Baby steps

So for the longest time (3 1/2 months now) I’ve been trying to buy a rug for my apartment.  

I can already hear you say: “Ok Neville, I really don’t give a shit about the status of your apartment decoration… ::eye roll::”

Shut up.

So when I got my previous apartment, I had zero furniture, and zero idea how to decorate.  I hate decorating.  It’s not something I’m good at.
And I’m not good at it, because I put no effort into it.  

Since we can trade people our money, to do things for us….. I hired some designer friends, gave them a $5,000 budget (including their fees) and told them to just “do the whole damn thing for me.”

In less than a week I had a fully furnished apartment that looked like someone in semi-adulthood lived there:

A while later I moved from that place for a few reasons

  • I had lived there for 2 years.
  • The apartment got robbed and someone stole all my Apple products (this really jacked with my head and made me resent the location a bit).
  • It was EVER SO SLIGHTLY on the ghetto side of town (just found out the 4 people got mugged outside my door this past weekend….so I made a good decision).

So now that I’ve moved to a new place, I had to move around a lot of the furniture and get rid of certain things that didn’t look right.  But one new thing was hardwood floors.

So APPPAARRENNTTLLYY for your living room, you gotta get a big-ass rug to indicate “this is the living room area.”

Whatever…. how hard could this be??  I decided to try doing this myself in order to learn SOME design skills.

Well I never realized what a hard decision this was.

My previous crowning achievement in the decoration department was this black & white Homer Simpson poster that followed me for years through 2 dorm rooms and 3 apartments (I’m not kidding):

So clearly my interior decorating skills are on the poor side.

But like I said before (and this is important):

I’m not good at it, because I put no effort into it.  

 A few YouTube searches for “How to design a living room” and asking some people about design (aka my mom), and it was pretty clear this whole “decoration” process was kinda of logical and formulaic.  

The people I knew who were “good” at design spent lots of time reading magazines about design, watching tv shows about design, keeping an eye out for cool decor, and practicing it themselves.

But they all started somewhere. 

Basically if you want to learn something….there’s always small baby steps you can take to get started.  Here’s a couple examples:  The reason I suggest baby steps is from experience of watching people “want to do something” ….and then HATE it when they start doing it.  

THING TO LEARN: BABY STEPS TO TAKE:

If you wanna learn to decorate:
–Try re-arranging your own living space.
–Go through decorating magazines or pick up an Ikea catalog for ideas.

If you want to start a blog:
–Start a free blog on Blogger.com and start writing something. ANYTHING. Stories from your life. Advice you’ve learned. Just write.

If you want to start an ecommerce website and sell stuff online:
–1st get familiar with how to sell things online. Signup for BigCommerce or Shopify and build test stores.
–Don’t worry about exactly WHAT to sell first….just get the technical side down and keep writing down ideas.

If you want to learn a specific skill like woodcarving (I couldn’t think of anything better):
–Start by Google’ing “How to woodcarve”
–Grab a piece of wood and your mom’s best knife and start carving.

If you want to become a copywriter:
–Google it.
–Watch copywriting advice for newbies.
–Go to Amazon and buy books about copywriting or get my KopywritingKourse

If you want to start making apps:
–Big surprise: Google “how to design an app”
–Go to Udemy and take a free or paid course on how to make an app.
–Download some app templates and start tinkering with them.

If you want to learn ANYTHING:
–Google “how to (insert thing you wanna do).”
–Go to Amazon buy books about it.
–Start doing a ghetto version of it. Just “tinker”.

I wanted to be a doctor when I was in high school (I mean…I AM Indian), so in high school I joined a program where I got to shadow 10 different doctors.  By the end, I realized I HATTTEDD what the doctors had to do!

I quickly realized the environment and the work of a doctor were not my cup of tea.

Likewise…..taking a baby step towards something will show your true passion for it quickly.  Either you’ll start off and soon your brain will become obsessed with it…..or your interest will quickly fizzle.

Have a happy Monday….and if you’re looking to start something new, try some baby steps for it.  Lemme know what you’re trying to learn in the comments here, and I’ll answer with some baby steps on how you could get started!

Sincerely,
Neville

P.S.  As for the rug decision?  I went to the rug store yesterday with the mindset of walking out with a rug.  By the time I made a purchase, I was still unsure about it…..but at least I dove into it, and within 5 days it’ll be delivered.  At that point I’ll quickly realize if it looks awesome, or sucks….but at least I’ll learn something from the decision!

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    Blog posted on: July 22, 2013

    44 comments on “Baby steps

    1. Andrea

      Hi Nev!

      Big fan of yours and fellow follower here :) (looking forward to your ebook).

      What I’m learning to do right now is
      1. Building a kick-ass copy for my new ebook landing page (which is actually hidden right now)
      2. Learning how to get traffic to my website and how to convert it.

      Since I like learning (as you do) this is what I’m doing right now
      1. COPYING. I mean copying the good parts of the landing pages I like (I love the ones from Ramit the most)into my new landing page (I change the text obviously, I’m not an idiot. maybe I’m a small ninja)
      2. NOTHING. I’m stuck finding good places to give info.
      What I’m planning is get personal and contact the people who might be interested and offer them some exclusive free advice.
      It might take long but this is where I start.

      Reply
      1. Neville Post author

        Hey Andrea, thanks for the kind words!

        1.) A tip: Pretend you’re writing this page to ONE person, not a mass audience. It might connect better that way.

        I’ve actually made blog posts that have converted better than the typical landing page…..something else to keep in mind. It’s the substance behind the letters that sell, not the flash.

        2.) I have no idea what you’re selling, but you could probably get your book out via the Kindle (just upload your PDF to kdp.amazon.com and it’ll make it a Kindle ebook)!

        Might get MUCH bigger distribution that way.

        You should also start making a Google Docs Spreadsheet with all the people with websites who have an audience that would want this stuff. Contact them individually and offer some cool articles/interviews.

        You’ll see quickly if people bite, or if your info is just “so-so” and no one cares.

        Best of luck Andrea!

        Reply
    2. David Heasman

      Loved the clueless rug story.

      Such damn good advice.

      And do you read minds? I’m literally going to publish a post tomorrow on how I’m going to learn to draw in 30 days.

      It goes something like this:

      Google best book to learn to draw.
      (Learning to Draw On The Right Hand Side Of The Brain comes up in about 10 different forum posts)

      Buy it from Amazon.

      Using book as a guide, put butt on seat and practice drawing 45 minutes a day for 30 days. If no progress abandon.

      Reply
      1. Neville Post author

        Yes.
        Yes I do.
        I do in fact read minds.

        I sense you are thinking about how to make a better living for yourself.
        And also, Boo The Dog: http://www.Facebook.com/boo

        I know a friend in Austin who started doing one painting a day. He sucked at first, but obv got much much better. Now most of his paintings are selling for $1,000+ within a few months of starting.

        Reply
    3. Chris Jacob

      I’ve wanted to build a “real” Ruby on Rails app for over 5 years now…

      I got “stuck” as a PHP dev after UNI and I’ve always felt the grass was greener for RoR devs. Last week I took my 1st baby step… I’m doing 2hrs RoR coding every night until I finish this incredible (free) tutorial/book: http://ruby.railstutorial.org/ruby-on-rails-tutorial-book

      I passed half way (at Chapter 7 tonight)… so far I’m LOVING it!

      One step, after the other. Focus on your next action. Do it. Do it until it’s done.

      Reply
      1. Neville Post author

        You might want to create some goal out of it…..like you stick with a college course to get the end-goal (a college credit or a certain grade).

        If you’re like me, This might help.

        Looks like you’re already taking the correct baby steps….maybe now you can speed up the process?

        In the past I would post my progress on this blog to keep me accountable. There’ve been many times where simply posting here made me feel bad for almost quitting….so I’d get back to work.

        Reply
    4. Anthony

      Hi Nev!

      Big fan and follower of yours.

      I bought the domain gearzilla.net to start a sporting goods store because the industry has been monopolized and basically strangled by a couple of big
      Players. I’m having a guy on fiverr do the design and wordpress and setup paypal and products.

      I’m planning on selling my own product line in addition to other smaller lines.

      Just wondering how you would go about starting a sporting goods line?

      I have a diploma in sporting goods business, but there wasn’t much in terms of developing lines in the program.

      Thanks Nev!

      Reply
      1. Neville Post author

        Are you making your OWN products?

        If you’re not…and just re-selling others….it’ll be a harder sell since several big people dominate that area (and AMAZON).

        If I were making my own unique athletic gear, I’d sell the licensing to bigger manufacturers who are already established. InventRight.com talks about this a lot.

        As for building a brand, checkout what Daymond John did to build Fubu:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79a3nTDmeNo

        Reply
    5. Gregg Davis

      Hey Nev,

      Thanks for the good ideas and thoughts lately. This email sparked something in me this morning, because I’m constantly starting projects that I need to finish to make money, but I don’t finish them for whatever reason. I’m always so passionate about s=the new ideas, and I don’t finish very many.

      Well, you’re right about testing the waters to see if you can stay with it – Here’s ones I have in the hopper but haven’t finished: pistolcamera.com, skateboardcoach.com, redcameraworld.com, writing a web developer business book and creating a video course for AppSumo, writing a skateboarding for parents book, formatting my art photos for a kickstarter campaign to make coffee-table books, etc, etc, etc…

      Anyway, it’s nice to hear your thoughts on the making of business ideas into businesses, thanks for taking the time to write this.

      Well, with all that said, here’s my question, since you invited us to ask: for starting out developing mobile apps, like a skateboard coaching app, and another couple app ideas I have, without wanting to spend a year learning to program them myself, how do I take small inexpensive steps towards trying out that process? I know I’ll have to find a good developer and start to talk about fees, etc – on elance?

      It will be great to hear your thoughts.

      Gregg Davis

      Reply
      1. Neville Post author

        Hey Gregg….seems you have the drive and know-how, but not the dedication to see it through.

        I WAS EXACTLY LIKE YOU and had literally 10 things going at once. I eventually realized I wasn’t SuperMan, and dedicated all my effort to just two projects (actually just ONE is best).

        I like this Earl Nightingale quote (I’m paraphrasing):
        “If you ask the captain of a big ship where he’s going, he’ll know EXACTLY where he’s going. He’ll know the dates, the ports, the schedule, the routes. And if sails from one port to the next, over a lifetime he could see the entire world.”

        Basically….stick with a project, set a date to finish it, and stick to that. ONLY THEN jump to the next one.

        Do small validations on each idea, see which makes the most money or gets the most attention without much effort, and roll with that one.

        Hard advice to swallow, but eventually you will start killing off the “less promising” of your business ventures.

        As for the app idea….outsource it to eLance or RentaCoder.

        Use this post as a guide:
        http://www.nevblog.com/outsourcing-lesson-examples/

        Reply
    6. LaTeefah

      Hi Neville,

      I just set up my first e-commerce website, put up social media etc…but haven’t gotten my first sale yet. I’ve been reading Ogilvy, Dan Kennedy etc and am completely overwhelmed. So I guess my question is, what’s the best way to get people to my website on NO budget?

      Thanks,

      LaTeefah
      somethingnewshop.com

      Reply
      1. Neville Post author

        BAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

        So you want FREE traffic, LOTS of it, and do NO work?

        ….unlikely :)

        Take a step back and look at what you’re offering. You’re selling a random assortment of stuff with no real rhyme or reason.

        Plus, you can get this stuff anywhere I imagine (guessing you’re not the only provider of those brands).

        Putting a site like this up 10 years ago may have worked, but it’s harder now with competition like Amazon.

        HOWEVER, at least you did something, and for that I commend you. Sign up for free courses on Udemy and Skillshare on traffic building and spreading the word.

        Since your stuff is not unique, and there’s no helpful content that’s unique….this is a tougher sell. But keep researching marketing in general, as it will benefit you greatly down the line.

        Reply
        1. LaTeefah

          Where in my question did I say I want to do NO WORK? I said LIMITED BUDGET.NEVER IN MY LIFE HAVE I EVER ASKED FOR A HANDOUT

          However, I will review my product offerings and happily unsubscribe from your newsletter.

          Laughing at someone who is asking for help is tacky and an overall dick move.

          Maybe you should google “how not to be an asshole” and get some knowledge

          Reply
          1. Neville

            I actually tried to be constructive.

            However with your attitude, I can tell you’ll fail already, so here’s my brutally honest advice:

            1.) You’re in a competitive market.
            2.) Your product offering is not unique.
            3.) You say stuff like “I put up social media….”

            This all clues me in that you have no idea what you are doing, and there’s probably a 99% chance your site will never make real money.

    7. Yael Grauer

      I’m working on sucking less at video interviews I have to do for a client. I usually do phone interviews and the goal is to get good quotes, not sound good. It’s been an ongoing process, and my biggest mistake is reading off a notecard or thinking about what I’m going to ask next and missing obvious things. So I decided to take an improv class to work on being more responsive/interactive.

      Reply
      1. Neville Post author

        Oooohh….yea, be careful of notecards. Makes everything boring, pre-planned, and stale.

        Next time literally throw the card away before the interview. It’ll be a much more natural and interesting interview.

        Maybe just have a few key points you want to cover in your head, and free-style the rest.

        The improv class will help you realize you ARE capable of this….if you just get rid of the crutch (aka your pre-planned notecard)!

        Reply
    8. Cassandra

      I’d like to help real estate agents with annoying tasks that get in the way of them making more sales. I’ve already talked to a few agents and they seem to support the idea. What’s my next step, Neville?

      Reply
      1. Neville Post author

        ……such assssss???

        “Getting more sales” is extraordinarily vague. Maybe solve ONE problem they have that you can do quickly and ghetto-ily.

        For example:
        Maybe a real estate agent has to do these things manually:
        1.) Enter their own pictures and details of a listing on their website.
        2.) Update all their clients of the new property.
        3.) Talk with each client about a new property.

        Now I have NO idea what set of skills you have, but if it were me, and I have some basic video and web skills….I would do a very-rough version of a service where the agent tells me where the house is, and I go and take pictures, make a video explaining the property, and post it online.

        I used to do this for light-up and glow products when I ran HouseOfRave….and I would sell the same videos to the manufacturers of the products.

        Making vids was a huge pain for them at first, so I solved a big problem of theirs.

        Reply
    9. Jim Kellas

      Next time, I’d suggest buying something like a rug while you’re abroad. I bought a hand-sewn rug in Morocco some years back for $150 USD that I’ve had appraised at a rug store stateside for $700. Besides, the rug – or pretty much any such home decorating item – will hold a sentimental value for you and a great story to tell when someone asks you about it.

      Now on to my question: I’ve been running a free meetup about software test engineering for over a year now (I know, riveting topic, right?) which boasts over 400 members with attendance ranging from 20-50 participants each session. It seems that I offer information that many people have shown interest discussing as the discussions are lively and many attendees return each month. Can you think of a way that I can make a business around this group without charging for the meetup itself?

      Cheers!

      Reply
      1. SS

        I know you want Neville’s help but here’s my 2 cents:
        1. that’s impressive for a free meet-up – congrats Jim!
        2. have you tried sponsors??
        like charge people who might be interested in the attention of engineers (eg people developing new tools or software for your industry or recruiters) to either give a short presentation or set up a info booth at one of your meet-ups.
        3. 20-50 is quite a bit of fluctuation – try to figure out what happened the day 50 people came (good timing? better advertising? free food? well-known speaker?) and try to replicate that

        Reply
        1. Jim Kellas

          2. Sponsors are a good idea that I’m already using. The company that I work for, Chegg.com, sponsors the facilities, pizza and refreshments. Occasionally, I also get a sponsor to buy beer and wine for the event, too.

          3. I’ve definitely pinpointed the issues with the fluctuating attendance. Timing and the topics are the biggest culprits and neither can really be helped. I’ve spent more time advertising this month’s meetup and it’s culminated in a 80% increase in RSVPs (~90 RSVPs).

          I’ve made about $20K in hiring referrals which is not bad for a side business but is there a way to expand this?

          Reply
      2. Neville

        Nice advice on the rugs….that LAST thing I’d subject myself to right now is rug shopping whilst on vacation, however will keep this in mind for the future!

        ANSWER:
        Easily. Of all your members, try to identify a couple of groups….such as:
        –Newbie engineers
        –People trying to get jobs
        –People trying to move up in their companies

        See some common interests they have.

        Perhaps the newbies are trying to learn news testing skills.

        Perhaps the people trying to get jobs need to learn some specific skill to get those jobs. Hold a small class to teach those.

        Talk to people and see what they’re eyes light up about.

        Maybe yourself (or bring in) someone who’s in the HR department at an engineering firm and spill all the secrets as to what those people are looking for. Then go through with people and improve their resumes, skills etc for getting hired.

        Or you can get SPONSORSHIPS.
        Ask around. Big companies will have NO problem giving out $500 or $1,000 to sponsor a party. Offer free beer and pizza (total cost less than $200 or $300. The meetings will grow this way. So will sponsorships.

        Hope this jogs your mind!

        Or maybe at the end just ASK everyone. Say, “Hey, this is a labor of love of mine. What ways do you think I could make money off it? Tell me all your ideas in 3 minutes” .

        People will often throw out some left-field ideas you never thought of!

        Reply
        1. Jim Kellas

          Thanks for the insights!

          I’ve thought about making the referral process more active and less passive. It’s quite lucrative and my network could easily help me get in touch with any company in Silicon Valley.

          The sponsorships for food, beer and facilities have been easy to come by. In fact, the alcohol for tonight’s meetup was offered without my even asking.

          It seems pretty obvious – in hindsight – that I could just ASK my group members… I’ll give it a try tonight.

          Reply
          1. Neville

            Hahha…..isn’t it funny how a simple outside view can point out something SO obvious??

            Happens to me all the time.

            Hope it goes well tonight….I’m sure some of your members will come through with some good connections down the road!

    10. Fuqed Founder

      Alright. I’m basically done with my mvp but I only have $10 left for server costs. The product is geared towards saas businesses. How do I market it and attract customers before its too late?

      Reply
    11. Zach

      I want to start a monthly Meetup.com group, where entrepreneurs pre-commit to give a 5-minute “lightning talk” a month in the future, to create stakes and a deadline to learn things/ execute “some day” projects and report on the results in public.

      For example, today you could sign up to speak at next month’s August 30th meetup, submitting your name Neville and a topic “Interior Design”…Today you precommit to speak next month, knowing zero about interior design at the moment, but now you have to make something happen to report on, or back out like a loser.

      How would you baby-step this? Tomorrow I can ask my 2 friends about their bucket list ambitions, and ask them straight up to sign a piece of paper committing to speak next month about to-be-done projects.

      If they agree and show interest in putting their asses on the line, then I have 3 booked speakers including me…I can then ask other friends to join us without speaking just to get inspired/make friends, and there’s a validated audience (hopefully they show up)…then we can just start ghetto in my apartment with some wine and a projector. Start a Meetup group for the first event.

      How can I improve the validation? And do you have any thoughts on the wording? “What I Learned” Lightning Talks? Dude I have no idea how I could summarize this event in one sentence, in a way that adds value to a potential speaker/pre-committer or attendee.

      Cheers! The new place looks dope! Is that a Stratocaster on the wall?

      Reply
      1. Neville

        Hey Zach,

        Sounds like you answered your own question….so why haven’t you done it?

        This sounds a lot like Toastmasters.

        Ask around to a couple of people who are down, and see the response. Maybe post on Meetup or Craigslist about it.

        Right now it sounds vague though.

        Maybe you can re-position it as Public Speaking for people Under 30 (or something specific like that).

        For now, just follow the instructions you laid out above :)

        Reply
    12. Sam Serv

      Nev – trying to decide if I should start a business helping college students get into medical schools and med students get into competitive residencies. I’ve done it, I’ve helped family and friends, lots good feedback and quite enjoy doing it for free. Takes a lot of time though. I could keep doing it when people ask me and stick to my day job (ie being a resident, soon to be board certified. I like my job and will soon make waaay more money) but the thought of starting a little business, helping students and making some money on the side while trying out some of the cool internet business tactics I’ve absorbed over the years from my online business idols (like you!) is very tempting.
      What do you think?

      Reply
      1. Neville

        Why don’t you do it?

        Post a small flyer on the biology classrooms (or wherever the hell pre-med students hang out) that says something like:

        “I CAN HELP YOU GET INTO MED SCHOOL.
        I’ll teach you the three methods I personally used to get into Trinity Med School.
        Call Sam: 123-456-7890″

        Something quick n easy like that.

        Not sure how you have so much time as a resident, so you must be one ambitious dude to try this!

        Perhaps somehow get in front of an assembly of students and THEIR PARENTS (because guess who will be footing the bill….DADDY). So you need to get their ear.

        Speak to the counselors, give a free seminar, or even make a free Skillshare or Udemy class on the subject. Then people who want their personal situation reviewed can pay you for that service.

        Best of luck Sam!

        Reply
        1. Sam Serv

          Thanks for the tips, Neville!
          Reason I haven’t done it yet are the usual suspects: procrastination and distraction.
          But I’m just going to try it! Will report back to you in a week.
          (BTW pre-meds hang out in the library.)

          Reply
          1. Neville

            Yeah…try doing just 1 or 2 clients first. See what they think.

            Simply DOING IT will give you a lot of insight into what they actually want.

    13. Valerie

      I’m revving up my web video production skills. I take online courses constantly.

      Baby steps are fine, but I chuckle at the concept of the average Joe learning to do stuff by ‘googling it’ and reading a few books. Most people simply aren’t that smart. And the free resources on the internet tend to teach just enough to be dangerous, not enough to do quality work. Ditto for books… you’d think because someone got published that the information would be vetted… but sometimes it’s complete crap. (which of course is why the world of paid online learning is so hot!)

      Regarding skills that require actual *talent* (like decorating), there is only so much you can be taught. Fortunately if you’re decorating your own place you’ll still probably be happy with your final output.

      I happen to be someone who can pick up skills (and get good at them) really quick. But being partially deaf, I’ve had to spend my life figuring shit out for myself. (I read non-figure stuff like cookbooks like novels.)

      The fact that most people can’t do this keeps the rest of us in business.

      Reply
    14. Neville

      Hey Valerie, thanks for the feedback.

      I disagree however and believe most people are CAPABLE, but simply won’t do it.

      One of the things we’ve learned at AppSumo from helping so many wantrepreneurs is there’s a HUGE amount of fear and learned scripts in people’s heads that keep them from doing anything outside their job.

      There’s probably a good amount of the population that’s just kinda stupid and won’t do anything…but there’s A LOT of extraordinarily capable and ambitious people who also won’t do anything.

      Some simply DON’T WANT TO!

      I’ve met a lot of people who like their 9-to-5′s enough and don’t mind working for the man. It’s not my cup of tea, but then again, I’m not them, and they’re not me.

      I think books and courses CAN in fact take you a long way if you also apply those skills to the real world at the same time.

      Reply
    15. Nishant

      Yo Neville,

      I actually sell/market area rugs up here in canada! I’d definitely helped you out if you lived here. It does take time :) requires patience for the sales staff as well.

      Anyways just wanted to say- loved this post.l was going to post on the previous one, but this is how i’ve learned anything useful since school – how I learned to blog – just started one, imitated a bit i ll be honest, but it takes while to create your own style. I also learned how to make app just bought a course on how to outsource app ideas. It’s been rejected few times by apple, but like you mentioned before – all about the process.

      The hardest part is just actually STARTING.

      Reply
    16. Polo Ralph Lauren

      It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I have learn this submit and if I may I desire to counsel you some attention-grabbing things or tips. Maybe you could write next articles relating to this article. I want to read even more issues about it!

      Reply

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