Stacking the Bricks Podcast EP5 - The evil voicemail effect
7 min

In this episode…

Earlier this week, Alex and I were stuck. Hard. I was crazy unhappy with the lessons I'd been trying to design. What I was doing… wasn't working.

Why was I stuck? What did we do to get unstuck? What on earth is the "voicemail effect" and why is it the source of so much writer's block?

If you find yourself stuck in a project — and therefore avoiding it — then this episode might give you the inspiration you need to figure out why. That kind of thinking can save your project.

More insider peeks at


Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: Hey buddy! Yes, I’m recording in my bedroom. It doesn’t get more bootstrapy than that.

So as you’re probably aware, Alex and I intended to launch the next version of 30x500, the self-guided version. The product you can just buy and use in your own time, at your own pace, anytime without applying.

We were meant to launch it in November. I got really, really sick from a bump on the head and so that did not happen. Since then, we’ve been just trying to figure out how to get it out there and the way that is the most effective. We have been doing a lot of meetings. We have done a bunch of whiteboarding.

We have recorded those meetings and we’re going to release those because we realized that it’s so much easier to learn and be inspired by a documentation of things in progress, than a story after the fact. So we’re going to start recording confessionals. Most boring reality TV show ever! I’m not here to make friends.

Are the new watchers gone yet?

So, you would think that after two years of running a bootcamp, something like four years – more than four years – almost close to five years of teaching these principles to students, that I could just sit down and record a bunch of videos and call it done. And I could, but 30x500 is more than just talking head videos or even more than diagrams.

I am a super nerd about how to teach people effectively and that has paid off. We have made huge strides in effectiveness and student results over the past few years of me rejiggering stuff and that’s been awesome! So I don’t want to just put out a crappy version, but going from 100% live, where I can answer a student’s question and if that answer doesn’t make sense I can try a different one, to 0% live where I will never even see or know the person taking the course at all, has been doing a number on my ability to be focused and systematic and structure things.

We’ve come up with really great solutions. For starters, we can’t have a real hot seat where we give students feedback on their particular exercise work, because it won’t be live. So instead we’ve crafted a virtual hot seat – it was Alex’s idea – using real-life student examples and our real-life feedback from the chat logs, really awesome. Then showing you how you can apply that to your exercise, really great, but that doesn’t solve all the problems.

So it’s been really stressful for me because metaphorically, it’s a voicemail problem. It’s a voicemail effect. I hate voicemails. I don’t mind leaving them so much, but I don’t like it and I end up saying stupid stuff, but I hate listening to them. That must be – this is my theory – it must be because there’s no human feedback. You’re sending a message out there or you’re listening to something and you can’t look at their face and you can’t look at their cues. You’re just like, “Aah”, until it’s over.

I don’t want to be like, “Aah”, the whole time I make a product. I was putting too much into the lesson outlines and then the slides and stuff that I’ve created didn’t flow and I hated them, and Alex is like, “It’s a version of one. We can send them free updates”. I’m like, “But I hate it”. If I hate it, I’m not going to ship it. If I think it’s imperfect, well, I’m going to ship it because nothing’s ever perfect. But, not if I hate it.

So, scrap that and realize that the reason I was having that problem, the reason I was putting too much stuff in and therefore the outlines didn’t make sense and whatnot, was because I was trying to cover every eventuality for a student that I couldn’t see or help. Stressful could literally include the entire world, the entire universe, every grain of sand and every atom in a lesson in order to accommodate every eventuality.

Yes, that’s insane. So, I’m not gonna do it that way. After two years of running the bootcamp, we’ve seen every problem that comes up during the bootcamp. It’s no longer novel. We basically know what to say in every situation, but this material is new and different. I don’t know that yet. So, what we’re going to do is create a middle solution instead of a 100% live or 0% live, we’re going to go 50%. Now it’s not sustainable because frankly, I have a chronic illness and teaching live on the fly like that is crazy stressful. It’s not emotionally stressful – I actually really love it, but it literally just physically drains me so much to think on my feet like that.

So, what we’re going to do is do this once. we’re going to do a semi-live component to 30x500, the product – just once. We’re going to limit the number of people; we’re going to structure that time. It’s not going to be a full weekend. It’s going to be shorter bursts so that I can stay alive, but, it’ll be the same price, or even less – everybody wins.

I get to work with you personally, granted to the limited degree, but if you have questions, I will be able to answer you. And then what I learned from helping you will get rolled into new lessons, which will help other people in the future. And because you helped me, you get those lessons as well.

Winning? I think it’s winning. I’m telling you this now in video so that we can have a record of it. So that you can go back and from the future, you can see what it’s like for us to deal with these problems and in the future, I’ll actually record more as they happen. It was after this decision that we made a couple of days ago that I thought, why aren’t we recording this?

This is really good stuff. And so I was like, “Alex, why aren’t we recording this?” And he’s like, “Yeah, that’s a good point.” So now I’m recording it. It’s that easy and awesome.

I have no idea how to end this. I don’t watch reality TV. Is there like a special, like sign-off thing people say when they’re in the closet recording stuff? All I know is “I’m not here to make friends.” That is 100% of my reality TV understanding.

So, I’m just going to shut up and, I will talk to you next time with more in-progress reports. Later!

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