Some real talk.
I've been completely lost these last few weeks.
It's been one month since I left my job and I feel like I don't have much to show for it.
I don't know what it's been about leaving my job that has caused me to lose some momentum. I think part of it was that what was driving me to build Blurt was the strong desire to leave my job. Building Blurt and focusing on it after work was like building an escape pod. Now that I've ejected, I don't know where I'm headed. I've escaped, but where to?
The good news is I do think this period has been necessary. I think I have a good sense about what I should be focusing on next, but it's been rough. It's essentially been a lot of learning about running a business. I've read a ton—highly recommend books below—but it's caused a bit of analysis paralysis. Maybe it was necessary, I've had some great realizations, but it's time to put these learnings to work.
4/ I smashed three books recommended to me.— Corey Gwin (@corey_gwin) October 5, 2018
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Personal MBA by @joshkaufman: https://t.co/KeTlfOh7od
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The E-Myth Revisited @MichaelEGerber: https://t.co/eZ7eTKDOok
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ War of Art by @SPressfield (Amazing! 👌 #FuckResistance): https://t.co/o6UYmzXmZt
Shipping and More
I've quickly learned that shipping product is just one part of building a business. Shipping is critical. It's tangible and noticeable, but there's also a lot of other work to do: customer support, responding to strangers/inquiries, educating self, contemplating strategy, prioritizing work, etc. I also try to be a decent boyfriend, family member and friend. So I'm trying to do all this, figure out what the hell I need to do and still ship.
It's never ending. I never feel like I'm doing enough. I constantly fear wasting time working on the wrong things. It's been exhausting. Hence, the lost feeling. I think this new level of work load and learning how to filter out the noise and focus on what's most important has been tough for me because it's all new to me. I'm starting to learn how to do it, but it's been pretty rough so far. Hopeful I start gaining clarity.
Now, naturally, two months after launch, users have churned. Lots of the users who signed up from PH were curious to give Blurt a go given its attention. I don't think all of them were necessarily Blurt's probable purchasers and some have realized writing just isn't for them. But, there are a number of people who have stuck around, have been incredibly supportive and continue to use Blurt. So it makes me feel there's something to Blurt. Something to not give up on.
I need to continue to engage the sticky users, figure out how to keep them happy and find more like them. I don't feel I've done anything yet to realize that. I'm really, really disappointed in myself in that regard so hoping I get my act together in the coming days. I have a good sense of some engagement and retention features I need to build so I just need to get to work. So this month will likely be a down MRR month for Blurt. I think I know what problems I have so hopeful I can turn it around in November.
I'm also slowly realizing what Blurt ultimately can be for others. As a friend recently helped me realize, "Blurt helps you think." I'm going to spend more time figuring out how to better position Blurt in that purview and see how that resonates with the world. Maybe it's more of a journal. A thinking tool. The writing app space is already incredibly competitive. Established writers have their tools and spaces, but I think there's potential to help more people realize the importance of writing as a thinking tool. It's an interesting opportunity to educate and help others take advantage of the power it can instill.
Why write?— Corey Gwin (@corey_gwin) October 18, 2018
Writing is thinking.
Thinking clearly helps us act effectively in the world.
Acting effectively helps us win the battles we undertake—whether in the world or our own minds.
If we can win battles, we are unstoppable.
Writing makes us unstoppable.
50% of Time on Traction
I've also realized, particularly after reading Traction—highly recommend—is that I need to dedicate ~50% of my time to marketing. The PH launch drove a decent amount of traffic to get things rolling, but if I'm not continuing to market Blurt, no one will know about it. You can build the most amazing product in the world, but if no one in the world knows about it, is really the most amazing product in the world?
The initial viral loop experiment I had built into Blurt (publishing from private links) doesn't appear to be a big driver of traffic. People already have their own newsletters, blogs, Medium accounts, etc. So, I need to figure something else out. I intend to make it easier to publish to those platforms with maybe a widget or links back to Blurt. I've also taken some time to learn about SEO and identified a strategy I'm starting to implement.
I'm also kicking off an interview series I'm calling Writer's Block. I'll be interviewing writers of all sorts and sharing their tips on how they get through the writing process. Authors, journalists, bloggers. I've got a few interviews lined up. Curious to learn why and how they write and hopefully learn some interesting insights and tips. Hopeful it will have value for others and drive some traffic to Blurt.
I have had some distractions too. Maybe they're not distractions, but in the process of launching a business, lots of people hit you up. Lots of people want to know who you are and see if there's ways to work together. Often times there isn't. It's hard to say "no" to all these new characters because I never know what could happen. I've had a few phone calls with educators, people who run writer's workshops and even a few interesting new potential projects to work on. I had a serendipitous meeting of local writers in San Diego at a cafe and spent a few days sharing Blurt with them.
Nothing has yet come from all these talks, but it has been educational. I learn a lot from others and it opens my mind to possibilities, but, all that thinking takes me away from focusing on Blurt. I'm learning a lot about networking. I'm hopeful yet something will come and hopeful I can better learn how to focus without shutting off connections to the world.
Get Over Myself
One other big thing I've done this last month is some significant introspection. I mean, when you leave to start a business you start realizing so many weird things about people and life. When you have a job and a side-project, your vision is so focused and narrow. Maybe you focus on your unhappiness, your job that distracts you from what you think you want to be doing, etc.
All those concerns blind you to the rest of the world. Once your perspective changes from that narrow focus, you see the world anew. You realize what businesses really are—rigorously implemented structures to help others accomplish tasks. Why people really have jobs—comfortable structure for their lives. What things you really care about in life—is it money, comfort, purpose? It's weird. I thought I knew these things, but I didn't really see it until I saw from the outside with a new perspective. It's been eye opening.
Also in this process of going solo, I've realized what's driving me. I think I've become too self-absorbed. It was a tough admission, but I think it's been significantly holding me back. I'm not caring enough about other people, my friends, family and customers! I'm learning to focus more on other people in my life and in the world. It's weird, we think we care about our customers—after all, why did we build this product for them? But what we actually get caught up caring about is that they buy OUR product. That they are happy with what WE built. That focus on ourselves is a huge distraction. If we really cared, we would be ensuring that we truly understand their problems. We sacrifice our time and stability to keep other people happy. It's a different way of thinking. It matters that we do it, but ultimately isn't about us. The product isn't what it is because of us, it's because of the customer. Anyone else could have built it too.
Instead, I know I've been so concerned about making a mistake, failing and making money to stay afloat that I've paralyzed myself. None of that matters to the world. Sure, family and friends care that I'm happy, but that's not how business works. You have to create TRUE value for the world and then in turn, the world returns back to you proportionally what that value is worth. So now I'm trying not to care too much about myself now. I mean, I'm staying healthy, mentally and physically, and doing the things that keep me stable, but that's all so I can do the best for others. It's a small micro-mental change that I hope will help me: Focusing on others, not myself.
“Doubt kills more dreams than failure”
I've had some significant moments of doubt on Blurt too. I've contemplated starting other projects, but the truth is, I don't think all the gas is out of the tank yet. I still have some marketing, SEO and retention and engagement features to try. People in the world are continuing to sign up organically. Customers are sticking around. Yes, there are holes in the bucket I need to figure out how to plug.
All this work is just overwhelming me and I want to change gears and do something fun. Something new. It'll be easier if I'm more passionate about it right? But the truth is, I'll end up running into the same problems. All this is work and it's not fun, but I need to remind myself why I decided to do this. I need to learn how to do this hard work so I can achieve my goals. It's also made me appreciate more of what I've accomplished. I mean, when I started this year, I just wanted to make $1. Now I'm having these problems. I should be so grateful.
It's also made me appreciate my long term goals in life and really know them. I'm hopeful I continue to realize the internal desire more and let it motivate me through the grind. Running a business solo is a bit like trying to get fit, sometimes you don't want to work out, but if you want to get in shape, you have to. So you do it. And after you do it, you feel amazing. That's what running a business constantly feels like. So, constantly in this battle of, "Do I do something else or do I need to suck it up and keep going?" I think right now I keep going because there's still gas in the tank.
Exercise, If Nothing Else
I think this is why I've also started exercising more. I run three to four times a week now—in the morning. I'll climb two times a week at the climbing gym with the girlfriend—they have a co-working space so that's been great. There's something great about starting your day after a work out. You're pumped, the juices are flowing. It's an early win to start your day. You don't want to run, but you do. You feel jazzed so you move on to the next battle. It then becomes almost necessary because you realize how much it helps you. Joe Rogan describes this well.
Money is Distracting
I've also started to feel the new pressure of not having an income. I've been fortunate to have a decent income through my life—that is what has afforded me to take this leap. But now I have no income. Blurt doesn't pay the bills, yet. I'm incredibly fortunate to have the money to afford me this time to work in this way, but it's a completely new kind of stress to get used to. You'd think it would motivate me, but for some reason it's debilitating at times. I want to truly believe if I continue to focus on delivering value to the world through Blurt that I will be taken care of. I'm trying really really hard to believe that.
I suppose it's good to have my back against the wall a bit, but it's also dangerous. I don't want to be desperate. I have plenty of time, so I need to appreciate it. The first month is over so I have a sense of how long my runway is. I can't focus on it too much because it'll slow me down. Chasing money is a distraction. The focus is on creating value.
Losing is Winning?
So, that's what I've been doing this past month—figuring out what to do next. I've had a bit of stage fright. It's awesome that people took notice of Blurt, but I've been self-absorbed, concerned about making a stupid next move.
Not to discount my stress, it's real, but I need to get over it. There really can be no excuses. I am the only one that can do anything for myself and personal desires. Excuses are unnecessary obstacles. And, if I truly care about creating value for the world, my personal qualms need to be settled. Ultimately, it's not about me, it's about others. If I fail, it's because it's necessary to learn what not to do. There's some irony in that.
I suppose the past month could be chalked up as a failure, but now, having written all this, it feels like a win.