Thirty Eight

Today I turned 38. I can’t say that I feel like I’m 38 (I feel a bit younger) but I’m definitely starting to take in how quickly my time on earth is going by. It’s made me really question and deeply think about what do I want to do with the time that I still have.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had a lot of naive dreams and ambitions. The future was always positive and bright and I had a sense that one day, I would make them all happen.

But life moves on, one day after another, and doesn’t stop for anyone. “One day” dreams continue to shift in to the future. And then suddenly you’re in your mid thirties having a crises about not having chosen the right career path or achieved anything you deem to be significant. At least that is how it feels.

I know I’ve achieved a lot. I’ve worked on big projects, I’ve got an amazing family, I own a beautiful house, I get to travel and explore Africa and I live a really good, privileged life.

Still, I have this gnawing feeling every single day that I lack purpose in my life. I’m living life to survive, not to thrive. I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse but I’ve always felt, from a young age, that I’m here on earth to make a difference to the world in some way.

I thought the path for me was a software business. And because I built a unique set of skills in software and business, it felt right that I should start a software business. Except every attempt was a grind. Just look at the past few posts on this blog and you’ll see me trying to convince myself that this is the path I should be on and push through. The passion was never there. The ideas I worked on were not aligned to my interests and I needed to be real with myself about it. I was working on ideas to make money and not to fulfil my purpose.

So after 38 years of life, I’m focusing my 39th year on figuring out my purpose. Rather late than never right? Working on my passions, exploring options, reading, learning and trying to align my vast array of interests in to something that I can show and make a difference to the world with.

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Consistency Works

61 days ago, I started a program. The 75 hard program. It’s been incredible.

Putting the mental and physical transformation I’ve experienced from the program aside, it’s taught me a lesson that I have always theorised to be true, but never actually ever tested.

That is; small consistent actions over a period time end up with incredible and outsized results.

Sounds obvious, and I’ve seen hundreds of X threads giving the same or similar advice. But I’ve never been consistent enough with any one thing, for long enough, to see it play out in my own life.

Until 75 hard.

After around 30 days of the consistent action, checking off each step, every day, I started to see the results. And they are pretty remarkable (I’ll share more when I finish the program). And they compound. By simply following the plan, putting in the reps, I get better each day.


A big frustration that constantly grinds at me is that I’m so uniquely positioned right now, to use all the skills I’ve built across a very wide spectrum and build something that does really well.

I haven’t been able to pull off a large enough win yet in business that it became something that could sustain me long term. I have all the skills for it. Skills that are currently being wasted.

For instance, I know how to write software. I know how to do SEO and have proven with my wife’s business and other projects that I can rank websites. I know online and email marketing. I know how to build a website to sell and license software. I know affiliate marketing and I’ve proven that I can produce YouTube videos that drive traffic. I’ve successfully hired contractors for previous projects and know the ins and outs of it.

I have all the skills to build and sell software and digital things online. To be successful. But I’ve never consistently put them to work! I’m a golf ball that has been tee’d up, but has never been hit.

So what if I use what I’ve learnt in 75 hard and apply it to business building or side hustles. To apply consistency to building things, marketing them and seeing what sticks.

Broken down further, what if I:

  • Place small bets
  • Consistency build and market the bet in a given time frame (say 1 month per bet)
  • See what works and double down on wins

I like the sound of that. But there is one missing piece. Accountability.

I have to keep myself accountable to the process. 75 hard has an app to help keep yourself accountable. I need something to keep me on track with this too.

The solution for keeping myself accountable became obvious to me when setting goals for this year. One of the goals I set is to write and blog more often. It makes sense then to build in public. Use public accountability to set goals and share the progress and results.

So that’s what I’m going to be doing. I’ve created a hub on this site where I will curate all my building in public content. Long term I’ll look to add neat graphs and stats to this page. For now, plain and simple will have to do.

Next up in my “BIP” adventure, a commitment to my first project for the year. A WooCommerce plugin. More on this shortly.

Seasons

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been feeling ready to start a side project again. My mind is an idea machine. It loves to come up with great ideas and get me excited about them. But there is a big difference between having an idea and actually doing something about with it.

Even though I’ve had ideas that I wanted to build over the past year, I couldn’t get myself to actually work on one. I felt handicapped, mostly by the burnout I was experiencing.

Now that I’m ready to start building again, I’ve faced another challenge that I often experience during times of creation. Analysis paralysis combined with shiny object syndrome. I’ve got a solid 5+ ideas that I can work on right now. Each idea has it’s strengths and weaknesses. So how do I choose which idea to work on?

What generally tends to happen with me is that I’ll pick the idea that I feel most strongly about. I’ll then start working on the idea and inevitably I will start running in to some sort of a challenge, as is normal when starting out on a new project/business. The problem is that my thinking then starts to shift to how great the other ideas are and what I am missing out on. At this point I even start coming up with new ideas that are good.

A strong sense of regret sets in. I also over analyse and create this perfect picture of how my life should be played out and try to align the project/work that I am on to this magical path. As you can imagine, these magical paths never align to reality.

All this ends up in a rather frustrating loop/cycle. Switching between ideas and projects. I get demotivated and the end result is that nothing meaningful gets done and my project doesn’t get launched. This has happened more times than I can count.

The most recent example of this cycle happening was with the current project that I am working on, Salespack. I was struggling with deciding how to build the UI. Should it be React like a lot of modern WordPress development or standard PHP server based templates? This lead to me questioning whether I wanted to work on a WordPress project at all, and maybe I should instead be working on a SAAS app. I even went as far as identifying another great SAAS idea that I could work on. I also considered just focusing in my wildlife photography for now and building a business around that.

I fortunately quite quickly identified what was happening with my thinking. But identifying the problem was not enough, in a situation like this, you need to counter the argument that you should be working on something else. Or at least, come up with a new thought pattern to override and be at peace with the decision of continuing to work on the project you’ve committed to.

The thought pattern for me in this specific case, which I found to be rather powerful and helpful, was thinking about my work and projects as Seasonal.

My current season is Salespack. It’s a WordPress/WooCommerce plugin and I’m happy with being committed to that. Why? Because this product, at this point in time and based on the past 7 years contracting at a WordPress agency, is where I can offer my best work. All of my experience in WordPress and Php development, marketing, SEO, sales, running another plugin business, etc has led to this point. I am uniquely positioned for it.

Putting that perspective in to my head helps me stop thinking about other ideas because there will be a time and a place for those ideas. They should be written down and shelved, for now. It also makes me more comfortable with committing to develop for WordPress at this point. There will be seasons for other languages and frameworks in the future.

How long will this season last? I don’t know and that’s not something I can control or should think about. But when it does end, the next idea will be knocking – that I can sure of. Right now I can and will only focus on what’s in front of me – on what is happening in this current season.

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Moving on

Towards the end of last year I had a funny feeling. Tech companies were laying off staff at a rapid rate and in numbers. And as I was watching all of this go down, I started to feel uneasy.

I’ve always been entrepreneurial and independently minded. Except over the past few years, that changed. Maybe it was having more responsibility with 3 kids or maybe it was that I was just being lazy. The steady pay cheque was convenient and anything more ambitious would take risk and be a mammoth effort.

I did try break away during Covid. I bought a WordPress plugin business and built a small SAAS offering. It was to be my ticket to freedom. But all that became overwhelming alongside an already busy schedule, and I ended up selling. After all, the steady pay cheque was safer right?

The problem with the pay cheque though was even though the money was good, the work I was doing was not. Don’t get me wrong, I worked on some interesting projects over the past 7 years at my previous organisation and every now and then I would really enjoy what I was doing. But there are only so many celebrity gossip websites you can work on before you go insane.

The work I was doing was not aligned to many of my interests. And I was expected to put in 7 hour days (billing by the second with a start/stop timer). The pressure of that bloody timer was heavy. But I justified the contract because the money was good. Never mind my sanity, the bank balance was healthy. I burnt out 3 times that I remember.

And then came the calendar invite on the 15th of December. The very day that I started at this organisation, 7 years ago. I was on the way to the Kruger Park for a break from it all. “Contract discussion” was the title of the meeting. Deep down I knew what was about to go down. Part of me didn’t want to believe it though. I was knee-deep on an important project and had worked extremely hard on it. In fact as the invite came in, I was already on leave but I was in a coffee shop on the way to the Kruger Park doing a site migration. I had given a lot to this organisation, for so many years. Surely I was appreciated and anyway, as I was constantly reminded, I was a highly valued team member.

It turned out, I would be one of a number of people losing their contracts a week before Christmas. After a lot of anger, resentment and uncertainty, I came to terms with what had happened.

The truth is, I should have left this organisation a long time ago for many different reasons. Would I have left if I was not let go? It’s unlikely. So being let go was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to re-evaluate my career and priorities.

It’s now 8 months later. Things moved fast and I’m currently working with a new organisation that is incredible and aligns very well with my values and the way that I like to work.

And I’m enjoying software again, something that I almost gave up at the end of last year. I’m also working on my next side hustle. An exciting product for WooCommerce store owners that I hope to launch an MVP of later this year.

Things are looking up.

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The 2 week SAAS MVP

I posted this on the IndieHackers community about a month ago, but felt it’s worth a re-post here.

It’s a story of how I built the Watchtower MVP in 2 weeks. Even though I’m about to reposition Watchtower as an ecommerce monitoring service, I learnt a ton by building fast, launching quickly and having real users use the product.


I wanted to tell my story of how I spent the past 2 weeks building and launching a MVP SAAS product.

I’ve had a goal to build a SAAS product for a very long time. I’ve spent 2-3 years thinking about it, coming up with ideas, over-analysing and reading about other peoples successes, thinking to myself “one day I’ll do that”.

Two weeks ago, I realised that if I was ever going to make this dream happen, I ironically needed to stop dreaming and start doing! Enough messing around, it was go time. It was a Friday and I said to myself, this weekend I am going to build and launch a SAAS product.

Well, come Sunday I had made a lot of progress but I had a little way still to go. The product I was building was essentially 3 different pieces as it includes a WordPress plugin, membership website and backend service worker. I was still fired up to get the product finished though.

In the past, it’s usually at this point that I’d give up and I knew it. It would be a convenient time to use my 3 kids or full time work as an excuse to not continue. But I pushed through and constantly reminded myself of the end goal.

The next week and a bit after the initial build weekend was hard. I worked a number of late nights and had to try balance family life, work and finishing the product.

I’m proud to say that yesterday I launched Watchtower. It’s not perfect and there are a few kinks but it’s live and people are signing up.

To throw a cherry on top, I got my first paying customer!

My hope is that if you’re reading this and are in the same position as I was 2 weeks ago, that you find motivation in this and build your product. And so my question to you is this, what are you building and launching this coming weekend?

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Fresh start

I just pulled the trigger on deleting all of my previous blog posts on this site. Sure, I have a backup of them in case I ever need to reference them again in the future, but to the outside world, they’re gone. 404, no redirect.

I’ve been blogging on this website for around 16 very inconsistent years. And naturally, overtime my interests have swayed. I’ve written about all sorts of things. I started off writing about my entrepreneurial pursuits in the early days (2004-2010) but then over time it migrated to writing a lot about development and technical topics.

And this actually isn’t the first time I’ve reset the content on this blog. When I started writing about more technical topics, I removed all the business content that I had previously written about.

Well guess what, we’ve come full circle folks 😉

To explain why, I need to go back about a few months.

I written a lot in the past about feeling burnt out and it’s something I’ve struggled with a lot. And over the past year I’ve been feeling the burnout quite badly again. This time though, I sought to figure out why I was constantly feeling at breaking point.

And the answer wasn’t really a simple one. It was multiple factors and probably a number of other things I wasn’t and am still not even aware of. But one thing that was nagging on me BIG time, was that I was feeling unaccomplished. I’ve had ambitions since I was really young and over the past few years I’ve been doing nothing to chase those dreams and ambitions.

And so, fast forward to around March of this year, I reached a point where I had to talk seriously to myself and ask, what do I want? Do I want to give my dreams a shot or do I want to continue on the same path I’ve been walking?

I recently made a video about this on my YouTube channel, check it out.

It was clear to me that it was go time. And when I made the decision consiously to pursue my dreams, it was crazy to see how things just started to align and fall in place for me.

I’ll tell some of the stories in future posts, but there were two very specific pieces of content that I stumbled upon that were major drivers and inspiration to spur me on. They were…

The podcast episode above really got me fired up and I resonated so much with what Andrew is building and living with Tiny. And then on a more practical “how to” sense, the Micro Acquisitions course blew my mind. I’ve got a story to tell here about this, but it’s still unfolding and I’ll share it when the time is right.

And so I started my current side hustle. It’s called Sftwr, and we build and buy software businesses. I’ve got some really exciting things to share about Sftwr and what I’m working on! In due time of course.

That brings me back to today. The blog posts are gone because in a lot of ways, I’ve started fresh. Fresh in mindset, business and goals for my life. The previous posts were not an accurate reflection of who I want to be and what I want to achieve. So I scrapped them.

I’m excited to share this journey I’m on. I’ve got tons to share. Things I’m creating, open numbers from my projects I’m building, software businesses I’m buying, how I’m balancing “real work” and a side hustle and more.

If that sounds interesting to you, subscribe to my newsletter to follow my journey. Also, I scrapped my old email list of ~500 people, so if you were on that, you won’t be on the new list. You’ll need to subscribe again.

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