Field Notes

This is a living document, updated often, so please be sure to check back from time to time.

Last Updated: 04/16/2018

What are Field Notes? In this context, it’s simply the notes that I make on a near-daily basis. The vast majority of my notes are quotes that I’ve either heard or read, organized by arbitrary ‘tags’. A few of my own thoughts creep in from time to time as well. The “featured” image for this page is a picture of how my notes look ‘in real life’, as well as my Hipster PDA peaking out.

Be aware that since these notes are, above all, for myself some quotes are not exact, many are paraphrased, or written from memory, and I don’t always do a great job at pointing out which are exact and which aren’t. Reader beware.


  • References and Links
  • On Belief
  • On Business
  • On Change
  • On Creativity
  • On Learning
  • On Networking
  • On Writing

References and Links

On Belief

“What can’t you ship?” – Merlin Mann <- This quote has been the most impacting for me.

“Don’t just focus on eliminating weaknesses; create systems that emphasize and build upon your strengths.” – Freakonomics Podcast

“Run, headlong, into your fears!” – Personal note but said elsewhere, I’m sure.

“If you want to make something look easy, you have to make yourself seem relaxed.” – Merlin Mann

One of my goals for this upcoming years is to: “Cultivate a consistent attitude of calm and connectedness”, or in other words, dignity. Dignity can be exemplified by the old South Korean General who, after every meal, would get on his hands and knees and humbly wipe the floor clean. (Listen to the last half of Back to Work, Ep. 55, “The Pickles Never Touch”) – Personal note

“If you want to accomplish something, don’t ask ‘Can I do this?’, ask ‘What’s the best way for me to do this?'” – Tony Robbins

“Overcome your inhibitions about talking to yourself…a winning mindset consists of hearing words that penetrate to the core of personality…if we truly wish to believe something, we ought to tell it to ourselves audibly rather than thinking it silently.” – Zig Ziglar, Changing the Picture

DON’T BE A “DABBLER” – Personal note

“The path to mastery is to practice the fundamentals every single day.” – Tony Robbins

Whatever feelings or validation you need to have, give it. We get what we give to others – adapted from Tony Robbins

“Never forget why you’re doing this: Are you helping people? Are they happy? Are you happy? Are you profitable? Isn’t that enough?” – Derek Sivers, I Miss the Mob

Potential leads to Action, which leads to Results, which leads to Beliefs, which leads to Potential, etc. We can control our actions and beliefs. It is our beliefs that are the engine that drive the whole process. To grow beliefs: (1) Visualize it, (2) Mentally rehearse it, (3) Audibly tell yourself. You must believe in, and expect, success in your ventures. – Personal note, adapted from Tony Robbins

Leviticus 19:14: “Thou shalt not curse a deaf man”. “If a deaf man can’t hear, what’s the damage? The damage is done to the individual who utters those words. Acid destroys the vessel that contains it.” – Zig Ziglar, Changing the Picture

“Anger is like a hot coal that you hold in your hand, intending to throw at someone. No matter how long or short you hold it, it still burns you, and probably more than it will burn the person it’s aimed at.” – I don’t recall where I heard this. I think from Dan Benjamin on Back to Work.

“How much you care about something can be defined by how much you sacrifice for it.” – Merlin Mann

“You can’t act on a vague desire…Once [you] turn a vague goal into a list of specific steps, it’s easy to take action.” – Derek Sivers

“What determines the character of an individual is how they react to the situations they find themselves in.” – Sam Thompson (personal friend)

“Heaven is everlasting and earth is enduring. The reason that they are everlasting is because they do not exist for themselves. Hence, they are long lived. Thus, although the saint puts himself last, finds himself in the lead. Although he is not self-concerned, finds himself accomplished. It is because he is not focused on self-interests and hence can fulfill his true nature.” – Toa Te Ching, Chapter 7

“When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” – Book of Mormon, Mosiah 2:17

“What I believe informs how I am, but does not define who I am. We are all the same.” – Noah Rasheta

“When we open awareness to the tasks in our lives they become lighter. When we are able to be in the moment, we no longer feel compelled to watch the clock. Whatever your work might be, bring all of yourself to it. When you are fully present, you may find that your labor is no longer a burden.” – The Cybermonks

On Business

“Business is easy; find a need that people are willing to pay to have solved, and then find a profitable way of solving that need for them.” – Derek Sivers

“Mass rejection is the key to success!” – Tony Robbins

“They can copy your product, but not the relationship you have with your customers.” – Anne Janzer, Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, ‘How to Tap into the Subscription Economy’

“The market does not reward you for accepting risks which can easily be [mitigated].” – James C. Brau, P.h.D., et. al. ‘Principles of Finance’

“Good ideas” are not worth very much. You should prefer “good execution.” A moderate idea, flawlessly executed, is infinitely more profitable, than an amazing idea left untouched. – Personal note, however Derek Sivers said something similar in ‘Uncommon Sense’

“It is always easier and better to give your existing customers more than it is to find new fans.” – Kevin Kelley, ‘1000 True Fans’

“True fans are not only the direct source of your income, but also your chief marketing force for ordinary fans.” – Kevin Kelley, ‘1000 True Fans’

The 8 Uncopyable Value (“Generatives”):

  1. Immediacy
  2. Personalization (this “…requires an ongoing conversation between the creator and the consumer…”)
  3. Interpretation
  4. Authenticity (and Reliability)
  5. Accessibility (think SaaS)
  6. Embodiment (i.e. the experience, prestige, ease-of-use, etc.)
  7. Patronage
  8. Findability (think aggregators and personalized distribution)

– paraphrased from Kevin Kelley, “Better than Free”

“Startups go from failure to failure from day one. What we do is,…we fire the ‘plan’. We now iterate or pivot one or more components of the [business] plan.” – Steve Blank

“Your job [as an entrepreneur] is to search for something that is repeatable and scalable.” – Steve Blank

From “startup” to “sustainable-business” there are three phases:

  1. Search: searching for a sustainable business model
  2. Build: putting in place the policies, procedures, and other ‘boring’ stuff that defines a more mature business
  3. Execute: moving from building to scaling

– Paraphrased from Steve Blank

“Encourage people to contact your company, and then shine when they do.” – Derek Sivers

Mission Statements:

  1. Must be clear, specific, and practical
  2. Answers and defines “why” your business exists
  3. You must live your mission statement
  4. Don’t settle for a mission that doesn’t feel right

Personal note, but I heard it somewhere; I just don’t recall from where.

“Done is better than perfect.” – Kathryn Minshew

Kathrine Minshew on “Five Zero-Cost Strategies to Acquire Users out of Thin Air”:

  1. Design the very first user experience
    1. What are visitors thinking about in the first 2 seconds?
    2. Is your site [interface] visually beautiful?
    3. Is your message clear?
    4. Remember that you’re asking people to put their necks out by sharing – make it worthy
  2. Ask for word-0f-mouth and “make it insanely easy”
    1. Put together a “short and concise” email for you to send out
    2. Include specific examples of Facebook posts, tweets, etc. that people can use (copy-and-past-able)
  3. Seek out like-minded groups as a starting point
    1. Seek out small collections of people that have already self-organized around something similar to what you offer
    2. Ask for feedback on the product
  4. Know how to approach bloggers/writers/journalists strategically
    1. Ask yourself, who is the appropriate person for me to reach out to at this stage?
      1. What do you want out of the exchange (i.e. more users, more traffic, etc.)
    2. Look for trade bloggers (or the equivalent)
    3. Focus on telling a story, not just a list of features
      1. Link your story to a larger trend
      2. How would this reporter pitch this story to their editor to make the case that it’s worth focusing on?
    4. Remember that reporters/bloggers are humans too, not just “story machines”.
  5. Become your own PR machine
    1. Be willing to provide original, useful content in exchange for back-links
      1. Start with niche blogs, forums, etc.
    2. Be persist, polite, and try to understand what the publishers are looking for in content

“Don’t let the guy with the broom decide how many elephants are in the parade.” – Merlin Mann

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value … a man of value will give more than he receives.” – Albert Einstein

“We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.” – Walt Disney

“Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.” – Derek Sivers

“Never forget that absolutely everything you do is for your customers…if you’re ever unsure about what to prioritize, just ask your customers…’How can I best help you now?’, then focus on satisfying those requests.” – Derek Sivers

On Change

“Confusion is a great way to break habits.” – Derek Sivers

“Internalize what you read [or learn], that’s true, as though you can never go back.” – Bryan Caplan

“We grow only when we’re surprised.” – Derek Sivers

On Creativity

Derek Sivers on Creating:

  1. Share what you learn right after you learn it
  2. Share your work online
  3. Share the “process and residue” of your work
  4. Don’t release your work until weeks or months after it’s done

On Learning

“Necessity is the best way to learn anything.” – Derek Sivers

On Networking

“How to Network:

  1. Don’t dismiss people – treat everyone well
  2. Don’t be a [jerk]
  3. Don’t rush”

Tim Ferriss

On Writing

“Just focus on what’s surprising…write everything you want to say, then scribble out everything that will not be a surprise.” – Derek Sivers

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