Living by Doing

I'm a single founder working on improving my business and myself.

15. October 2014 21:59
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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Working while on vacation feels wrong

15. October 2014 21:59 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

I am currently on vacation. Five days together with my wife and daughter having friends over for dinner and arranging play dates for the daughter.

One thing that always happens when I am on vacation, when it is weekend or Christmas is that I get inspired to do new things for my TSR business.

The act of relaxing, not having to juggle a gazillion queries, customers or employees leaves enough brain cycles to spare that my idea part fires up and start generating ideas to implement.

I guess it's part of what is necessary to be an entrepreneur, to always be inspired and get ideas by reading, talking, walking and even sleeping.

The problem is that not long after I start getting these ideas I become unhappy and sad, not that it is not okay to have those feelings (it is okay!) but it has been annoying and frustrating for me for a long period that I could not just relax and enjoy my family and the company of friends.

Today I figured out why I get those feelings, it is because:

I am ashamed that I would rather work than being together with my family.

I am ashamed about not being present enough.

I am ashamed because I have high expectations for myself and my role as a husband and as a father.

My expectations demands me to be present and ready to play with my daughter all the time while also being ready to talk to my wife and of course cook dinner clean, be the perfect host etc. etc.

Did I ever mention that I am an overachiever?

Did I ever mention I run a consultancy business with 5 employees?

But I like to work on my TSR projects, they give me energy and happiness - they give me the energy to keep on, they give me a place to try out crazy stuff and to be me 100%

the next problem is that whenever I open my computer, I am assaulted with 'important' messages and problems that needs to be put fixed. So to use an hour or two on my TSR projects, and myself, implementing a new idea or trying out a new feature feels wrong.

Very wrong.

However, I have to work on taking this time for myself, because taking this time off for myself while on vacation (and at work) is what keeps me happy and free from stress and depression.

Getting ideas and testing them out is what motivates me internally, as much as much as being a good husband and father does.

Doing work that is internally motivated makes me happy, relaxed and much better at being present when my wife & daughter wants to show me their latest drawing/invention/idea/etc....

6. October 2014 21:43
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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Thanks to a fellow Micropreneur

6. October 2014 21:43 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

One of my fellow Micropreneurs, Christoph Engelhardt just posted his second monthly income report online at his blog http://www.it-engelhardt.de/ detailing his linksspy.com endeavour.

I must admit that it is some of the bravest writing I have read from any in the self funded entrepreneurial scene.

It is one thing to write a monthly income report when the ball is rolling, when the idea is spreading like wildfire and you are able to work on you project full time.

It is completely different ballgame when you are not!

Christoph is working full time in a “normal” job; he is doing some freelancing work and building linksspy.com “on the side”. If I remember correctly, he was enlisted in the military recently and had to put the programming on hold.

This has not deterred him from pushing on, and now he post about it online, and not always about the progress, but also about the setbacks and how an error from his side halved his perceived MRR.

For me who are so lucky to have a thriving business; making a living from a passive income stream, while running a consultancy that is doing fine, it is humbling and scary to imagine not making more than a couple of hundred bucks a month.

At the same time, it is inspiring to realise that we all start at that level, no matter who we are, and each time we start over, we start from zero.

Thank you Christoph, for sharing and for helping me remember that it is ok to make zero as long as you keep pushing the project forward.

I will use this realization and push forward on my spacetimehq.com project that I have not done enough on because I was afraid.

Afraid of failure, afraid of it not being right, afraid of not being worth it.

 

PS. After reading Christoph’s blog post, I created a new feature for my watermark software that allows you to add a 3D embossed text to an image, something I have dreamt of creating for months if not years.

So for the last time, thank you Christoph, for being brave and being you!

21. September 2014 11:47
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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How I fought my founder’s depression (And how you can do it too!)

21. September 2014 11:47 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

Five years ago, I gave up and ran from the company I had built.

I did not get much with me when I ran, a computer and a few customers, just enough to survive.

After a two week vacation, I went back to work, although "work" at the time meant three hours a day.

I did not have more energy a day, because I was truly burnt out, depressed and stressed out of my league.

Recently Rand from Moz wrote about his depression and he touched ever so slightly the subject of shame.  

The reason for mine and many others depression can be found in shame, as Rand also writes, “That depression, I believe, stems from shame. I was and remain, ashamed of myself” 

Shame is a powerful feeling that easily takes control you and your actions. 

It is a feeling that is so hard to live with that people split their personality to get away from it. 

I have found that the only way I can demolish my shame, the only thing it really despise and die from is light. 

Therefore, to get out of a shame spiral you have to do what is the hardest of all thing, talk about what you are ashamed about. 

This is hard, because what you are afraid of in the first place is for someone to figure out what you have done of shameful actions, and now my suggestion is for you to talk about it! 

You have been fighting for (days/months/years) to keep you shameful actions hidden so that the shame would not become real and now I am telling you that you have to talk about it to get it to go away!? 

(I know where your thoughts are going right now, as a true entrepreneur who makes a living of fixing stuff and finding a way, you try to figure out a way to avoid this, but trust me, from 11 years of experience, I have not been able to cheat shame) 

This is why so many others and I keep on doing shameful actions for many years - to avoid shame. 

Yes, to avoid the shame we do shameful actions. 

Think about that for a while! 

It is with deep insight and good reason that one of the confucian virtues is "a sense of shame"

My shame was mostly about not being good enough and not doing enough – and the weight of all that shame made it impossible to work more than ½ hour a day when I had it worst. 

I was at work 8 hours a day, but I only did real work for 30 minutes each day, the rest of the time I did a lot of stuff that lead to more shame. 

I tried to hide that I was not working (Lying is a very shameful action), I took on a lot of menial tasks that I used a lot of time on (Procrastinating is also something that when used like this is a shameful action) and I would always pick a fight over doing work (Fighting is a shameful action) 

Can you see the pattern? I believe it very easy to spot, I was ashamed of myself, to hide that fact from others I started doing shameful actions, this lead to more shame that I used more time to hide etc. etc. 

Spiralling out of control in a self-sustaining and ever increasing shame spiral, you end up depressed, stressed out and possibly as I did contemplating suicide to just get it all to stop. 

I do two things to free myself from shame and you can do the same! 

First off, understand what you are ashamed about and start talking with others about it. 

This will help you to realize that those who respect you will have sympathy even when your actions are shameful. 

In most instances, they will even tell you that it is ok to do what you did or that they do it themselves and understands you. 

Enter onto the scene “the Mastermind group”. I have written about it before, a Mastermind group is 3-4 people whom you meet with regularly and talk about business and private life. 

The most important aspect of a Mastermind group is that what is spoken at a Mastermind group stays at the Mastermind group, so this is a place where you can test your stories before telling it to the world (or your spouse, parents or others very close to you) 

The other thing I do to avoid being ashamed is to be more myself, because when I am myself I do not do shameful actions. 

This sounds easy, but in reality, it is hard, mostly because after 11 years of not being me I had forgotten how to do it. 

I had to rediscover who I am and what I like to do, I had to figure out my inner beliefs and core values. 

The more I understand this, the more I can be me, and even though I do not understand the connections entirely yet, this leads to less shameful actions and more inner peace.

One more thing

If you are as depressed as I was (or more) I will recommend seeking professional therapeutic help, I did and it did help!

Also staring at yoga, Taiost Tai Chi (www.taoist.org) or another gently workout will help you get some energy and help to heal you.

Also, eat right, drop the fast food and drink only water (and coffee, because I still do :)

Lastly, remember that you are not perfect, I am not perfect and that “Perfect” only exists in the movies.

17. September 2014 09:39
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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How to motivate through transparency (Even though it is scary as hell)

17. September 2014 09:39 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

More than ever before, new companies started are more transparent than ever, publishing their numbers online and talking a lot about how they do their stuff.

How come not all do this, how can it be that most will not even let their employees get access to these kind of information’s, or any other relevant information for that matter.

Because some might say no, some employees might choose that what you do and what you stand for is not what they like, and you might be afraid that this employee is important for your business to survive.

It is that simple, but hard to fight and work against.

When business fight against the transparency they keep secrets and becomes like a light bulb painted dark that cannot help or spread its light on its employees or customers.

I have been wondering how that could be and I finally realised that it is insecurity and fear that makes us become translucent and finally solid black.

Fear of not being selected, fear that employees or customers select another vendor, fear that the next customer or employee is the most important one.

When (if) you shed your fear you will be able to be more transparent without losing (important) customers or employees.

When you are transparent as a company you let it be up to your employees to decide if they want to stay and work for you, based on your stance and opinions. Those who chooses to stay will have done so for internal reasons.

When you get there, where your employees go to work for internal reasons you have reached a major milestone, because internally motivated people stay healthier, produces more and is happier.

Research in internally motivated people shows they are less susceptible to stress and depression.

This means that if you create a transparent IT company, you will be able to help alleviate stress and depression among a group of people who has a bad track record of being stressed and depressed.

On the plus side (phun intended) you will get motivated and productive people who will work harder for less money (remember they get their internal pay by being able to choose) while being healthy and without stress and depression!

Who do you think creates the better and more creative solution?

What do you think creates most trust in your employees?

8. September 2014 17:24
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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As you probably have noticed, I have not blogged for some time.

8. September 2014 17:24 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

First it was because I was on vacation, then I thought it was because I had taken a break, but now I believe it was because I was unsure what the reason for this blog was, why did I write?

If it was to get readers I am doing a lousy job since I get around 1-2 visitors every day, and I have been doing zero to get more, even though some part of me wants to have a million readers the part of me that has to write the blog couldn’t really care.

This made me wonder what the part actually writing got out of this; some of the answer is a place to let thoughts get out of my head. The process of writing and rewriting a blog post helps me get some of my thoughts straight and document where I am and what I am doing.

I have slowly come to the conclusion that I am writing this blog for me, to help me find my way in this strange world, and to document what I am doing. Then you might ask why blog, why not just write a diary, but the accountability of a blog is necessary for me otherwise I skip it too easily.

Since the last blogpost I have gone through some major internal and external changes that has taken some time and energy to getting used to, this has drained me for energy to the extent that blogging was a task that slipped out of my “must do” list. The fine about this is that it made me reconsider blogging and made me realize that I actually got a lot out of blogging that I otherwise might have missed.

I feel like a different person now compared to who I was before the vacation. My motivation is more internalized now and for the first time I have noticed that it really pisses me off that what I have created might not survive. This has made me fight for our survival in a much fiercer way than I have ever done before, but it is taking its toll on me.

The real life panda update had roots going deeper than I initially thought. It was not only a question about money but also a question about the work we do and the way we deliver this work to the end customer. Luckily, everything is something that is fixable, and the fixes are simple, hard but simple.

4. August 2014 22:08
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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Growing from the pains inflicted by a real panda.

4. August 2014 22:08 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

My consultancy business has grown and we are now ready for a new level of customers.

It all started when a real life panda hit me, this forced me to think hard about my business and I came to the following conclusions.

1. I love my consultancy business!

2. I love my employees

3. I love the solutions we create for our customers.

So I had to figure out what was wrong and what we could do better, to grow our business organic and quick, the findings was not obvious but luckily I had four weeks of vacation to ponder the questions and come up with answers.

The payoffs of the changes we have made are more instantaneously than I would ever have believed!

Today we delivered the first solution made since the panda hit us and we delivered on time and more than promised, to the customers surprise and great delight!

I cannot wait to hear the feedback from the customer, and to be honest, this is probably the most proud I have ever been of something we have made!

What we have done differently is as profound as it is obvious and simple.

Simple, not easy though!

I have used the metaphor of a golf player standing at the tee whacking the ball down the fairway.

Previously each part of a project was not intertwined into the next, like a golfer who moves the club a fourth of the swing and the lets go of the club and let it tumble to the ground. Then he picks it up to continue the swing until he hits the ball where he once again let go of the club and once again picks it up and ends the swing.

This way of doing projects is very unsatisfying for the customer and us. Now we follow through, never letting go of the club. Even more we will continue to follow through on the swing after the ball has been hit, this is important for a golfer since the end position of a gulf club has a big impact on the direction and length of the drive.

The same is true for our projects, after we deliver the technical solution, we have to continue our support, educating and helping the customer translating all text, getting images for the website, and even further on, helping the customer with google, SEO, SoMe, advertising, cutting edge ideas, split testing and much more.

It is not enough to create a technical sound solution, or to be the master of design.

You have to make the customer love you and your solution by smothering them with love, help, support while listening to their needs and desires.

You have to follow through and help them with everything they are unsure about and kill all doubt and fear before it becomes a fire.

If you do all this and whatever else that pops up along the way you just might be lucky enough to create something special for the customer, and if you are lucky they might even think it is special enough to tell their friends about the magical company that actually delivers, on time and above their promise.

16. June 2014 16:37
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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The feeling you get when you do work that matters.

16. June 2014 16:37 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

It is this intense feeling of satisfaction that permeates your entire body, In contrast, normal work can feel dull and boring.

The hard part is to realize that you can only do work that matters from time to time and often only in shorter periods than other work.

This is like saying to a junkie that he can only get his substance every Monday and only half the day (Often the junkie wants it now and all the time).

I am a “doing work that matters” junkie and I am learning to live with the long periods where I do work that is interesting, helping others but that not really matters.

So how do you get to the point where you are doing as much work that matters as possible?

First thing to do is to figure out what matters. What work do you like to so without being paid and without getting anything in return?

It has taken me many years figuring out what matters to me, I looked for the recurring theme I could spot from the times in my life when I felt I did something meaningful and something that really mattered.

What I realized was that I like helping others to become more and to help them build their self-confidence.

After you have figured out what recurring theme in your life makes you satisfied and feels like something that you would really miss if you were to live without

Then you have to figure out how you can use that in your work life, how you can somehow translate what you like creating (for free) into something that adds value to other people’s life!

Because if you like doing something that no one sees any value in you first have to create a sense of value from your work, and even though the reward is higher, I believe you can shortcut the process.

You must figure out how your work can add value to others life, again in the example of me I add value to others life by employing them and helping them level up on their personal journey.

In the process, they will help me create value to our customers by creating wonderful solutions that solves the customer’s pain, perhaps even because that is what matters to them?

Status

Again a week without much work, I am running some split test on the page but my kid had her 6'th birthday so I took the day off to celebrate her :)

 

19. May 2014 21:45
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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This weekend I was in a bad mood, apparently for no reasons.

19. May 2014 21:45 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

I realized Sunday that it might be connected to the state of the watermarking software and the general feel and quality of the product and the code I ship.

I made the connection because I booted up my machine to work on a new feature, and from the time my IDE was ready until my mood dropped radically there only went a few minutes.

You see, even though the software is working as people expect, there are many aspects of it that I am unsatisfied with. The UI is not intuitive, it is way too cluttered and the code is messy and hard to maintain, slow at some point and amateurish at others.

The messy code makes it hard to get anything done on the UI because everything takes a long time to fix and at the same time it is so unsatisfying to work on something that has a quality that is lower than what I believe I can write that it almost hurts me physically to start writing on it.

Working on the software is like looking into a time traveling machine, the code that is 4 years old has clearly been written by a person (me) that did not have the same energy and overview when programming.

This makes it even harder working on the software, because I have to look at my younger and more uncertain self and forgive myself for all the things I did wrong could have done better.

The nice thing is that when you succeed in forgiving yourself, it is often simpler and quicker to fix past mistakes than you would ever have believed – and when you re-release the software with the new code you might even feel a new feeling – pride, of what you have done and your accomplishments!

It is all about small steps, moving one foot in front of the other. It do not matter how small the steps are as long as they are completed and another one is taken, this way you will eventually get to a better place.

So I will turn on my IDE now and improve the software a bit more today, and a bit more tomorrow and the day after and the day after until I am proud and satisfied with every part of the program.

Of course, this do not mean that it will be “perfect” and that there are no parts where I could improve. What it means is that every part of the software will be as good as I can make it now, and that I will probably have to improve it in the future again.

Since I am trying to play the game to have fun and to be happy (as opposed to win and get others to be losers) I will enjoy working on it while I am and enjoy doing other stuff while I am not.

What I am working on and playing with at the moment is what level of code and UI I am proud of, because I believe that when I am proud of what I do it will shine through to the user and potential buyer.

Status

The numbers are down again, had some rough google days, and my position on many secondary keywords has dropped.

But the conversion is down too and honestly I have no clue to why that is, but perhaps my UI really needs improving to turn up the conversion?

 

12. May 2014 19:15
by Anders Thue Pedersen
0 Comments

How I stopped being a master procrastinator and started being motivated

12. May 2014 19:15 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

Being motivated (enough) to beat procrastination has been a goal for me the last 6 months.

I have been a procrastinator for as long as I can remember, sometimes I procrastinated most of the day and sometimes I only did it a little every day. My procrastination has been driving me nuts lately because I really wanted to use my time doing good stuff and move forward.

I have been reading a lot of books and blogs about motivation, procrastination and how to get things done.

For a long time this did nothing, I did not understand how to translate what I read into actual doing something different.

When I started this blog it was mostly to stay accountable and keep me moving forward after MicroConf and it did help me do just that, at the same time it has done so much more because it made me understand that beating procrastination and staying motivated isn’t something that you do as much as something you believe in.

I know that a lot of motivational coaches and positive thinkers would say that you just have to think positive thoughts or look into the mirror and say something positive aloud – and it is not that doing stuff like that don’t help you move to another place, it’s just that it’s not the only thing you need.

What I have discovered is that what you need mostly to stay motivated and stop procrastinating is to stop trying to win the fight against procrastination and not trying to beat your lack of motivation.

It is not a fight and it is not something that you can win over or loose to!

My procrastinating is much less now and I have stayed more motivated for some time.

I believe that it is because of at least these reasons:

  • Writing this blog, this way I have been able to go back and see what I did last week and previously and thereby not forgetting what I have achieved and the progress I got
  • Plotting my revenue, conversion, visitors and number of orders, this visualized the progress and I can extrapolate into the future
  • Asking customers about my software, even though I have been getting some really hard to read emails (think horrendous, horrible, cheating, thief, bastard) I have also been getting some really nice emails from users thanking me for solving their problems making me more aware of the value I add to their lives and that it is a valid piece of software I make.
  • Being in two mastermind groups with people I look up to and respect and being told (again and again, as I am a bit slow) that what I do matters and is a good thing.
  • Reading and talking about motivation until I understood that it is not a game you win or lose, but a way of living where you play and have fun every day understanding that it is not about winning now but about getting up and doing a little more a little better every new day.

The nice thing is that if I can beat procrastination and be more motivated, everybody can – when I had it worst, I worked for around 30 minutes a day.

The downside is that it hard, hard work, mentally hard and every time you believe you have beaten it you will be pushed back into the arena until the moment where you give up and stop fighting and start having fun.

Status

I believe I have found the error that made my conversion jump up and down - I had configured my webserver to tell browsers that they should cache everything for 7 days, so every time I changed something on the website users would see a strange website for 7 days.

I hope it is fixed now and my conversion/revenue will be more staple in the future.

I have written 4 articles and has gotten my first visitor on one of those, and as always I am working on new features for the software and improvements to the website.