My New Secret Life

October 2021 Retrospective

This is a tricky retro to write.

I have a lot to say. A lot.

And yet, I’m not sure I have the—something…patience? Interest? Willingness?…to actually say it.

For two reasons. The first is that—like last month—I’m in an intense period of flow/motivation. And at this exact moment the idea of taking a beat and writing a retro feels like a waste of time that will only delay the progress I’m making on everything else.

Historically, I’ve always felt that an attitude like that—one that says “I can’t spare two hours a month to think big picture because I have too much else to do”—is deeply flawed. It’s the type of thing people say when they get too focused on the details and don’t spend enough time thinking about what they really want. And yet I do feel it. It’s a bit of a puzzle.

The second reason is that a lot of my energy this past month went to my “secret” project—which I’ve decided to codename Project Griffin as a nod to Pegasus and mythical creatures everywhere—but I still haven’t figured out how to talk about it publicly.

Anyway, let’s give it a shot and see what happens.

Last Month’s Profit

It was a record-setting month!

Project Profit Monthly Change
SaaS Pegasus $9671.56 76.32%
Place Card Me $1892.78 -9.86%
Chat Stats $150.56 166.67%
Total $11,714.90 53.31%

I broke my solopreneur dashboard again, with Pegasus flying off the chart below and my combined profit eclipsing $10K for the very first time.

Broken Graph

I’m not 100% sure why this month was so good for Pegasus. The only anomalous thing that happened is that someone asked about SaaS starter kits on Hacker News and I managed to nab the top comment (thanks to someone I’ve never met pointing it out to me on Twitter—thanks Adam!). I know this drove at least one direct sale, but it’s possible it was more than that.

Either way, I’m not complaining!

Last Month’s Goals

Bit of a mixed report card this month.

# Goal Grade
1 Ship a substantial pegasus release A
2 Draft “Modern JavaScript for Django Developers” Part 5 D
3 Ship the first iteration of my new secret thing A

Ship a substantial pegasus release: A

I wasn’t sure if I’d pull this off, but I managed to—at the expense of the next goal.

I deemed Pegasus 0.19 “the people’s release” as it basically just included whatever people had suggested from the prior month. But it’s gotten rave reviews from the customer base so far, so I’m happy. It mostly added a number of “table stakes” features for teams that had been on the backlog for ages and I just hadn’t gotten to.

Draft “Modern JavaScript for Django Developers” Part 5: D

I totally failed at this. I didn’t even start thinking about it until the 28th of the month. And mostly just ended up with an outline and two sections.

Still—the retro process was useful for this one. Had I not made it an explicit goal last month I would have ignored it entirely. And now that I’ve gotten started, I’m hoping it’ll be easier to push through. I’m still attempting to get it out by Thanksgiving (so that I can overlap with a Pegasus Black Friday sale)—though it’s unclear to me that I’ll be able to pull it off.

Ship the first iteration of my new secret thing (Project Griffin)

This one was hard. Very hard. But it’s also been fascinating because it feels like the first time in a long time where I’m really figuring something new out. It’s like the early days of Place Card Me or Pegasus again.

You might be wondering why I would choose to do something in secret—especially given that I’ve been so glaringly public and transparent with everything else I’ve done and greatly benefited from it. To be honest, I’m wondering that myself! The answer is complicated and not something I’m ready to talk about yet. But for now lets just take as a given that I’m trying to build and market a new thing and I’m trying to do it entirely separate from my existing identity.

The first problem has been declaring an MVP. The scope of what I’m trying to achieve is big. Way too big, honestly. And biting a little slice off to declare as a public V1 was super hard. I put a lot of effort into this thing, but it’s about 5% of what I’d like to ultimately do—and honestly the initial release kind of sucks. Hard things are hard and take time. It’s very frustrating and there doesn’t appear to be any shortcut. So I had to push through the embarrassment of shipping a crappy thing because otherwise I’d be fiddling around for months.

The second problem is the secrecy. One thing I now take for granted is that I have a bit of an audience—an audience that mostly thinks I’m a reasonable, not-dumb person. It’s nothing crazy or impressive, but I can get a Tweet or email seen by a few hundred people pretty easily, and by and large those people look at my thing with some going-in expectation that it will be decent.

Getting Project Griffin off the ground—and not yet attaching my identity to it—takes all that away. And I forgot how difficult it is to market something on the internet when you have no audience and no credibility! It’s harder to get anything seen (no audience), and if you manage to get it seen it’s harder to get it taken seriously (no credibility).

I created a new Twitter account, but with 0 followers it’s difficult to know how to use it. I created a new Reddit account, but many Reddit communities don’t even allow posting if you don’t have a certain amount of karma or your account is too new.

All these rules and systems that have been put in place to limit spammers and bots make tons of sense—until you are trying to get off the ground from scratch. Then they’re really frustrating! They’re frustrating because they’re doing the exact thing they are designed to do—making it hard for someone to quickly spam the world with their stuff. This has given me a lot of empathy for those good actors who are still just getting started out there. I forgot how hard this is!

Anyway. I was able to get lucky on Twitter and drive a bit of traffic to the thing post-launch. But it didn’t really stick around. So now I need to figure out what’s next.

Broken Graph

I got lucky in driving a bit of traffic to Project Griffin, but it fell off quickly.

It appears to be a long road ahead, and I’m not sure I’m ready for it.

Time

October 2021 Time

Time breakdown for October 2021

Most of my proactive time got split 50/50 between Pegasus and Project Griffin (filed under “exploration”).

I’m happy with this breakdown for the month, but want to get Pegasus time back up this coming month.

This Month’s Goals

  1. Publish “Modern JavaScript for Django Developers” Part 5. I’m worried about this one, but I’m putting it here because I think it should be a priority.
  2. Run another Black Friday sale. Black Friday was so big last year that—even though I’m feeling hesitant about it—I really can’t justify not doing something again. So I’ll do that even if it makes me feel a little icky.
  3. Figure out what’s next for Project Griffin. I’m not planning to spend a lot of time on Project Griffin this month, but I would like to figure out what to do next, and also what the path to taking ownership of it might look like. I’m not sure keeping it secret while continuing to work on it is long-term sustainable. So I should possibly either own it or drop/pause it till I’m ready to.

Notably absent from the goals this month is a substantial Pegasus release. I’m expecting to prioritize the guide and marketing work instead of dev—which is always an easy distraction. Especially because one major reason for the monthly release cadence is to be able to keep my email list warm every month, but these people will be hearing enough from me over Black Friday.

I’ve also got a few consulting projects in the pipeline that might keep me busy—another reason not to sign on for too much.

Either way, should be another fun one!

Recommendations

Against my better judgment, I’ve continued to get pulled into various Covid-related topics.

The latest one is what appears to me to be a growing and troubling gap between those who are unwaveringly pro-vaccine (and pro-vaccine-mandate) and those who are unwaveringly anti-vaccine. It feels like there should be a middle ground somewhere between these two positions, though even acknowledging that can be considered controversial by some.

The 4-part series “Needle Points” is far and away the best thing I’ve read on this topic. It’s very long, but well-worth it if you’re interested in trying to make sense of what’s happening.

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