The Official Site Of Aaron Hoos — Writer, Strategist, Investor
Category: Life and Lifestyle
The posts in this category are less about the topics I typically write about and more about what’s going on in my life: my life and lifestyle. From food to entertainment to music to poker, it’s all the stuff that I’m thinking about when I’m not thinking about business, finance, or real estate.
Earlier this month I was in New Jersey for a client’s event. My client, Mike Agugliaro, is the owner of two companies — Gold Medal Service and CEO Warrior. He hosts a regular training event a few times a year for business owners.
Mike is one of my biggest clients so I try to get out to his office at least once a year to attend an event or to brainstorm with him.
Earlier this month I was at his event — the Warrior Fast Track Academy — to hear Mike speak, make notes on some projects, and to consult with his team.
As an added bonus, Mike had two special guests, who also happen to be two authors and business experts whose work I admire. I got to hear them speak, had my picture taken with them, and because I’m on Mike’s team, I also got to meet with them outside of the event in a more informal setting.
Brian Tracy shared a lot of wisdom with my the event audience about productivity and business growth. It was really valuable and I took a lot away from his presentation. Here he is, below, after signing a copy of his book, Eat That Frog.
Mike Michalowicz is someone I’ve been following for a long time because his work and style matches mine. He founded Toilet Paper Entrepreneur years ago and later moved away from that brand to focus on his personal brand. I followed him at TPE and then was interested in his move away from that brand, which is detailed in this NY Times blog post from 2012. During my client’s event, Mike Michalowicz shared his “Profit First” strategies, which is another concept of his that I’ve been following for a while. Here he is, below, after signing a copy of his book Profit First. (I’d actually met Mike during a conference call I had with him earlier this summer but this is the first time we met in person.)
Here’s the reason for my temporary break from blogging…
My wife and I decided to move… 400 miles west to Regina Saskatchewan, a city we both used to live in (in fact, that’s where we first met exactly 20 years ago).
Relocating may have seemed like a spur-of-the-moment decision to many people but it had been a topic of conversation for a while and circumstances came together to make it a perfect time for us to move.
In July we put the house up for sale, went through the listing process in July and August, sold our house at the end of August, had a moving company move our stuff in the middle of September, and then followed a week later. (That last week was hardest… I’m not cut out to sleep on an air mattress — haha).
(Pictured below) Here we are getting into our car and leaving our beloved Winnipeg house for the last time. We had 12 amazing years in this place. Twelve years ago we said we’d never move but things change, right? (Winnipeg was good to us and we loved it there but it’s time to move on.)
(Pictured below) … And here we are about 4 hours or so into our 6 hour journey, crossing over the border from Manitoba into Saskatchewan.
We pulled into Regina Saskatchewan, and into our new home, to start a new adventure! (I tried taking a picture of that too but we were pretty worn out and 6 hours of driving made us look like crazed serial killers so I deleted the pictures. So just imagine Charles Manson and that’s basically what we looked like.)
What’s next for us in this new chapter?
I’m still writing; in fact, I’m writing more than ever for some pretty amazing clients. (You can see what I do over at Real Estate Investing Copywriter.) I’m hoping to focus a bit more on writing my own books, too. I’m also using the opportunity to evaluate what’s essential in my life and what’s inconsequential — so I can do more of one and less of the other.
It’s an exciting time in our lives… can’t wait to see what this next chapter holds for us!
My “forties” seemed so far away when I was a kid. Looking back from today’s perspective, life has raced by in a flash.
Don’t worry; this isn’t a blog post where I bemoan getting older or I get all introspective or whatever. I’m actually going to talk about something else: growth, evolution, and change.
MY PERSONAL DEFINITION
It starts when I was a kid: For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. Other kids wanted to be astronauts or firefighters, I wanted to write.
Every chance I’d get, I’d write. My family and teachers humored encouraged me with it, which I suspect is probably how most kids develop skills in anything. For example, whenever my family played Scrabble, we’d write down all the words played during the game and then I would go write a story with all of those words in it. And a high school teacher let me skip all of those little English writing assignments if I wrote a book by the end of the year (I did). There are many other examples, too.
As I got older, though, the reality of what I could do to earn a living as a writer started to come into question. Book authoring was (and still can be) a who-you-know industry; and journalism wasn’t for me (I tried it and felt like an ambulance chaser). Copywriting wasn’t even something I realized existed (which is probably my biggest regret — that I didn’t start studying copywriting until well after college).
Anyway, my point is, I only ever wanted to be a writer. I worked my ass off and I am proudly living my life-long dream today.
All has been good since I started writing full time. Sure, there were some lean years early on but I’ve built enough skill and reputation that things have been pretty good.
But things have taken an unexpected turn lately, in a way I couldn’t have predicted: business has been REALLY good. Almost too good. So good, actually, that it’s a problem.
THE PROBLEM OF GROWTH
For years, my business grew steadily and predictably. But in 2013, after I made some tweaks to my branding and services and my prices and my target market, BOOM — my business started growing exponentially. This year it hit a point where it was too big.
I should have seen the signs throughout 2015 but by December 2015 I had SO much work, regardless of my higher rates, that I was turning away many people. And it was starting to impact my clients, too. At the beginning of 2016, 3 of my biggest clients each came to me and offered to put me on 100% retainer — essentially “buying” 100% of my time. And when I turned them down, they all suggested I think about expanding my business by hiring junior writers because they had so much work to send me and I couldn’t keep up.
And here’s where the problem lies…
… there is a cluster of mental obstacles that prevented me from hiring other writers to do my work:
I’ve hired an occasional writer from time to time and was never truly happy with the results.
In a previous business I was a manager in charge of a team and I didn’t love it, and later I was an editor-in-chief of a magazine and didn’t love that experience either.
I’m a very fast writer with specialized knowledge of my industry, so in the time it would take me to assign a project and then edit it afterward, I could have written the content myself.
Perhaps the biggest challenge: I’ve always defined myself as a writer… the person who sits at a keyboard and creates copy… I was afraid I’d be giving that up to become an editor (and editing other peoples’ work is a task I don’t love doing).
These were hurdles. I could ignore them for a long time (years) because it never really impacted me or my clients.
But starting in December, and growing in intensity in the first quarter of this year, I’ve had to make a change; I was my own bottleneck and it was well beyond the crisis point. I may define myself as a writer but I have clients and they need to be served so I’m rethinking how I run and grow my business.
AM I STILL A WRITER?
I’m building a team. I’ll continue to do what I do (writing, consulting, etc.) but I’ll be rearranging my business to work on some of the higher level stuff (and the higher-end copy and consulting) while the smaller stuff gets handed off to a team member. In fact, as I write this, I’ve hired 2 writers and have a short list of 2 more that I will likely hire shortly.
It’s not going to be easy because I’ve spent nearly 41 years defining myself as a writer and right now it feels like I’m giving that part up. (Okay, I’m sure I’m not fully “giving that part up” but it kind of feels that way right now.)
On the other hand, ever since I made the mental shift to grow my business in this way, and I started reaching out to other writers to hire them, I am thrilled by new opportunities that have presented themselves to grow my business in ways I wasn’t thinking about before. I have a number of new ventures that have come to the forefront in the past couple of days because of this, plus I also see the possibility of maybe being able to take a well-earned vacation (sometimes I probably should do more of but always resisted in the past).
I’m a little scared because last year at this time it certainly wasn’t where I expected to be in a year. On the other hand, we have to keep changing and growing and this could very well be the next step in my evolution.
I don’t fear change; I love it. But I also want to find a way to remain aligned with my goals and vision for my life and I’m embarking on the next step of a venture in which the path is less clear and the risk of misalignment feels very high. But I’m taking the step anyway.
Slack. Asana. Voxer. We live in a time of amazing software that connects us and allows us to communicate for business.
… but is it good?
And is it better than email, which many are saying it is?
Well, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeonly old man, I’m not convinced we’re in a better age.
I’m experiencing inbox fatigue — not fatigue from my email inbox but rather fatigue from the sheer number of inboxes I now have to manage.
THE EARLY DAYS WERE SIMPLER…
When I started my business (well, restarted my business) over 10 years ago, I had basically 3 inboxes:
Email was my primary inbox and in those early days I also used it as a project management system. I would accept projects in my email, work on them on my desktop, and then deliver them back through email.
And my phone — people would call and if they had to leave a voicemail then I’d get back to them.
These first two were my primary inboxes.
I also had an account on a site called Guru.com, which is a job-posting site that people would use to hire freelancers. I ran a bunch of my projects through there as well, so it was technically a third inbox (although those projects were automatically emailed to me so I could still monitor my Guru account in my email inbox).
So basically 2-3 inboxes.
…THEN THERE WAS INBOX CREEP…
Over time, things changed: There was the concurrent development of the growth of my own business as well as the advancement of technology.
So more clients, more complex clients, and more complex technology meant more inboxes to pay attention to…
More job boards (like Guru… including oDesk, Elance, etc.)
Client’s internal/proprietary project management systems
I also got my own act together and started managing my projects in another system instead of email (I tried a couple different ones but really clicked with Evernote, which I still love today).
It was a lot, and growing, but also manageable.
…AND NOW THERE’S INBOX OVERLOAD!
But today it’s become even more complex:
I have several clients using Slack, several more using Asana, and several more using Voxer, on top of the systems I’ve already mentioned above.
Yes, these all serve different purposes (some are communication-centric, others are for project management), but the bottom line is: they are all inboxes.
In short, I’ve gone from running a business with 2-3 inboxes to running a business with dozens of inboxes, sometimes multiple inboxes for just one client.
And it seems like we’re coming out with new inboxes all the time. Slack is relatively new, for example, and it’s touted as an email killer. Not surprisingly, several clients have jumped on board to use Slack instead of email. This will continue and it will grow as the next Slack and the NEXT Slack and the NEXT NEXT Slack is invented.
I’M NOT TURNING INTO AN OLD MAN — I HAVE A LEGIT POINT!
I swear — I’m NOT turning into a curmudgeonly old man. I realize that the level of client I now serve probably requires more complex communication and project management systems, and some of these systems provide value that email did not (such as versioning control). And to be frank, my business is far more complex and financially successful than in those simpler 2-inbox days so I definitely welcome the added features!
It seems like we’re in an era of “anti-email” — where communication is being done in more specific, more robust software that is more attuned to a single purpose.
But this new era of communication and project management causes me to wonder: is it better?
I don’t think it is.
In fact, I think this new era of anti-inbox communication is actually hurting us, for the following reasons:
1. We’ve reduced emails but we haven’t reduced messages: We once had inboxes that BURST at the seams with hundreds of emails flooding in every day and that was overwhelming.
(In fact, I still have a few clients with whom I have frequent “Replay All” email conversations between 4 of us, and if I miss a few emails while in a meeting then it takes a while to catch up.)
I understand that the sheer volume of emails is exhausting. But here’s the point I think people are missing: we’re not reducing the number of messages we once had; we’re just spreading them across more inboxes.
So instead of one big and daunting pile of emails (which is admittedly overwhelming) we have several small piles of messages in email, text, Skype, Facebook, Slack, Asana, Basecamp, Voxer, etc.
2. We are now paying an “invisible” price for this. We think we’re reducing email but we’re not — and now we’re ALSO paying a “switching cost” to check all of these different inboxes instead of just one. We now have to sign into several different inboxes to check those inboxes, communicate, etc.
3. We still use email for “important” things. Well, I don’t know about you but this is the case for me and my clients. We communicate on projects through all these various inboxes but whenever someone wants to raise the importance of something, they send an email. So email is still valued as a way to communicate but it’s become almost a place to indicate priority.
4. Even the anti-email mindset still benefits when there is only ONE inbox. It seems like people want multiple inboxes for different things, depending on the situation. They can have project management work in one set of inboxes and communication in another set of inboxes, etc. There’s this implicit idea that a single-inbox email is inefficient and old-school. Yet, how do you stay on top of all the notifications from each of these new and diverse inboxes? If you’re like most people I know, you do so through the notifications on your phone: each inbox has an app and each app notifies when there’s a new message. So all we’ve really done is take the single inbox value out of email and put it onto our phone. (But we still pay a “switching cost” to go from one app to another).
I THINK WE’LL SEE A SHIFT BACK
There is a lot of value to these apps. I use them and I like them. For example, I’m a big fan of Voxer. And Asana is growing on me (although it feels like a lot of its features were crammed in as an afterthought without a ton of user-experience consideration — IMO).
I think we’ll eventually* see a shift back to a single inbox in the future. We might not call it “email”. I predict that we’ll have some kind of inbox/dashboard/gathering-point, where all notifications will come into a single place from everywhere allowing us to review, sort, prioritize, and then launch into the right app.
… and this single inbox/dashboard/thing will need to be device agnostic so it works everywhere — on our mobile devices (replacing the mobile device itself as an inbox) and also on our laptops (for those of us who use them for work).
(* “eventually” = I’m not sure when. It’s not going to happen tomorrow. It could happen this year but I doubt it.)
My mobile device is working just fine as a notifier but I’d like something on my laptop too (so that I can download files I need to work on, etc.) and I’m hacking something together with my Evernote inbox, email, and IFTTT. But it’s sketchy.
If you are a developer looking for a project, I think this is going to be huge. People think they want an email killer but what they really want is one place to gather EVERYTHING. Right now we’re using our mobile devices to do that, but that has limitations. What we really need is an inbox that is like our email inbox right now (everything in one place) but doesn’t seem like email… and from which we can review, sort, filter, prioritize, and manage all those messages from all those inboxes… and to be able to access that anywhere (mobile devices, online, desktop/laptop, etc.)
In the meantime? I assume we’ll just keep piling on the apps every time a new supposed “email-killer” inbox comes out. And I guess we’ll just use our mobile devices to ping us every time we get a message.
Eventually we’ll get tired of it and do something about it.
Join me on this journey as I wake up early (or try to!) and share my successes (and failures) with you. Plus, I’ll share tips, tools, and strategies to help you wake up as early as you want to.
HERE’S WHY I’M DOING THIS 5:00 A.M. CHALLENGE
I’m frequently asked by people why I’m challenging myself to wake up at 5:00 AM… and I’m asked this especially by people who know me and have known that I used to keep really late hours.
So here’s why I’m doing this challenge: I’ve never been a “morning person”. For most of my life I’ve stayed up late, woke up late, skipped breakfast, and defined myself as a “night owl”.
And as a writer, that tendency really showed itself in my daily work: I’d frequently stay up late to finish projects.
Unfortunately, this created a couple of problems: First, I sometimes wouldn’t even START work until the rest of the world was winding down for the night, which messed up my social schedule, my workout schedule, my eating schedule — you name it! Second, my wife has “normal” hours so I didn’t get to see her as often: She’d sleep while I worked and then I slept while she went about her day. She was very forgiving about it but I knew it wasn’t cool.
Then I did a 30 day challenge to wake up at 5:00 AM everyday. It was challenging at first… and then it was awesome. I loved it and I immediately discovered that I was QUANTIFIABLY more productive by waking up in the morning and working than if I worked the same number of hours at night. Plus, I was healthier and had more free time… it was amazing. (Specifically: I was 4 times more productive by working from 5am until noon than I was by working from 9pm to 4am, which was pretty typical for me.
Unfortunately, that change didn’t stick. As much as I loved waking up early, I had a crazy summer of traveling and deadlines, so I defaulted back into my less-productive and less-healthy patterns of sleeping late and staying up late.
So I decided to restart this habit in my life but this time to do it for a longer period of time — 100 days — to try to embed the change more deeply into my life… and along the way I would record my progress to help me deepen the habit even further.
INTRODUCING MY 5:00 AM CHALLENGE — DAY 1
So here is the first video from Day 1 of that challenge…
These videos will provide not only an ongoing account of how I’m doing, they’ll also be some accountability as I share the days that I’m doing great… and the days I’m not doing so great! You won’t always see me at my best! But, if you stick with me, you’ll (hopefully) see progress and maybe even get inspired to wake up early yourself.
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s what I would recommend:
2. Read my blog post How I Mastered My Sleep To Become More Productive, where I talk about the research I did into the science of sleeping and waking up. This popular post summarizes a lot of the lessons I learned and applied to change how I sleep.
… And if you decide to participate in a similar challenge, give me a shout-out on Twitter (@AaronHoos) because I love to hear about people who are inspired to do the same challenge, and I’ll do my best to give you some encouragement, too!