Another year comes to an end, and it’s time to reflect. This was an interesting and eventful year. There were many more failures than successes, but that just means I learned some new lessons the hard way.
No matter how introverted I think I am, the loneliness will still get to me
I enjoy sitting alone in my room, and not having to be around people. I love spending time with people, it’s just that I also need some time alone. Being alone gives me the space to think freely and reflect. I’ve always had roommates, so I was excited to live with my brother for a bit, and have my own room. I could be all by myself, unbothered by social interactions, and be as productive as I want. What a dream, I thought. Turns out I was very wrong, and I actually did get lonely, and that loneliness decreased my overall productivity.
Solution In 2020: Move to a hacker house
I’m moving into a hacker house which will be filled with many interesting people I can talk to. I’ll still be able to have alone time in my room, but whenever I get tired of talking to myself, I can go interact with people.
A business I don’t enjoy working on is not worth it
I didn’t believe this at first, but now it seems so obvious. I mean, isn’t the point of a business to have the freedom to do what you want? Why would you do things you don’t enjoy?
My answer to those questions before was that starting a business is so hard, and I’m so broke, that I should just focus on getting *anything* to work. Succeeding at anything at all would be better than being broke, so I thought I should do that, and then worry about whether or not I enjoyed the business.
Now I believe that working on a business you enjoy is the biggest advantage of them all. If I work on something I enjoy, it will be easier to work harder, and if I work harder, I will be more likely to succeed. Most startups fail because people quit. If you enjoy what you’re working on, you’ll be less likely to quit.
Furthermore, there are so many different ways to do business, so many industries, and so many types of solutions to any given problem, that by focusing on the things you enjoy, you’re basically finding your best niche.
Solution In 2020: Work on things I enjoy
I have narrowed down what I enjoy and what I don’t. I don’t enjoy super technical projects, so I’m not going to build any product where the differentiation is technical complexity. I enjoy people problems, and I enjoy making things. An ideal business would probably involve talking to people and building something that isn’t technically complex.
A product is not a business
This is something that I didn’t understand at all until recently, even though it seems so obvious now. I got caught up in the maker community and the idea of shipping fast, and “validating by launching”. If you build a bunch of products, eventually people will like something you built, and then you monetize it and that’s your business.
That’s such a narrow view of what a business is, it’s not even funny. Business involves customers, sales, marketing, distribution, and product, among other things. And if you are like Dmitri 2019™, and you think all you need for a business is a good product, then you will learn the hard way like I did.
Solution In 2020: Research-first instead of product-first
Instead of building random products and hoping for the best, I’m going to do business in a more research-oriented way. I’ll spend all of January (and maybe some of February) doing user research in a few different areas: Tech Interviews, Tech Hiring, Founder Loneliness, and anything else that seems interesting to me. Once I do research, learn what the real problems are, find a solution I’ll enjoy working on, and have paying customers, only then will I build a product.
I’m not as productive as I think
One of the great things about tracking your time is that you can look back and see exactly what you did to get where you are right now.
When I looked at how my time was spent over the last few months, I didn’t know whether to be proud that I achieved so much working so little, or disappointed that I was working at around 25% of my actual capacity.
I literally spent 40 hours on Interview Insider, my main project at the time, for the entire month of August. That’s one average person’s 5-day work week. And that’s how much work I did in a month. Now to be fair, I was having an existential crisis or something, but damn, the other months aren’t much better.
Solution In 2020: A little bit of everything
Looking back on it now, one of the causes was probably that I didn’t enjoy the projects I was working on. As mentioned above, this will be corrected moving forward.
Another cause was probably loneliness, which affected my mental health, and made me less productive. This is also being corrected moving forward.
Other than that, I think it comes down to discipline and focus. Things I will be actively working to improve next year.
Facing your biggest fears leads to freedom
A few weeks ago, I launched a project called dkb.exposed. I basically dumped all my deepest darkest secrets on the internet for anyone to read, then advertised it on all of my social media. Now isn’t that crazy? I sure thought it was.
To understand the significance of this project, you must understand that I am an extremely secretive person by nature. I keep many things to myself, I deal with my problems myself so I don’t need to tell anyone about them. I am an expert in dodging questions and giving non-answers. For some of the stuff I published, I have journal entries talking about how I was never going to tell anyone those things, and that I would be taking it to the grave.
In short, this project was something that I would never do. It was completely out of character for me, and in direct opposition to the way I had been living for the last 24 years. It was the scariest thing ever.
And I did it anyway.
It was the most liberating moment of my life.
And now that I’ve done this scary thing that I vowed to never do, and put myself out there to the max, completely vulnerable for everyone to judge, I feel a really strong sense of “I don’t give a fuck.”
I feel like people’s judgement is completely irrelevant.
I feel like I can do anything.
And I’m excited to see the next chapter in my story.
2020 here we come.