Burpee Challenge: Reflections and reboot

The idea of my burpee challenge is pretty old. I began training for it back in August, and finally started the project in September. In the very first week, I missed a day, and–without posting here–figured I’d restart the one-week challenge.

I managed three weeks on the terms of getting a total of 300 burpees per week (50 burpees per day for six days). I missed the occasional day, but then did two sets the next day. Once, I even managed a long, drawn-out set of a hundred.

I got stronger. I began to enjoy the middle few burpees–after warming up, before beginning to be exhausted–and started wondering what I would do after the challenge. After all, this doesn’t seem like something that would turn into a lifestyle.

Then, last week got crazy and I missed three days. I kept the running tally of the burpees I still had to do, but realized I wasn’t going to catch up.

So, because the challenge is six weeks of six days, I’m starting again. I’m not giving up, yet. There is something to be gained from the burpees, and I’m enjoying the feeling of strength I get from them.

So, here we go again…

A ladder to what comes next

I’ve been thinking a lot about “what comes next.” After all, I genuinely don’t believe my job will exist the way it is ten years from now. So, I may as well prepare.

Some introspection

It seems to be relevant to ask myself “what do I want to be doing in ten years.” And, the fact of the matter is, I don’t know. I have some general ideas:

  • I’d like to be making meaningful decisions
  • I’d like a certain degree of social standing from my job
  • I’d like to be proud of the skills I have, and of the impact they’re having
  • I’d like to work with people in a collaborative (i.e. not customer-service provider) capacity

So, if I think I have time, I guess I should be using it to develop skills that I can sell in ten years. But, the only skill I’ve really worked on recently–in addition to teaching–has been coding and I’d really rather not code for other people. I just find coding too frustrating to do in the realization of someone else’s dream.

A plan of action

Where does that leave me? Well, it leaves me managing a business and a half–if you consider both my freelance teaching and my EFL worksheet generator businesses–while looking at how to move out and up to the next thing.

The move out and up is important, because I’d rather not make a lateral move. That’s where the word “ladder” in the title comes from.

So, I’m here with two businesses more or less under my control, and I need to figure out how to make the most of my experience now as I try to find something I can leverage to get out and up.

I could tread water in my teaching business as I do this, but I am beginning to believe that that would be wasting opportunities.

Learning skills

There are skills I can learn with both businesses, which may be valuable later. Here are a few that I’ve thought of:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Marketing
  • Sales and customer acquisition
  • SEO
  • Content marketing
  • Content generation
  • UI and UX (user interface and user experience)
  • And, yes… coding

At the moment, I run three websites as part of my “I’m an English teacher with a great online tool for English teachers” web presence. I think the combination of that–plus the idea that I can teach for myself rather than just for language schools–gives me plenty of leeway to learn skills.

The trick will be learning them.

No master plan, for now

I don’t really know where I’m going for now. I know that I’m going to make it a goal to start selling lessons on my own as a teacher–partly for financial reasons, partly for the experience–and I’m going to work on my businesses as planned, but I’m going to also keep two things in mind:

  1. What skills am I developing and using? And am I enjoying them? After all, if I find that I enjoy the challenge of sales, maybe I should look at a job there.
  2. Can I do the German thing of certificate collection? Part of my recoils at this thought. But, if I need to (or really want to) learn something anyway, why not do it in a structured way and get a certificate? It would help with a later job hunt.

Lastly: the unspoken option

In all of this, there’s one thing that’s not being mentioned: there’s a better than even chance that I–or future me–having gathered all these skills, will be able to maintain myself on my earnings from a lifestyle business.

So, maybe that’s why there’s no master plan: I’m hoping that, in building my safety net, I’ll learn the skills I need to never make use of the net.

Meeting with others interested in startups

This story starts the way a lot of things in my life start:

A lack of motivation

I’ve been struggling to get back into my amateur entrepreneurship since the summer ended. I have a few excuses for why time hasn’t been sufficient, but I’ve been struggling to get my motivation up. It’s a lot like getting back into music practice: knowing how much I’ll have to do, just to get back into the material is a bit of a hurdle.

Still, because the IndieHackers podcast emphasizes learning from other founders, I’ve been looking to get into contact with others. In spite of a lot of imposter syndrome, I wanted to start talking to people about the worksheet generator. I wanted people who would get excited about the idea as a business, rather than putting up with my enthusiasm.

So I organized a meeting

At first, I checked Meetup.com to see if there were groups for founders. There were, but they all seemed defunct (or, in the middle of some kind of summer break). I was discouraged.

Then, I rationalized: I have nothing to lose.

In each group–they were free to set up–I started a conversation saying “I want to meet other founders–and people interested in founding–to have a beer.” Then, I put all of the people who seemed interested into a group chat and we started working out a time.

Meeting with others

The meeting was just what I said it would be: people talking over beers. Of the four of us, there was a software engineer who was a dad, a recovering engineer, a student, and me. It was fun to get together and start talking about business ideas.

I was the only one with code written, and it was encouraging to hear them say “this sounds like a great idea,” and to tag on with their own ideas.

It was interesting to hear that they were plugged into a lot of English-language startup things I was interested in. Even more, it was interesting to hear about German-language “celebrities” in the world of startups and marketing… though I still haven’t bought any of the books mentioned. (I think I should, but where will I find the time?)

Next steps

It was nice to feel like I had an idea, I thing I wanted to get done, and that it happened. I even got one of the people at the meetup to signup for my worksheet maker, report a bug to me (oops!) and then start using it to help his girlfriend learn English.

Perfect.

Will it get me back to work on the worksheet generator as a business? I hope so. It got me to fire up the code editor and fix the aforementioned bug. That’s nice.

Will I organize another meeting? I’m not going to rule it out. But not this month.

The burpee project begins!

I decided that September would start the burpee project. For a while, I was pretty consistent with fifty burpees a day — at least every other day — but told myself that I was just warming up.

At some point, however, it seems logical that the experiment had to begin. And, with September starting on a Sunday, that seemed like a happy coincidence. The burpee experiment starts in September.

Here it is:

  • 50 burpees per day
  • 6 days a week
  • (Or the equivalent)
  • 6 weeks

What’s an equivalent?

To give myself some flexibility, the basic goal is 300 burpees per week. I’ll count a week as successful if I do three days at 100 burpees each. Or even if I do 300 burpees in one day (not today, thank you!).

The idea here is that I am afraid I’ll miss a day and then lose motivation because I “screwed everything up.” So, this gives me the chance to fix my mistakes.

Starting data

I should have timed myself doing 50 burpees. I haven’t, but now that I’m writing, that seems like the kind of data that would be interesting to keep track of. I do know that I was 106.9 kg at the beginning of this week and that I’m both eating and drinking less than usual at the moment. It’s a little unfortunate, because it will be hard to know if the burpees or the reduced calorie intake has the most impact.

Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing the data at the end.

The burpee experiment

I have an infatuation with burpees. Along with pull-ups and rope climbing, they’re the exercise that has the most mystique. In fact, maybe I like them most because I can actually do at least a few burpees at a time. (I can do a single pull-up, I cannot climb a rope… the kids play on the one I hung in the tree outside.)

A month or so ago, I watched this video.

You can guess what happened.

Naturally I didn’t think I was up for kicking into fifty burpees a day right away. I’m getting older and I’m very afraid of hurting myself. But I did go right out and do a total of fifty burpees in who knows how many sets.

And I felt it the next day, just like I expected to.

So I took a day off. And I started writing down when I did the burpees.

It felt good to see the list grow and occasionally calculate how many I’d done in total.

Being on vacation, burpees were a great exercise to feel like I was getting something done without checking out from the family for an hour for a long run (with the consequence that I now have to break back into running).

My goal: Do fifty burpees six times a week for six weeks, starting in September. I’ve had goals like this before, but we’ll see.

Indie Hackers: An amateur entrepreneur tip

It’s been a while since I’ve said anything about the amateur entrepreneur project. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing much.

I’ll post more on books that I’ve read / am reading soon, but for now I wanted to say that an important part of how I’m learning about entrepreneurism and founding startups is through the stories in the IndieHackers podcast.

I like that a lot of the stories are from boostrapped businesses, and I like the line of questioning that the host uses.

So, until I have time to write more about my own adventures and frustrations (still more of the latter), it’s a good place to be inspired by successes.

Piano in Dresden

I’ve been more serious about playing piano lately. “Serious,” by the way, means that I’m doing it more often and I try to practice things that are hard for me… I’m in a big practice practicing phase at the moment.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a local hotel bar has live piano music on Fridays and Saturdays. That got me looking, and there seem to be a few places in Dresden where I can go and hear live piano.

I’ve resolved to visit them all. Here are the ones I’ve found:

  • Hotel Elbflorenz: Where my wife and I went on a date and I was surprised to hear the piano. I’ll be going back soon.
  • The Maritim Hotel: There’s a “piano bar” that apparently always has live piano? I’ll call and confirm before I go.
  • The Innside in Dresden: Funnily enough, I learned about their live piano by finding it in an angry online review. Apparently, you can hear it the in the rooms directly under the piano…
  • Klavierhaus Dresden: Probably the only place I don’t plan to visit, they mostly sell pianos (and I have one) and organize what look to be the kind of piano concerts I’d feel compelled to dress up for…
  • Champagner Lounge Dresden: I’m least excited about this one, because it seems to be reaching for a clientele that seems to be comprised of people who would annoy me.

Have I missed any? Does anyone expect that I’ll be frustrated by the experience? This isn’t the sort of thing that I usually do, so I’m unsure myself if I’ll like it.