Stacking the Bricks Podcast
EP14 - What are your New Years Pants?
In this episode…
Why are we talking about Amy's pants on a business show? There's a connection, we promise. You know this is gonna be good.
Stacking the Bricks is back for 2016!
Special thank you to everyone who reached out and told us that you missed the show in the time since our last episode. We missed making them for you!
The good news is that with the new 30x500 Academy "construction" complete, we're able to focus our attention on you this year and that starts with bringing back the show. It felt SO GOOD to get back on a microphone!
Alex Hillman: What is up there brick stackers! I’m your host, Alex Hillman. This is a brand-new episode of Stacking the Bricks. The first one in, gosh, coming up on almost a year!
That’s embarrassing, but why flog ourselves over it? The good news is, is we are back and I want to start by thanking every single one of you that reached out over the last nine months of not shipping an episode to ask, “Is the show coming back? We really, really miss it. Are you and Amy done? Is this show shelved forever?”
I’m so, so, so excited to be back at our microphone to tell you, no, it’s not over forever! As you can tell, there’s a brand-new episode, and I’m hoping that if you stayed subscribed to the show during the last several months, instead of doing that, “Ahh, there hasn’t been a new episode in a while. I think I’ll just take them out on my podcast app.” No, if you stayed subscribed – Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
I hope that seeing this new episode pop up brought you just a little bit of joy in your day!
Now I’m not gonna spend a whole lot more time introducing this episode because what I really want to do is just get back in the saddle with me and Amy doing that very January thing that everybody does, which is New Year’s resolutions.
But what I promise you is that this is a New Year’s resolutions episode unlike anything I think you’ve ever heard before; we’re going to talk about pants. We’re going to talk about planning. We’re going to talk about all kinds of stuff. You’re going to have to see what that’s about. So, I hope you enjoy this episode a whole, whole lot. Looking forward to bringing a whole lot more Stacking the Bricks to you in 2016 and – what the hell – lets just get on with the show!
Hey Amy, Happy New Year!
Amy Hoy: Happy New Year! God, it’s like January 15th. We finally emerged from our respective work comas.
Alex Hillman: January came late this year.
Amy Hoy: It really did. Yeah. I couldn’t believe that the year was finally over until about January 5th, and that was mostly because I was stuck lying on my sofa with bronchitis.
Alex Hillman: That sucks!
Amy Hoy: Yeah. Gave me lots of time to think.
Alex Hillman: Bronchitis is not a New Year’s resolution that I wanted to make.
Amy Hoy: No, no, I definitely agree. No bronchitis is my new, New Year’s resolution, which actually brings me to one of my other new year’s resolutions.
Alex Hillman: Which is what?
Amy Hoy: No more jeans.
Alex Hillman: Okay, go on.
Amy Hoy: Didn’t see that coming?
Alex Hillman: Did not see that coming!
Amy Hoy: So I have a collagen disorder, which means that my skin is very delicate and I love blue jeans and I’ve been wearing blue jeans all my life, but the problem is the seams dig into my skin and then I get welts and sometimes they get blood blisters from them.
It occurred to me earlier this year, as I was looking at my poor butchered legs, I thought, why am I doing this to myself? I’m not going to do this to myself anymore because it hurts. It’s not a big deal and I don’t usually get the blood blisters. I mean, you know, on the scheme of things, it’s really small, but the fact is that every day I would pull on pants that I liked and at the end of the day, my skin would hurt. That’s kind of stupid. So, I decided not to do that anymore. Instead of just collapsing into Walmart brand sweats and looking like a hobo all the time, which would make me unhappy.
Alex Hillman: You’re far too fashionable for that.
Amy Hoy: That’s the first time anyone has ever called me fashionable in my entire life! That’s why that was a joke. That was a joke, you guys, I’m kind of clothing agnostic.
Alex Hillman: You are on the side of comfort.
Amy Hoy: Definitely, definitely. But I normally wear real pants. Not always, but typically, I don’t know about you guys, but if I go out in like yoga pants, I feel like I’m not wearing anything.
Alex Hillman: I don’t go out in yoga pants, but you should move on.
Amy Hoy: Okay. Anyway, so, instead of just collapsing into the easiest possible thing out of, I don’t know, despair or sheer laziness, I decided that I was going to find an entire closet full of pants that looked like real pants and made me not feel like a slob, but that were comfortable and soft and warm and didn’t fuck with my skin. I’m wearing actually wearing a pair of them now.
Alex Hillman: Oh yeah? Hey, those look pretty sharp!
Amy Hoy: They actually have like these alternating patches on them with diamond weaves. They look like something someone stylish might wear.
Alex Hillman: So I have a question. Why are we talking about pants?
Amy Hoy: We’re talking about pants because the word pants is funny.
Alex Hillman: That’s true. You say it enough times and it loses all meaning. But seriously, does your decision to replace your closet with more comfortable pants have anything to do with the folks that are listening to today’s episode of Stacking the Bricks?
Amy Hoy: Yes. Pants are a business topic, I swear, because everyone has New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know what it is about December or January, but you’re like, “Oh, the champagne wore off. Now it’s time to decide. Where am I going with my life?”
Alex Hillman: Yeah, right.
Amy Hoy: I should do this, I should do that. I should go to the gym three days a week, or I should finally write that book, or I should finally find a new job, or I should finally ship my first software product and make money and stuff like that.
People are always saying what they should do. And that’s not often driven from a simple concrete observation of a problem that they can fix.
Alex Hillman: It’s coming from their observations of what other people do.
Amy Hoy: Right. Or their imaginary life plan that they’ve had in their head for a while. Instead of saying, “Well, I have this very specific problem aka my poor gentle skin is in pain and I’m going to solve this specific problem with comfy pants that look good.” They have a big goal, like “I’m going to start a business or write a book.” They don’t have a specific thing that they want to fix and so it can just spin out of control.
Alex Hillman: And there’s no concrete thing driving that forward. It’s not that you want to have something that you’re necessarily reacting to, but you want to have something present that has you thinking this can’t go on, like in your case, your welts on your legs.
So, in people’s business lives, what is the welt on your legs? Maybe it’s a boss or a coworker that drives you nuts, or it’s a real need to spend more time with family, but having a job that makes you work extra- long hours, or you’ve shipped things that you think are great, but other people don’t and you just can’t invest the time or money in that again.
Amy Hoy: With no result.
Alex Hillman: Yes, with no result. You can’t go through the emotional turmoil of that again.
Amy Hoy: You need to know – what are you doing it for? Is it something that really you want versus something you think you should want? I think the biggest reason why New Year’s resolutions fail is because they are based on an idea of what you should be doing and not a specific reason that you want to do something.
So, for example, you could want to write a book because you feel that there’s some story inside you that you need to get out for your own self. Or you could want to write a book because there’s a message that you need to get to people that will help them. Or you could want to write a book because you always saw yourself as an author and every year that goes by that you didn’t actually write something, it gets a little bit harder to tell yourself, “I’m a writer”. Or you could want the money. Or you could want the fame; you have to know why you want to do it because each of those types of books requires a different approach.
Alex Hillman: No one is right or wrong. It’s just choosing one and truly saying, “I can’t keep going without that thing happening.”
Amy Hoy: Right. And the only way to know why it is that you really want to do something is to look back.
Alex Hillman: On last year?
Amy Hoy: On last year and the years before that. Because otherwise you’re just kind of picking a dream from a hat and kind of hoping that it will happen.
Alex Hillman: So that’s why resolutions that stick maybe are a combination of a look forward as well as a look back.
Amy Hoy: I think they come from the look back. They come from the look back. I’m quite certain of this.
Alex Hillman: So do you have an example of a look back that turned into a movement forward?
Amy Hoy: I mean, aside from my pants?
Alex Hillman: We can just make Stacking the Bricks ‘The Pants Podcast’ and that would be fine.
Amy Hoy: One leg at a time!
Alex Hillman: The tagline has written itself! I think the folks that are listening would love to hear…
Amy Hoy: Something about money?
Alex Hillman: Something about money or business or product or something along those lines. I know I’ve got stories. I’m pretty sure you’ve got stories too.
Amy Hoy: Oh yeah, a ton. Actually, as we sat down to record this, as I was writing out my Post-It notes…sound effect…
Alex Hillman: That was a good sound effect.
Amy Hoy: Yeah!? Shall I do it again?
Alex Hillman: Do it one more time.
Amy Hoy: Isn’t that satisfying? I don’t know what it is about that sound. Anyway, as I was sitting down and writing out my little outline here; what to talk about, I realized that all of my product launches – all of my momentous product launches – were in either December or January.
There’s just something about that time of year; one you’re stuck inside because it’s brutal and you know, delicate skin, remember? So, the other thing though, is that it feels like this psychological bookend, even though obviously a year is actually not a physical thing that exists. It’s social construct, but every time I come to the end of a year, I really do seriously start to think about what has it been? How has it been? Where am I and what am I doing? What has made me happy or unhappy in the previous year? So, when we set out to make the new 30x500 product, the 30x500 Academy…
Alex Hillman: The one that we spent essentially, all of 2015 building.
Amy Hoy: We birthed it. It was a very long labor.
Alex Hillman: Team birth.
Amy Hoy: Yeah, ew, let’s go back to pants, safer!
Alex Hillman: But yeah, 11 months of intensive work in not just building, but also revising and really building the best version of 30x500…
Amy Hoy: That we possibly could create as a standalone product to not only mimic what it’s like to have a class or live class experience, but to exceed it. The reason we started that about a year ago, in I think last December, right. December 20…what year was that?
Alex Hillman: We had planned one more 30x500 bootcamp for December, 2014 and we ended up not doing it.
Amy Hoy: We ended up not doing it because we wanted to work on the product.
Alex Hillman: We wanted to work on the product and the things that were driving the desire to create a product were from the previous years, we had been running the bootcamp for two years.
Amy Hoy: Which meant two-day live video sessions. I mean, we didn’t do the live lessons, but we had to be 100% present for two full days at a time - and by intellectually present, I mean, we had to be paying attention to everything the students said, to troubleshoot their understanding, to give them live teaching aids, feedback on their exercises, to be there in the chat room and monitor and see if anyone was struggling – that kind of thing. Even though the videos were recorded, it was an immense amount of emotional and intellectual work.
Alex Hillman: The bootcamp days ended with – not complete exhaustion…
Amy Hoy: Oh, complete exhaustion!
Alex Hillman: Well, it would have been unfinishable if we hadn’t done the prerecorded videos.
Amy Hoy: Absolutely, we’d have died.
Alex Hillman: So that was a technique in making the format even work. But the other challenge was there was a limited number of people we could reasonably conduct that class with, which meant you combine that number with the reasonable number of times we can run the class per year – and there’s only so many people we’re able to offer 30x500 to.
Amy Hoy: Right. It was about 120 per year or thereabouts, right? Because we did no more than 30 per boot camp. We did about four or five times a year. I think it was more like 25 most times.
So that’s only 10 people a month we were able to reach with 30x500 and that’s not a lot. We looked back at the way we had done 30x500 and we realized that it was a lot of effort and cognitive juice and energy and feelings, emotional labor, every single class, but that it would never become more.
Alex Hillman: And not just that, but it was the same cognitive load every time.
Amy Hoy: Yeah, it started to wear a little bit.
Alex Hillman: Not so much that it was repetitive to the point where it was boring, but it was, I think if you look at something and say I’m doing the exact same thing every time, it was very, very interesting to get to a point where we’re teaching a class where every single time we teach it, it’s like the same script, different actors, where we would know that there’s going to be a couple of people who get it right away and really nail the exercises and feel really confident.
There were a couple of people that will watch them, compare themselves to the people who get it right away, not get it right away and completely lose their minds. We’ve got the people who are going to sit quietly and get it, but we don’t hear anything from them. So, we don’t know either way. We’ve got the people who ask a ton of questions for the sake of asking questions.
There’s like all of the archetypes that show up.
Amy Hoy: There’s always that one guy who like – and by guy – I mean gender neutral, because one time it was a woman, who asks devil’s advocate questions, which were just really disruptive and didn’t lead anyone to learning anything new.
Alex Hillman: So this limitation was constraining, not just what we could do with 30x500 as a business, but ultimately the kinds of people we could reach as well.
Amy Hoy: Yep, because it had to be fairly high cost, because we had such low throughput. So we had limited number of people we could reach, it was getting repetitive. It was a lot of ongoing work every single time. A limited impact we could create. We had a limited number of dollars we could make. And also we weren’t learning new things every time and there were a lot of people out there who really could benefit from 30x500 who couldn’t afford it because it had to be priced high.
It was basically, we knew that looking back at that experience and then looking forward to what we wanted with our lives, we knew that we couldn’t keep going that way.
Alex Hillman: So we needed to dig into the things that made the bootcamp great.
Amy Hoy: For us and for our students.
Alex Hillman: And pull them forward, we actually went so far as to hire a friend to help us call through chat transcripts and look for patterns and problems. Some of those things were things that I think we knew, but there’s other things that without having the opportunity to look at them at volume, we basically did Sales Safari on the bootcamp activity itself and then took that information and put it directly into creating Academy.
Amy Hoy: Exactly. So, we looked at what we had experienced and how it worked, what was good, what was bad. We looked at what we wanted, and we used that to create a roadmap to bridge from where we were, to where we wanted to be. That involved a year of busting ass; that was a lot of work to create the new 30x500 Academy and it’s amazing and I wouldn’t take it back, but I’ll tell you what, I do not want to repeat 2015 anytime soon.
Alex Hillman: The reason it was worth putting all of that work in is because a number of the key limitations that we were experiencing in 2014 are now gone.
Amy Hoy: Right.
Alex Hillman: We’re able to accept…
Amy Hoy: Hundreds of students…
Alex Hillman: Hundreds of students in a clip, we’re able to allow them to work at their own pace.
Amy Hoy: Right, they don’t have to hire a babysitter for two straight days, for example.
Alex Hillman: They can start whenever they want. They can pick it up, they can put it down, they can work along, you were always able to re-watch videos, but the structure of the exercises and things like that, that we did in the chat room were not quite as relivable.
Amy Hoy: Right. So people felt like they were behind. If they needed just a little bit more time to get one concept, well, the class had to by its nature keep going, but then they would never be able to relive that experience again. With the 30x500 Academy, they have these tools to judge their own work whenever it is that they can.
Alex Hillman: That’s actually one of the biggest things that I had a blast creating last year, but was also probably the most challenging, was taking what was previously a very interactive coaching dialogue, where people would share their work from an exercise and get live coaching from us. And get that coaching in front of the other 28 people that were in the room. The sort of sneak attack in that, that we realized having taught it dozens of times, was that the people who got the most out of that interaction were not the people being coached.
Amy Hoy: Nope.
Alex Hillman: It was everybody watching. As we continued to conspire on this, how do we solve this problem of taking the most live interactive part of the bootcamp and create something that can happen for anyone at any time without us being in the room? That was the moment right there where I said, well, wait a second. If we create something that lets people observe somebody else being coached, they can do it anytime.
Amy Hoy: Yep. The thing with being the person being coached live in front of other people, is I think it’s just too much input. Even if you’re not a defensive person, you can’t absorb it the way people can when it’s not their work at stake.
Alex Hillman: Exactly.
Amy Hoy: So actually, it’s I think in some ways better.
Alex Hillman: I agree. And when we shared these, we call them virtual hot seats because previously it was an actual hot seat.
Amy Hoy: Although no one was actually hot. Nor were their pants on fire, just to bring it back to pants.
Alex Hillman: The virtual hot seats themselves, when we showed them to people who took the bootcamp, they not only liked the format better, but they consistently said the same thing, which was, “Oh, there’s something I missed when I was in the hot seat. And now I see it.” So, the opportunity to absorb those really challenging things is a huge improvement on the format.
Amy Hoy: We’re telling you all this because each of these individual problems that we solved with the new 30x500 Academy, which is – this is not about 30x500, this story – what it is about is looking again, reflecting on what it is that you had, what worked and what didn’t and what didn’t work. Figuring out how to fix it and get more of what you want, and what did work, figure out how to get more of that.
So we did that, not only on a business level, we realized that to grow our business of 30x500 to grow the impact of 30x500 we had to decouple it from our individual work hours. So, it had to be product, but we we’re able to solve individual issues with the class from price point to pace, to issues with the structure or the specific things that they learned.
Each step-by-step it went by looking at what existed and how the universe, or the students, the customers, or our feelings, our lives, reacted to the state that things were and figuring out what to do with that information. So we busted our asses for an entire year. It’s not like when your startup friends are like, “Oh yeah, you grind it out for three to five years and then hopefully your company sells to Google and you never work again.” It was time boxed for a specific effort to solve specific problems with a specific result, based on previous efforts that we knew would work.
Alex Hillman: So this was not a throwing darts at the dart board. This was a calculated – if we put in this work, we can get this result – which in a very meta sense is the 30x500 approach.
Amy Hoy: It really is and we didn’t set out to build the most perfect class in the history of the world. The first time, in fact, the first 30x500 type thing was a three-hour teleconference where I basically told stories to a whopping eight people who showed up and paid me $80 apiece.
Alex Hillman: So this 2015 overhaul, this epic overhaul – not our first overhaul. Not our first overhaul in 30x500 and not our first overhaul in everything from, you know, your other business – Freckle, my other business – Indy Hall, your pants, your office, your house.
Amy Hoy: You’re making me tired, stop!
Alex Hillman: We apply this approach in really everything that we work on.
Amy Hoy: Yes. I know so many really smart and wonderful people who have a lot to give to others and themselves, who instead of looking at what they have and what they’ve done and what works and what didn’t work, they just kind of come up with a pie in the sky idea and bolt themselves to it.
When it doesn’t magically sort of happen for them, they then lash themselves with guilt and of course, guilt leads to avoidance and avoidance leads to never getting it done, which leads to more guilt – and instills a negative learning cycle.
Alex Hillman: That’s the literal opposite of Stacking the Bricks.
Amy Hoy: No, but that is the cliche of New Year’s resolutions. In fact, you see all these sort of ironic tweets saying, “Well, I bought my running shoes and I just dove into a tub of ice cream”, that kind of thing. People sort of preemptively joke about how they’re going to fail, to lessen the sting of failure.
Alex Hillman: Making resolutions almost so that you can say, “Well, I made one and then gave it up.”
Amy Hoy: Right. Apparently it’s sort of what you do, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you will sit down and reflect on specific things in your specific life that work or don’t work and figure out how to get more of what works and less of what doesn’t. So, it’s like, what would your ideal day be like a year from now or five years from now? What really just makes you happy?
For us, it is definitely hearing from our students as they work through the class and as they launch their products and make money, and then they share their happy customer emails that they get for their products with us, or they tell us things like, “I was able to pay myself a bonus this year for the first time in my business, and my bonus this year was almost as much as my salary was before I started 30x500.” I mean, that’s an email we got in December and that was awesome.
Even though 2015, at times I was like, get me off this train – it’s over now. Now we’re going to be able to have more of that because we’ll be able to charge less to individual students. More people will be able to take 30x500, but we will not be killing ourselves as much as we were. And so, it was a hard year sort of renovating our business and now it’s 10 times better and I’m really looking forward to doing a bunch of stuff we never had the time and energy to do, like putting together real case studies. We have so many sitting in our inboxes and we never had the energy to do it because we were so busy running around with the students in front of us.
Alex Hillman: Also investing more time into this very show, getting Stacking the Bricks back on a weekly schedule.
Amy Hoy: So excited to be back to podcasting! Literally didn’t have any emotional energy to talk about anything. I was like, I can do the work, but I can’t talk about it. Pick one.
So. What are your January pants?
Alex Hillman: That’s a good question. I think it would be really great to hear from some folks, what are their January pants? What are the things that if you look back on through December past through 2015, maybe the last couple of years, what are the things that are leaving the metaphorical welts on your legs that as you look forward 2016, you say, “I have to make a change. I can’t keep up ending my day with welts on my legs. I can’t keep going home, exhausted to my family, or I can’t keep not earning what I know I’m worth or I, I can’t keep working for somebody else’s goals instead of my own”.
Amy Hoy: What is the goal that you keep telling yourself, “I ought to do X.” And what does that really mean to you?
We would love to hear what your old style resolutions were, the kinds of things that you’ve thought you should be doing, or that were vague, or that were just sort of a dream and not necessarily a conscious decision for you based on your specific needs and desires and experiences, or the old sour solutions that you’ve given yourself before and after this podcast, if you sit down and do that reflection, what your new resolutions would be. We would love to know.
Alex Hillman: So 2016 is going to be your year to build small, but with purpose and to do it one brick at a time.
We’re serious about that exercise at the end of the episode. If you do it, if you take notes about what your resolutions, your old style resolutions would have been, and you follow our advice to come up with some new resolutions that you’ll actually be able to follow through on, we would love to hear it!
There’s two ways for you to tell us about it. The first one is an old-fashioned email, which you can send to [email protected] The other thing we can try is getting your voice, your actual voice. So, if you’ve got a podcast microphone, jump on that. But if you don’t, pull out your phone and use the voice recorder and tell us your story. It’ll be really cool to hear a bunch of your voices after you’ve spent so much time listening to ours.
So you can record that voice memo and send that to [email protected] as well and we will look forward to hearing those stories soon.
Oh man, this is going to be a really great year! We’ve got so much awesome stuff coming and getting Stacking the Bricks back on a weekly schedule is just the beginning.
In the meantime, I hope you have a great week and we will see you next time!
All Stacking The Bricks Episodes
- EP40 - Worst Boss, Best Boss with Lauren Williams
- EP39 - Grow your Audience with Kevin Chemidlin
- EP38 - Don't Pee in the Pool with Nilofer Merchant
- EP37 - The stuff they don't teach you in school, with Mayur and Shahzada
- EP36 - Building Trust at Scale with Will Toms and REC Philly
- EP35 - Debugging Humans with Michele Hansen and Colleen Schnettler
- EP34 - "Is this really gonna help people?" with Tony Lopes
- EP33 - Agency Talk on The Iowa Idea
- EP32 - An (Overly) Honest Review of The Tiny MBA with Brendan Hufford
- EP31 - The Zen Koans of Business with Chariot Solutions
- EP30 - Sales for Founders & The Tiny MBA
- EP29 - What are you optimizing for?
- EP28 - Double your Conversion Rate with Brennan Dunn
- EP27 - You can ship. But will anybody buy?
- EP26 - Don't wait 18 months
- EP25 - Features, or marketing? (Part 3 of a series)
- EP24 - Teamwork is harder than you think (Part 2 of a series)
- EP23 - "Everything will get easier if..." (Part 1 of a series)
- EP22 - How to make an offer they can't refuse (Outreach Masterclass with Kai Davis)
- EP21 - The most dangerous room in the house
- EP20 - Swift Kick in the Ass (Accountability)
- EP19 - A Swift Kick in the Ass (The Game of Business)
- EP18 - Our Profitable Mess (and how we're cleaning it up)
- EP17 - Kids Incorporated
- EP16 - How do you design products people love?
- EP15 - Why "Lambo Goals" never keep you motivated
- EP14 - What are your New Years Pants?
- EP13 - Justin Weiss's shift from side projects to successful product launches
- EP12 - "I'm shipping ebombs, now what?" - From Pain to Product with Nick Piegari
- EP11 - "I just need someone to hold me accountable."
- EP10 - Why do people worship the struggle of entrepreneurship? And how to avoid it.
- EP9 - How to clear a path for product success
- EP8 - From pain to product Masterclass with Amanda Thomas
- EP7 - Part two of "The Life-changing Magic of Shipping"
- EP6 - "The Life-changing Magic of Shipping"
- EP5 - The evil voicemail effect
- EP4 - Shipping is a skill
- EP3 - We didn't hit our 2014 goals. But...
- EP2 - Scott Hurff's first product launch was "wrong", but $50k later he knows it didn't matter.
- EP1 - How Pat Maddox went from 0 subscribers to over $3k MRR in 10 days