My Big Aha Moment

I remember when i was in elementary school (mid-1990s) and my dad pulled me over to the computer. He’d just connected to the old Internet protocol Telnet through the Michigan State University (MSU) Library System. Within seconds, we could explore the card catalog and corresponding applications from not just MSU but most major libraries in the world.

I know what you’re thinking. “Big whoop you connected to card catalog from a library.” But that was the mid-1990s. No one was online at that point. I was maybe 12 and my computer was bouncing around the world.

In that experience, I had some kind of aha moment that affected the rest of my life. I realized that the Internet was going to connect people in ways that’ve never happened before. From that point on, it’s been a non-stop fascination… and possibly even an obsession.

And I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen people connect via technology to build communities that have since gone on to change the world in a way that they wouldn’t be able to do on their own. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of some of those movements. Excited to hopefully be a part of A LOT more.

But it all started with a moment. Do you have a moment that was an infection point in your life?

Little Containers of Cheerios

I want to add to my love letter to Chick-fil-A.

Lauren and I were out running errands with Miles yesterday. It was getting close to dinner time so we decided to stop by Chick-fil-A. Those sandwiches are oh so good.

When we go out to eat, the moment that we always have to be prepared is the time between when we sit down and when the food comes.  We usually have to pull something entertaining  or distracting out of the diaper bag.

I was so pleasantly surprised as we were sitting down to see little containers of Cheerios sitting by where you pick up silverware. It was the perfect amount to distract Miles while we wait for our food.

All in all this little container of Cheerios may have cost Chick-fil-A a few cents. But it’s the little things that endear you to a brand. It shows that I can go into a Chick-fil-a as parent and they have my back. It shows they care. It part of why we keep going back and back and back.

It’s a challenge for me. What are the little things that I can do for my customers that take my customers from like to LOVE?

 

Developing a Daily Writing Habit is HARD

I admire people like investor Fred Wilson who pushes out new content on his blog everyday. I aspire to write something on my blog everyday. It’s really hard though.

We read things. We experience things. This causes us to have thoughts about the world. It’s hard to turn those thoughts into something that you want to share with people.

The discipline of writing everyday and articulating those thoughts brings a certain level of clarity for yourself (and ultimately for your readers). It’s an amazing mental exercise.

But building the habit is hard. There’s something about, at least how I’m wired, that makes me want to passively consume information without thinking about it. BUT that’s bad. As I wrote previously, taking notes on what I’m consuming has helped a lot. Now to just turn that into thoughts that I want to share.

I’ve been using the app Coach.me to prompt myself to write everyday, along with some other habits that I’m working on. I’ve found it pretty helpful.

What tips have helped you develop a daily writing habit?

Taking notes on what I read 

I love the Web. It allows me to read whatever I want and feed my never ending intellectual curiosity. It’s too easy for me to fill up my Instapaper queue with hundreds of articles.

When I read, it’s easy for it to go in and out of my brain quickly. If you were to ask me what I read and how it contributed to my worldview, I’d say very little. It’s easy for me to flip through news feeds and get nothing out of it. Skimming is an easy bad habit.

So, I’ve started taking notes on everything that I read. I have an Evernote notebook. Each note is on a different topic. When I read something on that topic, I take what I took from what I read and add it to that note.

I really enjoy reading news about the election. It’s easy for the barrage of stories to cause you to grow numb. But if you intentionally take what your reading and see that coverage next to all the coverage for a particular candidate, you start to get a bigger picture view.

If you’re fascinated by a particular topic, like autonomous vehicles, jot down every time you see a story about it. Add a couple sentences from that article. You’ll really start to get a sense for the evolution of autonomous vehicles.

I love Aldi Grocery Stores!

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I love finding ways where I can pay less for an experience that I’d otherwise pay more. It increases the return on my investment. Food can easily become one of the biggest chunks of your budget. I’m amazed how easy it is to blow a lot of cash at the grocery store, especially if you go in without a plan.

My favorite discovery is the Aldi grocery stores. They defy traditional grocery store features and pass the savings on to the consumers. For example, they don’t use normal product brands. Their displays are made of shipping boxes. You bag your own groceries. You corral your own grocery cart.

With this, groceries are extraordinarily cheap. A tub of hummus that would typically cost $4-5 costs $2. I can get half a gallon of organic milk for $2.25 where in most grocery stores that cost $4+. I could go on for days telling you about their amazing prices. My favorite is you can get avocados for $.50-.89, where they’d typically cost $1.50+.

I went yesterday and got a week’s worth of groceries for a family of 3 for $70.

Some of the non-branded groceries look exactly… exactly like their branded counterparts. It’s like the factory just switched out the labels. With that, you get a HUGE discount.

So… #1 if you want to save a lot of money on groceries, start shopping at Aldi. #2 if you’re an entrepreneur, how can you challenge the assumptions of your industry. Why do you have to do things the way that they’ve always been done? How can you pass more value on to the consumer?

(Photo from Mike Mozart)

Thankful for you. 

Holidays make me contemplative which makes me thankful. I’m so thankful for so many things but wanted to use this time to say thank you to all of you. 

There are so many writers and creators out there that are looking for an audience. The fact that you have chosen to pay attention to me across one of my different social and email channels is a HUGE honor. 

As we head into 2016, I hope to dive more into what it means to be a human being, husband, father, marketer, entrepreneur, and St Louis-ian in the digital age, as well as sharing my normal stuff.  I hope that you find all of it useful and thought provoking. 

If you have thoughts, concerns, or ideas, don’t hesitate to hit me up — jthorp@gmail.com

Happy New Year! 

Getting up early 

The kid is starting to sleep in a little bit longer. So, instead of sleeping in, I’ve been trying to get up before him. I can use that time to make a cup of coffee, read the Bible, skim the NY Times and just generally reflect on the day ahead of me. 

It’s hard to get up early. It’s hard to build that new habit or routine. Time is so precious and mornings are some of the only places in my daily schedule where I can adjust things to make for more time. And that time can be just for me. 

I wish there was a way to stretch a 24 day hour day into 28 hours. It never feels like there’s enough time  or energy to get things done.  Time is the most precious resource. 

The morning time is the easiest place to reprioritize. I know some people that just hurl themselves out of bed and rush right into their day. That stresses me out just thinking about it. I need to ease into the day. So, I get up early.