Startup Founders And Social Validation

What is your first response when you encounter a tremor?

You wonder if anyone else has also noticed the tremor. The need for “validation” is widespread and happens for incidents that don’t involve tremor as well.

If those in your group feel something, you’ll too. That’s the reason we look around before we start clapping on really good speech by that inspiring guest speaker. Why should it matter if people in  your group felt the way you did about the episode? Because it matters. A lot. Social validation matters.

Startup founders are no different.

They attend hackathons, tech meetups and try to network with every other startup founder in their area for that very reason – social validation.

Still why the startups that have won hackathons and mesmerised everyone else in a tech meetup don’t live up to the promise?

More or less, crux of whatever they talk about in such events comes to this:

“I’m riding the horse of uncertainty. I can see that you’re too. Just the color of my horse is pink and your’s is blue.  I’m cool at what I do. Pretty soon I’ll be successful; you might too!”

And they feel relaxed. They feel they’re doing something right even though the case might be exactly the opposite.

This observation from Seth Godin is so on-target:

“Action, even ineffective action, is something societies seek out during times of uncertainty.”

Sure, it’s natural. It’s human too. But it’s scary as well.

As they are more close to everyday uncertainties, startup founders tend to take more actions than others.

But sometimes more is not better. Only better is better. Again a profound thought from Seth.

Maybe, instead of attending one more similar startup community event, you might want to spend your Saturday noon making your product better.

Attend good startup events for sure – they provide great value. But do it for right reasons. If you’re doing it for social proof, then you might want to reconsider it.

Not more actions. Just the better ones.

The Perfect Time to Do the Exercise

The perfect time to do the exercise is when you don’t feel like doing it.

The perfect time to do the exercise is when you don’t feel like it will have an immediate positive impact on your belly fat.

The perfect time to exercise is when you have a choice not to do it.

The perfect time to exercise is when you have realized that doing exercise is important and it is more worth than the time, energy and efforts it will take.

Same is the case with learning a new skill or taking your spouse on an intentional date after 15 years of marriage.

Same is the case with doing anything that you consider important but you don’t have time to do it because of other “urgent” things at your hand.

Would you like to do the exercise today?

My Website Has Lost Weight – Feeling Lean!

Let me confess this – I wasn’t very excited about how my website looked in 2014.

utpal-vaishnav-2013-website

I knew that my website didn’t look bad. It wasn’t too cluttered and it was based on Genesis, an industry standard WordPress theme framework upon which I built a custom child theme in early 2013.

My website looked okay (except my photo in the middle as I was carrying 8 kg more weight than what I am today). It was mobile responsive. It loaded fast. It was search optimized and it just worked.

But I was feeling that the UX of my website could have been better.

“The more you know, the less you need.” ~ Yvon Chouinard, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

Obviously before two years, less I knew so more was needed!

If we don’t feel super excited about something, it ought to change. What’s the point of having something in our life that we’re not excited about?

I needed a more minimalistic and cleaner UX for my website that would look just cool on different devices … desktops, laptops, mobiles and tablets.

And, here comes this wonderful quote from Dylan:

“Life is more or less a lie, but then again, that’s exactly the way we want it to be.” ~ Bob Dylan

Earlier website was the way I wanted it to be earlier but now, I wanted to change it.

Yes, I’m attracted towards minimalism, lean and zen ways of experiencing life. I got exposed to it via Leo Babauta who made it big through his Zen Habits blog.

But I did not want to merely “copy” Leo’s blog theme, which he has made available for free. If I would copy anything from Leo, it would be his philosophy of life and bringing positive change in habits like he did. Inspiring!

Then last week, my friend Tanmay Vora, sent me this message:

utpal-tanmay-message

I not only loved the new look of QAspire.com, I immediately knew that this is the look my sites have been waiting for so long.

Enter Independent Publisher WordPress theme and its insanely clean look.

Independent Publisher theme was result of countless hours spent by Raam Dev, a nomad engineer who has exposed himself to diverse experiences of life. Know more about Raam here.

And guess what? I changed the look and feel of my four different websites to Independent Publisher Theme.

utpal-vaishnav-blog-new-look

Not only that, I got the site logos changed to a simpler, consistent and zen look thanks to KreativePencils, a graphic design studio, which my better half runs.

So yes, my website has lost weight. It feels lighter and leaner. And I’m excited about it.

Thanks Tanmay, Raam and Kavita for making my web assets more minimalistic. I hope to pay this debt sometimes later in my life.

Educate Without Bias

I won’t believe what you’ll “market” to me.

I won’t believe what your other clients say about you in their video testimonials that I see on your website.

But I will believe if my close friend recommends you.

I will believe if I “tell” myself that you’re great.

How would you let my friend recommend your product? How would you let me believe that you’re great?

Friendship is based on trust. No trust = no friendship.

Why should I trust you? Why should I believe that you do not have any wasted interest in “educating” me about a subject around your product?

In connection economy, every smart business would educate the mass about how their product is great at solving problems. Nothing hip about it.

The thing called “education” loses its impact if it is done with a bias.  Education is not a sales technique but still we do that. Consider the following:

  • 21 SureFire Ways to Bring Your WebSite on Top – Guaranteed!
  • Why You Should Hire a Full Time PHP Developer in India for Your Next Web App Project?
  • If You Are Not Using XYZ App, Then You Are Not Using Mobile (Really!)
  • Why ABC Political Party is Clean and How Other Party is Ruining the Country … ?

I’m sure you would have read hundreds of such headlines … in blogs, in videos, in almost every imaginable media out there.

Education has to be neutral. It cannot be biased and recommend your own product inside body of the content. If it does, people get it. And they don’t believe in what you say.

If you want to educate people, educate without any wasted interest. Educate them because you want share what you know. Educate them because they need to get what you know. Educate them because they want to listen to what you have to say.

That builds the trust and people will give you permission to sell your products, service and ideas. To them, with a positive bias. Not easy to earn.

Easier said than done!

Your Mirror is a Powerful Tool

When did you last look at yourself through mirror?

“Funny question,” you might think. “I look at mirror everyday!”

Not so simple. Read on …

You look at mirror to be aware about how you look like.

  • If you haven’t combed your hair, you will comb it.
  • If you have put on some weight, then you will join a personal fitness program.
  • If the color of your shirt does not look good on you, you will change it.
  • If you are aware about how you look, you will do something about it.

Awareness.

With higher level of awareness, you can make choices that matter to you.

You look at the mirror everyday to be aware about your external look. I get it. What if you look at the mirror and be aware about your internal being?

What if you look at the mirror everyday to Know Thyself Better.

Looking at mirror is a form of reflection. Reflection about who we are. Reflection about how we look. Reflection about what’s good for us and what’s not …

Reflection.

With right amount of reflection, we make our lives better.

So today, why not look at the mirror and ask:

  • Am I happy?
  • Am I spending good time with people who matter to me?
  • Am I in the right profession?
  • Have I married with the right man (or woman)?
  • Have I spent my recent $5000 on the things that matter to me the most?
  • Am I living my most purposeful life?

You will get your very own answers to all such questions. Some answers might make you happy. Some answers might make you think.

If you feel happy with the answers, it’s pretty cool, enjoy the life’s joyride.

If you feel unhappy with the answers, this is the right time to do something about it.

Oh these questions. Oh these whys and whats and all similar sorts …

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Life can be all about HOW but if its foundation is in the right WHY, it will be an experience worth having.

Your mirror is a powerful tool (If you make it!).

The New Phenomenal

I have built a great app, it works on iOS8!

And you have to eat at this restaurant, they serve you within just 15 minutes and they serve tasty food. And, their restaurant staff is polite too.

Nothing is phenomenal about above examples.

We live in the age where it is expected for an app to work on latest version of the OS that is just announced.

And it is the most basic expectation from a restaurant to serve you tasty food in timely manner, with very good customer service.

Means of experiences are so easily accessible (Tweet This!) that it is redefining what is phenomenal.

Decades ago, in factory world, it used to work what you “say.”

Now, in connection economy, it is no longer what you just say; it is what you do.

It. Is. What. You. Do.

If you connect with them personally and delight them by doing something unexpectedly well for them, it is phenomenal.

Old phenomenal is new normal.

And, new phenomenal is the real phenomenal!

How to Become the Master of Knack?

I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about this…

App Development is a knack!

Just like Ikebana is a knack.

Just like Knitting is a knack.

Just like Public Speaking is a knack.

Knack = There are certain principles to follow and master. When you implement those principles, you get predictable results.

“Open your speech with this statement, communicate these 3 points swiftly, make people think about X point and Boom! your speech is loved.”

The same works in App Development.

“Get Agile, create a prototype, then develop an MVP, then test it in a niche group, if it is accepted, make it better and release v1.0, if it doesn’t work, pivot.”

What is the opposite of knack?

Spray and Pray.

Sure, there are masters of knack, people who make App Development look like an art. Just like there are people who make Public Speaking look like an art.

But you don’t have to be an artist to see results. You just have to learn the knack.

How do you learn the knack?

By experimenting.

By practicing.

By saying no to 1000 things.

…and saying yes to what enables you to learn the knack of App Development.

“But I’ve developed 30+ apps and none on them has worked well,” you might be wondering, “I haven’t cracked the code yet …”

It’s okay.

Practice. Find out what works. And what doesn’t. Reflect. Learn the lessons. Develop one more.

It is scary.

It is frustrating.

30+ apps. None has been super-successful yet.

It. Is. Frustrating. For sure.

Keep working on your next one. You already know 30 ideas that don’t work well. Only a few people know that.

Persevere.

Success is nearer than what it was when you were developing your first app.

Sooner than later, your knack will look like an art. And you, an artist!

Master the knack, and you master your trajectory (aka your ability to accomplish your dreams).

App Development is a metaphor. The same logic applies to marketing. Or writing. Or cooking. Or singing. Or learning Spanish. Or any other skill-acquisition.

And once you start-in on this particular learning journey… your life will never be the same again.