Pete Michaud Techzing Interview Transcript
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Table of Contents
- About Pete's Writing
- Retirement Preface: Ken Sharpe
- Hitting a Home Run
- Retirement: Researching the Blogs
- Desperate for Value
- Retirement: The Blogs Start and Pete Get Laid Off
- Ambition Starts with Thinking Small
- Metrics Enable my Leap of Faith
- Business as Software: Iteration
- No Single Point of Failure
- Really Tracking Metrics (Fundamentally Important!)
- Just Start Doing Something (AI analogy)
- Everyone's a Prima Donna, but no one's a Rock Star
- The Ethics of Sales Letters
- College and Early Career
- Retirement: Being Laid Off was Lucky
- Self Publishing Services
- Max Klein, 400 $1 projects
- Retirement: Automation
- Patrick McKenzie
- Tyranny From Above and Below
- Saving the World
- My Car Accident and Life Outlook
- Eliezer Yudkowsky
Justin Vincent: Just before we get into this episode of Techzing, I just want to give a little bit of background about Pete Michaud; and why this is such an interesting episode to listen to. At the age of seven, Pete was playing in the driveway and a horrible accident happened. A car was reversing out and actually ran him over, in fact, it was an Isuzu trooper that actually ran over his head and crushed his skull. He died and was taken to the hospital and the doctors then revived him, brought him back to life.
For the next thirteen years, he worked with a surgeon, who much of that time worked pro bono; rebuilding Pete’s skull and face. And at that age of seven, Pete had the kind of realization that someone may have when they’re 45 and they get cancer: they realize that life really is for living. But Pete had that at seven.
So Pete, who’s now 25, is married with two kids and is financially free. And he puts his good fortune down to this realization that he have when he was seven. Another interesting thing about Pete is that he majored in statistics. So, a combination of statistics, no fear and really going for what he wanted is how he retired by the age of twenty-five. And that’s what this interview is about.
Welcome to techzing 38, hosted by myself, Justin Vincent and Jason Roberts. And today we have special guest with us, Pete Michaud; the chameleon of tech. He started his online career as Ken Sharp, a lot like David Bowie, has had an alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. But more recently, he is actually an extremely well for himself and retired at the age of 25. Jason, I know that you found Pete Michaud in his essays, so maybe you’d like to do a little bit more of an intro there.
Jason Roberts: Yes, I guess the essay that caught my attention was “How I retired at age 25”. But after reading it; I realized that I had read almost all of his essays; almost all of them had appeared on the front page of Hacker News at one point or another.
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: At least, a lot of the more recent ones; and I realized they were all really interesting and that’s why I thought it would be a good idea that I’d get Pete on the show and to talk a little more with him about it. So, for starters Pete, why don’t you just give us a little bit of background on who you are and what you do and everything because at least from my point of view, you are an essayist, right? Your stuff that shows up on Hacker News.
Pete Michaud: Yeah.
Jason Roberts: You have some kind of a background in software development but beyond that, I don’t know too much about you.
Pete Michaud: That’s a difficult question really because, I guess Justin put it correctly, when he said that I’m kind of a chameleon. I don’t like to pigeonhole myself too much. But yes, I have had a career in software development. I’ve worked for big companies, and tiny companies, and medium-sized companies as a developer and architect also.
What I realized, I guess about a year ago is that, despite having done that, and despite being pretty good at it, I never really intended to do that and I didn’t really enjoy it that much. Because the reality is that, when you’re a developer, most of your time isn’t spent on development. Most of your time is spent with nonsense, with politics and with specs in dealing with clients both internal and external and all that; so, I stopped doing that.
Justin Vincent: That’s certainly the case the large kind of companies that you’re talking about, definitely.
Pete Michaud: Right, right; and even in smaller companies. When I was eighteen, with a partner, I founded sort of a boutique development company called Harbor Blue Group. And we were just kind of bogged down with small clients that wanted the world and didn’t really want to pay for it. And most of my time was spent dealing with clients, dealing with subcontractors that weren’t really doing what they were supposed to do. It took a lot of the joy and creativity out of programming.
So, I stopped. I stopped and I began doing things more for the love of doing them. One of the things that I’ve always loved doing is writing. I can’t say that I’ve always been particularly good at it but I’ve always had a passion for it. So, I’ve done it a lot. And I think I’ve had enough practice to start making cogent points when I can muster the creative energy to do so.
Jason Roberts: But you, you’ve been recently been writing quite a number of these essays. I was looking through them and they’re not just commentary like “what’s the latest programming language trick” or something, I mean you’re really putting some great ideas and writing some in-depth stuff. It kind of reminds me of Paul Graham. He has things he’s thinking about and really spent sometime on trying to figure out, what he’s thinking, puts it down on paper and you know, essentially he is an essayist, he’s not just a blogger.
Justin Vincent: Except that Pete’s seems to have almost a spiritual bent to some of the stuff that he writes, which is kind of interesting.
Pete Michaud: I think that’s pretty accurate actually—I mean, it’s complex. I have problems with the concept—there are essays to this effect too—but I have problems with the concept of supernatural as such.
Justin Vincent: Right.
Pete Michaud: But there’s something that I’ve always thought a lot about is what are the deeper realities that our limited perception can’t really fathom. Even the more mundane or more grounded essays that I write have to do with looking behind the curtain and seeing the inner machinations of the structures that we interact with, on a day to day basis. Both our brains, which are complicated, and our social structures… and our businesses and our motivations and all that stuff, they’re quiet complicated in the same sense that the universe is complicated in terms of physics and that sort of thing. So, it’s kind of a unifying factor in my writing.
Justin Vincent: It seems to me that you’re interested in, in almost hacking the human psyche a lot like NLP. Are you familiar with the NLP concept?
Pete Michaud: Yeah.
Justin Vincent: Yes?
Pete Michaud: Neuro-linguistic programming, yeah.
Justin Vincent: Yeah, so this is the type of thing that from your essays, it seems to me that really interests you. And then, with those psyche hacks, it’s about improving one’s life, improving one’s wealth and I guess desires as well. I mean —
Pete Michaud: Right.
Justin Vincent: Some of those essays are very interesting.
Jason Roberts: Yeah like what “Fear and Freedom” was a lot about that right? You talk about things that causes problems like Sunk Cost Fallacy, Loss Aversion Bias which are things that Justin and I talk about periodically. Because they definitely affect, say, doing a start up or launching software. All these cognitive biases that we have that kind of screw with our ability to act rationally.
Pete Michaud: Right, right. And I guess the core difficulty is identifying what you want to be doing in the first place, and what you should be doing in an ethical sense. And then even if you’ve figured out, how do you go about making that happen? And you’ve got all this whole quagmire of bugs in your brain that prevent you from breaking out and doing the things that you actually want to do and, maybe not “ensure”, but push you toward living a life that has been prescribed to you implicitly by your environment. And I want to break people out of that.
Jason Roberts: So, before we get too deep on that angle, one thing I’d like to, maybe get started with is the essay, How I Retired at Age 25.
Pete Michaud: Okay.
Jason Roberts: Because I think that story might serve as an anchor to all these other ideas.
Pete Michaud: Yeah.
Jason Roberts: Because it seems to me that your ability to succeed and to reach financial independence and gain control of your life in that way, gives you the confidence and also experiential background to write down some of these ideas.
Pete Michaud: Well not only that but the time also. I’ve been thinking about starting my site with all the essays on it for years, and I just never have had the creative energy to do everything that I was doing and that. So, it’s another aspect.
Jason Roberts: So, yes, tell us about that. So why don’t you tell us the story and then we’ll go from there.
Pete Michaud: The story of my retirement?
Jason Roberts: Yeah! How did it go? I mean in the essay you talked a little bit about how you always thought that success for you or gate reaching sort of a financial independence would be through building some kind of amazingly cool software and executing it and maybe flipping it or whatever and then –
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: But it didn’t turn out that way at all. It was actually something more mundane and more almost repeatable than you had originally thought.
Pete Michaud: Right. Exactly, I had this concept even right up until, months after Ken Sharpe which – just a little background, I know you’d mentioned Ken Sharpe. Ken Sharpe was the pseudonym of mine when I went to work as an architect for a medium-sized software company. I knew that my basic plan was to get into the company, which I knew had problems, and fix the company in order to make it saleable. So that there could be a big exit and some point in there I wanted to get in on that big exit and that was my plan. And in retrospect, it was a pretty dumb plan but that was going on in my mind and so I blogged about it.
That was always kind of my outlook. I knew that, for example, at that time I wanted $2 million in the bank. Because I figured $2 million was basically enough to live on without touching the principle if I lived very modestly. So that was the benchmark of success that I wanted to achieve. And I’d always, like you said, approached it as though I needed to hit a home run; a fast home run.
My time horizon was 25 originally. Starting out when I was eighteen saying to myself, listen, I want to be able to do whatever it is that I want to do by the time I’m 25. And if I don’t do that, I will have let myself down and failed and my goal, I guess because –
Jason Roberts: That’s a pretty high bar cause even the most aggressive people would say “I want to be a millionaire by the time I’m thirty,” and that even sometimes sounds kind of ridiculously optimistic. But 25, that’s pretty aggressive.
Pete Michaud: Yeah. I’m a pretty ridiculously optimistic person and –
Jason Roberts: I like it! I like it!
one of the most important things of being an entrepreneur is to be stupidly optimistic
Justin Vincent: To be honest, that’s one of the most important things of being an entrepreneur is to be stupidly optimistic.
Pete Michaud: Exactly. Just keep that naivety. It’s important; because otherwise you never get started. You start thinking about the numbers and the probabilities and you just give up. What I learned is that those home runs, they seem to happen more often that they really do and that’s another bias and it’s—I think, actually there’s a technical term, I think it’s “Availability Bias”. But the bias, basically is that we see the successful companies in the media, but not the unsuccessful ones.
There are all these Twitters and Facebooks and Zuckerbergs and you know, Farmvilles and all these hyper successful ventures. And it seems like more ventures than not create these superstar 37signals type Cinderella stories that you start from nothing and all of a sudden, overnight you’re great and everyone knows about you. But that’s not only accurate, even for most of the ventures that I just mentioned, even though that’s kind of the mythology around them. But it’s not at all accurate for the general marketplace. For most people, you’ve never heard of them, and you never will hear of them. Because hitting it out of the park is a combination of skill, and talent, and your network, and a lot of luck.
Justin Vincent: Well you’re certainly right about the fact that there are, I mean hundreds of thousands of internet millionaires that we have no idea about. Who make money through releasing content-based membership sites or various different affiliates systems and things like that. So yeah, I mean—
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: Also even that, but just even software development, even a lot of very successful web apps, software companies are small and—
Justin Vincent: Yeah, exactly, like Central Desktop for example—
Jason Roberts: Yeah. I mean they’re much more successful than quite a number of the, I guess sort of web famous entrepreneurs. And they did it primarily without any type of investment and yeah, they are very, very successful. And, but there are a lot – I mean, you can even have less success than them. I mean they have thirty full time employees or whatever it is–
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: So you can earn significantly less revenue, and be significantly less profitable than they are and still be very successful. But you’re right, nobody’s going to hear— – you’re not going to hear about these people. They’re not going to be interviewed on a show or written about in TechCrunch or whatever, so—
Pete Michaud: Well I started thinking about that and thinking—because I am interested in things like biases and brain hacks—I started really getting comfortable with the idea that my notion that I was going to hit some kind of home run somehow and have a big exit was not necessarily realistic. And it’s not necessarily the easiest way to go about what I wanted. Which wasn’t actually $2 million in the bank; it was actually freedom, it was actually the cash flow to organize my life in whatever way I wanted to. Which I have achieved now and it was very mundane, it was starting content blogs and identifying niches that really didn’t have much in them or what was there was scammy or incorrect. And so just addressing that and feeling my way along to self published books and that sort of thing; it turned out to be pretty easy. And it’s a process that didn’t require home run, it doesn’t require a big league venture capital firm to notice you or anything like that, it just required a little patience and some research.
Jason Roberts: Okay so let’s hear their actual specific story of what happened. Your wife was writing a book about, was it Reactive Hypoglycemia or something? Is that right?
Pete Michaud: Right. Reactive Hypoglycemia.
Jason Roberts: Because she suffered from that and she wanted to write – she was doing some research or she decided just to write it down and maybe she’d be able to share with some people on the web. Is that it?
Pete Michaud: Yeah, essentially—it actually didn’t happen in that order. She had been researching it for her own purposes, had noticed that all the information or most of the information out there was crap. And then she decided she was going to start a blog and try to make money with it. And she doesn’t have a background in technology but she does have a background in writing, she is also an academic. She teaches math at a local university here and that means that she has the training to read, and also access to academic data bases. So, instead of relying on google-fu to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong; you know, in terms of what’s out there about reactive hypoglycemia. She was able to gather all the primary sources and really figure out what we knew and what we didn’t know. And that’s how it started.
Jason Roberts: And that was in a blog format? Is what she started with?
Pete Michaud: Yeah that’s it. It’s still up, it’s ReactiveHypoglycemia.info.
Justin Vincent: What’s the primary revenue driver? Is it the Adsense or is it the sales of the e-book?
Pete Michaud: Definitely the books. Definitely the books. We have a dashboard that I created over the last six months or so. And 80% of our revenue comes from books and in that 80% is both e-books that we sell directly and Amazon also; self-published books on Amazon.
Justin Vincent: I see. So you’re self-publishing books on Amazon.
Pete Michaud: Correct.
Jason Roberts: You know, these are e-books or are these actual paperback books or either or both?
Pete Michaud: We have, let me think; we have a couple books that are both, we have some books that are only on Amazon and we have, I believe one book——no I take that back, now all our books are both on Amazon, all our e-books are also on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble also.
Justin Vincent: I can really understand why people buy those books. I mean for example, recently I suffered from some bad acid reflux. And I was googling about it, and you’ll see these ads on the sides that say, well check out the all natural cure to acid reflux. And then you’re going to the site and it will give you information and say look, you don’t need to go to a doctor we’ll just tell you how to eat differently.
Pete Michaud: Right.
Justin Vincent: I’ve got some good information on the, the e-books is going to cost 39 – 20 bucks or something like that. You know, when you have an issue like that, and you know it’s just a 20-buck gamble. It’s easy for me to make a decision to buy that book.
Pete Michaud: Right.
Justin Vincent: So, I can see really how that works.
Pete Michaud: Yeah, actually you touched on something that’s important. We weren’t this analytical about it when we first begun like I said; reactive hypoglycemia just sort of fell into our lap. But one thing that we’ve noticed about the books that have sold well versus the books that haven’t, is how desperate people are for the information. So with acid reflux, you’re in pain, you need a solution, you need a sooner rather than later; and so maybe you’re compelled to buy it. But if you’re not desperate for the information, then you think well, I just keep googling it.
So, there’s a book that we have, called Tietze’s Syndrome and that’s one that’s pretty popular, and the reason is that Tietze’s syndrome is a type of arthritis that occurs in the rib cage and it’s excruciatingly painful, especially at first. It’s from a virus, primarily, and if you catch it, you feel like you’re having a heart attack for about three weeks. And then, it lasts essentially forever after that, it gets better and better. But it still flares up and people are desperate, because they’re in this excruciating pain, and it’s not a well-known disorder, so doctors don’t really have much information for you unless you know exactly the right doctor to go to.
So, we have this book and we explained the symptoms and say we have the answer. We know what to do about it and its true, and the answer that we give really works. And you know, I want to throw this in here, one thing that people– I get questions a lot, when I’m just talking to people online about this, is people don’t understand why someone would purchase a book, when most of the information from the book is on your site. So, in the case of Tietze’s Syndrome, most of the information in the book is on the site. You don’t need to pay for it.
I think people who ask me that, don’t really understand the value that customers put in compiling the information and having it in a format that they can grab anytime and is organized in a concise way. You don’t have multiple sites all over google, of variable quality, competing to tell you contradictory things. You have a source of information that’s in your hands, put it on your bookshelf, you can grab it whenever you’re in pain or whenever you’re making a plan to stop being in pain. And it’s there and people find a lot of comfort in that and we don’t hide the fact that most of the information is on the site. That’s not really what we’re selling.
Jason Roberts: Well you know, it’s funny because, I think I heard a quote recently, I kind of read this or heard of this, said that in a – when I check my newspaper and said, people never paid for information they pay for distribution.
Pete Michaud: Exactly.
Jason Roberts: So in its sense—
Pete Michaud: Editorial control also—
Jason Roberts: Okay.
Pete Michaud: sort of a filter—
Jason Roberts: Right.
Pete Michaud: Sort of the same sense that Hacker News is a filter for people who are interested in programming and start up culture, we can rely on the community to tell us what’s important. It’s the same thing—our customers rely on us, to tell us what’s important about whatever the topic is like Tietze’s Syndrome or Reactive Hypoglycemia; whatever the case is.
Jason Roberts: Okay. Let’s get back to the story. Because I think the story, how would they call it—is really an illustrative of a lot of things; and I think we’re kind of jumping ahead and talking a little bit about why it worked. But let’s just see how it became. So your wife started doing research, want to start a blog and then what happened?
Pete Michaud: Well, first I set it up for her because I’m a programmer specialized in the web so it’s no problem for me to set up a blog. I set it up but it wasn’t something that I was really involved intimately with. I, you know, look over her articles for typos and that sort of thing and keep the blog up to date. But meanwhile, I’m working on a contract, a programming contract that’s paying the bills and she’s making, you know, two or three figures a month. Maybe a $100.00 or $250.00 or what have you; so it’s not really something that I’m paying close attention to. I’m hopeful for her and she’s having a good time doing it. But because my mind set was “where’s the next home run coming from? Where’s the next deal coming from?” I’m not even thinking about whether these blogs can make me independently wealthy, it’s not—
Jason Roberts: Right.
Pete Michaud: even on my radar. So, essentially what happened is, she’s growing and she’s doing pretty well at it. And one day, as I’m thinking about—like I said, I have this contract and working from home, it’s a very cushy contract but I hate it. And I guess the reason I hate it is that I felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. When I took it I expect – it was a very, very small company and I expected maybe the company would take off (again the whole mythology about a stratospheric rise and exit or whatever). That wasn’t happening and it was clear to me that it wasn’t going to happen. So, I wasn’t enjoying it, I was thinking about quitting but I was afraid to quit because it’s what was paying the bills and what I do if I didn’t have it, I have to you know, eat into savings or go onto the credit card eventually, and I don’t want to be in that situation. But my hand was forced one day, my client or boss or whatever, came to my house with his wife and said: It’s over. Our company is about to tank we’ll probably have to sell our house and we can’t pay you anymore. So that was my two-week notice. He said we have enough to pay you for another week, and that’s it. And then we’re done. So, at that point, I had to do something, I had to think, okay so, do I go get another job at Acme Corp? Because I mean I have a decent resume and I interview well so I can easily get another job at Acme Corp.
Jason Roberts: How old were you at that time?
Pete Michaud: At this moment, I was 24 when this happened.
Jason Roberts: How old are you now?
Pete Michaud: 25 right now.
Jason Roberts: Wow, okay. So this is all very recent. Okay, so you say you’re 25 you’re like I retired like last Thursday.
Pete Michaud: Yeah, well. A couple of months ago, right.
Jason Roberts: Okay.
Pete Michaud: So I was considering what to do. Whether to get a job or whether to try to get in on the ground floor of a start up or what. And one day, my wife Steph said to me, listen, I have all these ideas and I’m meeting all my goals but I feel overwhelmed. I mean, I can’t continue at this pace on my own because I don’t really know what I’m doing technically. I need you as an editor, I need you as a designer also because I do all the type setting of the books and the covers and what have you. And it would be much, much better if you came on board and did this with me full time. And I’ll write and research and you optimize and market and we’ll have a few months run way to do that. And if our projections are correct, which they had been so far, then we’ll be fine. By the end of our run way, we’ll take an off.
Jason Roberts: Wait a minute wait, so at that time you’re only making with? $200 or $300 a month?
Pete Michaud: Right. On the blogs. Correct.
Justin Vincent: So what was your projection? Where did it end? And how close were you tracking to your projections and all that kind of –
Pete Michaud: What we did was the very first month the goal was $10.00 and then, our thought was—
Jason Roberts: I like it, at one sense he’s incredibly ambitious in that sense he’s very, like you know, modest. Like look, ten bucks, it’s a good start right?
Pete Michaud: Exactly.
Jason Roberts: Better than—
Pete Michaud: Exactly. And our idea was, we can double it every month. Because if we made $10 one month, in thirty days, my wife and I are pretty bright; we can come up with a way to make $20.00 instead of just $10.00.
Jason Roberts: Right.
Pete Michaud: And after two months of that, we can definitely come up with a way to make $40.00 instead of just $20.00, and so on and so forth. So what we did was we created an excel spreadsheet, pretty low tech stuff, and we projected. We put the first month down and we made our goal $10.00 and we just projected on outward and until it was in outlandish territory like a million dollars a month or what have you. And we knew that it would plateau at some unknown point but we were confident, because we have fairly modest living expenses, that the plateau would be much further after our living expenses which were about $5,000.00
Jason Roberts: Where in the country do you live in? Where $5,000.00 is actually livable for two people?
Justin Vincent : Kids? Do you have kids?
Pete Michaud: Yeah. We have two kids. We have two kids actually and $5,000.00 a month is plenty actually. We live in Jacksonville, Florida. And Jacksonville is a very, very low cost of living.
Justin Vincent: Right.
Pete Michaud: And that’s part of the reason we stayed here even though it’s not our favorite place and neither of us are from here. We stayed here partially because the cost of living is so low.
Jason Roberts: Right, which you hear about Florida about being a very inexpensive place. Cause in California, $5,000.00 a month per family?
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: It’d be really brutal.
Pete Michaud: Right, that’s poverty line kind of stuff. But $5,000.00 a month is fine. It’s fine. I mean it’s not a lot but it’s perfectly fine. It’s enough to pay our mortgage and our outlandishly high utility bill because we live in an old house and it’s hot. But it’s really not bad at all. So $5,000.00 a month is all we needed as a base line and anything on top of that is great. It’s savings, it’s travel, whatever we want.
Jason Roberts: Right.
Pete Michaud: And so up until that point, Steph had been shattering the records. The first month, she made like twelve or thirteen bucks which was fine. But every month after that it seemed to – the multiplier was like five or something: the next month was $50.00 instead of $20.00. And so the month that she proposed this to me; I was at, I think I was at 250 or she was at 250, give or take. And she should have been, like 80. And so we were optimistic, maybe naively optimistic about it but I mean that’s part of most of the stories here.
Jason Roberts: Yeah, well I’m just saying that to take a job from making, I mean working as a software consultant which I imagine you’re making a pretty good income. And say hey, we’re going to take this $250.00 a month deal you’re got going on here and we’re going to magnify at times, you know, 20.
Jason Roberts: I mean that’s taking a big leap there.
Pete Michaud: Yes.
Jason Roberts: One thing to say is, hey, I will work on this with you for a month or two while I’m looking for another contract.
Pete Michaud: Yeah.
Jason Roberts: But you just say, hey we’re just going to go into this and see what happens. Unless you had, say six months or a year worth of savings in which case you’re like ahhhh you know what we got a few months but if it doesn’t pick up, we’ve got plenty of room I can still look for a job.
Justin Vincent: I certainly couldn’t convince my wife to do that.
Jason Roberts: Like what were you thinking at that time? Were you kind of thinking we’re going to do this? Or you’re just thinking oh well you know, I’m going to help her out when I know at the back of my mind I’ll probably look at something in a couple of months.
Pete Michaud: I was thinking that we’re going to do this. And I know that it’s crazy from the outside looking in. But I think the key is that we kept, pretty good metrics about what we were doing. For example each individual book was selling on Amazon, how much we were making on books on average and what niches were doing well and what niches weren’t. And I think part of the reason for our optimism was that we had a pretty good handle on how we could get, not from 250 to $50,000 a month but from 250 to $500.00 a month. And because we had a good handle on how to get from step to step to step, we were optimistic that we wouldn’t stumble on any given step.
Jason Roberts: Baby steps basically.
Pete Michaud: Exactly. Every month we’ve learned something new that would allow us to double our money. And we weren’t shooting in the dark at that point. I mean at that point we were shooting more on the dark than we are now. But we felt like we had some control over the activities that we could actually do to make money; and whether they were long term investments that would pay off.
I use the term “long term” loosely because what I mean is say three months down the road instead of tomorrow. Like an e-book sale through Google Checkout, we can get the money in two days. So whenever—we have a special inbox that we get all our sales data through—and whenever we get a new transaction in there, we know that in two days that money will be in our account. So $30.00 or $40.00 whatever e-book is sold and—
Justin Vincent: One thing I just want to say is, the use of the term “retired,” is a pretty loose use of that term because, truth is, you’re not actually retiring because you are going to keep on trying to build your publishing empire and you are going to keep trying to building revenue. But it’s just that it’s not really, really hard work like it might be running a start up or something like that.
Pete Michaud: Yeah, I think that’s accurate. I think what retired in this sense means is that I could stop working. I could just let it be a lifestyle business and work if I want on a couple of hours a month. I thought a lot about this before I published my “How I Retired at 25,” because I knew it would be kind of inflammatory and some people would question my definition of retire. But I really reflected on what constitutes retirement. Is it a large nest egg? And if so, does that rule out pensioners and people who rely on a fixed income from Social Security and Medicaid, or what have you? I’d say no, those people are retired because they have enough money to cover their expenses and they don’t have to work.
And the other aspect is how secure is this stuff? And from the outside, you know, a few e-books and some blogs sounds extraordinarily insecure. And I realize that, but I’m quite confident that it’s not because we don’t have a single point of failure. Our websites rollover onto a different server, should the first one go down, so web traffic isn’t a problem. We get a spread of traffic from various search engines, not just Google. We make a substantial portion of our revenue through—what I should say is our revenue streams are very diversified. So there’s no revenue stream that makes more say 20%.
Justin Vincent: Do you use some PPC or is it just organic search?
Pete Michaud: So far it’s all been organic search and we’ve been sort of poking around with PPC and actually talking to experts in that field. But no, we haven’t done that so far, nothing that we’ve done has relied on outlay for advertisement.
Jason Roberts: I want to go back and say a couple of things if you don’t mind. The first is that, your approach to this is kind of like the approach of writing software, I think. Which is that, you have a sense of what you want this software to be or do. And so you just start working on it right. You can’t spec the whole thing out really. You have it in your head, and say let’s just get from A to B right? You get that, and I think it almost seem like that framework of software development unless they played some part of your framework for how to build this business.
Pete Michaud: Yeah, absolutely. I’m nodding along as you were saying that because that’s exactly what it’s like. And there’s a strong element of refactoring in that also.
Jason Roberts: Right, it’s an iterative approach. It’s get something and then learn from what you get. You do some stuff, you work for a couple of weeks, you take a step back up and say okay, are we making any money? Is this working? Do we see any future in this? And then you just go back and give another iteration.
Pete Michaud: Yeah. That’s exactly right. I mean initially we had no idea that we were going to sell books. We just thought blogs and Adsense and the normal thing. But I mean Adsense, never really paid that much for us. And like I said about 20% is from ads and affiliate links and stuff but it really doesn’t add up to that much, it’s mostly the books. So we didn’t figure that out until maybe month three.
So, you’re right. You’re completely right. It’s completely iterative and I don’t know what December is going to look like. But I do have an idea of how I’m going to get from this month and I’m going to double my money. And I guess I should throw in there, just to make people not too optimistic about this, is that, the doubling every month stopped in December and actually our multiplier is more like 1.8. So—
Jason Roberts :Wait, wait, wait, back up. 1.8 what? Month to month?
Pete Michaud: Right. Instead of doubling, it’s whatever we made last month times 1.8.
Justin Vincent: He’s saying like a 180% rather than 200%.
Jason Roberts: That’s still. That’s still.
Justin Vincent: Yeah it’s amazing. I mean 10% growth is considered fantastic. And you’ve got, you know, 180% growth so—
Jason Roberts: And I think the first month. Your wife worked on this for a couple of months, or few months, by herself, and you jumped on and what month was that?
Pete Michaud: Ahhh. I’d have to look It up. She started in the summer.
Jason Roberts: Okay, so this is like last year?
Pete Michaud: Yeah, about a little less than a year ago.
Justin Vincent: Is your approach one of multiple revenue trickles? Which all combine to make it revenue stream; much like the way water coming from the mountain, when the snow melts all kind of traces trickles then turns into a river.
Pete Michaud: I think that’s pretty accurate. And I mean that’s not to say that we don’t identify the trickles that are stronger than the others or identify the trickles that could be made stronger because we do. But, yeah, I think that’s a big part of the stability of the income is not relying on any one thing, any one product or any one channel to provide, you know to pay the mortgage. Because if, if something crazy happened like God descended to the earth and deleted every instance of our statistics textbook for example; we have one of those. He deleted every instance of it from every computer in the world and it just didn’t exist anymore then it wouldn’t matter. Because we make good money from that but it wouldn’t be crippling to lose that completely. If Google blacklisted every site that we have, all at one time, it wouldn’t be crippling to us. If Amazon delisted every single book we had that wouldn’t be crippling to us either so –
Jason Roberts: Yeah, so you’re very diversified. So it’s almost better than get all your money and you sold some stock of your company, put a couple million dollar check in the bank and you know, place it in some secure, mutual fund or whatever, cause as we all know, that stuff can get hit. Or even –
Pete Michaud: Exactly.
Jason Roberts: You know, even if you put it in the bank, it’s like you could see hyper inflation, almost all and your wealth evaporate before your eyes.
Pete Michaud: You’re right. And the fact is that if I had succeeded in my Ken Sharpe quest and somehow despite it being a stupid idea, somehow I got the piece of the pie, I fixed the company and we had a big exit, and I made my $2 million dollars or however much. If I had done that, in the time frame that I was doing that, I would’ve lost, if not all of it, most of it in the crash.
Jason Roberts: Right.
Justin Vincent: So Pete, what advice would you give to someone like me who is building my business which is tweetminer.net? I’ve been building it for the last five months and basically it’s a twitter productivity tool and ultimately it’s also kind of a twitter and a facebook productivity tool. So, I’m just really relying on that one business. That’s kind of my project. What advice would you give to me?
Pete Michaud: I would say to you first of all it’s not really my area of expertise. So take whatever I say with a grain of salt. First you need good metrics. Part of the reason that we, being my wife and I, knew what we were going to make at any given month, at any given week really, is that we were keeping track of the important metrics. Like sales volume, like net profit per book after transaction cost and advertising whatever. And I think that if you don’t keep track of your metrics and your goals for those metrics on an on going basis, then what happens is you get bogged down in details that don’t matter. Or you become frustrated and you’d get bored. Maybe have this idea that tweetminer needs 500,000 users and you have a thousand users and you’re not really sure how to make a thousand, five hundred thousand. And if you don’t have metrics that you can track and know where you are supposed to be at any given time, then it’s very discouraging and it’s difficult to know what to focus on.
Justin Vincent: That is exactly the problem that I face. It’s how do I turn my three thousand users to twenty thousand.
Pete Michaud: What I’d say to you is you need to track your users over time, like a traffic graph sort of, and you need to know how many users, not that you want ultimately, but you need to know how many users you want next week or next month. And you need to work for that goal.
Justin Vincent: Right.
Jason Roberts: Yeah. You know the baby step approach is a key thing to think about because otherwise it becomes an overwhelming prospect. And it’s like in anything, it’s a kind of thing like say hey, I want to loose 30 pounds right? I’m like saying oh my god, I just want to lose a pound in the first week, right?
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: Right?
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: I mean a pound, that’s what, 500 calories. Its 500 calories a day, okay I want to get on the treadmill for half hour and maybe cut off that extra bagel. You know.
Pete Michaud: Let me echo something that you just said. The 500 calories a day, 3500 calories a week is a pound, that’s important to know. Most people when they start out don’t know that. So they decide to lose ten pounds in a week without really researching and knowing what’s feasible. It was obvious to me based on my background that ten dollars could be made on a blog in a month. So that was a perfectly reasonable first month goal. And there’s never been a time that hasn’t been obvious to me what the goal should be and what the way to the goal is. And if you find yourself in the situation where you want to loose 30 pounds but you don’t even know what it’ll be like. You don’t know what to eat, you don’t know how to exercise, you don’t know how many calories that actually equals, you don’t have enough information to make a plan that has realistic milestones. You need that information; you need to know that 3500 calories is a pound.
Jason Roberts: Just a couple of questions. I’m about to forget these – I lost my pen and I don’t want to forget them, so let’s cover them before I lose them because I think they might be interesting.
On the whole weight loss thing, so about 2 years ago, I said I need to lose about fifteen, twenty pounds. I’ve always been a fit guy and somehow after we had a couple of kids, I noticed that my wife didn’t gain weight but I have. So I was like okay, well I want to drop 20 pounds and so I make an excel spreadsheet and I’m going to shoot for a pound and a half per week. And I weigh myself every Sunday morning and my basic plan was I was just going to burn 500 to 1000 calories a day. That was my plan. I wasn’t doing anything with the diet. I said, alright I’m just going to do this and it worked.
It’s interesting because the first time I tried trying to lose weight, I tried playing basketball a few more days a week or I’m trying to eat better, but it really wasn’t a plan. It really wasn’t repeatable. I was like, god, I’m not losing any weight but still I could play basketball or I’d play soccer but I’m not really losing weight. But like I said, there were no metrics, it wasn’t a repeatable process, just sort of random exercise.
So but then I said alright, I’m going to do this. I’m going to do 500 calories, it takes me 45 minutes or what it was I on the treadmill and then – I would say hey, I lost a pound and a half in another week, hey that’s 3 pounds you know, and there was 4 pounds. Then all of a sudden what happened was, now I could tell when I slacked off and didn’t do quite as many minutes on that treadmill versus more.
I could tell what was working right? That was then I knew input versus output. It became really clear, and what happened once I understood the inputs and the outputs and I saw the progress on the excel spreadsheet and the graph, it became empowered. I ‘m like oh I am now the master of this. Right? Before, you felt kind of helpless but you’re like god you know I don’t eat that badly I work out and I still feel like I’m 15, 20 pounds heavier than I want to be. You know, that’s just depressing.
Justin Vincent: Okay so, just on that—this is exactly how I feel about getting to 20,000 users. What we’d like – could we brainstorm here just to help me in my business, like how should I think about it? What should I think? Where can I get this 20,000 users from? And what steps should I take?
Pete Michaud: First, let me echo Jason and say your weight loss experience with your treadmill is exactly what my experience was like in building this business. And I think the key components are, you had a repeatable process, a thing that you actually do that you could explain to somebody in a sentence. I’m going to get on the treadmill and burn x calories per day. That’s the first thing. The second thing is—
Jason Roberts: Which by the way I just worked backwards I said, alright, you know seven days a week, 500 calories, 3500 calories that’s a pound right?
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: So if I—anything above that will be more than a pound and that’s all I did right. It was a simple math, just try it.
Pete Michaud: Exactly. And the thing—your repeatable process was directly related to your goal. You know that If you are on that treadmill until the digital display says that you burned x calories; you know that at the end of the week you would’ve lost a pound and a half. It’s physics.
Jason Roberts: Right.
Pete Michaud: You know that there is a direct relationship there. You had a process; you know that that process was directly related to the metric that you chose, which was your weight. So, to you Justin, I’d say, if your metric is users, you need to know what the process is that actually brings in users. If you know the thing that actually brings in users—or the several things also because I know it’s a little more wishy washy than losing weight—but if you have an actual tangible activity that you could explain what you’re doing to somebody else.
Like one thing that we did early on when the stakes were smaller was to get people to a reactive hyperglycemia site. We knew we wanted traffic because traffic meant ad impressions and clicks and we wanted back links also. So what we did, we went around places like yahoo answers and we give these really detailed great responses that plugged our own site for people asking relevant questions because we knew that places like yahoo answers we’re going to bring in enough people to achieve our goals, our traffic goals for that moment. We weren’t thinking about 20,000 people, we wanted 10 people from this one post and we knew that if we made the post we’d get the 10 people and we could go from there once we had the 10 people. So my question to you Justin is what activities, what tangible activities bring in users?
Justin Vincent: Well, so far I would say that just about all of those users have come in through twitter like most of them, I mean I’ve tried a number of different things. I’ve been on the front page of entrepreneur.com which has you know, 80,000 uniques a day it just drove very, very little traffic. So I’ve done some PR stuff, if you type – I guess also I’m on 140.com which is like a review of twitter apps, you know, got quite a few reviews on that but once again, that doesn’t drive much traffic; it just seems to be twitter so far.
Pete Michaud: Is it like an 80/20 thing like the twitter is 80% and the rest of the stuff is 20?
Justin Vincent: Yeah. It’s just people basically saying, “I like tweetminer” on twitter.
Pete Michaud: Understood. When do they say that? How did they find out about tweetminer to begin with?
Justin Vincent: Well at first I set up an affiliate program and basically 40% of the 3,300… in fact, are you in front of the web right now?
Pete Michaud: Sure.
Justin Vincent: Just type in tweetminer.net/stats.
Pete Michaud: Because the affiliates are not the quality – it’s like too scammy for you?
Justin Vincent: It’s just that, I mean I’ve got mixed feelings about the affiliate world. Like on the one hand, I think the affiliate world is kind of good and I like the concept. But on the other hand, the kind of business that I want to turn tweetminer into is more of a start up. Like a traditional Silicon Valley type of start up. I know it’s not silicon valley but I don’t think that affiliate, you know the – you’ve real branding of affiliate marketing goes hand in hand with that type of company. So I kind of start to pull back; but plus also the margins are very low anyway for the current price points, so—and the kind of fees that affiliates need would kind of take away from it.
Pete Michaud: I have an observation for you.
Justin Vincent: Yeah. Sure.
Pete Michaud: When we first begun talking about this a couple of minutes ago your metric was people or users and I heard a hidden metric in there in what you were just saying, which was your net right? Your margin.
Justin Vincent: Yeah.
Pete Michaud: And so I think maybe right now – I guess you’re going for critical mass or maybe you don’t need critical mass for this service, but you’re going for a certain baseline of users that you hope you can rely on being there and building off of. And my thought is maybe you should focus on that. Maybe you should say affiliates are not a good long term strategy but right now, they make 40% of my users, they drive a lot of my traffic. And if it’s the kind of traffic that you want, then maybe you need to instead of cutting them off, you need to say, alright, right now it’s working. And it’s going to get me to my goal of 4,000 users next month.
Justin Vincent: Right.
Pete Michaud: Which is for example. And when I reach the goal of 12,000 users which should be in four months, I’m just making this up, then I will stop the affiliate program. And maybe what you’ll do is you won’t accept any new affiliates but your existing affiliates can continue until they all peter out.
Justin Vincent: Right.
Pete Michaud: And that way you’re achieving your goal of users and I know that you wouldn’t necessarily be achieving your margin goal. But maybe those goals are at odds and maybe your margin goals should wait. And the reason I’m saying that, is because that’s what we did. Most of our margin early on was eaten up by printing costs. We weren’t interested in or relying on any of the money that we were making early on because we were spending it on, you know, it was small enough early on that we – one month was practically like a domain name or hosting for that month or the cost of getting an ISBN for whatever book that we were making that month. So we didn’t care about that and if we focused on that we probably would have not bought a domain or not bought another website and that would have stagnated our growth. And the growth was our primary goal at that point. That make sense?
Justin Vincent: A lot of sense. What do you think Jason?
Jason Roberts: Yeah. I mean I think it does. I think I can make a couple of analogies. I’ve been dying to make one or two analogies. So let me go. Okay. These are all great ideas that’s why I think it’s so interesting. One is this, is that you must think that like an artificial intelligence machine wherein you have this algorithm that’s trying to learn something right?
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: And if it’s an algorithm of learning something you have something to evaluate at success it’s called an objective function. Objectively rank and maybe it’s between zero and one, like how successful is this rank. And even if genetic algorithms have a little algorithms that are searching to space for the optimal set up parameters. Now one thing that they do at first is try values at random. It does random things, it searches randomly until you get some information right?
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: So a lot of times the initial business is just a lot of random movement. It’s a random expenditure of energy; you’re looking for something, anything. You’re looking for some kind of success right? And then once you get something like ah-huh, we start goal, there’s something here, ten dollars right? Great.
Pete Michaud: You’re exactly right.
Jason Roberts: Now we’re in this area, let’s hone in on this area, let’s put some more of this energy in this area. We don’t commit ourselves everything, every bit of our energy is just exploding in that one area. But just a small amount and are more than you would randomly distributed. And then you say okay, we got more; and then you start learning. So is this all about a learning process like you said but you have to get up early for one, you have this great energy, you don’t do something you don’t get information back right?
Pete Michaud: You bet.
Jason Roberts: You have to do something to learn something about what’s going to work. And –
Peter Michaud: I guess that’s the concept of minimum viable product.
Jason Roberts: Exactly. That’s exactly; you have to do something because you can’t just read stuff in a book because that’s not really functional knowledge. It’s just some kind of awareness. But the second thing is these learning algorithms are not going to work if the objective function is not measuring what you want them to maximize right? If you’re trying to maximize some value, you need to be looking at the objective functions. It’s actually maximizing that value whether it’s just going to maximize something else. So you maximizing features in your product or you’re maximizing revenue or you’re maximizing users or you’re maximizing your own happiness– what do you try to maximize? So make sure whatever you’re maximizing, whatever your objective function is, that that’s what you’re working towards. And that’s what I think Pete is really trying to emphasize which is that know your objective function and make sure you’re getting the right data that the objective function can be accurate.
Pete Michaud: Yeah. You’re exactly right.
Jason Roberts: And the one other analogy that I want to make was about a friend of mine. I have spent a lot of my life working in the financial trading industry. And I’ve spent a lot of time building these artificially intelligent or at least automated algorithmic trading systems that would attempt to look for patterns in the market, short term patterns, seconds, minutes and buy or sell, make money short term.
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: It’s very interesting game, very technically challenging and interesting game, but one interesting conversation I had with a friend of mine who worked for a trading firm, they are very successful and this was back 2001-2002 -2003 era and I had a little start up. We were doing this automated trading stuff and we had—we’d done a lot of research and a lot of statistics and thought we saw some patterns. And I would usually talk to him and he’s like, yeah, you know Jason, you’re just doing the wrong thing. I’m not allowed to tell you what you should do but you’re not doing it right. And I was like, come on, give me something for you know—
Pete Michaud: At least point me in the right direction.
Jason Roberts: Yeah. He was like let me tell you, we make money every day. I’m like what? How is that possible? He was like we never lose money, we make money every day. We close out positions every day, there’s a bunch of traders and they were just making sick money – now they are well-known company because they’ve grown so successfully.
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: But one thing he kept saying is that and then later on, I got a little more insight. Like years after he left and he went off on his own and stuff, but he would say the first thing you do is you go out there and you start trading a little bit. You just get yourself in the market right. You’re buying and selling by hand, not necessarily building algorithms right. But you start and when you make money, you need to understand why did you make money right? Just because you buy Google now and then you sold it ten minutes later, you bought you know gold futures or whatever it was. It’s probably random right? You need to really look and start understanding at a small scale, so sort of that search algorithm right? You’re searching while just trying some random stuff like until you make money right?
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: Can I do that again? What happened? Why did I make money? Understand it and the hardest part is getting to break even while you’re not losing money, right? Just making a fair amount and I was like when you start making a thousand dollars a day, it’s a lot easier to get to the point where we make ten grand a day, but it’s really hard to get to the point without blowing out to make a thousand dollars a day.
Justin Vincent: Okay, can I bring something in? So, I wanted to talk about something that you speak about in your essays is Creativitis?
Pete Michaud: Right. Yeah.
Justin Vincent: I think it’s something that Jason suffers from; because he has been working on this product for about a year now.
Jason Roberts: No, no, no come on. He’s like painting me out in the wrong – okay if you want to paint the picture just so you can make a point go ahead but then I’m going to correct it.
Justin Vincent: Well talk us through Creativitis and how you think it’s possible to overcome it.
Pete Michaud: You know I suffered from it and still suffer from it to some degree for a long time. It was kind of the bane of my existence because I was never satisfied working. Like when I worked in a corporation, you can never make anything for the love of it. Even if you make something that you feel is good enough, they always force you to make it crappier at some point and –
Justin Vincent: What is Creativitis?
Pete Michaud: Okay, so Creativitis is the disease of perfectionists. Which is that a creative person like a programmer, or an artist, or a writer will continue to work on whatever project they’re working on forever. The reason is that, whatever project they’re working on is never quite as good as they think it can be or their vision for it is, and so they never release anything. They never show anyone.
It’s like the cliché of the novelist. The hypothetical novelist who has his big novel and has been working on it for ten years; but has never shown anyone. He has never been published and probably will never be published. Because it’s just something that he’s tinkering away at. And not showing anyone and not offering it for critique, not writing a novel and throwing it away and starting a new novel based on what he’s learned. But just continuously hammering away at this piece of creative—this creative product that will never be done because nothing is ever going to be good enough. That’s Creativitis.
And the short answer is, there is no cure. Nothing will ever be good enough. But the trick is knowing that that’s okay. Because you don’t need things to be perfect; you need things to be passable. And I talk about this in the article that – inside of this all but my retirement article I say – the stuff that we were coming out with was crap. Like last summer we had a couple of sites, they all had crappy free themes and they weren’t optimized. The articles weren’t even edited, I mean I got to editing them a little later but they weren’t even edited really. So I had typos and there is no really cogent marketing strategy, there was no strategy for ad words cause you know we don’t have any idea what we were doing with ads, but we were trying it. And so everything about it was crappy, I was embarrassed to show people, especially with my background as a designer. And I don’t think I’m a good designer. I think I’m an okay designer. I can make passable designs and I knew this stuff is crap and Steph knew that her writing that was on these websites was crap. But our crap websites were still better than what was out there.
Justin Vincent: Right.
Pete Michaud: Right. Having them out there is better than keeping them locked up indefinitely until they’re perfect; cause they’re never going to be perfect. And furthermore, even if you could make them perfect, you never even – you would never know what perfect is until you get feedback. Because people ask questions about reactive hypoglycemia, so you could go off on this bizarre tangent that you think is really important but that no one cares about. It doesn’t ever bring any kind of traffic. It doesn’t ever convert to any sales. But you have no idea cause you’re tinkering away. You think you need something perfect but you don’t and that is Creativitis and the trick to overcome Creativitis is to – it’s cliché at this point—but it’s to release something like that you’re embarrassed of.
Jason Roberts: Okay let me say something about that because, you know since Justin just set me up. First thing—by the way Justin I’m going to release it into this Alpha this weekend. So I’m going to send it to 10—
Justin Vincent: I don’t believe it. You worked for me for five years and finally it’s going to—
Jason Roberts: Thirty years, 20 hours a day. It’s amazing. I’ve been working on it mostly since Septemberish you know, hour and a half a day.
Pete Michaud: Okay.
Jason Roberts: So, maybe a couple of hours a day, alright.
Justin Vincent: it was before September, he’s telling all his stuff—
Jason Roberts: Ah that was kind of a variation and we kind of changed a little bit, pivoted and looked for something a little different.
But anyway, the point is this. I was thinking about it and I was getting like okay I’ll release it. But then I started thinking like god, I may email 20 people, mostly friends of mine, a lot of them were technical entrepreneurs or some combination. And part of me was just like I don’t want to release it because I’m not going to blow them away. Right? I want them to have go wow, that is awesome. That is unbelie- that is so cool.
Instead I just could hear Justin go, well I don’t know. I don’t really do much you know. Which sucks right? Cause you know you’re going to hear that. I know I’m going to hear that from some of my friends, who’re like oh well, I mean you know, it doesn’t do that, you got to do this, it’s like I can hear myself: “I know! In fact it will in a week!”, or like one thing is frustrating hear people tell you is that things I should do which you already knew and you thought about you know 20 minutes after starting a project –
Pete Michaud: It’s totally frustrating and that’s part of Creativitis because you do want to blow everyone away and I think everyone who does creative work has this little inner prima donna that wants to be pet and told how awesome they are. And I think that’s natural. I think it’s part of the drive of creativity but—
Jason Roberts: So I’m forcing myself to like okay I’ve just got to realize that’s not going to happen – that it’s just not important right? It’s not important that in the first couple of weeks a lot of my friends are saying how awesome it is. What is most important is that I just get it up. Like alright great Jason, good thing you got it out there right?
Pete Michaud: But let me throw this in too, the reason you think that, part of the reason you think that, the reason you desire that is because you’ve seen that in you environment, in the media. And what I want to emphasize there is that it’s an illusion. This is an example that I like to use: Twitter became popular like a year ago maybe. And everyone was talking about Twitter and it’s such a big deal or what is it, and is it something or is it nothing, and will it make revenue, whatever. Everyone was talking about it and there was this big overnight success. But twitter was started in 2006. It’s like 4 years old now. Those guys sort of labored away for three years before anyone said that hey, this is really awesome. This is cool. What is this?
Jason Roberts: Right.
Pete Michaud: There was this first version of Twitter that they released an alpha to a couple of their friends and their friends were like, what is this? This is like email… but shitty. And they labored on; they worked on it until people saw it and thought it was awesome.
Justin Vincent: You know what I think, someone who I blame for this whole concept of kind of wanting to be a rockstar and this—I’m kind of slightly saying this tongue and cheek, but did you ever hear of Kai’s power tools for photoshop?
Pete Michaud: Yeah.
Justin Vincent: That guy was the first rockstar who basically built something that was really beautiful, really functional, worked really well and he just seemed like, you know that – it just made you want to kind of emulate his kind of success.
Pete Michaud: Do you know his background? Do you know how long he was working on that? Or how long he’d been programming before he made that?
Justin Vincent: No I don’t know.
Pete Michaud: That would be interesting to know because I can virtually guarantee you—it’s very, very rare to find a story that doesn’t go like this—But Kai, you saw him at his peak.
Justin Vincent: Yeah.
Pete Michaud: And you never heard of him since have you?
Justin Vincent: Yeah.
Pete Michaud: What’s he doing now?
Justin Vincent: I have no idea.
Pete Michaud: Right, right, I mean he probably labored away on that in obscurity for a long time before anyone noticed it. And before ever laboring away on that, he probably was a programmer for 20 years doing crappy stuff that nobody cared about. And that I guess that’s part of the reason that I didn’t think that what I’m doing now was an option is that you want to go to some conference and go, yeah I invented facebook, I’m that guy, I’m the twitter guy and whatever. But I can’t. Like yeah I’m the “lots of mediocre blogs and books that you probably don’t care about” guy. Nobody wants to say that, it’s not sexy. But it works.
Justin Vincent: No, but you could still, I mean to be honest; it wouldn’t be very hard for you to go down to similar parts to someone like joelcom. Do you know joelcom? He’s a guy who is very successful, he’s done extremely well through essentially marketing. Teaching people how to internet market and just generally make money through the internet.
Jason Roberts: Yeah. But the thing is he wasn’t the internet marketing I mean Pete is actually creating value as suppose to gaming a system or something.
Justin Vincent: I will say that but having a look at some of Pete’s end products, I mean they’re very, let’s just say, they are not a million miles away from sales letter type sites.
Pete Michaud: Totally not, and I’ll be the first to admit that. The StatisticsHowTo.com is a site that we came up with that has a book attached to it. If you go read the page, its very SHAMWOW and sort of conjuring Billy Mays there saying “here’s the secret that your professor doesn’t want you to know about” and—
Pete Michaud: All that stuff it works and to me the line is not whether you’re being cheesy but whether you’re actually delivering value. And I have to say, probably of all the products maybe a dozen or two, a little more about a dozen products at this point or properties I should say meaning blog/book combinations. But out of all those, Statistics How To is maybe our best one in terms of market fit. And I know I’m biased but I believe, and I’ve been a statistics student in college, I believe Statistics How To is the best elementary statistics book that exists, ever… that’s ever been made and I have no—
Pete Michaud: Yeah. I have no problem with a hard sell that seems cheesy to somebody who is savvy about internet marketing. I have no problem with it because I know that when a student gets it they’re going to say “wow, why doesn’t my required textbook teach it to me like this?” Everyday, multiple times a day, I get emails from people saying this is. “I’m flabbergasted this – I was having such a hard time and this makes everything easy, it makes perfect sense.” The product itself isn’t gimmicky, the sales tactics maybe a little gimmicky, maybe people who know what sales letter are like or are familiar with them and have been exposed to them they’re like ah just a sales letter, it must be crap. The product itself is not crap.
Justin Vincent: This is just another example with how the world isn’t black and white there is at least gray areas. And so, and that is interesting to me and it is something I wanted to bring out to you was this aspect of how some of your sites were sales letterish.
Pete Michaud: Yeah.
Justin Vincent: They do have the body behind them and you know, given your background, like how does that kind of stick with your stall in the sense of you know, you originally wanted to be like a tech all star but you’ve ended up going down a different kind of road.
Pete Michaud: Yeah. I think I’m fine with it. I guess I wanted to be a tech all star for the wrong reasons or maybe I should say I never really did want to be a tech all star. Like I said a year ago I realized, I don’t really “like” programming as a profession and I don’t particularly want to be known as a programmer. Because I have more to offer than that or I feel I have more to offer than that; and it has to be proven. But being known as a person that uses sales letters to make his living, I’m better with that than being unknown as a person who creates crappy internet apps.
Jason Roberts: Well you know, it’s not like just saying unknown it’s all about the fact that you can be financially independent or not.
Pete Michaud: Yeah exactly and it’s an easy trade off, Jason, between am I proud of the work I do in terms of the people that I help in the markets that I’m trying to serve? Yes. Am I proud of the work I do in terms of going to some big conference and bragging about and wanting people to look at the specific stuff? No. But that doesn’t matter to me because the point isn’t to be well known for that. The point is to be able to do whatever it is that I want to do. And most people in general, especially most people my age, have almost no control over their time you know; they’re really stuck.
Jason Roberts: At 25, so let me just ask you this. You graduate college at what? 21-22?
Pete Michaud: Yeah, actually I never graduated college; I dropped out when I was a senior because of family issues. I did really well in college but I dropped out.
Jason Roberts: Were you going to school for? Is that how you ended up there?
Pete Michaud: I ended up there—well my wife lived here before she was my wife and of course true to my geeky nature, we met online so I ended up moving here.
Jason Roberts: Okay she’s teaching at a college?
Pete Michaud: Right. She teaches at a college here in Jacksonville.
Jason Roberts: Okay so you began you’re professional career as a programmer, how old are you then, 21 or something like that?
Pete Michaud: Actually if you want to be pedantic I began working for a company when I was twenty-one, yes. But the reality is that I’ve been doing sort of freelance small coding kind of stuff since I was, I don’t know, since I was fifteen or sixteen. And I’ve been an enthusiast before like pretty much everyone. And I started getting into serious, or I wouldn’t call them serious now, but they felt serious at that time; serious client-facing small to medium business enterprise apps when I was eighteen. So by the time I went and worked for Acme Corp, as like I’d like to call it, I’d had a lot of professional experience both in facing the client and in solving actual problems with real code.
Jason Roberts: Yeah. So you had a pretty good perspective on the professional programming and software development before you just got – it wasn’t like okay so I got to get a job, learn how to be a programmer, you had a lot of experience with that. So, that allowed you to sort of get – it sounds like you developed your feelings about it pretty quickly after a couple of years and that’s the point where your last consulting gig, you decided to after that that you’re going to move into a different direction.
Jason Roberts: Of writing code for other people. I’ve done a couple of start ups and stuff. And now, I have three or four clients and I’m juggling that. You know I love to program. But coding for other people is not very fun. I mean I’m just like trying to get to the point throughout in the day we’re okay; I’ve done 5 or 6 hours of billing. Now I’m going to code on my own stuff, then I’m really happy.
Pete Michaud: Yeah exactly, and part of my issue, I notice some people have this sort of inhuman work ethic and I admire them for that. But part of my issue in the past has been, I don’t feel like have the energy to work on something 8 or 10 hours that I hate, or that I at least am apathetic about, and then come home and continue working on something. I mean I always intend to do that but I never ever get anywhere and that’s like I said, part of the reason I never started my blog and I never worked on my side projects… I have them on my mind but when it actually came time to code them, I’d be burned. I’d be burned out and I think that’s pretty common.
Justin Vincent: There’s very few people who can actually do the take the side project approach. I also think it’s a combination of that and Creativitis that it just is stifling to 99.9% of people wanted to start their own business.
Pete Michaud: Yeah, absolutely. And I guess that’s why I count myself lucky that I was laid off, which doesn’t sound very lucky, but it gave me like—I should’ve just had the courage to say hey listen, I need to change what I’m doing here because it’s not bringing me any closer to my goals and I’m not happy with it. So I just need to stop and I need to take a risk and find a different avenue or a different opportunity and I was kind of forced to do that when I was laid off. And that being laid off gave me the space to breathe the space to thinking and apply my creativity to other projects and that was important for me.
Jason Roberts: Well I think a lot of times that people have started companies is because they kind of have no other choice. Or they got a situation where it’s like, okay—you got to pick out something out now, you better think of something fast. And so let’s just take it back there, I don’t think we quiet finished up the story. So we got to the point, you jump on, you know she’s making you will say a few hundred bucks a month and then you start doubling or tripling or quadrupling on a monthly basis for awhile. You start really putting in time, you guys are working full time on it and so you’ve done just one blog which is reactive hypoglycemia. Did you have a meeting like okay, the e-books are working for us, now let’s come up with other topics, properties?
Justin Vincent: How many did you have?
Jason Roberts: He says he had twelve right? Roughly twelve, a dozen?
Pete Michaud: Yeah. Give or take there are – we have about ten in the pipeline that kind of a different approach. So soon we’ll have about thirty but—yeah, between blogs and books we have between a dozen and two dozen, right.
Jason Roberts: Okay so when you started you had one but then how did you get –
Pete Michaud: When I first started was—
Jason Roberts: How did it go? How did it evolve from one to two to three? I mean was it like – what was the process for you?
Pete Michaud: We always had the idea that would be kind of diversified and before I really started working on it full time, I had set up either two or three, I think it was three, blogs and initially we didn’t sell e-books. We didn’t sell any books.
But when we first started selling books we did it through Lulu which is sort of a crappy, self-service, self-publishing outfit. And then we graduated to CreateSpace which is Amazon’s competitor to Lulu which is a little cheaper, a little more feature-rich. And then we moved to – once we started making the kind of volume that would make it worthwhile—we moved to a company called Lightning Source. Which all the— not all but most of the self-publishing companies—they contract with Lightning Source to actually do the printing.
So we’re going directly to them as publishers now and part of the deal with lightning source and the reason people don’t use it is that it’s a little more advanced. There’s no pretty book cover flash application and you have to buy blocks of ISBNs, and you have to pay as couple hundred dollars set up fee for every book. So it’s not something like a really non-technical, non-experienced person can use, but it’s better if you’re doing the kind of volume that we are.
So we kind of graduated through that and like I said, even initially we knew that we wanted to have a diversified streams so we started reactive hypoglycemia, we started Tietze’s Syndrome, we started another one. And we just sort of snow balled it from there cause we figured if each one of these only makes a thousand dollars a month, say, and a year from now each one of these blogs, after a year of existing will make a thousand dollars a month, given all the different revenue streams they have. And if we have thirty of these or a hundred of these or whatever, then we’re going to be making really awesome money. But we don’t need to be making that because all we really need is five of those.
Jason Roberts: Right. You know it kind of reminds me, there was an article that was—or kind of a blog post that popped up about six weeks ago I think Justin – didn’t we talked about the guy who’s talking about how, you just have like a thousand or ten thousand different things that make a dollar a day or something in that amount.
Pete Michaud: Max Klein, I remember that one.
Jason Roberts: Yeah who was that—what was the exact—
Pete Michaud: Four hundred projects that are a dollar a day.
Jason Roberts: So that’s a one extreme right?
Pete Michaud: Yeah.
Jason Roberts: And the other extreme is that I have one project that just blows it out and makes everything. But you’re kind of more in the middle which is like, we’re not going to do 400 but probably a lot more diversified than just one, collect the eggs in one basket. Especially since, it’s not like a piece of software that really takes years for it to reach some kind of maturity, we could say okay this thing it just – it is what it is and it works right. It doesn’t really need more cause usually most software products that people is going to pay for need to be refined and worked on and maintained for quite a period of time.
Pete Michaud: Exactly.
Jason Roberts: Blog and e-book or whatever depending on how more complex it is, it sounds like you can knock one of those out, you know. I don’t know how long it takes you a couple of months, six months whatever.
Pete Michaud: Yeah it depends on the book but yeah, you’re right. You’re exactly right. That’s part of the reason for example one thing that internet marketers like to say is that membership sites are great because of their recurrent revenue and I don’t disagree with them. But membership sites require maintenance and one of our primary goals—my wife and I didn’t get into this to start a company and spend all out time on it. We got into it to retire to work on passion projects.
Every step we’ve taken has been with automation in mind. And anything that we couldn’t automate it or would require long term maintenance or any kind of significant maintenance, we sort of shied away from. Our books are timeless more or less, maybe we’ll update them in five years from now or what have you but, our books are basically timeless. Our sites aren’t topical, they don’t need to be updated frequently. And we don’t plan to do any projects that need to be updated frequently because that wasn’t our goal.
And I guess it’s important to understand what your goal is at the outset when you start a project. So like with Justin, don’t know if your plan is a big exit or using your company to parlay it into CEO position at a different company or whatever. But I would strongly bear those things in mind and maybe even based on your answer do research about what other people had done and what their real history and their actual step by step process was to get from where they started to where they are, which is where you want to be.
Justin Vincent: Yeah. I mean I just want to be running a web app with an active bunch of customers who likes the software and it produces enough revenue for me to live on. So I can just focus on it full time rather than have it as my side project.
Pete Michaud: Right. Well let me ask you this. There are certainly other people who fit—Patrick McKenzie comes to mind. He’s the Bingo Card Creator guy and he recently went full time on his Bingo Card Creator; which again is a great example, something that he spent a long time building up, that’s not glamorous but it works for him. So my question for you Justin is how many people have achieved what you want to achieve have you talked to? You asked, you picked their brain?
Justin Vincent: Well I think we’ve had a few of them on the show actually. We’ve interviewed them and—
Jason Roberts: We’ve talked to a few but yeah I think he always have on the show, that’s actually someone’s name I’ve written down. You know I keep thinking that you know we should try to contact—
Justin Vincent: It was just like free consultancy for me really.
Pete Michaud: Maybe I should be charging you for this!
Jason Roberts: You should charge us.
Justin Vincent: We’re bringing value to you as well as you’re bringing value to us.
Pete Michaud: Well that’s a –
Justin Vincent: It’s synergistic.
Pete Michaud: Yes, synergistic, I love it. I used to work at Acme, I’ve heard that before.
I mean you’re an outlier there because most people have this pie in the sky like, yeah I’m going to build this big app and I’m going to live off of it and it’s going to be company at that. But they’ve never done anything like that; they’ve never talked to anyone who’s done anything like that. They don’t have any kind of real tangible plan to make that happen and I think that’s important and I think you are running this show have a leg up on other people.
Justin Vincent: Well it was literally because of this show that I actually started doing it.
Pete Michaud: There’s synergy for you.
Justin Vincent: Yeah.
Jason Roberts: Is that – so you have any kind of plans going for in the next couple of years and you said you have ten things in the pipeline. Is there something that you want to move beyond just you and you’re wife working on or is there something that you were more than happy to just do it at that level. I mean is that – cause here’s the thing, I mean when you just keep it with you know small like say you and your wife, the good thing about it – sounds like you can manage it and build kind of revenue stream but you don’t have any of the headache of employees, none of the complications.
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: And you have freedom because one of the reasons that you want to do this is freedom. You want to have freedom but, well, there’s tyranny from above or just people telling you: you have to do this, you have to do that, you have to be here at such time. And if you don’t, we’re going to fire you or we won’t pay you. You can’t just say, “well, I don’t want to do these things”– I have a mortgage and you know I can’t buy food or whatever, right? But there’s also that tyranny from the bottom, with a bunch of employees, and you have to manage them but if you go away, you know things aren’t getting done, things are getting screwed up, you have political problems and management problems and there’s a whole headache. And they’re sucking away your time and they’re sucking away your energy.
You have to say: what do I want my life to be? I want to spend it being creative and free.
Pete Michaud: Right. And I’ve experienced both of these extremes and you’re exactly right. Neither one of them are what I want. And I want to answer your question two ways.
First, we don’t plan to expand to the point that we have employees and headaches like that (although we do have subcontractors to do some things, like administration and bookkeeping, and that sort of thing).
But the other aspect to your question is what do we want to do and that’s kind of a broad question but even when I was little, when I was about 12 I guess, if you would ask me “what are you going to do when you grow up?”, I used to always say, partially tongue-in-cheek, but really was some kind of naïve optimism, that I was going to save the world. That’s what I use to tell people, I’m going to save the world when I grow up.
And exactly what form that’ll take and what that’ll look like and the decades that follow, I have a vague idea of but I don’t know exactly but that’s I mean kind of my direction, I want to be a philanthropist. I want to involve myself in worthwhile social causes and in socially conscious start ups also really are really important to me. They are appealing because they’re self sustaining, they don’t require donations. They’re good for society at large, and they can justify their own existence financially, which I think is phenomenal.
My answer for my wife, if I could… she has a big, soft spot for animals and we do a lot of volunteering as it is with a local animal rescue and she wants to get involved in legislating to help animals and to prevent animal abuse and that kind of stuff.
So, that’s the kind of stuff we want to focus on moving forward. And I think we’re going to be able to because we don’t have to worry where the mortgages is going to come from that’s like you said.
Jason Roberts: You know the thing I’d like to say, that I think is remarkable, is the fact that you’re 25. I mean we’re talking to a 25 year old who sounds like he’s forty.
Justin Vincent: Yeah.
Jason Roberts: Right? I mean, you really not only have you figured out a business that works, but you seem to have derived a lot of deeper philosophical understanding of why it works and what you want from it, which I think is great. It’s just you’ve done it such at young age, and you’re able to put it in words. You’re not just like, “ahhhh yeah I made a lot of money, it’s awesome. Woohoo!” Which is fine at 25 or even 30. You might not expect much more. When someone actually does achieve financial freedom and they’re young, the fact that they become sort of philosophical and share these philosophies about why things are working or what you should be doing… I should say I’m impressed.
Justin Vincent: Yeah, greatly.
Jason Roberts: And secondly, you know what’s interesting, you have two kids already, right?
Pete Michaud: Right.
Jason Roberts: You’re totally blowing Justin out of the water. I mean, not only are you financially independent… he doesn’t have kids yet!
Jason Roberts: So I mean, why are you so accelerated along this path? Not only married, have two kids, and financially independent at 25. I mean that’s what you’re doing when you’re 45. You’re 20 years ahead of the game, so how did that happen? What is it about your thinking? Or your perspective?
Pete Michaud: I think the short answer is in an essay that I wrote recently, that you may not have read but – the essay is called Is Your Face Real? And the reason for that is people ask me all the time if my patch is real—my eye patch—and the answer is, yeah but it’s complicated. It very much is real.
And the short version is that I was hit by a car when I was seven, and it profoundly affected my outlook growing up. Because I died, and I knew it, and I really felt—even though I was only seven—I felt the gravity. I’ve been given a second chance at life. Maybe even, in a way, “born twice”. I can’t waste it.
There’s nothing to be afraid of. And that’s part of the “Fear and Freedom” essay. When you’re looking at death, when someone realizes that they’re going to die, they don’t go nuts, they don’t do crazy stuff, they do exactly they would have done if they’ve had the courage to do it to begin with. They are honest with people, they’re honest with themselves, because it doesn’t matter anymore because in a month they’ll be gone. And I think I had that realization– that if someone has it all they have it when they’re 45 and they had cancer or whatever – and I had it when I was seven. I think it profoundly affected the way I think about things.
Jason Roberts: I did read that article and I you know I was wondering whether we should bring it up or not. Because in some sense it’s not important, because what’s important is what you’ve done. But I think it is really interesting and when I saw the picture, you were a little boy and you had essentially your skull crushed; I mean it was heart breaking. I was like, oh my god, because I just think of my little kid, my son, I’m like, if you were my son– I mean it’s just unbelie – it’s unimaginable. And the fact that you lived. And the fact that you wrote about a doctor who was the one who really reconstructed your skull, is that right?
Pete Michaud: Yeah. Dr. Yakuboff, right.
Jason Roberts: Who then at a certain point, waived the fees because your parents weren’t able to pay for it, and he just kept working with you, working on doing surgeries to help you fully recover, is that correct?
Pete Michaud: Yeah that’s right.
Jason Roberts: That’s just amazing. So in a sense, I mean it’s miraculous. I mean, I don’t know how much you want to tell about this story but – you know you said you died. Were you literally in the emergency room and you heart stop beating and they – or was it just you know you were just in very critical condition for awhile?
Pete Michaud: I died. And actually the doctors—I’m told this, I wasn’t conscious for this portion, but I’m told by my parents—that the doctors came out early when I arrived at the emergency room and said: listen, you need to go say goodbye because he’s not going to survive. And on the off chance that he does, he’s going to be profoundly retarded, there’s no way around that. His skull has been crushed, it’s impossible that there’s no brain damage, and that having been said, we don’t even think he’s going to survive, so you need to go say goodbye.
I died and I almost didn’t come back to life, and my parents had that realization also about me at that time. And it’s like you said, it’s this really heartbreaking sort of profound thing, but I wouldn’t—I tell to people and I stand by this—that if I could go back in time, like Quantum Leap style, and prevent it from happening, I wouldn’t. Because it’s really informed who I am, and it’s affected my entire life in a really positive way.
Jason Roberts: You know it was kind of amazing actually looking at you, it’s that—because you had that picture of you. When I first saw the patch too I thought maybe you were just messing around.
Pete Michaud: Sure, right.
Jason Roberts: Because a lot of times people take pictures of themselves, hey this happens to be one of your favorite pictures, and it happened to be at Halloween. So I never—I wasn’t sure until you wrote that article whether it was real or not. But the second thing is, I saw that picture of your – you showed when you were a kid and your face actually not too long after it was crushed is crushed and now, it’s like – that’s really amazing because you actually look like Ben Affleck. Actually you look like a movie star. I mean it’s like get a hell of a job on you, right? And your like a really – you know, you look like a good looking guy. It’s not like, oh wow, I feel sorry for the way you look. He did a really good job. You’re like it came through fine, right? Not only you look like a movie star now you’re also probably twice as smart as you were originally ¬¬–
Pete Michaud: Yeah, no I – he’s – I cant speak highly enough of him and he did incredible work. He’s definitely not a slouch. He’s not a cranial surgeon, he specializes in burn victims and hand reconstruction, which was extremely intricate. He invented techniques that I can’t fathom or explain to rebuild me because no one with my level of injury had really survived before so there’s never an occasion to have those techniques, and yeah he’s –
Justin Vincent: There’s something about your site, there are some moments where I felt slightly reminded of Tony Robbins. And I don’t know if that’s offensive or not but I don’t mean it to be. But do you see potentially some kind of a future of public speaking and motivation that type of route?
Pete Michaud: Possibly, Possibly. And I don’t take offense. I think some people think like: oh, he’s just being gimmicky. Like my about page—but you know I’ve had a lot of people comment specifically about the kind of stuff that I say, like “scorched and reborn” and all those sort of dramatic language, and about authenticity, and all that stuff.
I’ve had multiple people comment now that they wondered at first before they got to know me, whether it was true or whether it was just a gimmick. And all of them pretty much agree that it’s not a gimmick. It really is an accurate reflection of the way I think, and of my message, and how I move people to do what they’re moved to do–what they move themselves to do.
So, to answer your question, it’s possible. It’s possible that people find my story or my message interesting enough to do that, but nothing’s set in stone. I mean, if that’s the form my “world saving” comes in, and I think that’s the most good that I can do, then sure.
Jason Roberts: I don’t think being a motivational speaker, I mean I don’t think there’s anything wrong with any of that. Obviously these people do huge service to a lot of people, they help people fix their lives, and reinvent themselves, and gain confidence and control over what’s going on.
But yeah that’s why, the fact that you’re 25 and you’ve done what you’ve done, and you’ve overcome what you’ve overcome, it’s really amazing. I think coupled with the fact, what you’ve done this early an age, what you’ve been able to sort of achieve, create a pretty successful business, and all that is great. That’s impressive any way, especially at 25, but then the fact that you had struggled growing up with what happened to you I think that makes it really sort of inspiring story. That’s worth being shared.
Pete Michaud: Sure. Well I hope it helps people. That’s all I can really hope for. And I know some people kind of feel… they’re kind of snarky about Tony Robbins, you know what I mean? Like, oh, you must be some kind of a shyster and full crap, because for whatever reason Tony Robbins doesn’t speak to them. And it’s easy to be cynical about work that other people are doing. But I hope that it does help people and I hope that the people that it helps outweigh the people who are skeptical about what I am and what I write. So, just for the record, it’s authentic!
Jason Roberts: Everything that you’ve written is—none of it is really “out there.” It’s really about putting together pieces, and thinking rationally, and not letting fear rule your life, and not letting cognitive biases just lead you astray. And learning right? You know doing something, learning from it, I mean these are all ideas or concepts that are well understood by people, especially kind of people reading your blog or listening to this broadcast. I think they are also the kind of things that are always worth bringing up again and again because we have this cognitive biases, we have these struggles, we have this emotional, psychological struggles Creativitis, or fear, or Sunk Cost Fallacy, and things like that. And because we have these bugs we have to fight them everyday.
Jason Roberts: Right? Just because you read about it and you understood it 3 years ago it doesn’t mean you’re not still suffering from it, or it’s not still leading you astray. You have to everyday wake up and say alright I am not going to suffer from Creativitis. I am not going to keep fear from –
Justin Vincent: Well, it’s always like you have to monitor every single thought you have, every single second of the day, to kind of force your brain down a certain path.
Pete Michaud: You know what you actually end up doing is, I mean if you want to embark on that kind of thing, it’s impossible to monitor every single thought. But what you do is you have a clear idea of what your metrics are. And you track them at reasonable intervals, and you re-evaluate if it’s not working. Just like the business, it’s all very much related to and I think my philosophy in life segues nicely into how I developed my business too.
Jason Roberts: Yeah, right. Something else I’d like to bring up real quick. You mentioned how your ideas are in line with the Less Wrong blog, the writing in there, and it’s sort of a rationalist approach to things. What’s the guy, I can’t pronounce his name the guy from Overcoming Bias –
Pete Michaud: Eli. Eliezer Yudkowsky.
Jason Roberts: That’s right. And he’s at the Singularity Institute or something –
Pete Michaud: Yeah, that’s right, the Singularity Institute.
Jason Roberts: He has written some amazing stuff about large scale artificial intelligence systems, and all this kind of stuff. But he’s also very much writing about what you talk about which is sort of rational approach to life right?
Pete Michaud: Actually, Eli is a big influence on me to be honest. And I’ve read – he went through a period about a year or two,when he was extremely prolific. It seemed like everyday he published something, even on weekends. And each of those things that he published was so incredibly dense. It was like everyday reading the best blog post you’ve read all month, sort of. And he did it everyday. And they were long too. They’re not quippy, like Seth Godin’s stuff. They’re long, they’re developed and he did it daily, and I’m still in blogger “awe” of him. And I’m still very much influenced by his approach, and his clear-eyed, unsentimental thought process.
Jason Roberts: Yeah, I read a few of those in the past, and you kind of got me interested in going back and re-reading. One of the things I remember he wrote which really stuck with the idea of putting in an overwhelming effort. Like putting in an effort to point like your life and the life of your entire family depends on it, I mean that kind of an effort, right?
Pete Michaud: Right. That was a great concept.
Jason Roberts: And I can’t really remember the terms he put it in. But it was amazing, just thinking about it, that kind of effort. It’s completely different than any kind of effort that you normally—you’d say, oh I really put in a hundred percent. Now are you – a 100%?
Pete Michaud: Right, exactly.
Jason Roberts: Not even close—
Pete Michaud: I’m holding a gun to your head and I’m going to pull the trigger if you don’t achieve this goal.
Jason Roberts: I’m going to murder your family in three hours unless… you’re like, what would you be capable of doing in like, 48 hours? You’ll be amazed.
Pete Michaud: Right so Justin, if you don’t 50 new users on tweetminer, Eli is going to come to your house…
Jason Roberts: And kill your family.
Justin Vincent: Nice. I feel really motivated.
Pete Michaud: Amazing isn’t it?
Jason Roberts: It is, it is. He’ll set up the spreadsheet for you and everything.
Justin Vincent: You know we’ve been going on quite a while. We’ve done – coming up to 2 hours I think at this stage.
Jason Roberts: Yeah, this is going to be about the longest podcast of all time for us. But I have to say it’s really interesting talking to you, Pete. I really enjoyed it and I’d like to actually have you back again some time because there’s a lot of questions that I didn’t get to ask, and I have a feeling you know, you’re going to be writing more interesting essays that we’re going to want to discuss.
Pete Michaud: Well I’d love to do that, it was fun.
Jason Roberts: Thanks so much for coming on the show. I wish you the best of luck with your business and with your writing and yeah, we’ll be in touch. So I guess that’s a wrap. We’re out.
It's Easy When You Do It
It's easy to over think plans—getting caught in a cycle of [thinking instead of *acting*]. [Fears and doubts loom large] because they are in the present, and any positive outcome is in some far off future. In that spirit, a bit of inspiration from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (affiliate link): > We walk past ski shops into a restaurant where we see on the walls huge photographs of the route we will take up. And up and up, over one of the highest paved roads in the world. I feel some anxiety about this, which I realize...
## Planning Right: The Problem Imagining your future is usually right brained: your creative center generates a story for a future that could plausibly happen. It hits the highlights, and it puts magical arrows between them as if one event leads inexorably to the next. *Get into MIT, start a successful company with your smart roommates, and retire early to a country that you can't pronounce the name of.* **But the arrows are wrong.** They skip important chunks of the story, and you generated the whole thing *backwards* anyway. It turns out that right brained planning uses the same cognitive...