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.

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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

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“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. 

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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.

I wish I’d thought of that. Operation Starbucks.

I should have thought of it first. I walked into Starbucks one afternoon. Ok. Ok. I do this every afternoon, but something was different this time. Something really neat was going on.

At a large wooden table sat a man with a laptop. I’m sure you can picture that. But this man had a stack of Starbucks gift cards laid out neatly to form an arrow. The arrow pointed to an iPad that was being used as a sign. The sign read “Test my App and Coffee’s on Jim.”

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I’ve never been shy of giving people feedback. I don’t have a great filter and before KickoffLabs made any money free coffee sounded good to me. Jim saw me coming out of the corner of his eye and stopped what he was doing to introduce himself. He was working on an educational iPad app to teach kids basic math. He asked me to play through a couple of levels and tell him what I thought.

He got an earful. I hope it was useful for him because I enjoyed the free coffee. It was such a great idea. I watched him go through the same process with about 10 people including some parents with kids that afternoon. So, for $50, he got a ton of great feedback and only had to drive to a local Starbucks. Everyone should do it, but if you do…

1. Don’t forget to get email addresses for people that come by. They could become customers and evangelists.

2. He never asked if I’d give him money today for it. He got feedback from someone he didn’t know would be a paying customer or not. He didn’t even ask me if I had kids.

I’ve also heard this works just as well before you write any code. Use the cards to get people to take a survey and validate some of your assumptions before you build anything. I wish I’d thought of it sooner.

A GoodDay for this Developer

Most days I’m thrilled if GoodDay buys me coffee, but there are some days I get an even better feeling… the one you get from helping people achieve their goals.  Here are some recent reviews and customer quotes that people have left about GoodDay.

Goodday is a great app. Has huge potential. Very useful for keeping track of goals but also tracking moods, virtues I’m working on, and vices I’m trying to overcome. – Jay

An excellent tool. I use it repeatedly throughout the day with GREAT success – I’ve reached some pretty lofty goals lately. This app has helped greatly. If you want to stay on track with an aspiration or two, or more, this lets you quickly and easily track your efforts. I had started a googleDoc to do this and when I found it I bought it immediately. It’s simple, clean, clear and incredibly easy to use. In addition, I’ve submitted a number of enhancement requests that I hope will be considered. Even without them, in just two weeks I’ve managed to maintain a high level of awareness and consciousness of my personal goals by updating my assessments throughout the day.Aid my efforts to do my best and achieve my goals? For $0.99 cents? Yeah, I’ll buy that for a dollar. – msg_man in an app store review.

I am a writer and Good Day is a useful calendar and motivational tool.  It helps me track my morning writing hours. – Alexandra

It’s great to be helping people that also believe change comes from simple daily goals.  And yes, now that OneDayApp has shipped there will be another GoodDay update that takes more customer suggestions.  In the meantime… what do you want to track and change?

Don’t forget to set up your Facebook page ASAP

I’ve talked to a few business lately that ended up finding squatters on their ideal Facebook URL.  Yeah, it’s the new “AOL Keyword”, but it’s just expected these days.  Same thing with your twitter name.  It’s just not as simple as securing your domain name anymore.  But there are more reasons to start early on Twitter and Facebook than just avoiding squaters and beating competitors… Here is the first mistake I made with KickoffLabs and Facebook:

Facebook does not have a way to associate URLs with pages. 

This means that http://kickofflabs.com can never really be tied to http://facebook.com/kickofflabs.  There are separate likes, fan counts, and facebook insight reports. 

When I initially published the landing page for kickofflabs.com I set the Facebook like button to the kickofflabs.com URL.  I’d also set the following meta-tag in the page header to “link” our page with our domain:

    <meta content=’200576366633574′ property=’fb:page_id’ />

Along with other Open Graph protocol information.

The assumption was that this would tie the URL to the domain.  But that’s not the case. As of today you have a choice:

1. Have people like your URL and manage the interaction there.  Which is more complicated… but you can do this and have your URL publish stories to Facebook just like it’s a Facebook page itself. 

2. Have people like your Facebook page and publish stories from your URL.  This option is much more user friendly if you are just getting started… but keeps the relationships tied to the Facebook URL instead of  your site. 

You can use the URL linter on Facebook http://developers.facebook.com/tools/lint/ to see what’s going on by entering something like http://microsoft.com and comparing it to http://facebook.com/microsoft.  They’ve push most of the fan activity to the facebook page…but over 5k people have liked the microsoft.com URL directly and generated social activities with it.

So what did we choose:

Since we had the Facebook page http://facebook.com/kickofflabs  we decided to just have our like button link to that instead of our own URL.  The upside is that it’s easier to manage publishing content to fans on facebook.  The downside is that the facebook insights on our domain (for liked blog entries, visits, or someone just sharing a URL directly by posting a link) are now separate and we have to look at both of them if we want aggregate data.

Back to the moral of this story… before you get too many people sharing your URL you want to decide if you want them liking that or your Facebook Page.  So secure your Facebook page ASAP and you can push people to congregate there.  Thankfully only 14 people had shared our URL when we made the switch and most of them had also liked our Facebook page. 

Do it on camera to increase your satisfaction

IMG_1904I highly recommend working on your next project like your being filmed for training.  Better yet… actually record what you are doing and try sharing it.  You’ll learn a TON and you’ll focus on fit and finish in ways you never thought about before.

Working on the OneDayApp series has dramatically improved the quality of what I’m doing with my next application.  There are all sorts of corners I would be cutting, steps I’d be skipping, and personal education I’d miss out on in the final product if I wasn’t building it partially to teach people. 

It can be valuable at any stage.  If you record your code you’ll find yourself caring about things like variable names in new ways.  Once you have something to demo you’ll see all sorts of rough edges that you’d never see if you just used it.  There’s simply nothing that beats actually “going to the tape” to get a glimpse of what other people see. 

GoodDay Lite Released – It’s Free!

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Over the weekend I released a “lite” version of GoodDay.  My price experiment over the holidays showed me that the difference between free and 0.99 is an amazing barrier. So, if someone was holding out for another price drop… you can get the free version now.  It’s ad supported.

The paid version will continue to progress with new features starting at the paid level first.  There are also no ads in the paid version of GoodDay.  Other than the ads the only difference today is the ability to sort your goals.  This debuted on the paid version and will remain a paid feature for a while.

Thanks for all the support so far!

GoodDay 1.2 Now Available with Sorting

Goodday 1.2 was released to the app store yesterday afternoon.  It’s awesome and I’ve been using it for the last week.  Yes, I’m biased, but there is no simpler way to track life’s important daily goals than the 5 seconds you’ll spend each day in Goodday.

The image gives away the big feature added was the ability to sort your goals.  This was by far the biggest request I’d received for the app. Hundreds have updated already… have you?

Other small updates include making it easier to edit longer goals and performance improvements. iPad users can also rejoice now that the app will actually work on your device.

What’s next for Goodday?  Right around the corner is a less featured lite version that’s ad supported.  For paid users I’ll also be looking into some new goal types and a feature that lets the app tell you if you can give you a running comparison of this week to last week. This way you can use Goodday to tell you if you can afford to slack or not as the week goes on.

Want to learn how you can build apps with your existing web development skills?  You can pre-order the “From Web to App Developer in One Day with Phonegap” training series today.

Great Review of GoodDay I found because AppAnnie.com

It’s nearly impossible to see reviews as a developer of your app… especially when reviews come from international stores.  So I recently wired up a service called appannie and it digs into all the stores to show your app ranking and reviews.  I learned that GoodDay was the #1 app in Hungry in December for health and fitness.  I also found this review…

Ottima!!!!!!! – Anche io avevo avuto la stessa idea, ma la vostra realizzazione è geniale!!! Ottima, semplice, leggerissima! La app che cercavo!!! GRAZIE!!!!

Which, if you believe google means…

Excellent !!!!!!! – I also had had the same idea, but your achievement is great! Very simple, very light! The app I was looking for! THANK YOU!

It’s little nuggets like this that I think keep you going in the early stage I’m at.  Thanks.

Next someone could build an App Store that actually lets me connect with these people in more meaningful ways.