April 20, 2021No Comments

3 Ways to Tell Your Story Better

First Impressions are critical, we know this. Recently in a network I'm a part of, I participated in a cohort that lasted a month with one goal: Improve an introduction.

Whenever I've given introductions in the past, I had one of 2 problems, I'd give too much detail or I hyper simplified. My background is complex, but aren't we all? Depending on the setting, I may say that I build software or run a cleaning business or produce a podcast or write blogs. Worse than picking one of the above, I would sometimes try to squeeze in all the above.

We all want to believe that we're special. The bridge to getting others to understand what is special about us can be a frustrating one to cross, but the models I learned in this cohort helped me to create a digestible narrative for my background that feels leaps and bounds above my previous introductions in quality.

Here are the 3 takeaways from that cohort that helped me the most.

Don't let details cloud clarity.

This was perhaps my biggest problem coming in whenever I would branch beyond over-simplification and attempt a full introduction. I aim to be precise by nature and so when I'm explaining something in any domain, much less my own background, I have a natural tendency to over explain at the expense of the understanding of who I'm talking to.

One week in the cohort, we talked about a famous psychological phenomenon known as "Miller's Law", which in short suggests that the human mind can only retain 7 ± 2 details, facts, etc from an idea dump or exposure to other data. Beyond 7 or maybe 9 details for some high throughput individuals, it is not a slow decline to what we can retain and what we cannot — it's an absolute drop-off.

This totally changed my default perception that the increased description and detail added value to someone I was speaking to when in fact, it's the opposite.

Categorization = Understanding

The next thing that helped me level up my introduction game specifically was when we discussed the idea of making ourselves categorizable.

The human mind naturally categorizes people and ideas.  Rather than fight this tendency (because we are all more than just simple categories) we learned that we should use this to be able to describe yourself in a unique but understand able way.

The best categorizations happen when you take two things that don't seem to go together, but when you explain them, suddenly make you both relatable and interesting to think about.

I was able to use this idea of blended categorization to make sense of how I am a tech CEO, but also the executive producer of a podcast among other things.

  • "I build things that connect people and ideas"
  • "WAND is a mobile app to connect customers to cleaning suppliers"
  • "The Vance Crowe Podcasts connects it's audience to ideas that are 'up-the-graph'"

The clarity I achieved by doing this was orders of magnitude higher than if I had attempted to layout all the details of what I do in various domains.

Only Stories that Can Be Retold Matter

When we came to this concept in our speaking gym cohort, I loved it because it was the touch of clarity needed to create a fuller understanding of how to have a better narrative as a whole. What is it that makes a story retell-able? Vance who was leading our gatherings brought this idea to the group with the context of the different patterns for an introduction that I'm going to botch a bit by comparing to the Mandarin language intonations.

Vance pointed out that there are 4 different types of introduction that are ironically very similar to the intonation patterns above:

  1. The 'Everything is always Perfect' Trap
  2. The 'Everything just kept getting better and better' Rise
  3. The 'I woke up and it was all down hill from there' Fall
  4. The 'Root for me' Conflict/Resolution Arc

#3 and #4 are flip flopped from the above image, but the main idea is to tell a story like #4 that features a opening state that is interrupted by a challenge, then describing how you overcame that challenge and are on an upwards trajectory that those listening should root for.

For me, I opened with the broader intro I mention above but then go on to note the conflict I faced with WAND at the start of Coronavirus and how we overcame this challenge by repurposing our infrastructure to connect people and ideas in other domains.

Those familiar might appreciate drawing the comparison to elements of fiction arc here seen here:

I can tell you first hand that the ideas presented here have the potential to change how you give introductions now and forever. If you found these ideas useful, we cover them in more detail and many more in a course we created after the cohort to teach others these same ideas. You can check that out if you're interested HERE.

December 9, 2020No Comments

No, we don’t need Critical Race Theory in Compulsory Education

The Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards will go before the Illinois State Board of Education on December 16th for a vote, and onto state lawmakers should it pass. The register contains a set of teaching requirements for primary school educators, which suggests how diversity should be made to be part of the curriculum.

The proposal reads like a Critical Race Theory training mandate inflicted at the k-12 level as opposed to when entering post-high school education and career paths where it's often more prevalent. Just this year, Critical Race Theory was banned as a part of sensitivity training in government agencies and companies that would hope to contract with the federal government.

Some excerpts from the proposal:

Leading Standard b) "Systems of Oppression – Culturally responsive teachers and leaders understand that there are systems in our society that create and reinforce inequities, thereby creating oppressive conditions.

Sub points 3 - 7 really go for it — 

3) Understand how the system of inequity has impacted them as an educator.

4) Know and understand how current curriculum and approaches to teaching impact students who are not a part of the dominant culture.

5) Be aware of the effects of power and privilege and the need for social advocacy and social action to better empower diverse students and communities.

6) Know and understand how a system of inequity creates rules regarding student punishment that negatively impacts students of color.

7) Know and understand how a system of inequity reinforces certain truths as the norm.

In regards to all the above, I can't say I'm even remotely a fan of promoting this sort of political indoctrination at the compulsory education level.

This is a luxury viewpoint however, I can't pretend to know about the experiences of others. I can only reply my gut feeling that teaching people that they're at a disadvantage in society because of their background and that the systems that govern them are inherently biased against them will push a generation into the world that will seek to change an external system as opposed to the tried and true human method that's promoted our progression thus far across the board — of being the change we want to see in the world.

I liken this to the broader empathy first agenda. Promoting external empathy and seeking problems in society over ourselves is like ignoring the shadow to think of it in line with Jungian psychology. The main idea here being that the problems we see in others are often more readily available in ourselves. This is the shadow, the traits not easy to acknowledge that are likely undesirable.

By promoting the maximum tolerance of those around us while having absolutely 0 tolerance for those without this new age rendition, we're implanting simultaneously an easy out for acknowledging and thereby improving our own faults. The strength of the individual comes in our ability to act in accordance with the good in our being over our bad. Think yin and yang, you cannot remove one or the other, but you can choose a side and take action in its alignment.

Returning to the more tangible issue of teaching that society is inherently off-kilter, this is what CRTLS wants to make part of the curriculum —

Society is inherently bad. It has wronged you and it is against you. You should know this as a facet of your learning prior to entering into this system.

Teaching the next generation that a problem exists is not equivalent to teaching them the solution. Instead we should be saying something along the lines of —

YOU are a member of society, a part of the whole. The system in place has flaws but it is improving with each new generation. To continue to make it better, it is YOUR responsibility to be better.

In conclusion, I'd encourage you not to be among the lot to only point at the outside world and say, 'Get better'. Instead, look inside yourself and be better.

For more thoughts that make you think, subscribe to Conscious Repository or follow me on Twitter. I'm not always right, let's have a discussion.

November 1, 20202 Comments

100 Days with Visualize Value’s Daily Manifest

The Daily Manifest in Visualize Value's own words is — a distillation of the "best of" many different habit tracking apps, journal formats, coaches and time management systems. Everything you need, nothing you don't. Subjectively to me, it's been a habit forming tool and a system for personal accountability. You can check out the tool here and ask yourself, "Why would I pay $20 for a product I can copy from the images it uses to promote itself?" I did exactly that when I first looked at it but I dropped the practice of writing out my DM all of 2 days later.

What got me to actually buy the Daily Manifest?

I first checked out the product because I follow Jack Butcher on Twitter. Jack is the genius behind Visualize Value and seems to spend most of his time creating unique visuals to promote mental wealth as well as building things once to sell them twice. I caught a short video from Jack one day in my feed, and the way he pitched his DM was so spot on, I bought it right after the video, because he'd nailed what caused me to give it up initially after 2 days. He said something along the lines of:

"I could send you this PDF for free, but then you'd neglect it. Instead, I'm selling it for $19 so that if you do buy it, you'll have a mental/financial incentive to put in the work to fill it out every day for at least a week, and I'm confident that after that, you'll see the value and it'll become a regular practice."

— Jack Butcher (paraphrased)

He was right there too. At the time of writing this, it's Sunday, and I've already filled out my 102nd DM to guide my Monday tomorrow.

How do I use it?

At the end of the day, how you use the DM is subjective. Jack has put together a quick explainer of some of the core concepts that you can checkout here —

Aside from the concepts he highlights above, here are some of the ways I've used mine over the last 6+ months —

  • I use a printed copy of the DM and write it out in the evening before the day of.
  • I don't use the DM on the weekend. I leave this time completely open to enjoy leisure or to pursue the work of my daemon.
  • I usually do my reflections before filling out my next day's DM in the evening but often the next morning also.

My main takeaways —

With filler and background info out of the way, here's a few breakdowns of the biggest things I learned using the DM for 100+ days.

Better Grasp of Time at Micro and Macro Level

Within my first day of using the DM, I realized how little I understood how much time it actually took me to do things.

At the micro level, this was evident after just a couple days. I'd give myself an hour to do something that took 15 minutes like type an important email or mock up some social content or worse off, 30 minutes to do something that'd take 2 hours like program an improvement for the WAND app or write a decent blog post.

At the macro level, it took me a little longer to get a grasp of this but the same concept applied. I gave myself 90 days to achieve things like run 10 miles in a row or obtain 1000 followers on a novelty project, both of which took around 30 days and would have been great mezzo goals. Then again, I'd give myself 30 days to achieve things that in hindsight seem completely foolish like be conversational in Ukrainian or achieve $1,000/mo in passive revenue, both of which eventually became 90 day goals and have since been accomplished.

The DM has made it so that in the future, and on a daily basis with tasks I fill out, I have a much better understanding the time it takes for me to achieve something in a handful of different verticals.

Over Productivity → Complacency

Before I used the DM to give myself a better framework of what I should be doing at any given moment in the day, I used to bullet out my priority tasks, punch these out in the morning, and then work with as much discipline as a self-employed, ADHD individual could muster. After a few weeks of using the DM, I became self aware of a problem I knew I had before being on a regular schedule. If I have a hyper productive morning, subconsciously, I'd use this as an excuse to be less intense the remainder of the day.

The DM not only helped keep me accountable if I had a day's worth of tasks lined up to stay on track after a morning that would otherwise make me complacent, but it helped me to learn this behavior in myself. Now I usually space out my most mentally intense or productive tasks throughout the day and put some filler work chunks in between to stay engaged my whole day.

Maximize My Value

I have a new rule with anything I do, but it started mainly within WAND. If I'm doing something for more than 4 hours per day, or in my head, half of the average 9-5, it's time to build a process or outsource the work. This is probably the most abstract of the 3 concepts I'll share in this article but the one that was personally of highest value to me.

In the same vein as the first idea on time tracking, eventually, I began to understand how much time I was allocating to certain areas within my business where it was not best spent. The first for example was catering to customer service requests. After a couple weeks, I was consistently getting backed up on other tasks and determined that it was because at random, I'd get thrown off course in 15-30 minute blocks by a call, text or email to our customer support line for WAND. Individually prior to the DM, these didn't seem like much and could be chalked up as part of my day-to-day, but after a few rough days of wondering how I lost hours of my time, this became a tangible issue. We've since solved it by upping our game through automation and now I now check for requests that need my attention for just 15-30 minutes a day.

This is one of many examples and I continue apply this model of thinking that the DM helped me identify in programming, marketing or anything else that warrants my focus on a daily basis. My time is my most valuable asset, so the value I've received from the DM to be able to identify where I can save more for higher functioning output, has been immeasurable to say the least.

Sound worth it?

It was for me, 100%. I should point out that this post was in no way sponsored by Jack Butcher or Visualize Value. I mention in passing the value I've received from not only the DM, but the VV community at large regularly so decided to write this up as something to share or point people towards. If you do decide to checkout the DM, I also recommend the VV community which I've been a part of since I got the manifest. I do get a kickback if you join through that link. The ongoing signal I've received from Jack and his community through weekly office hours, models of thinking and connections has inspired much of what my day to day looks like now and especially the work I'm doing with The Articulate Ventures Network. Even this post is a example of his Permissionless Apprenticeship concept.

I encourage you to checkout both, or at the very least, hope you've consumed a concept worth the price of admission. If you liked this post, you can follow me on Twitter or Subscribe to my weekly newsletter —

July 6, 2020No Comments

Transparency Time

As @jackbutcher says, Transparency Time:

I built a business valued at over 7 figures over the last 2 years - 3 days ago to the date actually.

It cost less than, but nearly $100k.

It's time to consider early life learning opportunities outside of universities.

Even if the financial return had equated to $0 (+ it very well still could) —

I'm confident the net gain in knowledge, experience and connections will have surpassed the ROI I'd have received if I'd completed my 4 year degree at the University I dropped out of.

($216k @WUSTL)The first 6 months were a crash course on customer research and product development.

We spent days on the street in DT Denver seeking our product market fit early on.

The next months were spent building an MVP part time.The following 6 months were a boot camp on mobile app development.

I've taken university CS courses & can tell you I learned more from a $15 course on @udemy from @maxedapps & building my product hands on than the time & money spent learning undergraduate theory in a classroom.Next 6 months were a 0-1 in customer acquisition and marketing.

Another Udemy course on Google ads from @isaacrudansky helps us build the campaigns that acquired our first paying customers.

Before Coronavirus, we also attended meetups where we knew we'd find our customers.The last 6 months have been the toughest yet —

But they've been a study in team building, leadership and endurance.

Our amazing team of now 7 has been invaluable and we will be emerging from the shutdown with a stronger product and company than ever before.We anticipate publishing our v2.0 of @TheWandApp by the end of this week or early next pending iOS approval.

We also repurpose our infrastructure to build similar marketplace apps like @TecMeio and @BloThru

Check us out.