Book: Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Ron Chernow


A very long and fascinating read about one of the great American industrialists and/or Robber Barons. The book is brilliantly written, putting you at the center of The Gilded Age. Although it’s very long, never once was I bored and many times looked forward to reading and immersing myself into the late 19th and early 20th Century.

Besides Rockefeller and his family, you will read about many other, well known people that shaped the US (and the world) as we know it today: Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, Joseph Pulitzer, Baron Alphonse de Rothschild,  Lelan Stanford, Sigmund Freud, James Joyce,…

A very enjoyable read and something to keep you company for a few weeks, if not months. Besides great storytelling there is also some surprisingly relevant business advice which I’ve compiled below.

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John D. Rockefeller drew strength by simplifying reality and strongly believed that excessive reflection upon unpleasant but unalterable events only weakened one’s resolve in the face of enemies.

“A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds.”

Searching for oil was wildly unpredictable, whereas refining seemed safe and methodical by comparison. Before too long, he realized that refining was the critical point where he could exert maximum leverage over the industry.

One of Rockefeller’s strengths in bargaining situations was that he figured out what he wanted and what the other party wanted and then crafted mutually advantageous terms.

“Success comes from keeping the ears open and the mouth closed.”

On employees: At first, he tested them exhaustively, yet once he trusted them, he bestowed enormous power upon them and didn’t intrude unless something radically misfired.

Part of the Standard Oil gospel was to train your subordinate to do your job.

“Has anyone given you the law of these offices? No? It is this: nobody does anything if he can get anybody else to do it… As soon as you can, get some one whom you can rely on, train him in the work, sit down, cock up your heels, and think out some way for the Standard Oil to make some money.”

He was always careful to couch his decisions as suggestions or questions.

Standard Oil created demand as well as satisfied it, and its obliging agents helped consumers clean lamps and burners to enhance their use.

Book: Start Small, Stay Small, Rob Walling


Great intro into building a small software company. Some really good advice on finding and serving your market.

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Order of importance is market, marketing, aesthetic, function. Go into niche markets and create focused products. Target small businesses and consumers. Create complementary products not products across niches. Build an email list. Outsource tasks and automate processes.


  • anytime you’re on computer ask yourself: “Is this activity getting me closer to my launch date?”
  • before starting any task, ask yourself: “Could one of my contractors do this?”
  • work or play, don’t kill time
  • the order of importance is market, marketing, aesthetic, function

Niche Market

  • niche markets are critical for self-funded startups
  • the narrower niche, while being big enough, the better
  • a niche requires you to narrow your product focus
  • niche advertising is more cost effective
  • niches have less competition
  • niche markets are not used to good marketing
  • it’s easier for prospects to know you and trust you
  • target small businesses and/or consumers – they have the purchasing authority, make fast decisions and search for solutions online
  • vertical market niches are superior to horizontal markets (complementary product not products across niches)

You’re looking for a market that is already looking for your product/solution even if it doesn’t exist yet.


  • product success triangle: product, market, execution
  • pricing: know the market, ask yourself, look at competition, determine value, lean towards high pricing, three tiers, end in 7/8/9, determine benefits of each tier, test


  • don’t sell to customers on the first visit, build a list
  • create your hook – four second pitch
  • mailings: monitor current events, Q&A, interviews
  • mail Tue/Wed/Thu 7AM-10:30AM
  • building an audience through mailing list, blog or podcast gets the best quality traffic
  • SEO is important


  • outsourcing to a VA is a must to save you time with administrative tasks
  • with “micropreneurship” you can run multiple companies at once, albeit tiny ones
  • do not build or buy your second product until you have outsourced/automated as much as you can with your first one
  • to increase your company value, optimize profit through marketing and sales and minimize ongoing time investment through outsourcing and automation

Book: Hooked – How To Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal


A must read. If you build any kind of products, you need to read this book.

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Customers are less price-sensitive about products around which they have formed habits. They increase the dependency by storing value in the product. Two factors for habits: frequency and utility. The more users invest time and effort into a service, the more they value it. Identify habitual users, codify the steps they took (“Habit Path”) and modify the product to fit the new insights.


The Habit Zone

  • fostering consumer habits is an effective way to increase Customer Lifetime Value
  • as customers form routines around a product, they become less price-sensitive
  • new products need to offer dramatic improvements to shake users out of old routines
  • users also increase their dependency on habit-forming products by storing value in them
  • two factors: frequency (how often) and utility (how useful/rewarding)
  • habit zone:


  • a habit is when not doing an action causes a bit of pain
  • pain = itch which causes discomfort until satisfied


  • triggers cue the user to take action and are the first step in the Hook Model
  • types of triggers
    • external triggers: paid (marketing), earned (free media), relationship (referrals), owned (piece in user’s environment)
    • internal triggers: emotions, positive and negative
  • in the case of internal triggers, the information about what to do next is encoded as a learned association in the user’s memory (takes day or weeks of frequent usage)
  • identify particular frustration or pain-point in emotional terms
  • write user narratives: stories from the user’s side


  • to initiate action, doing must be easier than thinking
  • Fogg behavior model Behavior = Motivation x Ability x Trigger
  • motivation is energy for action
  • core motivators: seeking pleasure/avoiding pain, seeking hope/avoiding fear, seeking social acceptance/avoiding rejection

“Take a human desire, preferable one that has been around for a really long time… Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.” – Evan Williams

  • remove steps until you reach the simplest possible process
  • six elements of simplicity: time, money, physical effort (labor), brain cycles (mental effort), social deviance, non-routine (disruption)
  • greatest return on investment is generally from increasing a product’s easy-of-use
  • scarcity study showed that a product can decrease in perceived value if it starts off as as scarce and becomes abundant
  • perception can form a personal reality based on how a product is framed, even when there is little relationship with objective quality (the framing effect)
  • people often anchor to one piece of information when making a decision (the anchoring effect)
  • when people believe they’re nearing a goal, it increases motivation (the endowed progress effect)

Variable Reward

  • what draws us to act is not the sensation we receive from the reward itself, but the need to alleviate the craving for that reward
  • to hold our attention, products must have an ongoing degree of novelty (variability)
  • three types of rewards: Tribe (social), Hunt (resources, information), Self (mastery, competence)
  • maintaining a sense of user autonomy is a requirement for repeat engagement (“but you are free to accept or refuse”)
  • variable rewards must satisfy users’ needs, while leaving them wanting to re-engage with the product


  • the more users invest time and effort into a service, the more they value it (IKEA effect)
  • little investments can lead to big changes in future behaviors
  • three tendencies influence our future actions: effort investment, being consistent with past behaviors, avoiding cognitive dissonance
  • investments are about the anticipation of longer-term rewards, not immediate gratification
  • asking users to do a bit of work (invest) comes after users have received variable rewards
  • leverage user’s understanding that the service will get better with use (and personal investment)

5 fundamental questions:

  1. What do users really want? What pain is your product relieving? (Internal Trigger)
  2. What brings users to your service? (External Trigger)
  3. What is the simplest action users take in anticipation of reward and how can you simplify it? (Action)
  4. Are users fulfilled by the reward, yet left wanting more? (Variable Reward)
  5. What “bit of work” do users invest in your product? Does it load the next trigger and store tha value to improve the product with use? (Investment)

Manipulation Matrix

  • Facilitator (useful to users, uses the product)
  • Dealer (not useful to users, doesn’t use the product)
  • Entertainer (not useful to users, uses the product)
  • Peddler (useful to users, doesn’t use the product)


  • “humblebrag” – a reward in portraying oneself in a positive light; people are willing to forgo money to disclose about the self

Habit Testing

Step 1 – Identify habitual users (min 5%)
Step 2 – Codify steps the users took to understand what hooked them (find the “Habit Path”)
Step 3 – Modify the product to fit the new insights.

Discovering Habit-Forming Opportunities

  • “scratch your own itch”
  • look into the future and new interfaces

Book: Better and Faster, Jeremy Gutsche


Great book, reminding us in this day and age, no matter how big or small or how successful your company is, you need to always innovate and “be paranoid”. Recommended.

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Look for connections and try to understand the patterns. Be a hunter (insatiability, curiosity, willingness to destroy), not a farmer (complacent with success, repetitive, overly protective). Understand your customer, adapt, and fashion fast solutions. Experiment with new ideas. Target niches.


  • Look for connections and try to understand the patterns. It’s all well and good to see a connection between two fields, but if you understand the underlying pattern, then you can more easily see similar types of connections at play in other fields of endeavor.
  • Farmer VS Hunter
  • The three farmer traps: complacent with his own success, repetitive, and overly protective of his own beliefs.
  • The three hunter instincts—insatiability, curiosity, and willingness to destroy.
  • Create a culture of speed and recognize that your key advantage is the ability to understand your customer, adapt, and fashion fast solutions.
  • It’s funny how you can become such an expert that you lose touch with how customers think about your category.
  • Optimization is a seductive tool. It tempts CEOs and managers to drive down a broad, seemingly guaranteed highway to a conservative outcome instead of striking out on a narrow path to a possibly outrageous hit.
  • To inspire curiosity in your organization, it’s essential to seek out fresh sources and experiment with new ideas constantly.
  • Play should be encouraged and that success comes from pursuing curiosity and experimentation relentlessly.
  • On an individual level, “farmer traps” cause people to hang on to past success, cling to one career too long, and resist trying new technologies and different ways of getting work done.
  • Intentionally destroying your business model, products, and services can feel uncomfortable and even painful, but destruction enables unrestricted creativity while providing newfound flexibility and depth.
  • Companies must seek out opportunities to adapt and question the status quo constantly.
  • Past success creates barriers that both you and your customers must overcome. To innovate, you need to break free from past success.
  • Turns out, it’s not about what’s happening; it’s about searching for what could happen next.
  • Specifically, there are six major patterns of opportunity that are created by nearly every major breakthrough product.
  • When our security is threatened, complacency isn’t a realistic strategy.
  • In contrast, desperate companies know that the status quo won’t save them.
  • Driven by an almost maniacal fear of losing dominance, companies such as Google inculcate in their employees the mind-set that they must do everything possible to stay number one.
  • The lesson is that to fight success-bred complacency, you need to be insatiably curious, open to intentional destruction, and just a little bit paranoid.
  • Dare float a divergent idea, and it’s likely a boss or friend will tell you that you’re wildly off course and warn you to get back on that mainstream bus.
  • If you follow your competitors, you’re always going to be behind them on the path. You need to push out and find your own way.
  • At Trend Hunter, we’ve consistently seen that consumers are drawn to the thrill of what we call “shockvertising” and “danger marketing.”
  • If you’re exploring a concept that differs from the mainstream, it can be useful to examine your weaknesses to consider whether you can position them as points of differentiation. For Red Bull, the unpleasant flavor played well with the drink’s purported near medicinal quality.
  • Today, niche online dating is a billion-dollar industry and provides an object lesson in the difference between seeing and truly observing.
  • Target everyone, and you’re essentially targeting no one.
  • A pattern-obsessed mind-set can help you spot opportunities in retro, nostalgia, economics, seasonality, and generational shifts.
  • Consumers actually prefer products that are specific to narrowly defined needs.
  • Reduction is about the power of niche and simplicity at its extreme.
  • As you introduce new features, you inherently make things more complex. So we are trying to add more features, but [we are] trying to make them available only to the advanced users. [Fiverr CEO]
  • Take complicated systems, boil them down to one key feature, and fashion a remarkably simple product.
  • The Six Patterns 1. Convergence—combining previously unrelated products and services. 2. Divergence—diverging from the mainstream (to achieve status or to customize). 3. Cyclicality—following cycles that are predictable among generations or that recur in history, fashion, or economics. 4. Redirection—shifting, repurposing, or repositioning a concept. 5. Reduction—the simplification, specialization, or micro-targeting of an idea. 6. Acceleration—identifying a critical feature and dramatically enhancing it.
  • When this type of robotic thinking governs how you search for new ideas, it can hold you back. To break free, you often need to throw away your first idea.
  • LOOKBOOK, where millions of fashion lovers share their daily look. Fashion extends beyond clothing. Everyone cares about aesthetics.
  • Hardware is moving to the background with an increased focus on user experience, design, and software.
  • Compelling stories are one of the best possible advertisements, and that’s why companies will become more interested in the curation and development of their own content.

How To Hugely Decrease The Amount Of Time You Spend Watching Videos

Ever watched a recorded webinar 2-hours long only to find there was nothing substantial in it? Or, does the presenter talk r–e–a–l–l–y  s–l–o–w–l–y?

You can avoid such things just by speeding up the video.

I usually download all videos and then watch them with 1.5-1.8x playback speed. You can start with 1.1x and then slowly increase speed. After some time you’ll easily listen to (and understand) 1.8x playback speed without issues.

Here’s the tools I use.


YouTube allows increasing speed of videos by clicking on the settings button.


Step 1: Downloading Videos From The Internet

Download Firefox addon DownloadHelper. It will recognize 90%+ of videos and you’ll be able to easily download them to your disk.


Step 2: Changing Playback Speed

There are probably also other video players that allow for change in playback speed but my default one is VLC Player. It’s free to download on their homepage.


You can use iOS app Swift or for iTunes Speed-Up (Mac).

This helps enormously and really increases the amount of videos you can watch in an hour.

Book: The Pumpkin Plan, Mike Michalowicz


Really good book and very fun to read. It reminded me again of the importance of systemizing work and focusing on your best customers. Highly recommended.

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Find the top clients (/client type), treat them preferentially, fire all other clients (/client types). Ask the top clients about their frustrations and solve them. Don’t work, build systems for people and things to do the work.


  • find your company’s AOI (Area Of Innovation) – quality, price, convenience [~USP]
  • find the best top clients and treat them preferentially but never say they are VIP clients, fire all other clients (if you have many customers, find best customer type)
  • the best top “right” client is always right, others no
  • find your company’s immutable laws (core values) and find customers with same
  • cut all unnecessary costs

Don’t work, build systems for people and things to do the work.

  • create a top clients’ wish list, ask about frustrations in the industry, their challenges, aspirations, goals etc. -> “idea extraction” + crowdsourcing -> entering “Blue Oceans”
  • ask for vendor referrals, ask the vendor’s for advice on how you can help mutual client and them
  • create an organizational structure that supports the new plan
  • UPOD (under promise/over deliver) – most of the time but not always so people don’t get used to it
  • your brain can help solve complex problems if you ask it the right questions
  • when systemizing, create the Three Questions for employees to ask themselves when a scenario is not covered by a manual

Book: The Year Without Pants, Scott Berkun


Great look at one of the most interesting companies on the web, WordPress. While not everybody is as lucky to be able to focus only on product and leave everything (especially marketing) as a second thought, this book still has some great lessons and ideas, especially on managing employees. Definitely a recommended read.

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Hire by trial. All employees participate in support. Scoreboard for the entire company. 5 people in team is best. 1. hire great people, 2. set good priorities, 3. remove distractions, 4. get out of the way. Always ask “how will this impact the user?”.


  • they split the company (50 at the time) into ten teams
  • there are no formal interviews for positions at the company; instead they hire by trial: you are asked to do a simple project, get access to real tools and work on real things
  • all employees participate in support = help customers, improve knowledge of the product and befriend coworkers
  • they have a robust scoreboard for the entire company
  • if the supporting roles, including management, dominate, the quality of products can only suffer
  • all of the communication channels are logged and searchable
  • they have internal blogs “P2” where brainstorming, discussions, rants and jokes are published (each team has one + watercooler convos and similar)
  • general workflow: 1. pick a problem, 2. write a launch announcement and a support page, 3. consider what data will tell you it works (what users are doing), 4. get to work, 5. launch, 6. learn, 7. repeat
  • 5 people in team is best because people get enough say
  • results first culture
  • 1. hire great people, 2. set good priorities, 3. remove distractions, 4. get out of the way
  • an environment for autonomous adults – a place for people who know best what they need to do great work
  • each employee, each team decided which tools to try and which to keep
  • many employees were T-shaped, one very deep skill set and a wide range of moderate proficiencies
  • every time a company settles for a mediocre hire, it becomes harder to recruit the best
  • asking the user experience question (how will this impact the user?) is the ultimate way to prioritize engineering work as it shifts perspective to customers and not engineers

How I Went From Reading 2 Books Per Year To 20

I’m sure most of us have a bunch of books on our shelf or to-read list but never get to actually read them. I enjoy reading and always wanted to read more but somehow couldn’t get myself to read more than the 2-3 on my summer vacation.

Last year I read a great little productivity trick from Jerry Seinfeld. I tried it for two activities which just wouldn’t move to my daily routine: reading and (short) exercise. I don’t use this technique anymore but it did put both of these activities into my regular, almost-daily routine.

How I Read 1000% More Books Than Before

First of all – reading on a daily basis as recommended by Jerry. No matter if it’s just 15 minutes, I always read at least one chapter per day.

I also read at least two books at a time. This is one of the major lessons – if you get bored of one book just move to another. If you don’t like the book, drop it and start with a new one. There’s no use in reading something that you’re not enjoying.

You might think that you can’t keep track of that many books – and you can’t. That’s why I take notes for each book and gather them in Evernote (I use Kindle which allows you to easily highlight text). When I finish the book I also summarize the summary in a “tl;dr” (too long, didn’t read in geekspeak). This is the core of the book in 4-5 sentences.

I also read a non-business beside one or two business books.

Everything I read or want to read I keep track of with the free website Good Reads.

Going Forward

Twenty books per year is not really that much. But if you’re like I was, 10+ additional books can make a BIG difference – it did for me. Try it out and let me know how it goes!

Yes! Another blog!

If there’s something missing in this world, it’s blogs. So I decided to merge my two blogs which I wrote in Slovene and create a new one for English audiences.

What will you see here? Mostly productivity tips, book summaries and a lesson or two I learn on my path.

I’ve scheduled a few posts that will be published in the next few days, including tips on reading more, speeding up your learning with videos and two book summaries.