The Freelancers' Show 113 - Learning

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Eric and Curtis discuss how their learning has changed from the start of their career to now.


CURTIS: What show is this? ERIC: I think it is 113. CURTIS: 115. ERIC: Mandy’s being pretty good about keeping it up-to-date. CURTIS: That’s about time she pulled her weight around here, right? [Would you like to join a conversation with the Freelancers’ Show panelists and their guests? Wanna support the show? We have a form that allows you to join the conversation and support the show at the same time. Sign up at] CURTIS: Welcome to the Freelancers’ Show, episode 113. Today will be a bit of a light panel with Reuven out, and Chuck has some stuff going on at home, so it is Eric Davis. ERIC: Hey. CURTIS: And myself, Curtis McHale. Today we’re going to talk about learning. A little bit more specifically, even how our learning has changed from when we first started at business, running our business and what we are doing now. So Eric, when you started to do business, where did you really start? ERIC: What do you mean, like as far as educational levels on what I was doing or –? CURTIS: Yeah, what’s the stuff you were reading when you first started? ERIC: When I first started I already had a business degree at that point, so I kinda had the general idea of how to run a business. College teaches you how to run huge, corporate businesses or Fortune 500s – they don’t teach you how to start a business. I took an entrepreneurship class, which was pretty much a waste, but I knew the basics of business. And so when I got started, a lot of the stuff I really had to dig into was how to be an entrepreneur, start that kind of business, and most of it was marketing-wise – marketing tactics, not even strategy – just like scrambling to get new customers, new clients. For a long time at the beginning, that’s all my education was focusing on; I was trying to get better at that. My technical skills in Rails, and then PHP, kind of were at a level where I didn’t need to actually improve those so much. I was already above a lot of my competition, skill-wise, with that, but it was all marketing, all getting customers. CURTIS: And what's the difference between the strategy and tactics that you learned? ERIC: A strategy is almost always higher level. A strategy is like, for example, you're in Los Angeles and you wanna go to New York. Well, your strategy is you're going to travel from Los Angeles to New York. The tactics are the actual how you're going to get there: are you going to drive? Are you going to fly there? Are you going to take a train? Also, tactics will mostly change. If you take a plane and it gets rerouted to Florida for some reason, your strategy stays the same in that you still wanna get to New York, but your tactics of taken a plane ride into New York has to change, and so you have to adapt. The strategy of you – that’s kind of like your larger business focus; that won’t change very much over time. The tactics are going to – you have to adapt and you stay within the strategy to a certain extent and you might try out a whole bunch of different things – see what works, see what gets you to your end goal better. But yeah, it’s the different layers of thinking – like your big end goal, what you're doing versus the actual day-to-day, taking little steps to it. CURTIS: For me, I actually have a psychology degree, so my learning very much started at a ‘how do I even do this’ level. I was pretty, I guess, lucky when I first started and hooked up with shows like the Boagworld Podcast when it was going all the time. I got pointed in the right direction for accessibility standards#. I have never built a site and tables in my entire life, aside of actual tabular data. ERIC: Wow. CURTIS: I know. I built HTML emails – that’s the closest I've got – and they're terrible and I don’t do them anymore. I've barely done any, really. But that’s mainly because I got pointed in the right spot at that time by Boagworld. ERIC: So you started learning the technical aspects in relation to the business aspects? CURTIS: Yeah, I've always wanted to run a business. I was installing decks, I did some decks on the side on my own, so I had I guess a basic business point, but I didn’t know how to build the site at all. My dad was a computer guy; he worked at IBM for 30 years, so there was technical know-how a bit around from having computers around very, very early, but I had never coded a site at all. I don’t even remember why I decided I wanted to learn that, but I remember –. I think the first editor I used – was it NVU, was one, kind of like a gooey [crosstalk]. That was the first thing I did and I literally just started by writing HTML every day during class, actually. And then [inaudible], like deleting the work when I was done in class so I had to write it again the next day and get faster and learn more. That’s what I did – running CSS in that. That’s where my learning really started was at the purely functional level, like ‘how do you even do this.’ Certainly not the business level in any fashion. ERIC: Yeah, and thinking back, I think I had stuff on Geocities back when that was a thing. CURTIS: I did have one of those when I was in my teens. ERIC: Yeah, and I'm trying to remember they had – not wizzy wicks, they didn’t look anything like what it ended up. I used their editor – whatever it was – and then I think ended up using Notepad or something. Basically all of my programming with the exception of one or two classes I took in college as side things, I've been self-taught. I started out in Geocities, figured out HTML – I don’t even remember what I had a site about, probably cats or something stupid – and then taught myself PHP and actually all that stuff back when PHP Nuke was the thing used to build websites. It’s funny, I used to host my sites on a server that sat under my desk in my office that was slash a living room while I was a college student. I had a cluster of old computers I put together to actually run my website because I couldn’t – none of them were fast enough to actually do anything, and so I had 150 MHz here, 200 MHz here, and all that added up, but I remember doing PHP Nuke then. I remember using WordPress; I think it was 1.5. I don’t even think WordPress had the concept of a page back then and I used it for a while, and all of my stuff has just been like, “Oh, let’s try this software and then let’s hack around on it, see what it does, and try to do that stuff.” So all of my education, all of my learning as far as programming has been self-taught, and then much of my entrepreneurship has been self-taught. Like I said, these college business classes really don’t teach you how to start and run a small business, or at least when I was there it was pretty much all large business. All large, like, you have multimillion-dollar marketing budget-type stuff. CURTIS: I would say all of my business thoughts came from my dad who, after he worked at IBM for a while, he was running his own business, and so I got to talk with him. He had a lot of corporate training at IBM as well, like disk profiles and teamwork, and then auditing of departments for efficiency, so I had a head start in that aspect, maybe. I don’t even remember how I stumbled into WordPress; it actually sounds like you used it before I did. I think it had pages about the time I was using it, but I have to really dig around to figure out what version. It was 2.something. ERIC: I guess the big thing for me right after – I guess before I got out of college, I was into programming and I decided, “Okay, I wanna build web applications a bit more” because they're kind of on the rise and I think Paul Graham was writing a lot more. I think that was before Y Combinator, because I think I missed the first Y Combinator by about a year, and I was out of college for about a year. I liked Python; I was using it a little bit. I was talking with Curtis, I've actually imported Kabal scripts to Python because I had nothing better to do with my classes. I was looking at Python but the web stuff just wasn’t there and right around that time Rails just came out a few months earlier and so I actually got on that bandwagon right away and haven't left. Ruby’s been like my favorite programming language and because I got on so early, I've been using it long enough that I have the expert level or whatever experience using it; I've seen a lot of things. Since then, at least on the technical side, a lot of my knowledge has just been adding to what's changed, what's new, okay, [inaudible] SQL stuff has improved so let’s just add it to the existing knowledge I've had. I haven't actually had to go back and actually start from scratch, and that also kinda leaks out into JavaScript in other areas, so I’ll be doing a Rails project and I’ll have to do a bit of JavaScript. Well, because of that I improved my JavaScript skills; I don’t actually have to go and start from scratch with JavaScript. That’s how I've been progressing at least on the technical side of my learning is just continuously adding to my body of knowledge and using what I've learned in Ruby to get better at JavaScript. I've talked about this story before: I imported a lot of Ruby and Rails concepts into PHP and PHP frameworks just because I wanted to feel more productive, and so it’s all been incrementally improving at least on that side. CURTIS: From a technical aspect, most of – I guess actually from any aspect, all of my learning has been pain points or efficiency points, right? When I heard of Grunt a bunch and then I started being like, “I'm about to set up CodeKit again and make sure that everyone can set this up and this is a pain in the butt.” And then I dove into the ground one afternoon and leaned Grunt and now I use it all the time, like almost every project there's some Grunt in there at some point to compile my CSS or my JavaScript or pull all the to-do notes out of my plugin, out of a project in progress so that I can see and make sure I have left one around, f7or something I thought I should do. That’s how it’s all gone as I progressed – just looking at my pain points. Now I do most of my – more of my learning on the business side, so all of the books I'm reading and 90% of the books I'm reading are business-focused, and that’s all like a pain point. I'm not an expert at marketing, I'm not good at positioning myself where I want to be, and so I'm reading about how to do those things, refine my client process. ERIC: So are you mostly using books to kinda drive your education, or are you using other sources or mediums? CURTIS: The absolute highest value content that I can see is in books and in podcasts. When I look at the information for the time I spent, those are the two best. There's a lot of good blog posts out there, but I find a lot of them – if they talk about something good, they don’t give you a really good execution strategy. There are certainly some out there that are awesome and totally knocked it out of the park, but by and large, the best value content I get each week is out of a book or out of a podcast. ERIC: Yeah, for me, with the technical stuff – actually all the learning I do, I don’t know if this is actually the proper term, but I call it just-in-time learning. I try not to put time into learning something until I need it, unless I really, really want to. And so for the technical side, I’ll avoid learning new SQL or whatever until the client needs it or until I see I need to learn at least the basics to kinda have a working knowledge and know if it’s a good thing or bad thing, and for that stuff I found blog posts worked pretty good, mostly just to get an overview of everything. But I’ll agree – for business things or for things where you need. like kinda what I talked about earlier where you need a bigger picture, like a strategy view of things, blog posts just don’t get into the depth for me; they don’t kinda cover it enough. For me, books are absolutely at the top for me. Podcasts are good for a little bit, like an introduction to things, or talking about news, but I've always been a reader as kind of how I get all my information. CURTIS: Oh yeah, myself and my wife are both readers, extensively. We have often tried to see who can read the most books in a month; by the time we’re getting each to 10 we decide that it was just a good month of reading. I think for technical topics, the blog posts are more useful to me because I usually like ‘here is exactly how you do it.’ I, usually at this point, dive in by reading the technical documentation on Grunt’s site and then look around it. [Inaudible] have written about it to kind of buff up my knowledge or to, “Oh, there's an example and this is why they're doing it and now I can improve my own workflow.” For technical, blog posts are more useful to me. I very rarely read old books; I've got references around, but that’s about it. I very rarely even finish them; I just flip through the pages I need to and I'm done with them. ERIC: Yeah, and I've actually – I've been doing, I guess for the past year, I've been really cleaning out a lot of my paperback books. I've been holding on to reference books, but I'm finding more and more – even really good reference books, I don’t reference them. I go on the Internet first, by the time I actually decide, “Oh, I probably should just pull that book off the shelf,” I've already found my answer. I think between blog posts and then, for programming itself, like API docs or maybe if you're using Adobe products like Adobe’s official Help or whatever, that seems to be the easiest way for me to learn. Since I do a lot of stuff in open source, I actually will download a lot of the source code and actually just read through the code itself, because that’s actually how it works versus the disconnect between how the code runs and how actually someone thinks it runs and how they write about it. CURTIS: Yeah, and that’s something you can only do once you know the right questions to even ask. I know, when I first started, I didn’t even know the right questions to ask. I cried at my computer one night because I didn’t even know where to go. Like, how do you even start to frame this problem I was having? Now that I can, I [inaudible] too. I use an application called Dash that downloads a whole bunch of documentation for me, and so I have on my computer, local all the time, all the WordPress documentation, the SAS documentation, Bourbon, Vim. It’ll document all your man pages on your computer, even. I use that regularly to search for API docs and then code as well. ERIC: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. In Rails, a lot of times, when you have an actual exception it tells you the line number of the code had an error in and because of a lot of the kinda changes in how it works is you almost always have copies of that code locally where you can get to it, so I actually jump right into the code. I used to be afraid; I used to look at Rails or any other technical system – I don’t wanna touch it. I want it to work; if it doesn’t work, I'm going to complain about it. Now, my first response is to jump into it and see what's going on, because I think as you kind of get better at stuff you learn that Rails or Grunt – whatever it is you're using – is not perfect. There's going to be problems in it; don’t blame it first, but there's a good chance that you might actually have found something no one else has found. Especially for open source, you can actually go in and hope to fix a release, hope to shine bright on a problem and help someone else fix it. I think that’s kinda important to your learning, because it kind of shows you that you can make a hypothesis. Like, there's a problem in this piece of software. Let’s look through it, diagnose, “Okay, here’s where the problem could be; change it and see if it actually worked or not worked,” and when it works, it really helps you look at it like you’ve dug through all this stuff and now you’ve learned, “Well, my hypothesizing is better; I can see how the software works as a whole.” And so at least with technical stuff, that’s really nice. It’s a fast feedback cycle of problem-change-it’s fixed. CURTIS: Yeah, most of the time I'm using a documentation that's for – like in WordPress, PHP – like, “What are the parameters on this again?” I just double check it; I just read through it, how they recommend best to use it, which may or may not be accurate. Sometimes I read how they said to use it, “Oh wait, that’s totally broken” and I forgot to go fix it in the documentation, which I try to do as well because it’s all on a wiki for WordPress stuff. For SAS, or Bourbon, more often it’s stuff like I'm not even aware of all the mixins you can use [inaudible] so it’s just bringing out my general functional knowledge. ERIC: It’s kind of a hard thing – I think I've written about this quite a bit – with technical stuff, it’s easy because you get that fast feedback; you can slowly expose yourself to it. But with business and any kind of business topics, especially for me – marketing – it’s a lot harder to learn because feedback, either you don’t get it or just come as fast. For instance you might –. CURTIS: [Crosstalk] depending on your site traffic, right? ERIC: Yeah, [inaudible] but anything – I mean, you might –. Maybe you're going to try to – maybe you're working on your sales skills and you try to pitch a project to a client a certain way. Well, you don’t have enough volume to really understand, like, the client said no because of the wording you chose, or they said no because they don’t have the money. It’s really hit or miss and it’s not very qualitative, but it’s quantitative in that you can’t really put a lot of hard numbers on a lot of business stuff, and I think that [inaudible] a lot of marketing that’s why I started to learn marketing when I got started, and I'm still learning parts of it. It’s not like coding where you can do it and actually see the result and you know it’s correct. Marketing – you can do it, you might get some results, but you never know if you could have gotten better results, or that’s the best you can do, or if you tweak certain things it’s going to be twice as good, and so that’s kind of a hard thing. That’s why when you're learning business, you're almost always continuously learning. CURTIS: Yeah, that’s certainly right. I feel like I'm lacking most right now is [inaudible] and it’s [inaudible] because of testing I need to use that. That’s the thing that I focus on now. ERIC: I don’t remember how long ago I got into it, but one area – like I said, I was going through all the marketing stuff, trying to find what worked for me, what I enjoyed, and I happened upon – the full-on term is direct response marketing, but it’s also called direct marketing. It came out of kind of the miller of the catalog, so they’d mill out a catalog of stuff, people would order things. Or nowadays it’s more of like what people call the junk mail, where someone would mail a letter and you'd respond to it and you'd get a discount or you'd get a free product or whatever – a lot of that has actually moved online very easily. I got into that and I really enjoyed that, because a lot of that is very numbers-based; it’s very analytical; it has feedback mechanisms built in. If you're going to send out a thousand different letters to people in your local area and you get only one return, that’s less than one percent – you screwed something up. So the next thousand you send, maybe you change the letter, maybe you change the envelope, maybe you follow up with a phone call – whatever. But you have that feedback [inaudible] “Okay, this one I'm going to do better by changing one or two factors.” Being a programmer, being very analytical – that’s been something good for me and that’s actually helped me, because I've learned what works for the actual clients I talk to. I know doing this sort of action is actually going to give me a better response, and it might not be that way for everyone, but for me and my specific market, it’s worked. Another good thing about that is as I'm learning, I'm finding areas I either don’t know or areas that I know I need to improve my learning. Maybe a year ago, maybe a little less, I realized I had the process down, I had the analytics down, but my copywriting was bad. I wasn’t writing compelling copy, and so I actually spent time and dedicated time to learning copywriting and took that new learning and integrated it into all the stuff I've been doing, with the hopes of actually making the whole thing better. And so it’s kind of given me a focus to see where are my weaknesses, what I want to improve, and that's helped me kind of build a learning plan. CURTIS: So what did you use to learn copywriting or how do you find those resources? ERIC: A lot of the original direct response marketing is built around copywriting, like that was the biggest tool they had, so I got some resources from that. The thing is a lot of that – well, some of that doesn’t translate well to online, and some of it is very, not sleazy, but it comes across as very hard-sell-y and I don’t like that. I found a lot of my clients don’t like that style either, and it was just hard to write. I couldn’t write that salesmanship-y, I've never been strong on the salesmanship side, and so I kind of – I've latched on to people who taught copywriting or kind of wrote a lot of sales material, but they wrote it in more of a helpful, more of a ‘we’re here to help, here’s some help we can give you; if you need more, we’ll give you more information if you buy this product’ or whatever. The big one that I had is Naomi Dunford from Ittybiz, and she has stuff on and off the market, so you can get all of her stuff. She had a copywriting book that I basically devoured. And then we had her a while ago – Joanna from Copy Hackers – she writes really good copy that’s also like, ‘I wanna help you, I wanna give you as much information as I can.’ If you need kind of a higher-level service or custom stuff, that’s where you'd actually pay for her services or pay to – your clients would pay to work with you. And so, I think between those two and a couple of other ones I found that I've gotten good recommendations on that, it’s kind of built up and leveled my copywriting skills to be from a complete absolute novice, to being decently good at it. CURTIS: So how do you decide normally what – like you talked about just-in-time learning, how you decide what is this thing that you need at this exact second? Like any given day, I could learn how to run Vagrant a little better developer-wise, or I could learn to do marketing a little better, or I could do whatever. How do you reckon those, all the things that you could be learning? ERIC: It’s hard; a lot of it is – the first thing is [inaudible] experienced pain with something? Like I said with the copywriting, I could see I was doing a whole bunch of activity in certain areas of my business and I could see that my copy that I was writing was the weak point. I could see that it was letting me down, and it was making it so even if I was doing stellar jobs on my email marketing, stellar jobs on making the product, the copywriting actually made those mediocre results. And so having a pain is kind of the first where I look at, and that's like, “Okay, that’s something I need to focus on.” Another aspect is what am I interested in, because I know I bounce around between ideas and topics. Like recently, we were talking before the show, I've been looking at a piece of software called Docker. I've always worked with virtual machines and all that stuff; I ran Zen back when it was alpha or beta software. I know how that works and I've ran it pretty much all the time, like different virtual stuff, and so Docker is kind of a slant on it; it’s actually a slant on the version that I used to use a long time ago. I'm like, “Oh, I have an interest in that. I don’t have a need for it because I use Vagrant or VirtualBox for things already, but Docker’s a little bit different and I think I'm going to learn some stuff from it and it might end up kinda one of the main tools I use, so I'm actually scheduling time this week to kinda sit down and play with it and figure out how it works.” Kind of the idea of you get the pain, and then you got what you're interested in, and then like the third one, like what I said earlier, the just-in-time. If I knew the client was coming up that needed help with, we’ll say the MailChimp API. Well, I'd probably dig in this week and kind of play around with MailChimp API a little bit, read the docs, do my learning that way – and that’s the just-in-time aspect. What about you? How do you pick what to learn? CURTIS: Part of it is what a client project brings up, right? I needed to dig in to Vagrant a little deeper for a client project and so I did that. I usually, I guess to split up my time, I learn more development during the day and read more about how to run an awesome business at night. And I listen to nothing – this is probably the most developer-y show that I listen to; everything else is business-focused. And there’s just time, right? I got this stuff on Copy Hackers and I read up [inaudible] but I didn’t have time. I guess it wasn’t a big enough pain point for me; that’s the one that I decided would be most beneficial to me at that exact moment. ERIC: Right, and that's the problem I have. Like I said, I read a lot, and so I’ll actually read things that I don’t need, but it’s like, “It’s entertaining, I might pick up a few things” but I don’t actually retain a lot of the knowledge and I kind of built up my own habits and systems to really keep track of, “Okay, if I do need that knowledge later, how do I get to it without rereading the 4-5 books on the topic?” But if you don’t have an actual need, or you can’t put what you're learning into play and actually experience having to go through it, it makes it a lot harder and if feels like information kinda goes in one ear and out of the other. So do you have a plan of over this next year, or even a quarter or a month, like what you wanna learn, where you're going – that sort of thing? CURTIS: Yup. This year, I did two quarters so far. The first one I was trying to learn more about launching products, which I admittedly didn’t do wonderfully on; I could have done more for sure. This quarter, I'm working on better client metrics, so like [inaudible] one of my best clients, how do I continue to serve them better and continue to have them coming back, because they're already my best clients, right? So those are the things that I'm focusing on and trying to tailor my reading towards that. Actually right now I'm reading Michael Port’s book. I always forget it if it’s Get Clients Now or Book Yourself Solid because I mix them up, but [inaudible] was by Michael Port. I think it’s Book Yourself Solid, I'm going back through that with my Masterminds group to really hone down my client offerings, which are the clients I love and really get that tight. ERIC: You said you kinda had quarters for it; do you actually kind of actively go and say, “I'm going to read this book, I'm going to read this book, I'm going to listen to this podcast” – do you plan it out like that, or do you just say, “I'm going to take these three months and kinda keep my eyes open on whatever I find that’s about client metrics, I'm going to pick up and start reading? CURTIS: Well, if you look at my Amazon wish list, you'd see probably 150 entries in there, and so what I’ll often do is I’ll kind of dig back through and buy four or five of them and say, “This is the ones that I plan on reading” because I often go through four books a month. I’d plan on reading these ones, sometimes I’ll start through one and get partway through it and I’ll be like, “This is a terrible book.” I did that with one of the Basecamp 37Signals’ books [inaudible] Remote. Remote – I got five pages in and said, “This is terrible.” Maybe 20 pages in, but then I reread Rework, because that’s what we do with the Mastermind group and I thought it was still a good, got-checked book on how you run your business. So it depends; as long as you don’t feel bound to reading them. And then the podcasts I have are pretty consistent. I had one or two and tried one or two, but then I'm not sure, so I just take them back if they're not useful to me. Just cut them, I don’t care. ERIC: So would you say, the podcasts are kind of supplementing your learning, like they're like giving you kind of a broad spectrum of different topics? Like, [inaudible] talk about client analytics, but they might talk about, say, copywriting, and you're doing the client analytics so you pay attention and then later on if you decide to pick up copywriting you're like, “Oh, I kinda know the basics from this podcast already.” CURTIS: Yeah, I said I focus on client metrics. When we talked with Kirk – I was on that show – and then I listened to it again and I thought, “This was the best thing I've listened to all week.” When we talked about value, it was by far – and I listened to it the second time and my wife listened to it, I was like, “That was a really good episode.” And so when I have stuff like that surface, I just put the time into listening to that because it is – sometimes the most valuable content to listen to that week has nothing to do with what I was technically focusing on, but it’s still good to think of it in your overall business strategy, right? How am I pricing, in that example, specifically. ERIC: Right. For me, I go with different ways. I focus. Other than fiction – because I use fiction as kind of the decompression of going through and learning everything – if I'm reading about copywriting, that’s all that I'm reading about. I’ll listen to copywriting podcasts, I’ll read copywriting books, I’ll find a bunch of people on Twitter, whatever, that are copywriters or that are in that area and read the stuff they're posting – that’s kind of the only thing I focus on. It’s kind of a full-on immersion and what I like to do is I’ll go and basically get samples of any kind of kindle book people recommend to me that I have a mild interest in, because the samples are free, and then I’ll read the sample, decide if the writing’s good, because some people just have horrible writing, it’s impossible to get through it. Like you, I have this big wish list. I actually have 194 items on my Kindle list right now, and I have other wish lists I have, like paperback books, things like that, but when it’s like, “Okay, I'm learning copywriting this week” I’ll go and buy all of the Kindle books about copywriting and I’ll sit down for the month or whatever and basically that’s all I'm reading as far as nonfiction-wise. I found that that intense focus and all the notes I take really helps me understand and then kind of – you get to a point where you don’t know anything, so everything you read’s new. But then after a while, you're reading the book and like, yeah, everyone’s already said everything that’s in this book and you're full of all the information and that’s when you can kind of stop learning or move on to the next topic. We got a bunch of advice here, I guess I'm going to ask you, for someone who’s maybe they're getting started freelancing and there's just a ton of information they have to learn, or maybe there's a certain topic – I mentioned copywriting quite a bit, you mentioned client metrics – maybe there's a specific topic that someone has and they wanna get into it, how would you actually recommend that they get started in it. CURTIS: Find the best book on the subject. I tell new freelancers that there's four or five books they should read. They should read The Price is Right by Chris Lema, that’s for short pricing, because [inaudible] that good pricing theory and then you'll read it again later when you can dig into it. Book Yourself Solid and Get Clients Now! And then if you have time to read, The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing with a monolithic tone on pricing. I think those put you off on the right foot when you're starting freelancing. When I'm looking at a new topic, I just try to find the best resources that are out there. Sometimes, even a Udemy course. For Masterminds I read a bunch of that over Christmas so I can improve my running one. I bought a couple of books and the best value content for that being a Udemy course by Dan Miller – that was the best option. I found it had the best content in it. And then for applying it, like with the Mastermind stuff, I just started doing parts of it and seeing how it worked and then kind of tweaking my approach to how I was running the Mastermind and I have found it very good as an organizer, in many ways, to take more control of the group [inaudible] than I did originally. ERIC: Okay. That’s [inaudible] much how I do it. I recommend getting – assuming reading is the best way you learn, and if you don’t know, reading’s a really inexpensive way to try it out – but get the top four or five books on the topic. If you can hear recommendations from people, that’s the best way to start, but I've actually found –. If you can find an Amazon category for the topic you wanna learn, just start there and just go off the list and just pick the top four or five books that actually sound reasonably close, because some books get miscategorized. Read them, and like I said, you'll hit a point where you feel like people are just repeating the same things you already heard, and once you get to that point, I feel like you’ve done enough reading that it’s time to actually do action. And when you're reading, take notes of things, take notes of important stuff. If something pops in your head like, “Oh, this is a great –” like, you were talking about price and stuff, if there's a great pricing tactic, take a note on that to try out. If you can, try it out as soon as possible versus waiting till you read all the books, but if you feel like you need to wait, just get to where you're comfortable, and try it out, and try it in a way where you feel you can watch it and get the feedback on it to see if it worked and also where you're a bit protected in that it’s not going to completely kill your business and completely put you in the poor house. Do it where it’s a very minor test, and if it goes wrong it’s not that big of a deal and just watch that feedback cycle. Try one thing you learned, try the second thing you learned – keep doing that. That’s basically how I learned and how I actually started applying that learning to my business. I'm not a good video learner, and I learn only a little off of podcasts, but if that’s kinda where you learn I would do it the same way: find good podcasts or find good videos, especially if you can find instructional DVDs or instructional stuff on Youtube, or conference presentations – that sort of thing – latch on to the top five or six. Or because they might be shorter, maybe get 10 or 20 of them and dive deep into that topic you're looking at until you get to the point where it feels like people are repeating themselves or they're saying the same things. Just figure out what's best for you learning-wise. CURTIS: Right. Well we’ll move in to the picks now. Eric, what do you have for us this week? ERIC: My pick is – it’s on Rachel Andrew’s blog. It’s called Playing a Mind Game on distance running and product launches. If you don’t know, I actually – I'm kind of a runner; I've done 5Ks, but I'm working my way up to do a half marathon. [Inaudible] I’ve actually ran one [inaudible] so I'm obviously watching running stuff, running devices – that’s something I'm learning. Rachel Andrew also runs a product business and so it’s like, “Oh, look. That’s two of my interests there,” but she actually compared the two and kind of broke it down how running works, how launching a product works and how it’s – she runs marathons – but how it’s like ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’ launch a product, and so it’s a good blog post. She has a really good blog and she has a really good newsletter; I think it goes out every week. It has some stories from her and industry news for the products, entrepreneur stuff, so I'd recommend subscribing to it. CURTIS: And I'm going to recommend Dash today. That’s the documentation app that I mentioned earlier. It’s got – I checked while we were talking – it’s got docs for Rails as well and lots of different flavors of it. It really has documentation, I think, which is probably 80 or 90 sources in there, and any site can actually – if they just mark it up properly – can easily become that. it auto-updates, so every time there's a new WordPress release it knows to double check the version number and downloads all the docs again for me so it keeps itself up-to-date all the time. Any time you open it, it starts downloading all the newest stuff for you. It’s awesome, it’s saving me a ton of time and integrates with, say, [inaudible] with your code-editor of choice so you could search and pop over to that directly quite easily. ERIC: Yeah, that looks pretty cool. I've used a bunch of different things; Ruby has some built-in stuff where it builds HTML versions of your documentation and so people have taken that and extended it to make bundles of Ruby and Rails and common stuff like that. But this looks nice because if you're working a lot of different environments or you do PHP and JavaScript, and Bash or whatever, this can all do it in one place. CURTIS: Yup. It’s easy to even – from Vim, if I just type :Dash, whatever I'm searching and type WordPress, it’ll search, center it only on the WordPress docs and does tabs and a bunch of other stuff, so it’s really nice, it’s really slick. I found it I guess a month, two months ago, and have used it all the time. I barely even open the web pages for these things unless something seems off [inaudible] make sure it’s up-to-date. Well, that’s it for episode 113. Thanks for listening! [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. 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