How to stop giving a F@$% what people think. Start living your life. Via. @sseankim

This article was inspired by the work of Julien Smith & The Flinch.
I share with you the struggles and lessons that I’ve learned from my own journey.

We‘re all guilty.

Everyday from the moment we wake up, we live our lives caring what other people think of us.

We accept the status quo for what it is because everyone around us does.
We tip toe our way through life by doing things in order to please others, not because it’s what we believe in. Eventually our actions, appearances, and lives become moulded by how we think other people perceive us.

How are these pants going to make me look? What will my colleagues think if I spoke out? Are those people talking shit behind my back? If I take this job, what will my friends and family think of me?

Just writing that paragraph alone gave me a headache…
It’s exhausting. It’s dreadful. It has to stop.

Living a life that follows the ideal notions of what other people think is a terrible way to live. It makes you become the spineless spectator who waits for other people to take action first. It makes you become a follower.
Worst of all, it makes you become someone who doesn’t take a stand for anything.

Today is the last day we live a life dictated by others. Today, we’re going to get to the bottom of the truth. Today is the day we stop giving a F@$%.

No one really cares

Believe it or not, we’re not that special.

We go through our days thinking about how other people might be judging us. But the truth is — those people are thinking the exact same thing.

No one in today’s “smartphone crazed” society has time in their schedule to think more than a brief second about us. The fact of the matter is, when we do have time get our thoughts straight, we’re too busy thinking about ourselves and our own shortcomings — not others.

A study done by the National Science Foundation claims that people have on average 50, 000 plus thoughts a day. This means that even if someone thought about us ten times in one day, it’s only 0.02% of their overall daily thoughts.

“You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.” — David Foster Wallace

It is a sad but simple truth that the average person filters their world through their ego, meaning that they think of most things relating to “me” or “my.” This means that unless you have done something that directly affects another person or their life, they are not going to spend much time thinking about you at all.

I’ve always enjoyed watching performers trying to hustle some change at the New York City train stations. These guys simply don’t give a F@$%.
But the more interesting observation I made is how the spectators react. Rather than watching the actual performers, most people are looking around to see how other people are reacting. If people were laughing, they would start laughing too. But if people weren’t paying attention, they would also pay no mind.

Even when provided the blatantly obvious opportunity to judge someone, people are still thinking about how others may perceive them.

Once you understand that this is how people’s mind works, it’s a big step towards freedom.

You can’t please everyone

It’s impossible to live up to everyone’s expectations.
There will always be people — no matter what we say or how we treat them — that will judge us. Whether you’re at the gym, at work, taking the train, or even online playing Call of Duty. Even now it‘s happening. You will never be able to stop people from judging you, but you can stop it from affecting you.

Think about the worst thing that could possibly happen when someone is judging you or what you’re doing.

I guarantee that chances are — nothing will happen. Absolutely nothing. No one is going to go out of their busy lives to confront us, or even react for that matter. Because as I mentioned before, no one actually cares. What will happen, is that these people will actually respect you for claiming your ground. They may disagree with you, but they’ll respect you.

Start standing up for what you believe in — causes, opinions, anything. You’re going to have people that disagree with you anyways, so why not express how you truly feel?

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something in life.”— Winston Churchill

I’ve learnt that it’s better to be loved by a few people you care about, than to be liked by everyone. These are family, friends, spouse — the people who love you for who you are, and the people who will be there for you during your worst times. Focus on these people. They’re the only people that matter.

You reap what you sow

Worrying too much about what other people think can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because the way we think starts to become the way we behave. These individuals become people-pleasers and overly accommodating to others, thinking it will stop them from being judged.
In fact, the opposite is true. Most people don’t like push-overs and are turned off by it. The behaviour we use in an attempt to please others, can actually cause the opposing effect.

If how we think affects our behaviours, then how we behave affects who we attract.

This means that if you’re a push-over, then you’re going to be attracting others in your life who are also push-overs. Vice versa.
This can be quite a dangerous path to go down if you don’t recognize its consequences.

It’s been said that we are the average of the five people we hang out with the most. When we start to attract and associate with the same people that share our weaknesses — we’re stuck. We stop growing, because there’s no one to challenge us to be better. We start thinking that this is the norm and we remain comfortable. This is not a place you want to be.

Now let’s talk about the cure. Here are 5 ways to stop giving a F@$%.

Reclaiming your freedom

1. Know your values

First and foremost. You need to know what’s important to you in life, what you truly value, and what you’re ultimately aiming for. Once you know who you really are and what matters to you, what other people think of you become significantly less important. When you know your values, you’ll have something to stand up for — something you believe in.

You’ll stop saying yes to everything. Instead, you’ll learn to say no when friends pressure you to go bar-hopping, or when a tempting business opportunity that distracts you from your business.

When you have your values straight, you have your shit straight.

2. Put yourself out there

Now that you know what your values are, it’s time to put yourself out there.

This can be done several ways. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Blogging
  • Wearing a polka-dot sweater
  • Public Speaking
  • Flirting/Asking someone out

Keep in mind that when you’re doing any of these activities, you have to speak your mind. Be honest with yourself and what you share, because the world doesn’t need another conflict-avoider who does what everyone else does.

3. Surround yourself with pros

Surround yourself with people who are self-assured, and live life without comprising their core values. These people will rub off on you quickly.

One of my best friends, Cody, has been a big influence on me. Having spent the summer with him, I’ve observed countless times where he strongly voiced his opinion on controversial topics. What I learned was that he was simply voicing opinions that people already had in their heads, but were too afraid to voice. People admired him for being so honest and direct, even when they disagreed with his views.

Thanks for not giving a F@$% Cody.

4. Create a “Growth List”

OK, now we’re getting personal.

I haven’t told anyone this, but I have this list called the “Growth List.”

A Growth List is comprised of all the things in life that makes you uncomfortable. These are fears, insecurities —anything that gives you the jitters.

My Growth List

Here’s how it works.

You start by writing all the things that make you feel uncomfortable.
Then one-by-one, you do them. Once you complete the task, you move on to the next. Repeat.

My first growth task was taking a cold shower (The Flinch). I turned the water as cold as it could get, and I could feel my body shake before I even entered the shower. This was the inner bullshit voice in my head talking.

It was hard at first. But surprisingly, it got easier the second time. Then even easier the third time. Before I knew it, my body stopped shaking — I was no longer uncomfortable, I’ve conquered my fear.

This exercise does wonders. I have yet to find a better way to get out of my comfortable zone. You can read all the books in the world about being confident or getting over your fears, but if you don’t take action, you’re just someone who’s read how to ride a bicycle without ever having ridden one.

5. Travel alone

If you’re looking for an ultimate transformation that combines all of the points above, you should travel alone. Traveling with other people can be fun, but you won’t get the opportunity to truly get out of your comfort zone.

You’ll be exposed to different social cultures, break social norms that you didn’t even know existed, and ultimately be forced to burst out of your small bubble.

Bring as little as possible, and fit everything into one backpack. Plan nothing, except for a one-way flight ticket to your destination — figure everything else out when you’re there. Trust me, you’ll be just fine.

It won’t be easy initially, but don’t get discouraged. Being comfortable with the uncomfortable will grow with time. I continue to struggle with it everyday, as do many others. But you need to get started today.

The world is already full of people who obey the status quo. But the people who don’t give a F@$% are the ones that change the world.
Be the latter.

Start living life the way you want, be fearless like you once were as a child, and always, always stand up for the truth.

Someone has to.

If you found this article helpful, give it a big fat Recommend and share it with your loved ones. You can find me on Twitter @sseankim.

Inspirational credits to: Julien, Jerome Jarre, Mark Cuban

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Stock photos that don’t suck

A list of places to find the best free stock photos

Finding great stock photos is a pain. You’re left with either low-res amateur photos, people wearing cheesy headsets, or photos that are out of budget for the project you’re working on. Below is an ongoing list (so bookmark it) of the best stock photo sites I’ve come across.

Know of any other great sites? Leave a note here and I’ll add it to the list.

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Welcome to the Era of the Hardware Startup

As new technologies go, 3D printing is a bit of an attention hog. In recent years, we’ve seen printers with increasingly amazing capabilities: from ones that extrude plastic to create small objects to machines with lasers that melt metal powder into amazingly intricate jet engine parts.

But the cool factor of 3D printing sometimes obscures a movement in manufacturing that could have an even bigger impact: platforms that help us share ideas, suppliers and marketplaces. That emerging network is why I’m optimistic that 2014 marks the rise of the hardware startup.

Anyone who toured the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas would understand that optimism. The booths for hardware startups dotted the floor and competed for attention with the big manufacturers. As former Wired Editor Chris Anderson, who is now a hardware startup guy himself, noted, “‘Three guys with laptops used to describe a Web startup. Now it describes a hardware company, too.”

Several years after Anderson made this prediction, a number of factors are converging to make it come true. First, low-cost cloud computing is helping hardware teams, as it becomes embedded in the making process. Even more profound is the impact of small manufacturing operations that allow startups to do rapid prototyping at a fraction of what it used to cost, thanks to globalization and digital markets.

Maker spaces ranging from TechShop to NYC Resistor provide space for people to hone their making skills with access to manufacturing equipment at a fraction of the costs. Adafruit and Seeed Studio will build you a circuit board and ship them, along with DIY parts for more customization; Kickstarter and Indiegogo have made the fundraising process much easier.

Companies like Dragon Innovation help well-funded concepts get from prototype to manufacturing; Quirky makes invention accessible to anyone with a good idea and community support. Incubators like Lemnos Labs are making the hardware garage accessible to a range of entrepreneurs looking to take on well-established manufacturing OEMs in retail, logistics and health.

What I love about hardware startups is their willingness to take on and transform dauntingly complicated industries. Until recently, manufacturing had been almost exclusively the domain of big companies that can afford to build at scale. Now, these makers are turning the tables and showing the value of being both adaptable and close to your customers.

At GE, we’re emboldened by the marriage of the physical and the digital; the industrial and the analytical. We’re seeking out the new generation of inventors who are transforming making as we know it. It’s exciting to think how many burgeoning Thomas Edisons could be liberated to invent something world-changing.

Photo: opensourceway / Flickr Creative Commons

Posted by:Beth Comstock

Gut investing

I’ve always admired deep-thinking tech investors. The ones that construct a big overarching thesis to frame their investment philosophy. “Software is eating the world,” “the bottom up economy,” and “investing in thunder lizards” are a few of my favorites.

Just before heading out on stage at a tech conference, TechCrunch Founder Michael Arrington asked me, “How do you pick your companies?” I responded, “I don’t know, I trust my gut” — he seemed unsatisfied and told me, “You’ve got to come up with something better than that.”

It’s been a couple years since that conversation and I’m slowly starting to piece together what it means to “gut invest” for me. I’d like to share a couple examples.

Going with your gut or trusting your gut simply means running with an internal emotion or reaction to events and data. I then take this emotion and apply it to a timeline — seeing if the feeling comes back amplified.

When I first discovered Twitter, my gut took me to the following model — users tail or follow people they know. This threw the more popular bidirectional friendship model out the door. My gut noticed a few things: 1) This is fun. Building an audience and increase your followers had a very game like feel to it. 2) This is easier than starting a blog. The fear associated with long posts is nonexistent, and 3) What if celebrities adopt this? I took those gut insights and applied them to time. E.g. What does this look like and how big will it be 1, 5, 10 years from now. These feelings led me to my investment in Twitter 5 years ago.

Earlier this year my gut led me to invest in Tesla Motors. But not for the reasons you might think. My friend David Prager is the proud owner of a new Model-S. The second he got the car he did the rounds letting us all drive it (thanks Prager!). What struck with me most was not the car, but the sound it made. When he dropped me off, he stepped on the peddle and was whisked up a large San Francisco hill. All I heard was the electric swish/hum of acceleration. For me, it sounded like so many sci-fi movies I had seen growing up. It sounded like the future. A few days later I remember hearing a large city bus trying to climb the same hill, the diesel engine rattling and struggling almost as if it out of shape, fighting for its next breath. Taking these feelings, some data, and applying that to time led me to my investment in Tesla.

It’s important to note that I’m also a believer in data and using that data to inform your decisions. Especially in later rounds of financing. But in the early stage, at the seed of an idea, for me, I go with my feelings, my gut, around the product and it’s features — and how that might fit within the market over time.

Of course, my gut isn’t infallible, it’s certainly been wrong — but it is the intangible, emotional data that I lean on when looking for the next big thing.

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“How will they make money?” is the wrong question

Seems like every year we hear about a few new consumer networks raising large amounts of money at high valuations. And right on cue, we hear cynics asking, “But how will they ever make money?” let alone “enough money to justify the valuation.” Just this weekend, the rumors (and doubts — for example, read the comments) were all about Snapchat.

This is not a new phenomenon. Back in 2004, I had left business school to join LinkedIn, and a group of my friends came to do a project on LinkedIn and its future. They got a C+ on the report, and the professor said he thought social networking would never make any money. Oops. When I joined Twitter in 2009, many of my friends were equally shocked. The company had just been valued at $1 billion and had zero revenue; most of my friends didn’t use it and couldn’t figure who cared about what other people were having for breakfast.

In all of these cases, the primary challenge with building a large consumer company is not “how will you make money,” but “how do you get to be a long-standing durable network and define a new set of behaviors or verbs?” Once you can do that, it’s very likely you will be able to monetize at significant scale. (Side note: Not all businesses need to look like these large platforms and networks. There are plenty of other ways to build a successful and profitable company. I’m specifically focusing on that kind of large social network here.)

The key question I ask when I see interesting new consumer networks is whether they are durable, or just fads or flash-in-the-pans. From a user behavior perspective, I like to ask four things:

1. Is there a new behavior here that you can see 100M+ people doing?

No metrics can tell you this. You have to believe whether or not the product addresses a core need people have or don’t know they have yet. It helps to have the entrepreneur paint a vision for this new world and define the path for how adoption will grow. When I joined Twitter, the founders described a new world where information flowed faster, more accurately, and more openly. They convinced me that Twitter could become that primary way for people to access what they were interested in and what was happening in real time.

One way I like to think about this is whether there is a default “verb” that is changing the way people think about the world. Five years ago, we were not a world of sharers, but Facebook changed that. Now, when we see an interesting link or picture, for many people, the first instinct is to “share” it with friends. Tweet, Snap, Connect, Friend, Pin, Check-in — all are on that path of changing behavior.

2. Is the product evolving in a way where people are getting more and more engaged and committed over time?

Often, you can see this from data — both qualitative and quantitative. Good cohort charts can show how early users are contributing more and more to the system each month they use it, and can also show ongoing engagement. Evernote is a great example: As you add more and more notes over time, they see further and further into your commitment to the product. With Facebook in the early days, once the product was active on a university campus, people used it more and more every day and filled in more and more information such as their classes, activities, and friend lists.

3. Will the growth be sustainable?

The best growth of a product happens when someone is using a product so actively, they tell all their friends about it and try to drag them into the product. This can happen via viral channels like invitations or general word of mouth. But more than just rate of growth, it’s important to see that new users are becoming locked in similarly to early users. Later users are less likely to work as hard to join and learn a new product, so it’s crucial that over time, the product and network draw them in more directly, and the product improves to help them.

Some data on activation rates of new users, sources of new users, viral strength, and engagement and conversion over time can really help you determine this. It’s also important to understand qualitatively why people are signing up and whether the product is addressing what they were looking for in the first few sessions.

4. If the product succeeds at scale, can you monetize the key behaviors?

Lastly, monetization does matter. If you believe that the behavior can be big, and can grow big, then you’ve answered the biggest questions. But once you have that, it is a good idea to gut check whether at scale there will be enough of the primary use case and behavior that can be monetized in a meaningful way. Monetization is generally either direct spend by consumers or advertising to get your users to spend $$ somewhere else. With Twitter, people go to the product many times a day to see what’s happening in the world, so introducing advertising to help people see other interesting things happening seemed like a reasonable idea. With Pinterest, people go to the product to discover new interesting products and images, so it seems likely you can monetize this with either advertising or directly from purchases.

I think Ev Williams captured this best in his answer to a related question on Quora:

Having a large number of users and the inability to monetize them is a non-existent problem. People talk about it all the time, but it doesn’t really happen—at least it doesn’t happen in today’s world. I’m not even sure it ever did.

While valuations may seem high when they happen, in the case of a network like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, where the behaviors stick at scale, they end up looking like bargains. And in the cases of networks that don’t end up scaling and remaining durable, those crazy valuations look like a big mistake. So back to Snapchat — the big question here is whether it will stick, and not how it will make money.

Some related reading: Semil Shah on Cynics,Fred Wilson on Product > Strategy > Business Model

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Reality will always trump money

With income inequality on the rise, is money politics undermining democracy? I recently addressed this question on a panel at the World Economic Forum. Asked at the same time our country marked the fourth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which established that the First Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits government from restricting independent political expenditures by associations, labor unions and corporations, it was a poignant question.

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, tens of millions of dollars have been spent on tilting the vote. Numerous Political Action Committees have sprung up, supporting the campaigns of their favorite politicians here, there and everywhere.

It’s a conspiracy theorist’s dream. Just look at all those billionaires, stirring the masses with wall-to-wall TV spots and front-to-back print ads. Surely, the critics say, all this money is corroding the system. It must be undermining, even hijacking, the democratic process.

Reading the commentary one can’t help but picture some sort of billionaire James Bond nemesis sitting in his lair, stroking a white cat, quietly muttering: “We’ll see who owns this election.” There seems to be a palpable fear that the vote will be stolen by some future Darth Vader PAC or Daddy Warbucks Inc.

But there’s another view as well. It goes back to what the Supreme Court’s ruling actually means: The majority of Justices believe that the first amendment allows people and organizations to use their means as a bullhorn. After all, we live in a world of competing ideas – and it’s up to the voter to decide where the cross on the ballot goes, not the billionaire in his lair.

A lot has been said about whether money matters in the electoral process; the research so far has been inconclusive. However, with the upcoming Congressional elections and the 2016 run for the Presidency – we should remind ourselves of a few key facts:

  1. Money Matters: There is little doubt about that. After all, whatever the election is about, to gain visibility and make a candidate viable, the campaign needs to spend a minimum amount of money. And if you are in a position to spend much and spend it early, you can set the agenda, and tar your opponent. But just as in real life, while money can make things easier, it’s no guarantee of success.
  2. Ideas Matter: And usually they matter much more than money. If a political candidate says something unacceptable – for example that women can shut down a pregnancy after being raped – not even a deluge of money pouring into their coffers can rescue the campaign. Voters are much smarter than the elites give them credit for.
  3. Message matters: Where the vote is tight, the right message matters as much if not more than money. That’s why Republicans have been struggling recently, because the Democrats managed to fine-tune their campaign rhetoric to go after the 52 (or 99) percent. “Income inequality,” “fair share” and “us versus them” are compelling messages and have left Republicans tongue-tied – even though they ignore that America never worked that way. This country is about equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. Republicans, therefore, have to work on their messaging, because they have explaining to do. No amount of money sunk into campaigns will lead them to victory until they can clearly put forward their ideas.
  4. System matters: Money has always been part of America’s political process – starting well before the revolution and the nation’s founding. Of course, it would be great if life was fair, but we all know life isn’t. Don’t forget, the system that generates and supports our elected officials depends on money, so it’s hard to imagine a scenario where our politicians vote to scrap the current system. There will always be enough people confident that they can raise enough money to fight another day – and so there’s no incentive to stop aggressive fundraising.
  5. Creativity matters: Those who worry that they are at a financial disadvantage should start thinking like an entrepreneur, and get creative. How can you make a lot with just a little? If you run a start-up, you make your money work hard. You get creative, use your resources for maximum impact. That’s what we learned during the 2012 campaign: throwing money at things doesn’t work. So get creative and organized –and make sure you turn out the vote instead of spending millions to achieve supremacy on the airwaves.

I predict both parties in the US political system will continue to raise more or less equal amounts of money. However, candidates need to focus on the message. How about going for openness, and clarity? How about telling the truth about today’s political and economic situation? When you spend money, think like an entrepreneur. Spend it wisely; surprise your voters like a breath of fresh air. Your message, your policies should make the voters sit up and think: “Hey, I was thinking that! This person actually has a plan and I am finally going to get to vote for somebody that is telling me the truth.” As a nation, we are ready for that. “Realness” will always overpower money, regardless of the amount.



Dick Costolo On User Growth: Twitter “Will Reach Many More People” In 2014

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Twitter CEO Dick Costolo answered repeated questions this afternoon about the company’s user growth. His big point seemed to be that (despite what appears to be a decreasing number of new users joining the service), “We feel very well-positioned for growth,” and the company “will reach many more people” this year.

For one thing, Costolo offered some justification for the 7 percent quarter-over-quarter drop in timeline views, which Twitter provides as a measure of how much content users are consuming. He suggested that some of the user experience changes that Twitter made recently, such as threaded conversations, have reduced the number of timelines that a user needs to load.

At the same time, Costolo argued that each timeline view is actually becoming more valuable — something that’s certainly true from the perspective of ad revenue.

Analysts asked if there were similar mitigating factors in terms of Twitter’s monthly active users (a number that only grew 4 percent quarter-over-quarter), but Costolo didn’t mention any. Instead, he suggested that until last year, Twitter’s growth was “viral and organic.” In other words, “growth was something that happened to us,” rather than something it actively pursued. However, starting in the final quarter of 2013, Costolo said Twitter has been introducing more features to increase user engagement. He added that the early results are promising, so the company plans to continue introducing more features in areas like new user on-boarding, content discovery, and one-on-one conversations.

Ultimately, Costolo said there’s a “collection of these things that we want to do over the arc of the entire product,” which together will “develop the change in the slope of the growth curve” that the company is hoping for.

Another analyst asked if Twitter might consider releasing a variety of different apps (something that Facebook seems to be doing). Costolo replied that, rather stealing users from each other’s apps, a successful social app “carves out a use case and tries to do that job better than anyone else.” He suggested that as long as Twitter stays focused on that idea, he doesn’t need to have “any particular religion” on a strategy of one app versus multiple apps.