Reflections on 2020
Hey everyone! I’ve been a bit less active in the online maker community for the last few months, so I just wanted to share what I’ve been working on, what I’ve been thinking about, and some general reflection on 2020.
You’ve probably noticed that I’m writing this as a blog post, rather than a Twitter thread as I’d normally do. This is because I feel like a blog post is a better format to express myself — more on that later.
This post will probably be pretty long, but if you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to lately and what’s coming next, go grab a coffee or something and read on!
First, here’s an outline if you want to skip to a certain section:
- The past few months
- The false positives of social media
- Is it possible to make offline?
- What’s next
- In conclusion
Alright, let’s get into it!
The past few months
Around the beginning of October, I logged out of Twitter and stopped posting. The original reason for this was because I had the HSC coming up in a few weeks.
The HSC is the final exam which you take at the end of high school where I live — it’s a pretty big deal as far as things at school go. I still have one more year of high school, but I’m getting a few subjects out of the way a year early.
During the weeks before the HSC, I got really good at getting myself focused, and into a healthy daily routine. And I wasn’t doing anything online — no Twitter, no Telegram, no email, no programming. This combination of factors caused something really interesting:
I was going through the biggest exams of my life, yet I somehow felt the most calm I’ve felt in ages.
Let me explain.
The HSC ended up giving me a great excuse to disconnect completely, and a taste of what it’s like to live more offline. I didn’t have to stress about emails, because I wasn’t answering emails. I didn’t have to interact with people on Twitter, because I wasn’t logged into Twitter.
This sudden removal of all these online responsibilities I had sitting at the back of my head made me feel a lot freer.
So, once the HSC was over, rather than heading back immediately, I decided to stay offline and reflect more on my choices. None of these things that I had been doing were compulsory. Why was I sacrificing all this mental bandwidth, and did I need to be? The answer was quite simple — I didn’t.
I basically haven’t been active online at all since then. I haven’t been logged into Twitter, and I haven’t been replying to emails except when absolutely necessary.
Am I missing out on opportunities? Yes, probably. Is my business doing somewhat worse because of it? Yes, probably. But I think these trade-offs are worth it. The mental clarity that these things have afforded me is worth it.
The false positives of social media
During my time offline, I found that social media had been giving me a lot of false positives. And once these false positives went away, I was able to make much better decisions.
First of all, social media gave me the false positive of human interaction.
Everyone has some kind of minimum amount of human interaction that they need to feel satisfied. And if our interaction falls below this, we will actively try to seek it out.
I used to wake up every morning and check Twitter. Often, if I’d posted something recently, I’d be hit by a stream of likes, retweets, and comments.
These things were filling up my human interaction threshold. My brain saw all those comments and was like “cool, we’ve done our human interaction for today”. That’s not to say I wasn’t open to any more interaction for the day, but I felt satisfied already — I didn’t need to seek it out.
Once this was taken away, I initially felt a bit of a void. Suddenly, I didn’t have these small interactions pinging my brain every day. However, as time went on, I felt the need to replace this void with higher quality human interaction: real-life human interaction.
Since spending time off social media, I’ve been able to make much clearer decisions regarding my relationships with people and how I spend my time, making sure I include a lot more human interaction. And I’ve been happier as a result.
Success as a maker
Being constantly connected to the maker community via social media has also given me a false positive about what it means to be a successful maker, and during my time offline, I learned something very profound about my motivations as a maker:
My primary goal was to be a maker, not to make money.
It sounds silly when I say it as simply as that, but I wasn’t even aware of it until I spent time off social media and realised through lots of self-reflection.
It was a trap that I fell into without even knowing I was in there, and I suspect it’s a trap that a fair few other makers might have fallen into as well. Here’s what I mean:
When I wanted to reach $1000 MRR, it wasn’t because I wanted $1000 to go and spend — it was because I wanted to be considered a successful maker.
Of course, this wasn’t a conscious thought, but looking back over my thoughts and actions from the past few years, I’m convinced that’s what was going on.
I think it may partially be because of my age — I started making when I was 15. I felt less pressure to be making money, because I wasn’t expected by society to have a full-time job. Now that I’m closer to being an adult, it’s a lot easier to think about it differently — either I make money building products, or I make money doing something else.
But I also think there’s a bit of a shying away in the online maker community from admitting bluntly that you’re doing something for the money. But I don’t think this is something to be ashamed of — by the looks of it, most, if not all, successful makers are motivated by money, either consciously or subconsciously.
My time away from social media, where I used to see very successful makers every day, helped me clarify these thoughts in my head.
I have a new primary goal now, and it’s to make money. Not so that I can fit into the maker community, but because I want money, to use for things.
As part of this, I’m going to start measuring and keeping track of my revenue in Australian Dollars (AUD). Until now, I’ve been keeping track of my revenue in USD, so that when someone online says “I make $500 MRR”, I can compare it to mine.
But now that my goal isn’t to fit into the maker community, there is no need to compare my MRR — measuring my revenue in AUD, which is what I’m actually going to spend it in, will help re-enforce my new primary goal in my head.
I want MRR so I can make money from doing something I enjoy, not so that I can say I’m a successful maker.
There are many other benefits I observed from spending time off social media, and I might write more about them in future blog posts, but those two are enough for today.
Is it possible to make offline?
I enjoy programming, I love making beautiful web apps for people to use, and I want to be able to make money from it. So just because I’ve realised that I’m so much better off without things like social media doesn’t mean I want to stop making.
For the past half month, I’ve started up working on 1Feed again, but without sharing anything or interacting online. It was a bit of an experiment, to see if I get drained by making — like actually making software — or just spending all day online with the maker community.
The results are in, and I’m happy to say that making offline does work! I’ve been able to start working on 1Feed again, while still enjoying most (if not all) of the benefits I felt while I was offline, due to staying off Twitter and email.
Additionally, I’ve felt more productive, and a lot more focused when it comes to which things I should be working on. Without having the false positives of feedback from the maker community, I’ve been able to make much clearer decisions. A cool-looking feature that doesn’t actually add much value might receive a ton of likes on Twitter, but it’s not what I should be working on.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the maker community — you guys are in no way the problem. In fact, the maker community is the most exciting, smart, helpful and supportive community I’ve ever seen online. The issue is more about how I as a person act due to spending lots of time on social media.
I’ve decided that I am going to stay online and share my progress. But it’s going to be more infrequently, more meaningful, and less dopamine-driven. In fact, you’re reading one such progress update right now! That’s right, I’m going to be posting on my blog from now on.
I may still post on Twitter sometimes, but this will be mostly for marketing reasons for my products — most of my progress updates will happen either here or on the 1Feed blog. I’ll be posting links to all of my blog posts on Twitter though, so if you’re following me, you should receive these. You can also subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed using a feed reader such as 1Feed ;)
I’ve been taking a lot of inspiration from Pat Walls’ blog lately, which I’ve been reading almost daily. He posts a small post on there every day, and it’s often very insightful and makes you think. I want to model my blog off that, although I won’t be posting daily — probably closer to monthly. But what I want to replicate is:
- The way he writes honestly and openly, and doesn’t worry about how people will receive his posts
- The fact that his barrier to writing a post is so low — I want to be able to jump on here and write a post whenever I have something to say
So yeah, longer-form blogging will be how I’m going to share my progress — you may have noticed I’ve cleaned up the design of articles on this site a lot.
Sharing my thoughts on my own site rather than a data silo also has implications for the health of the internet, but I’ll write about that another time. The main benefit for me is there will be no more dopamine. Just honest and meaningful dialogue, less frequently.
This year was pretty scattered in terms of direction. My MRR at the end of the year was lower than it was at the beginning. I started working on three different products, as well as various small sites here and there.
Next year, I’m going to be spending most of my time on 1Feed. My goal is to grow it to $1000 MRR by the end of the year. Not because I want to be considered a successful maker, but because I want $1000 each month from doing something I enjoy. It’s also going to be $1000 AUD, which is about $750 USD.
I’ll be writing more about it either on here or on the 1Feed blog, but I’ve just finished developing a 1Feed Premium plan. It’ll cost $4.99 USD monthly, or $44.99 USD yearly. That means I’m going to need 150 monthly users, or 200 yearly users, to reach my goal. I think this is doable, but we’ll see.
I know that as a person, I’m 100% capable of reaching $1000 MRR. So if it looks like 1Feed isn’t working out, I’m either going to rethink it or work on other products that I think can help me reach my goal.
The only thing stopping me from making these decisions will be my ego — it’s not always easy to admit you could have done things a better way. But I’m going to do it if that’s what I should do. I’ve always been bad at failing fast, but I need to push past that.
So yeah, that’s the plan for 2021! I’m going to be sharing my progress less frequently and spending less time online on places like Twitter and Telegram. But this doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk to you guys ever again! I’ll still be spending some time chatting online, just less.
Also, please don’t be offended if I don’t always reply — it’s nothing personal. As you’ve probably gathered by now, spending less time interacting online has a lot of benefits.
If you were to look at my MRR, you’d think that this year was a complete failure for me. Quite to the contrary, I think this is potentially the most productive year I’ve had as a maker, because I’ve figured out my approach to making. I’ve learned the art of self-reflection, making decisions with clarity, picking apart my motivations, and choosing goals with intention.
As makers, we’re more than just our MRR. While my MRR might not have grown this year, I’ve grown as a person, and that’s even better.
Reply to this article on Twitter (although I might not reply back :P)