2014 Goals: 3X KickoffLabs, Travel, Read, Write, & Simplify

What if you could triple your income, work less, & travel to spend more time with your family? It’s possible.

2014 Water

Triple KickoffLabs monthly recurring revenue. Over the last year we grew MRR by 73%. Our work in 2013 went into building a product that’s now ready to handle a much wider set of use cases and greatly increase the lifetime value of a customer. Follow us in 2014 to see exactly how.

Expand our international work-life integration adventure to two months. In 2013 we spent exactly one month living and working in Ireland. It was extremely rewarding. That month even ended up being one of the best for business in 2013. We’re going to take what we learned and expand this adventure to two months in 2014.

Read 12 books. I feel like I replaced a lot of crap TV in 2013 with crappy social media. Did staring at my TV get replaced by staring at my phone? I’m sure I’m not alone in that feeling. The quality of media you consume has an enormous impact on the quality work you produce.

So far so good. I bought a Kindle Paperwhite and I’m 27% of the way through the Steve Jobs biography. The best Kindle feature… not having Twitter and Facebook apps.

Write and publish a book. My goal to write more in 2013 just wasn’t inspiring enough. Having a huge target… a published book that generates revenue… is extremely exiting and motivating. There’s an english major in our family so you’d think this would have already happened. Guess I’m going to have to pick up the slack here. :)

Continue to simplify. Last years challenge still applies with some bullets.

  • End 2014 with less “stuff” than we started with. Continue selling and donating things we don’t wear or use regularly.
  • Simplify my garden. The last couple of years I’ve converted our front yard into a vegetable/fruit garden. Last year we weren’t around to enjoy the late harvest anyway. Just berries & quick growing cherry tomatoes this year.
  • Digitally I’d like to reduce the amount of photos in our library by at least 50% by removing the crap.

Outsourcing 2014

  • I’m looking at you 2014 Christmas lights. :) Gabe and I are going to design what we want on an iPad and have professionals install them because “I’m worried daddy is going to fall off the ladder and I can’t catch him.” – Said Gabe.
  • Leverage a meal planning and preparation service. I love cooking… but only so many times in a week.
  • Get a pool guy until Gabe is old enough to clean the hot tub. Make sure he isn’t too attractive.

If you wondered how I did on 2013 goals you can read this. What are your goals for 2014?

You need to quit living someone else’s dream

It was the year 2000. I graduated college and got a job. My mom was so proud. I worked for Microsoft. If was wasn’t going to be President or play Major League Baseball then the next best thing was to work for greatest software company in the world. And it was an amazing opportunity.

But there was a tangible divide in the workforce as the company shifted from 90′s style hyper growth to blue chip stock. On one side there were people that had been there for 10 years before I started in 2000. These people had the financial freedom to take exotic vacations, own yachts, enjoy 6 months at a time off, and work only when they really wanted to. This was a small group, but it felt like they had absorbed most of the companies wealth. You ran into them all the time.

On the other side were people like me. People were just starting new careers. People who had been told the next 10 years would be just as good. You knew it was a lie. We were the 97% and in some ways it reflected the nation on a higher scale.

The economy had started shifting. The first sign came before I even started working. I knew people whose job offers were revoked after the 2000 bubble hit the tech industry. I’ve had (bad) managers work hard to convince employees they are lucky just to have jobs… so enjoy whatever little we pay you.  The message was that you weren’t going to have it as easy or as good as the generation of workers that came before you… even in the tech industry.

There are some larger trends at play here. Trends that effect every job across all industries.

The rich get richer.

wealth_distrubtion

The message to me is clear to me. You know what side of the curve you want to be on and it’s not the 95% part who’s take home pay is worth less and less every year. If you can’t beat-em… join em. Living someone else’s dream can provide you with an educational opportunity in the short term. But long term it only helps the owners jump up another percentile in the graph. Note: This video does it way more justice than my chart.

College Means Less

Going to college isn’t a good bet. College graduates used to be harder to find for employers. In the last 30 years we’ve made it easier for more people to go to school, but job growth hasn’t kept up. I’m sorry, a degree in Ancient Roman History doesn’t trade as well as it used to.

Organizations are Getting Flatter

Software is making it easier for managers to keep tabs on a larger number of employees. When I started at Microsoft it wasn’t hard to find a lot of “silly leads” with one or two reports. This meant more opportunities for people to “climb the ladder” and earn higher salaries. That’s going away across all industries. This means, for the employed, the average salary growth potential is slowing down.

The World is Getting Flatter

jobs_not

“Those jobs aren’t coming back to the US.”

That’s what Steve Jobs told President Obama when asked what it would take to manufacture the iPhone in the US. As the worlds population starts to catch up on education and infrastructure they are going to consume a higher percentage of employer spending.

Even Software Is a Factory

Don’t kid yourself if you work in the tech industry. Building software is a manufacturing process that just happens to involve electrons. It can be done successfully anywhere. Not just silicon valley. I worked on software, at Microsoft, that was designed to reduce the barrier required to write complex applications. It gets simpler every year.

The Rest of the World is Hungrier than Ever

I once spent a week in Shanghai working with some amazing Microsoft teams and I was amazed at how dedicated their culture was to success. They were also laser focussed on educating people for the technical skills they were going to need to compete in the next 20 years… not on degrees that mattered in the previous 20 that are being eaten by software. I don’t see that same level of universal desire and focus in the US culture.

9-5 means a lot less than it used to. 

how_work

Putting in your time is just that. Putting in time. Hard work is just that… work. Sadly most companies still believe that “butts in seats from 9-5″ works best. They are wrong. It’s not success anymore. It used to get you somewhere. You’re now required to work smarter. You’ll have to. Like I said, the rest of the world already is.

This doesn’t have to be bad news. You have a choice. 

You think CEO pay is unfair and you’re not being promoted? Promote yourself and try your hand at being CEO. At least start acting like the CEO of your life.

  • Worried that someone overseas can do your job? Hire them to do it.
  • Your education doesn’t cut it? Start learning online.
  • Feeling like you work in a factory? Stop building the solutions and start designing them.
  • Not motivated? Start designing the life you want and get hungry for it.

You get to decide what rich means to you and how you get there. It’s cliche’, but the old rules are more like suggestions now and soon they’ll sound like a strange, twisted, fairy tale.

My choice was (and is) to take advantage of these trends rather than let them take advantage of me. I really had no choice. I had to make a plan, learn new skills, save money, and take a chance. Maybe I could achieve my personal definitions of “rich” as well as move up the curve a bit.

What’s the worst that could happen? I’ll see you right back in the 97% pile… and try again.

Outsource your life in 2013

Last week I realized that we had to take down the Christmas lights. I actually like decorating for Christmas, but I loath dismantling it all and boxing it up again. I had two choices.

  1. Leave them up all year.
  2. Get someone else to do it.

Ok, I had one choice. I posted the job on TaskRabbit and within a couple of hours I had multiple bids. I reviewed the bidders and the winner was at my house the next day tearing down the Christmas lights for $60.

I think he did a better job than I would have boxing them and he was a very nice retired Microsoftie that just liked taking odd jobs “to meet interesting people and enjoy the outdoors”.

I even consider this a financial gain because of what I did during that time. While my “rabbit” was working I updated our admin stats page on KickoffLabs to give us more insight who our best customers are and how they are doing. I enjoyed the work and I’m sure this knowledge will earn me more than $60 in the next year.

I’d tried this more a few years ago using Craigslist… but never got that far. Managing the “flakes” on Craigslist was too much of a job. Services like TaskRabbit make this smoother by adding reputation and a bidding process.

More outsourcing in 2013

I’m determined to make this work personally and professionally. We already outsource cleaning with a regular maid service, enjoy Amazon grocery delivery, farm delivered produce each week, and have a modern milk man for eggs and dairy.

I’m sure this has benefited our marriage way more than we’ve spent on it in the last few years. And to be honest, most of the delivery prices for food, milk, and local veggies are very reasonable… especially when you factor in trying to take two kids to the store.

Randomly here are some of the next things I’m working to outsource.

  • I need to make having virtual assistant(s) work. I think I’m mostly intimidated by the process of finding and training a good one.
  • Do less around the house. Every husbands dream right? I’m going to change “honey do” to “honey done” more regularly. Gretchen doesn’t need to know how. :)
  • Researching our big trip to Ireland to narrow down our options.
  • Business research and content generation for KickoffLabs.
  • Design or development work that takes me too long, is not the best use of my skills, or something I care to learn.

I have a natural fear that the work won’t be as good as I could do it. That might be true in some cases, but I think I’ll find for that for any job there is someone out there more qualified than I am. I know getting the Christmas lights out next year will be easier than the tangled mess I usually leave.