6 reflections on turning 27

I turned 27 on 24th June and decided to copy Ryan Holiday’s birthday review idea. Except he does 27 items for each year he has accumulated, and that’s a bit too much for me. Maybe one day. I used to do my own private reviews in the past, but I’ve moved to the opinion that I should try and share my experiences with the world, as some people will find them useful. I’ve certainly been guilty of benefiting from other people’s stories without sharing my own. And I’m now in a place where I’m running a successful software company, Fathom, and I know that there are people who want to hear what I have to say. So without further ado, let’s get going.

Get comfortable with discomfort

One of the better books I’ve read is Mindset by Carol Dweck. For those who aren’t familiar, the key concept is a fixed mindset vs growth mindset. Some people won’t do things unless they’re naturally good at them, whilst others focus on improving at the thing they’re doing. In my younger years, I was more focused on doing what I already knew. Why? Because it felt good and it was comfortable.

If you want to succeed in life, you’re going to need to get comfortable with discomfort. The hard is what makes it great. This is not just a movie scene, this is real life. I’m not here to say what you should or shouldn’t aim for, that is on you. I’m here to say that if you’re aiming higher than where you’re at right now, in anything, you better get comfortable with the feeling of growth. You’ll sit there working at something and you’ll feel frustrated. You know that feeling, don’t you? Well, you need to feel that and you need to sit there and smile your ass off. You need to thrive on that discomfort because it won’t last if you just keep pushing. And before you know it, you'll be at your goal. That’s what I told my wife during labour and how I got a broken nose.

Set goals properly, and keep them realistic

Let’s start with one of the most important pieces of knowledge I’ve learned. Let’s fly back to 2013, I was working on Raw Gains (my fitness application) and I had it in my head that, within 4 months, I could generate tens of thousands of pounds (this is British currency, my North American friends, not weight). Well, the reality of the situation is that businesses take time to build. Once you’ve built them up, sure, they can start to grow by tens of thousands of dollars a month, but you shouldn’t expect this out of the gate. If you set a goal such as “I am going to get 1,000 users”, you need to break it down into smaller objectives, else you’ll look like a clown. Setting a goal without steps reminds me of that South Park episode, where there's no connection between their actions & their goals.

I found success by setting small goals that made up part of a big goal. What would I have done differently with Raw Gains if I was to do it again right now? I would’ve set aside 12-24 months for building it & finding product-market fit. Even to this day, in 2020, there’s still a gap in the market for it. All the available solutions suck. MyFitnesspal is slow and awful, and the others just miss the mark in their unique way. But there’s no time for that.

Stop selling your time

One of the things I’ve been thinking about for a while, and acting upon more recently, is that I need to spend my time sewing seeds rather than trading my time for money. The big realization for me here was that once I’ve traded an hour of my time for an amount of money, that time is gone. Sure, I can invest the money I was given, and that might grow conservatively at 5-10% a year in the stock market, but there’s no other gain from the transaction. It’s a simple time for money transaction.

In contrast, if I was to spend my time sewing some seeds, those seeds have the potential to grow. And of course, I must also spend time nurturing those seeds, watering, etc. for them to grow. And to move away from metaphor, I’m talking in the context of business. Freelancing vs building your assets (business etc.).

Even at £50, £100, £400 or £1000 per hour, I’ve still lost my time, and that transaction is done. If I was to invest 100 days of my time (800 hours) into my own venture, I would not receive a large sum of money immediately, but I would have built something that could make me £100,000+ and create freedom for me.

It’s not easy to do these things. It takes a heck of a lot of time gaining experience, and then you need to get lucky. I’ve read it time and time again, and I’ve now fully experienced it multiple times. The luck we speak about with “success” isn’t just dumb luck. The simple formula is: luck = preparation + opportunity. Think about Fathom. We got lucky with our marketing timing, as lots of people needed what we made, but myself and Paul spent years crafting our skills.

All in all, my conclusion for anyone looking to start their own business is that they should start by trading their time for money, perhaps 100% of their time, and then accumulate savings. Once they have that, start increasing their rates/move to a higher paying job, and use that safety net to feel confident to seek what you need. Once you increase your income, you keep your expenses the same and save more. Then eventually you’ll be in a position where you might move to 75% trading time, 25% your business, and then you gradually transition. Oh, and you will fail multiple times. Which brings us onto the next piece.

Your first attempt will always fail

To this day, we will build a feature for Fathom and we will always redo it in some way. Our affiliates program? We spent longer planning a system than we did building the final version. Our custom domains solution? It took months of iteration and 3 attempts to get it right.

And even once you succeed, you’ll need to continue iterating if you want to continue to succeed. And hey, I’m not trying to sell you a dream here, this is my reflection post ;) My goal right now is to continue to build the best privacy-focused analytics software on the planet, so I want continued success. We’re on Version 2 and guess what? We’re building Version 3!

Being a dad is the best thing ever

I’m only 2 years into being a dad, and I’ve been very surprised by the deep level of fulfillment that has come with it. Before going into fatherhood, my stance was always that I was comfortable with both being a dad, and not being a dad. However, after being a dad, I wouldn’t undo it. Kids aren’t for everyone but my daughter rocks my world every single day.

Don’t take your parents for granted

Your parents won’t be around forever. If you have normal parents, they love you more than you even realize. Becoming a dad and feeling the love I have for my daughter made me realize how much my parents cared about me. A lot of us forget this. If you haven’t spoken to your parents in a while, and they're still alive, call them and tell them how much you appreciate them. Don’t wait for a reason. I used to read things like this when my parents were still alive, but I never understood how much joy it would bring them just to hear they're appreciated, so I didn't say it enough. Don’t ignore this. Call your parents and tell them how grateful you are for them. It will mean the world to them. They would die for you.

Be well folks.