Hi, I'm Frederic.

Web Developer & Entrepreneur
blogging about life and programming in Node.js+React.

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4 reasons for slowing down on the grind and enjoying life

Every now and then you’ll have moments in your life here it feels way more difficult to to get focused and work. You try to force it but still end up procrastinating. It’s almost impossible to get in the flow, get more that an hour or two of straight work.

I think possible reasons for that are, in my case at least, a new environment to adapt to, lack of routine, a bad diet, being in between two projects, no really motivating/interesting project, you could surely uncover more…

Here’s the thing: you shouldn’t be that situation, make the best of it instead. Not fighting it will even help you get your productivity back faster in my experience.

  1. There is no time like now. You wont get to relive that week, month, year, decade so, keep that in mind and enjoy yourself. Worrying about the future or regretting the past wont lest to a great future neither a nice past to look back to. Plus, traveling and many other activities are really not experienced the same at 25 than at 45 or 65 so, don’t always push back and just do it.
  2. Spend time working on other spheres of your life. Work is not everything, there is more to it, and, saying you are working “for your family” doesn’t mean you can omit spending real time with them NOW. Those personal relationships with your loved one, kids, best friends is something that lives on the most important resource you have: time. Without it, they die, and I am telling you, no work, how ever fulling is worth loosing a dear one. And when I say “other spheres” that includes taking care of your health, making time for a good diet, having hobbies.
  3. Balance will make you perform better in everything. Countless researches shown that exercising, working normal days (not more that 10ish hours), having diversified activities, eating well, makes you time working way more productive that otherwise. I see no disadvantage here, you live a more healthy and fulfilling life while doing better work.
  4. Slowing down is normal, and you will spring back soon enough. The important thing here is not to fight those less productive moments. Sometimes it’s because something else in your life needs fixing or simply more attention. Sometimes it’s because work is not that interesting. Let it flow normally and I guarantee this wont be permanent, you’ll will spring back in hyper focused and productive mode sooner than you think.

My Housing Situation

Nowadays I always try to consider all my options, especially including the uncommon ones, even more when it comes to lifestyle choices.

At the moment I am torn apart in terms of choosing a place to live from. I have quite a few options, some common, some uncommon, some expensive, some cheap, some classy, some less desirable. I hope it gives you ideas of what is possible.

Let’s explore some options you might be faced with:

  • Rent an apartment in a Canadian city center (Montreal)
    Price: 410 — Comfort: 610
    Advantages: Developed city, your own apartment, affordable (~900-1100$CAD/m). Personally: I know the city and have friends there.
    Disadvantages: Can’t cancel 12 month bail easily, not many travel destination close without crossing the ocean.
  • Rent an apartment in an eastern European city center (Warsaw)
    Price: 610 — Comfort: 710
    Advantages: Developed city, your own apartment, can travel easily to the whole Europe, cost of life can be cheaper than in the West.Personally: I get to learn more Polish.
    Disadvantages: Getting pretty costly, again, commit for 12 months renting the place.
  • Take AirBnB’s where I want 1 month at a time
    Price: 710 (can vary) — Comfort: 4
    Advantages: You get to see many cultures, there are some nice AirBnB but I still not like owning the place, you don’t have fixed commitment, travel to new places as you wish.
    Disadvantages: No stability can be exhausting, difficult to get something cheap that also looks nice in most Western cities, not that comfortable as you constantly feel you are living in someone else’s things.
  • Stay in hotels suites /w a kitchenette on long-term stay prices
    Price: 1010 — Comfort: 8
    Advantages: You live the high life/feel jet-set. Suites are really nice, they often include cleaning, internet, access to a gym, front desk 247. No commitment. You get to see many cities. Often really well located in cities.
    Disadvantages: Extremely costly (for my means), north of 3000$/month. Tiring to always move. Feels really temporary as, well, it’s an hotel!
  • Buy a small apartment in the greater area of an Eastern European city (Warsaw)
    Price: 510 — Comfort: 910
    Advantages: Best value for the money. It’s an investment, not simply giving you money away. Good for permanence/stability. In Europe so nice for travelling to neighbouring countries. Really nice to live from as it’s yours you can renovate and furnish as you like.
    Disadvantages: Long term commitment (I guess you could sublet). A bit less fun than living in the center. You still pay for it when you make a trip elsewhere.
  • Stay at parents or friends place
    Price: 110 — Comfort: 310
    Advantages: Really cheap.
    Disadvantages: Often not close to the city center, often not even in a city you’d like to be in. At best temporary. Doesn’t feel like home. You don’t want to bother your hosts with your presence for too long.
  • Camping in state parks, sleeping in your car or tent
    Price: 310 — Comfort: 210
    Advantages: Pretty cheap. Makes you see tons of amazing landscapes. Access to outdoor activities.
    Disadvantages: Finding WIFI is your constant quest, or, stay in 4G range and pay a bunch! Living conditions/standards lower than when living in a house for sure, but I can deal with this, I think. Eating personal hygiene occupies a good part of you day. You feel isolated and lonely pretty quickly.
  • Living on trains /w a monthly pass
    Price: 310 — Comfort: 110
    Advantages: Not costly at all. Can be fun at start. You get to see many cities. You can meet many people every day. You see nice landscapes in the viewing cart, if there’s one.
    Disadvantages: You are always siting. Personal hygiene is more tricky. Your food choices are limited if you don’t get off often. You don’t really build any stable friendships. You can get bored of it quickly, I guess.
  • Living in planes and airport lounges
    Price: 110 or 1010 — Comfort: 510
    Advantages: Living the jet-set life
    Disadvantages: Far from a permanent living situation. Rough on your body. You must be a hell of a travel hacker to pull it off. Still no kitchen and stable friendships.

I am still debating and researching many of there. I might do an update post when I settle on an option.

Building a SaaS business is 20% code, 80% ...

As I am a developer first and foremost I can testify for myself falling in the trap of thinking naively: “I’ll just code up that great idea that would solve my current pain, 50 hours later, launch it and there it is, I have a business! Recurring revenue, here I come.”.

Sadly, this is quite far from reality, and, I hope that by going through, even just the marketing material, of educational content like The Lean Startup, Traction, Starting and Sustaining, 7-day startup, Good to Great, Zero to One, Hooked, …, you get a sense for the size of the task at hand and the diversity of skills required to bring a SaaS business to profitability.

I think, having read many resources at this point, that the key factor to success is to start with the long term in mind.

Forget overnight success. Setting the expectations so that when times get rough you will double down and keep on holding to your roller coaster cart’s handlebars. This has the nice side effect of making you forget about investing time in those “smaller with less potential” ideas or ideas that don’t really interest you personally.

So, about that blog post’s title, what else is there to do except code in building a SaaS business?

Well, we could start with audience and validation, maybe one of the most critical part to a startup doing well. Plus, that step should be done before starting to invest too much time in building an actual solution. If there is no customers willing to pay for what you are planning on building then, unless you are doing all of it to solve only your specific problem without caring for your product becoming a business, then, read up a little on techniques to validate is a big enough market of willing to buy customers for your SaaS. Keep in mind that “big enough”, here, could mean many different sizes. It all depends on the size you want the business to be, maybe you aren’t interested in hiring and 10,000$ MRR is plenty for you.

What else? Well these days thinking about your users experience and crafting a delightful interface for your customers to interact with is almost a must. Maybe not for launch but as soon as you can. These days, in many industries, making design a priority can give you a huge edge on the competition, or, in more crowded markets, is a requirement.

That’s it right? Sadly, no, an other fairly important subject you have to deal with is building an audience and constantly growing your customer base. Here the book previously mentioned called Traction will be of great help. It introduces what the author calls the “Bullseye framework”. A framework aiming at building traction for your startup. In one sentence it consists of: benchmarking many acquisition channels at once, selecting the best performing, focusing solely on this one, when it stops giving good returns, go back to step 1 in order to find a new user acquisition channel. Put like this it seems simple enough, but, it’s real hard work that will take away many of your “coding” hours if you take it seriously.

Ok, and now, well there is a lot I didn’t touch in that blog post, but, I’ll leave it to you to read up on them as they don’t necessarily apply to all SaaS businesses. Examples include: analytics, infrastructure, hiring, investment seeking, product management, team leading, SEO, bug fixing, tool shopping, …

Choosing a fulfilling life

The importance in the title is on the word choose, because, yes, it’s a choice. I read many stories of people who visited X number of countries or did that big round the world trip and still continue to travel frequently getting told by people wishing for that kind of experience: “If only I could afford doing like you, but, yunno, not everybody can take 2-3 months of vacation”. Well my dear friend doing 75K a year with 2 cars in the driveway and a nice mortgage it’s your choices that have put you in this position, the good news is, you can start now to make choices bringing you closer to what you dream of. If that happens to be travel that so be it. It’s all about goals and priorities.

It seems there is a whole suite of choices made for you that you are expected to follow, just because that’s how it’s done, that’s what everybody does, it’s the norm. But you know what, you still have control, so many things part of the population’s subconscious are crafted by marketing and not actually benefic for you. You can do what you want, as long as it does arm others. As Chris Guillebeau exposed it so well with his list of “11 ways to be unremarkably average” containing the following:

  1. Accept what people tell you at face value
  2. Don’t question authority
  3. Go to college because you are supposed to, not because you want to learn something
  4. Go oversees once or twice in your life somewhere safe like England
  5. Don’t try to learn an other language, every one else will eventually learn English
  6. Think about starting your own business but never do it
  7. Think about writing a book but never do it
  8. Get the largest mortgage you qualify for and spend 30 years paying for it
  9. Sit at a desk 40 hours a week for an average of 10 hours of productive work
  10. Don’t stand out or draw attention to yourself
  11. Jump though the hoops. Check off the boxes

The people you see living a passionate life doing things you wish you could be doing too didn’t get there by luck, but, by having it as a goal (consciously or inconsciously). They then took that goal seriously by taking small steps towards it right from the beginning.

I understand it’s not easy to change. Change is such a big source of fear, but, if you force yourself to start moving towards your ideal life, you will start to see momentum building up and building up and if you keep going that will be you biggest motivator, everything will be made easier by the simple fact that you have progress under your belt.

We tend to vastly overestimate how much we can accomplish in a day and vastly underestimate how much we can achieve in a year. Shush that inner voice telling that it’s seems like the impossible, the time to act is NOW, nobody else will do it for you. Blaming people, events, conditions, weather for your inertia wont change anything, and, change, is what you want.

Memorize and follow this never-fail recipe: get started. Don’t quit. -Barbara Winter

Your tools for progress & success in life: Goal Setting & Focus (Part 1)

This is part one of a two part series:
Part 1: Introduction & Goal Setting
Part 2: Focus & Conclusion

Constant goal setting and laser focus is something that, now I reflect on it, seems like an evident answer to how much I have advanced skills and career wise in the past two years, but, was mostly done naturally/by intuition up till now.

I read, about six months ago, a really good book called “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller and it talked almost entirely about those two items.

So, let’s try and define those terms, plus, give you advice and example on how to implement them in you daily life and work.

Goal Setting

Goal setting, here, takes on a wide definition and is not about have one and only goal but more to go through the process of constantly having goals.

Goal Setting: Timeframe

You should be setting goal not for in X years but for this day, this week, the next 90 days, the next year and the next 5 years. There are different sizes of goals and some can only fit in years from now, while others, are really need to be accomplished today so that you can move on with a project.

The goal you set for yourself to attain in 5 year will naturally involve smaller steps that will become your 1 year goals. In turn, your 1 year goal will involve 90 days goal and so on.

Goal Setting: Frequence

The thing with goal, especially the short term ones, is that they are in constant movement. Depending on what you accomplished yesterday you might have new thing planned for today, or, you are catching up as you got distracted and didn’t get to finish what you set out to do yet.

You will constantly be updating your goals. I personally try to take 10 minutes every morning to hash out what I need to accomplish and take 1 hour or so every week to update my goals for next week plus all the longer term ones if needed.

Goal Setting: Context

Now you might be thinking of a there is a conflict here, we want to be setting only one goal per time-frame but what if we want multiple thing. Well, here’s the solution/middleground you should keep having only one 5 year goal say, for your career, but, it’s evident that you will have a different set of goals for your family, other ones for your love life and other ones for your personal improvement. Have as much “set of goals” as areas of your life you consciously work on daily.

This was part one of a two part series, in the next post we will define further the focus part and explore how, coupled with goal setting, you guarantee yourself tremendous personal, career and relationship improvments.
Part 1: Introduction & Goal Setting
Part 2: Focus & Conclusion