Think of Ethereum as a database. But it's not owned and operated by a single company. It's maintained by a peer-to-peer network. Anyone can download and view its contents.
This database stores transactions exchanged on the network. These transactions are verified by the network. This database and network are called the blockchain.
On the Ethereum blockchain, one can exchange its native currency, Ether. But more enterprising accounts do the verifying. They verify that the 10 ether I send to you is indeed in my account. No central database, no bank, no middleman.
Databases cost money to maintain. Google pays developers and electric bills to maintain their databases. Ethereum is no different.
To incentivize participants to verify transactions they are awarded Ether. This reward system ensures there's proper incentives to those who work to verify transactions which keep the network secure. No such thing as a free lunch.
But Ethereum goes one step further...
Accounts can write and execute code called Smart Contracts. These contracts can enforce contractual obligations, such as payment terms, liens, dividend schedules, without the need for a trusted third-party. The trust is in the code. Now, anyone can interact and exchange value using contracts without a centralized authority.
Any industry that benefits from decentralized databases will benefit from Smart Contracts: agriculture, healthcare, banking, e-commerce, property, mining, and the list goes on.
Smart Contracts separate Ethereum from other cryptocurrencies. Why? Because instead of having countless single-use networks, it becomes a general purpose platform for all of them. Developers need to create their own blockchain. They just write their application's logic in Smart Contracts on Etheruem. Ethereum becomes a global settlement layer.
So why do we care? Why would we transact on this network versus betting on, say, DraftKings?
For these reasons, the cryptocurrency ecosystem will continue to grow and mature. Ethereum, positioned as a platform, is best positioned to capitalize on the entire ecosystem's growth.
Reflect on 2020
Looking back on 2020, I didn't really set formal goals. I did try to start with 12-week annual goals, but the format didn't work for me. By the first month I lost track of why I was even tackling a goal. One of the major themes going into 2021 was:
These are comical looking back on them. Not only are they not very meaningful goals moving into 2020, but they weren't very bold.
I did move to NYC in December 2019. But much of my time in 2020 was spent on settling in, making my apartment a home, and finding some communities to tap into. This was mostly achieved until COVID truly derailed any plans of making NYC a real move. If I could go back I would have some things differently, but it's hard to really know when you're so new to a place.
Things at work progressed well. All of the work I had put into the role had paid off with a new title and a purview to hire two new roles. However, when the economy went into free fall, both of these roles were put on hold. Much like my move to NYC, my work also fell into a frozen state. All we could do was hold up.
All throughout this and despite the drop in the stock market, I ended up hitting my net worth goal. While many years of saving and investing had paid off, and I felt a small moment of celebration, I don't feel much different.
What's really interesting is compound growth. What took 3 years to hit a certain amount just took 3 months, though I was lucky with the market and being able to save while living with family. Charlie Munger said just grind until 100k, and after that you can left off the peddle a bit.
Aside from these goals, the best of the year came from the unexpected. Through COVID I was able to spend more time with family in three months than I had in 3 years. I worked and lived with friends in Pittsburgh and actually traveled a good bit this summer to visit friends. It really dawned on me the value of taking great trips with friends and cultivating friendships with people over time.
Later in the year I began putting more time into the podcast. It's a great way to stay in touch with a friend and build upon a passion for a football club that we both follow. The best part is the consistency of the podcast - Years from now, I'd love to say we cranked out this podcast every week.
Most of what energized me came from visiting friends, taking trips together, and putting my effort into sports and activities. Weirdly enough I picked up golf this year. And some of the best moments were playing golf with friends outdoors in open air - frustrating as the game was. I really enjoyed the group dinners, game nights, back patio hangouts during week. The best parts of the week were seeing people often, including my family in the house. My aim is to emulate this in NYC the best I can, as I can easily work late and de-prioritize community and friends.
All of these are outside activities that are with friends, have some sport or activity or game involved. It's so surprising given how competitive I am that I haven't aimed to include fun sporting activities - tennis, golf, pickup basketball, more into my routine. Soccer has always been priority and while I still plan to play, these more social and communal games are more fun. I've also learned that I get far less pleasure from meeting people "over drinks" versus planning an activity.
Another lesson this year is working in real life - getting offline and forgetting about work or side hustles or whatever and just do a puzzle, do arts and crafts with my niece or some other craft. My brother and I built a bed and it not only did I learn a lot but it was therapeutic. I truly used to think things like this are a waste of time, especially festive activities like baking cookies, making eggnog, cooking meals, but they make life worth living.
Lastly, creating online makes me feel really great. Doing the podcast, thinking of tweets, shooting silly videos for instagram all require me to be creative and connect with others. I found that the days I didn't create something didn't feel "complete" - during these days I just moved things around and reacted. To create is to feel most alive.
Anxiety was a big theme this year, as I'm sure it was with most people. But what I learned is it was always brought on with alcohol. Lack of sleep due to alcohol always made it worse. So I've learned that some moderation or abstinence is needed. I just feel healthier when I don't drink. And over the long-term, alcohol erodes your health, your finances, heart health, organ health. It's toxic.
With that said, I love to drink beers with friends, wine with dinner, and whiskeys with my brother. I'm realistic to know that it won't go away. But moderation is key and finding outlets to minimize casual drinking is important. I also don't really need to drink by myself, which is a filler for boredom or loneliness.
Another is internet. "Doomscrolling" on social media or the news. A big contributor to my anxiety and feeling like crap overall was phone usage via twitter or the news. Zoom calls quickly became draining. It impacts my sleep and makes me more passive. This year I want to create more online versus consume.
How did I grow?
Travel is a big area that comes to mind. Before 2020 I was planning all sorts of trips - overseas, a solo travel trip, domestic trips to new places. But this year my favorite travel (only travel) was more for what I was doing versus where I was going.
Going to Paris and passively walking and sitting in cafes feels less appealing to me. If I do travel I want to pursue it as a traveler, not a tourist. But more so, a house full of friends going on a hike or a group of buddies trying a special golf course is more important. In 2020 I'll plan all my trips like this with the exception of maybe one solo trip, since I've never done it.
Another lesson is acting in haste. Procrastinating has long been a problem of mine. I'm indecisive. This year it dawned on my how massively important this is. Pull the trigger and move forward. Life compounds by the proportion of the movement you make. The key insight is this: not making a decision is not "keeping options open". It actually is a choice of a path that keeps doors closed. You are on the sidelines. The path is the sidelines. This year I pulled the trigger on buying Bitcoin, getting Lasik, signing a sublet in NYC on the spot, I got a new apartment I really love very quickly - life compounds by the choices we make.
How Could I Have Been Better
One area that I'm consistently struggling is being on time. While I am better at not losing things, I can get better at showing up to meetings on-time. Being on time is a show of respect. Showing up consistently two minutes late is disrespectful.
I could create consistently. I started creating a weekly roundup and tweeting more often, but I'm not consistent. I struggle with routine deliverables. So I either need to move in projects or come up with systems to prevent me from ever missing an email.
Getting up early is another theme. I'm a hopeless night owl and I feel I'm beginning to miss out on productivity and a great morning routine by not waking up early. I feel better when I'm up early. I want to make strides in this area.
Connecting more. I've really tried to be more responsive with friends and family over the past year. I used to be the guy that was hard to get in touch with. But I could be more proactive in how I reach out to others.
One big realization this year was that my life wasn't so different post lockdown than before. The major difference is that I couldn't go to bars or other nightlife spots. Lockdown forced me to avoid (painfully) the negative habits in life. Moving to NYC, it made me realize that I had too many casual relationships and not enough close friends.
I also learned that where there are constraints and pain there is growth. I maybe learned more about myself this year than any other year. Through the isolation, living with family, getting rid of my NYC apartment, going fully remote, I had time to reflect.
Also, I am not very in touch with how I'm feeling mentally. I'd often feel like total crap during the day and only have a faint idea to dig deeper and find the root cause. This year I learned how to do this - have I exercised, seen others, been outside, removed stressors?
Being single for the first time in awhile, I learned that I was outsourcing my social life and decision making. This really stunted my growth and I realized I needed to create a vision for my life, make decisions quickly, and drive towards the relationships and outcomes I want.
Lastly, I understood the power of risk and probabilities. As COVID grew around the world, I didn't consider the probability it would continue to spread. It's not a black and white outcome. I should have considered the probability of it spreading to New York and given the risk, plan ahead.
How can I adopt this mindset to other areas of life? How can this be applied to investing and habits?
Like I said before, much of this year happened without setting concrete goals. So while I progressed well in my job, I didn't "achieve" anything. Yes, I saved more and reached my net worth goal, grew my team at work, but I need to aim higher in 2021.
Start, Stop, Continue
Nat Eliason added this to his annual goals and I think it's a great exercise for this. I do it at work so it makes sense to do it personally.
Dedicated Meeting Days
Morning "Walks" or getting outside
Being so hard on myself
Getting in my head
Drinking as much
Doomscrolling & Phone Use
Creating & Writing
What Do I Want?
This section categorizes areas of your life and has you rank them in priority. This is a really great exercise because it forces you to think about your focus for the year. You can have anything you want, but you can't have everything you want. Here's how I ranked them:
Physical & Mental
Overall I am continuing to put my mind on creating a side business this year. But after 2020, I realize I cannot put this above my physical and mental states. What is the point of making extra money or growing a business if I feel like crap, my back hurts, with lack of sleep, and feeling anxious? It's just not a way to live. So I will put strict routines and habits in place to prioritize my health over work, finances, and yes, even family.
I spent more time with family this year than the last 5 years. How incredibly fortunate I am to spend with my niece and nephew? Also, my parents are getting older. I want to spend more time with them as they move into retirement and start the next chapter of their lives. I don't want to see my family once every 6 months. Also, this year we had some toxicity and challenges we faced together as family - it made me realize just how vital, precious, and even fragile family is.
In 2020, I realized just how much life is better with a strong community. I learned this through my co-op and co-living experiments. I want to cultivate this in New York. I want to have a strong network of good friends that I can see often and make that a part of my life. This means boundaries around work, making physical exercise communal, and getting offline. It's nice that all these things start to intertwine.
I'm putting this ahead of travel and fun. Travel just isn't an important factor for me this year. And although I hit my savings goals and had a nice bump from Bitcoin, I feel I am still about 1 year away from moving this down the list. I'm also putting it ahead of Work. Why? Because making money from my 9-5 is still more important than quitting and focusing on just what I want to work on. If you can't quit your job, then I believe you are putting finances above work. For most, they only make this switch when they retire or just have incredible jobs they'd do it for free, which is rare.
Another good way to view this is, "am I okay with my net worth being flat or down for the year?" And right now I still want it to grow. So until I'm okay with spending on creativity, fun, travel, I'll keep it here.
So, I'm going to continue pushing towards heavy savings goal this year. I'm in a great position being single with a good salary. The things that I want to avoid this year - drinking, fun, traveling - are the most expensive. Also, much of the work in "finances" is passive and I don't really need to actively pursue. I have no debt, no big monthly payments, so just staying the course is the plan. But overall, I'm shifting my thoughts on how to live a rich life.
I'm putting work ahead of fun and travel. Fun and creativity are strange ones because I can have those passively as I work and create (as part of business) and invest in relationships and networking. But this year I want to continue to grow the program at Bazaarvoice, create things I'm proud of. I also want to make $1,000 in a side hustle. I've talked about this enough by now that I either do it or quit. It will force me to create, network, and I can reassess where I want to continue.
Creativity & Fun
The fun I'll have will come from healthy friendships, social sports, and spending time with family. As for creativity, I think that will come from building a $1000/month business online this year.
Surprisingly, this lower down the list. I want to invest in relationships this year. I want to take trips with great experiences and activities over just "going to Europe". I may still plan a solo trip somewhere because that will be a new experience, but I won't prioritize just visiting new places.
What does financial freedom look like?
I've become more convinced that financial freedom isn't achieving a magic number in your investment account and withdrawing 4% per year. That's backwards.
What will you do when you "retire"? If you don't know then you have work to do. If you do know, why not figure out a way to do that now? The goal isn't skirting obligations and responsibility but to gaining the right ones.
Financial freedom is first not stressing about money. It is allowing me to live where I want, pursue the interests I have, eating what I want and developing the habits that make a rich life.
And really, that doesn't have to cost a whole lot of money.
Spend money to make life easier?
If I am serious about making $1k/month, a modest goal, I could pursue a personal coach. It's worth the investment given the huge upside and the importance. Another is joining a tennis or some other sporting club. This will accelerate connections with others while also staying healthy.
What do I want out of work?
More on this in the next post, but I want to have a greater impact on people in my industry, my customers, and the people in my community. Currently, my impact is limited to my employer. I also want the freedom to explore and create things on topics that interest me. I have a hard time with habitual delivery. I'd like to adopt a greater intellectual challenge through creating around new topics.
What can I say no to?
All the habits I discussed above. But generally travel trips, alcohol focused activities, and any projects or ideas that come up that take me away from my primary project this year.
If you are a SaaS business today, you need to consider your investment at delivering customer outcomes at scale. Changing customer preferences require a new approach to retaining customers who prefer to self-serve. This is especially true if you have a growing SMB customer segment - the high quantity of customer and low ARR make it impossible to hire CSMs to scale with it. This has been my focus at Bazaarvoice for the last 18 months.
Your customer base likely follows the Pareto Principle. This states that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. This means you have very high ARR enterprise customers driving most of your revenue. As your ARR decreases, there's a nonlinear relationship with the quantity of your customers. So you end up with a high quantity of customers with low ARR on the other end:
There are too many customers paying too little ARR to warrant low or high touch treatment models. This is where Customer Success Automation and Marketing Automation come in.
This isn't just a function of unit economics. This is customer preference. We know that customers prefer to self-serve over talking with support or sales. It's the digital economy and the experiences we create for our customers need to match their expectations. According to a survey by Software Advice, they found 70% of customers with questions first search online to find answers.
Digital customer success is the antidote. It can meet your SMB customers where they are. It can also make your CSMs more efficient, freeing them up for a greater percentage of high impact activities.
What is digital success?
Digital Success means using tools, automation, and content to drive higher portion of outcomes across your customer base. I view this across the four categories:
So, for a hypothetical segment of 1,000 customers, how do you measure the health of these customers, what actions at scale can you take to improve those outcomes, and what content will you create to support customers in self-service and discovery?
Start here. Without data supporting your program you cannot measure outcomes in a scaled program. Unlike CSMs who can get a pulse on customers during meetings and calls, you cannot do this at scale. So start assessing the data you need to support a customer health score. This will include the qualitative (surveys, NPS) and quantitative (Logins, Adoption, Support Cases, etc.). I've written a post on how to begin organizing your customer data that will save you time. It suffices to say that without a data roadmap, you are not able to drive a digital success operations.
Once you have your data, how will you use it? What channels can you use to communicate with your customers proactively? Many teams begin by creating a customer lifecycle. This video by ESG partners is a fantastic overview of where to begin.
Here's a few places to start:
A consistent event schedule, group events, and driving community involvement is the key to unlocking scaled retention. When you've gotten one customer to speak to another you know you are on to something. And just like UGC is powering the content in the eCommerce world, so it should for the SaaS customer success world. A few ideas that have worked for us:
While the KPIs set out for your team may vary, one thing is universal: when customer achieve their outcomes they buy more from you. So, the traditional measurement of health score - which should tightly couple outcomes - should be your north star.
At Bazaarvoice, we track this via Gainsight's Health Score Snapshot table, which thankfully is built-in (unlike many other time-based snapshot tables at Gainsight).
We have several of these charts which highlight specific areas of our client's outcomes.
Since content and engagement is large part of this role, including traditional marketing benchmarks is recommended. How are your communication channels performing: email, in-app, videos, landing pages?
Lastly, the idea of building communities has grown in the SaaS space. This is not surprising. And engaged audience is pivotal for distribution of new products and services. Taking that principle a step further, an engaged and strong community is a powerful moat and cost-savings mechanism for driving outcomes at scale. This is difficult work but has large return on investment.
Some benefits include:
Also, it's fun. My favorite part of this role is creating new online events and content that connects customers with each other.
In conclusion, it's important to take digital customer success seriously. As modern products take a product-led growth approach in their go-to market and retention strategies, they'll gain a footing on legacy SaaS companies doing what they've always done. They'll grow faster, have lower overhead. This gives them an advantage with lower CAC, higher LTV, and greater unit economics over less efficient competitors.
There has grown a movement online called FIRE: Financial Independence Early Retirement. On a practical level, it promotes a strategy of high savings and sound investing in order to retire early.
At the core of it's philosophy is this: Comfort comes from freedom and independence, not from possessions.
That true luxury is your resilience to adversity, not in expensive things. From the ERE manifesto, an early and big blog on the subject,
Some things make life easier, but more things do not make life more easy. More things mean more things that can break down and more time spent fixing or replacing them. Comfort is freedom and independence. Comfort is having the sweat glands and metabolic tolerance to deal with heat and cold. It is not central heating or air conditioning which may fail or be unavailable. It is not plushy seats but a healthy back...
Growing in popularity after the financial crisis in 2008, it's message is valid. Most Americans live in debt, save little, and are unable to retire on their savings alone. In other words: your spending is keeping you a slave.
But misunderstanding the core of the message and blindly increasing your savings rates could do more harm than not. The idea of the philosophy, as stated by MMM, is to:
Complete freedom to be the best, most powerful, energetic, happiest and most generous version of You that you can possibly be.
What is missing? Any mention of retiring early. This is where I believe some proponents (or critics) of the lifestyle get it wrong. When taken to it's logical conclusion, extreme savings rates can also be a cover for a mindset of scarcity and non-confidence. In fact, MMM thinks money and confidence are interchangeable.
The real goal is how to live a rich life.
The mental leap is when you build the confidence to quit your job today and never go back. It's not stacking dollars for an early and cushy retirement. And if that means spending today on your own personal growth with books, courses, or coaching to build that confidence, then do it.
Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, summarizes this well.
Ramit could retire tomorrow. But he'd rather live in New York and live his version of the Rich Life instead of maximizing his savings.
Here's a few questions to ask yourself as you go through your journey.
If your financial life is a code red - no savings, credit card debt - then adopt the FIRE mindset completely. It will change your life. You need it.
But once you've made progress, keep in mind what your vision of a Rich Life is and whether extreme savings rates is that best path forward for you. There are other ways to get there.
If you are creating an audience around a topic you enjoy, you likely aren't narrowing your focus enough.
If you want to talk about cars, then you need to talk about Ford Mustangs pre 2005 for road racers.
If you want to talk about makeup, talk about foundation for internet influencers under the age of 25.
If you want to talk about Bitcoin, talk about how to acquire and hold bitcoin safely and easily for folks over 65.
You can never niche down too far. But you can be too broad and unfocused. And when you're just starting out you'll be drowned out.
For our team I've created themes which will determine how we'll work together. We think of these as the mental models we'll work from but also the underlying values and philosophy for ho we'll work.
One of them is "let's see what happens". This sentence hopes to instill in the team a helpful heuristic for making decisions and taking action.
You see, we are a new program and testing and iteration is where most of our progress is made. We are not a mature program in which strict processes and optimizations are needed.
Instead, we need to make lots of small best, quick tests, and see what is most impactful. So whenever a member of our team needs to make a decision and take action, they'll recite this heuristic for moving forward, "let's see what happens". They can test and measure the results, rather than do the opposite, which is doubt the process and not take any action.
How can you instill heuristics in your team so you can standardize decision making?
Your job as a manager is to delegate effectively. Without delegation you are not leveraging the human capital at your disposal and reducing the opportunity to focus on higher impact activities.
Your other job is to teach your team to think and produce autonomously. The quickest route to ruin as a new manager is trying to solve all your team's problems. You know you are doing this when you have the most action-items coming from your team meetings.
Your final job as a manger is to spark debate and act as a final decision maker when conflict arises. This is not to be confused with preventing conflict and healthy debate, but to spark it, moderate it, and leverage it. The outcome is meetings that are never boring, always engaging, and results in buy-on on the decisions made.
Managing when done right is rewarding. But if not done well can be torture.