hacked, is hard to maintain, or is slow and/or crashes under heavy load, talk to me I can help. If you enjoyed this email the greatest compliment you can give is to forward it to a friend or colleague. And if you received this email from someone other than me, consider signing up for your own copy here
Grid7, LLC, 140 E. San Miguel Ave, Phoenix, Arizona 85012, USA