Catching the wave at the right time…

Web search wasn’t really a big problem when Google started. The web wasn’t that big and not that many people were really using it as a large part of their day.

But usage was about to explode and as it did, search was going to become a bigger and bigger problem…Google was simply ahead of that curve and in the right position to benefit.

In fact, if you look into almost all of the biggest, best, and brightest success stories around ‘unicorns’ past and present…I think you’ll see that same thing over and over again.

It’s just a matter of catching the trend early, identifying the big problem(s) it’s going to bring about, and then building the right solution that’s ready to scale along with the need.

Simple right?

So what are some of the trends we are just at the start of?

Mobile? (in many ways we are already too far along in the trend)

Crypto-currency? (maybe/probably)

Smart sensors/connected devices? (yes)

There must be a bunch of others too…so what other trends do you think are just around the corner? What problems will they bring with them?  How you can you position yourself to be there with a solution as they come about?

What’s your company’s log line?

As I mentioned in a post the other day, I recently took a Skillshare class about script writing…one of the lessons in that class was focused on how to build your log line. A log line is basically a ‘Tweet-like’ description of your entire script…it’s meant to be short, descriptive, easily understood, and of course as catchy as possible.

In the class, Vince Jolivette suggests you focus on answering these three main questions in a way that a four year old would understand:

  1. Who is your main character?
  2. What do they want?
  3. What is standing in their way?

If you stop to think about it though, this is really universal advice for pitching/communicating any idea or business.

Who is your main character?

You might have lots of different customers or users, but there can only be one ‘main’ character.

In the case of Coach Wizard, we believe we provide value to parents, athletes, coaches, league administrators, and even spectators/fans of youth sports…but our main character is ‘parents’.

Internally we’ve had lots of debates and discussions about who our main character really should be (and lots of outside parties have shared their opinions on who our main character should be as well)…but at the end of the day, we picked parents because it’s the main character we are most personally invested in and connect with. It’s who *we* understand best and really want to serve the most.

Picking another main character would mean building a *very* different company.

What do they want?

What’s the one core thing that your main character really wants? You might offer a lot of features and services, but there’s got to be one main thing above all else that is your core product/service.

In the case of Coach Wizard, we believe more than anything else parents want to help their kids become better athletes.

Once you’ve picked your main character, and have done the work to really understand them…figuring out what they *really* want will probably be the easiest thing to figure out of all this work. The trick is to focus it down to one main, simple and straightforward thing you believe they are after.

It can’t be X, Y, and Z…it can’t even be X and Y…it has to be only one thing, only X. Why? Because the moment you have more than one thing you want, you have to allow for compromises - and that becomes a lot harder to communicate and a lot harder for people to evaluate.

What is standing in their way?

Within the context of a script, this is meant to introduce the antagonist, or at least the obstacles that you will have your character endure throughout the script. But within the context of business, it should really be about what problems you address (your true value and unique selling points).

If your main character really wants what you say, how are they currently scratching that itch? If they aren’t currently scratching that itch in anyway, you probably haven’t answered question #2 very well. Meanwhile, if they are already happily scratching that itch with something another service/company provides - why will they switch to you?

In the case of Coach Wizard, we believe the obstacles are primarily a lack of time and knowledge. That is, parents are too busy and don’t feel like they have enough knowledge to really coach/help their kids to become better athletes (so we need to provide a solution that is focused on overcoming these obstacles).

Putting it all together.

Once you’ve answered these three questions, Vice also suggests that you try to make your log line as compelling and interesting as possible. The goal here, he states, is that you want to get people asking ‘what if’…to pull them into wanting/reading more.

So for Coach Wizard, our combined log line from the answers above comes out to be something like:

Coach Wizard is a tool for busy parents to help their kids become better athletes.

Not bad, and not too far off our current one-liner on the site “Coach your kid anything in minutes” but if I’m totally honest, also kind of boring.

It doesn’t really get me asking ‘what if’ or even ‘how’…it doesn’t make me want to dig into the service, create an account, or even see a demo.

However, it does communicate the basic idea clean and simple - so it’s a good internal guide and a start…but clearly there’s still some work to be done before it can be used as our official teaser/tweet/log line…so stay tuned!

Splitting Aces

"A deceased, Catholic-raised, professional gambler reflects on life lessons before playing a game of poker that could earn him another chance at life."

That’s the logline for the script I wrote for a skillshare class I’m taking called introduction to screenwriting (taught by James Franco and Vince Jolivette)…I’m taking the class just for fun and because I’ve always been interested in movies/scripts (cause that’s the kind of cool I am).

The class required us to write something as an adaption from one of three texts provided, so I chose a character from the Spoon River Anthology called "Ace" Shaw.  Here is the source text I was working from:

“Ace” Shaw

I NEVER saw any difference

Between playing cards for money

And selling real estate,

Practicing law, banking, or anything else.

For everything is chance.

Nevertheless

Seest thou a man diligent in business?

He shall stand before Kings!

I choose this text/character because I like the idea of a character that believes in both chance and a higher power (the last two lines seemed otu of place to me so I looked them up and discovered that they are part of a proverb from the King James bible)…and uses both to find success in his chosen craft.

It also didn’t hurt that, in the PDF version of the book I read, Ace showed up on page 33 (one of my favorite numbers). :-)

…anyway for those of you that have *way* too much time to waste on your hands, here are the four versions of the script that I wrote as I worked through it all:

Rough draft:

http://gawk.it/static/Splitting_Aces_v1.pdf

I didn’t love the ending and was a bit worried that I put too many (weak) scenes into such a short script…but it was a start and I intend to tighten it up and evolve it.

2nd draft:

http://gawk.it/static/Splitting_Aces_v2.pdf

In this version, I tried to take the feedback from a few classmates and scale down some of the text, add a bit more personality to each character, and I also reworked some of the scenes (cutting a few super weak ones and adding in a few that I *think* better fit with my goal here)…I especially tried to focus more on ‘showing through scenes’ this time around rather than ‘telling through dialog’.

3rd draft:

http://gawk.it/static/Splitting_Aces_v3.pdf

In this version I did a little dialog cleanup (based on feedback) and then went in search of more of the ‘story’ I’m trying to tell. I felt like it was getting close to the final version I wanted it to be.

Final draft (for now):

http://gawk.it/static/Splitting_Aces_final.pdf

Having come up with the logline between V3 and this draft, I found I only made small tweaks and changes to the script (hence my decision to call it a *final* draft).

Overall, I’m pretty happy with what I have considering the small amount of source text I was basing this on (and that this is the first time I’ve ever attempted screenwriting of any kind).

I was amazed at how quickly the pages fill up and how little you can actually accomplish in the space…you really do have to get to the point as quickly, and cleanly, as possible.

I don’t know when I’ll try to do more screenwriting, but I did enjoy the overall process and am sure I’ll give it at least a few more tries (probably on material of my own choosing the next time).

Regardless, I learned a bunch and the lessons on writing a logline and pitching can be widely adopted to much of what I do (I’m especially applying them to my thinking/approach to the Coach Wizard story — which I’m very excited about).

The class is available on Skillshare right now (if you join before July 24th, you even have a [very slim] chance to earn direct feedback from the teachers on your work).

Kevin Marshall 1974 - ????

On June 3rd 2014, I turn forty.

Throughout the year, I’ve watched many of my old high school and college friends (and foes) go through this same life-event and have been thinking about how I wanted to address it when it was my turn.

For the most part, I’m not really feeling all that old (though my body is as well rounded and saggy as the average 40+ year old) and I’m not really feeling bad about turning 40 at all.

In fact, if anything, I’m actually excited about it. I’m excited because, if I’ve just middle age now, then that means I’ve got another 40 plus years to enjoy life…to learn…to grow…and to fill with love and adventures (how couldn’t you be excited about that!?).

Best of all, unlike the past 40 stretch, I get to go into this next 40 with a little bit of wisdom…and so I thought to mark this occasion I would share a few bits of that ‘wisdom’ I’m taking into the next 40.

Before we get to the list though, I should state that this is not a comprehensive list. In fact, it’s just a rambling list of what came to me in the ten or fifteen minutes that I sat down to think about and write this post…so it’s very likely that it’s not even the list of my *most important* beliefs or “rules to live by”…but it’s a list none-the-less, and it’s all stuff I wholly believe (at the moment).

Anyway, here goes:

1. Words have power, but actions have real meaning. If you say one thing, then do another…it’s only the ‘doing’ that really counts. If you want to show someone love, or simply that you care, forget the words and do it through your actions.

2. In my book, respect is not earned, it is given freely and only lost through actions that *I* deem poor. Still I strive to treat even those I no longer have respect for with common manners…and I do everything in *my* power to limit my exposure to them. Time is too precious to waste engaged with people you don’t respect.

3. Manners matter. Most people, even those that dislike you, respect and respond to manners. It’s the easiest way out of an uncomfortable situation, and almost *always* makes you appear smarter, kinder, and even more attractive then you really are. Take the extra five seconds and use your manners, trust me.

4. Being ‘right’ is relative. Ultimately *you* are the judge of your own actions and the only one that truly has to live with them. Doing the right thing is often harder in the moment, but doing the wrong thing will stick with you (even if just internally) for many many moments to come. Take the pain upfront and do what you believe is right as often as you can. And keep in mind that the only one you should *really* debate right and wrong with is yourself. Sometimes you can’t undo the *wrong*, so figure out a way to live with those moments and use them as a strong guide for your future.

5. The point of *my* life, in one word, is ‘adventure’. In two, it’s “fun adventure”. Though I find my wife beautiful, independent, and intelligent it is her sense of adventure throughout life that I’m most in love with. She, along with my two wonderful kids, can make even a simple car ride a fun-filled adventure that brightens my day. More than anything else, it’s a future filled with adventures with them that I’m looking forward to in the next 40 (plus) years.

6. The next best thing to a real adventure is a great story. Sales, marketing, branding, promotions, love, sharing, friendship…these are all things simply powered by stories. Learn to tell and share great stories and you’ll always have a path to success in everything you care about.

7. Money is the most misunderstood (and mis-valued) concept of the modern world. Religion is a close second. Politics rounds out the top three. I avoid publicly engaging in all of these as much as possible…but I spend a deep amount of internal thought (and stories) on each.

To make an exception to my usual rule…the best advice I can give about money is to save it before you spend it and don’t spend it until you’ve physically got it. The best advice I can give about religion is that you’ll never know the real answers until it’s too late - so live your life with respect and manners towards all possibilities. The best advice I can give about politics is don’t have expectations and opinions, take real actions and earn the results you want.

Really, in the end, I think they all kind of loop back to #4 above.

8. Everything is a struggle in one way or another. Without the pain, and respect for it, there is no understanding of true happiness. Accept the struggles as temporary, focus on getting through them as quickly and easily as possible. Make educated decisions quickly and don’t dwell too much on the pain of the struggle but instead focus on the goal and the happy ending you are working towards.

9. Decisions are not the end to something, they are the start. Reaching any goal is mostly about making the decision over and over again, and a priority throughout each day. You don’t make the decision to be married once, you make it every day. You don’t decide to be happy once, you make it every day (and hopefully multiple times throughout the day). You don’t lose weight or get in shape because you decide to, you do it through actions that you decide to take each day. *You* have the power to change your decisions (through actions) at any time.

10. In 200 years from today, only a handful of the 7 billion who are currently alive, will be remembered by the world (and not all fondly). So don’t stress too much about today or tomorrow. Help the real people in your life to have better adventures, to get through their struggles, to find their own internal *right*…and do it all with actions.

So there you have it…ten random bits of wisdom I’m taking into the next 40+ years of my life.

I hope you’ll spend some time reflecting on them yourself, and if you are so inclined, sharing some of your own “rules to live by” with me in the comments below (in fact, I couldn’t think of a more perfect birthday present)!

garychou

garychou:

This past March, I took over the old Kickstarter office in the Lower East Side. Since then, I’ve been primarily focused on cleaning it up, learning to become much more handy, and thinking of ways to use the space to fund the space.

The space is called Orbital, and my goal is to make it a…

I’m excited to see this coming together and have very HIGH expectations for it!