The Best Year Of My Life: In 35 Tweets
2018 was easily the best year of my life. So many good things happened. So many unexpected things happened.
But 2018 was also a very different kind of year for me.
I spent a lot of time and focus on my career and my startups - and less on things like going out and watching Netflix shows.
I think I sort of got my life on track - financially, career, focus and most importantly, my happiness.
This year, I think I finally found something I truly love - creating products.
It was also a great year because of all of the traction I had. I built a successful indie business, I quit my job, and I became a digital nomad.
I also launched the biggest project of my life (24 hour startup) and inspired thousands of people.
I wanted to write something nice (and complete) to close out the year - a true recap of my first year doing indie startups!
This post is inspired by an old Pieter Levels blog post, where he looks back on his year through his old tweets. I think it’s a really nice way to put together a blog post. That blog post is also very special to me because it’s how I discovered his story and became inspired to follow a similar path.
Fresh off of a startup disaster
Going back to late 2017, I had just experienced a complete startup failure. Two friends and I started a company, got a YC interview, and ultimately failed HARD.
I was so excited and determined to make that startup work, and when it fell apart, it kind of fucked me up.
Along with other things, I needed a change in life and I decided to leave San Francisco and move to New York City.
I can start a business by myself?
Although I was enjoying being in a new city with a new job, I was still longing to start my own business - but this time I had no co-founders or friends that were interested in something like that.
I started playing around with ideas and ultimately created starterstory.com!
To kick off the website, I wrote my first blog post about why I was starting it:
In that blog post, I wrote about my main personal goal: to one day be able to work for myself comfortably anywhere in the world.
I also wrote:
I'm not sure when that will be (I have a full-time job right now), but the only way I can make that happen is by trying ideas, starting new things, and keeping an eye out for the right opportunity.
Looking back, I think I just wanted to create something - just get something simple off the ground and make some sort of progress.
At the time, I had nothing in terms of my own assets... All the work I had done in my career was for other companies, other bosses - trading money for my time.
I was also in a decent amount of credit card and student loan debt.
I made my first dollar!
A couple months into starting the blog I made $3 off Amazon affiliate program! I remember being so excited about this.
I didn’t care that it was $3. It was more about the fact I had made my first dollar that wasn’t from a salary.
That little bit of money gave me more motivation, and I started working harder on the project.
I worked on it every day after work and on many weekends. I was learning so much and I was loving it.
My first big break
I woke up one morning to find my interview on the front page of Reddit!
After two months, I finally had legitimate traffic on my site! This was my first break - I had finally found an effective platform to share my interviews going forward.
I hit 200, and then quickly 300 email subscribers!
My first Product Hunt launch
About a month later I finally launched on Product Hunt.
I spent an insane amount of time prepping for that launch. It was the culmination of 3-4 months of work - and I did a lot to prepare. I was very nervous about it being successful.
I followed every “guide” out there. I took the day off of work so I could focus on the launch.
Then I got featured on the front page! And then Ryan Hoover left a comment!
I was on cloud nine! I started dancing around the room with Travis Scott blasting. This is easily one of the greatest moments of my life. I didn’t even reach #1 for the day - I think I was like #5 or #6 - but I was so happy about that.
I even had people emailing me nice things.
For the first time in my life, I felt like I had created something valuable and people were thanking me for it.
That is one of the greatest feelings in the world and it’s better than any kind of money.
My first haters
I even started getting “haters” on Reddit.
Back then, this really affected me! I was so self-conscious… I used to reply to every negative comment and construct long, thought out arguments with trolls on Reddit. That was such a waste of time!
But through that, I learned that if you have haters it means you’re probably doing something right because people are noticing you!
Hitting the front page of Hacker News
Then I got another massive break.
Similar to my first time hitting the front page of Reddit, this also happened unexpectedly.
It was 9 AM and I was about to go to work. I had a new article and I thought “Fuck it. Let’s try posting this to Hacker News…”
Five minutes later I was hitting the front page, and I was hitting it hard. My article held the #1 spot for an entire day and drove 40k people to my website.
I had to go to work while it was happening and I couldn’t focus on anything else. I was also so worried that my coworkers would find out about my side project (they browse HN)
This was an absolute game changer for me.
Starter Story was being exposed to so many people in the tech world. I had CEOs emailing me and one of them even wanted to acquire my website.
This also got me to 1,000 subscribers:
And it also drove $5,000 in sales for the company that was featured in the article:
Finding a community
Around that time, I found WIP - a community that really changed everything for me.
I got to join a chat and work alongside people that were just like me - focused on shipping and building indie businesses.
In WIP, I was in a constant behind the scenes watching indie hackers have success. It felt like every day someone was hitting #1 on Product Hunt or hitting the front page of Hacker News. I got so much support from that community - it was like a startup cheat code!
I also started making “internet friends” from WIP - and was able to build up an amazing network of people I know from around the world.
I really owe a lot to WIP - I wouldn’t be anywhere without it.
Struggling for focus and productivity
A few months after the launch, I started to struggle.
I remember feeling a bit stuck during these days. I think I was experiencing the trough of sorrow.
I was pretty unmotivated. I didn’t have any good personal systems in place for productivity. It became a struggle to put out any interviews and I often did the absolute bare minimum.
It was also a really tough time in my family. My dad had an unexpected heart attack and nearly died. I flew home for a few weeks to handle that.
This really affected me - especially because the heart attack was due to genetically high cholesterol - something that will affect me for the rest of my life.
I decided to quit smoking for the rest of my life (was addicted to JUUL) and started exercising every day (which I will talk about a bit later in the post).
Discovering the power of open startups
I did my first open startup report on Twitter, and I started realizing more of the power of being transparent and honest. It really attracts people.
I was also aggressively saving money, trying to get out of credit card debt.
I started working more and more on my business, and less on stuff like drinking, going out, and watching sports/Netflix. And I was really enjoying it too - I loved working on my side projects!
I continued to use Reddit to propel Starter Story. There have been many ups and downs, but it always seems to come back and work itself out...
I even got my own Reddit flair!!
The more I followed Pieter Levels, the more I began to realize that we are similar in a lot of ways. A discussion we had about being a solo founder:
I feel that YC and many other “startup” authorities talk about how you need co-founders. But often that’s really hard to find!
Maybe I don’t have a co-founder because of my style of working... I don’t know - but it’s really refreshing to see other people have massive success as a solo founder.
Revenue is going up
Meanwhile, my monthly revenue is very slowly going up. Every month, it was a couple hundred bucks. I started getting more and more excited to share my reports each month.
I loved showing people that I was making progress, growing my audience, and keeping myself accountable! That’s one thing that’s great about open startups - you are motivated to show up every month with some nice updates!
I started solving focus & productivity
Thanks to WIP, I shipped (did work) for 100 days straight.
My productivity started to improve - I started to become more motivated.
I think I became more motivated because I started working on things that I actually wanted to work on.
I ported over Starter Story to Ruby on Rails (which I know way better) and started shipping tons of features. It was nice to have a balance between content and features. I also started automating a ton of the monotonous stuff that comes with running a blog.
At this time, I started waking up early in the morning before work to work on features that would ultimately save me so much time in the long run. I was waking up at 5:30 AM and putting in 3 hours - it was a very productive time.
For example, I automated all of the social media including generating the images. I absolutely love this kind of stuff.
I don’t know why I love it so much. But it feels so great to automate things and have things be running while you sleep.
I also started using the Pieter Levels method of shipping - a stack of post-it notes:
A few months later, I hit >$500 monthly revenue:
I also started writing more - really enjoying writing blog posts about what I was learning. One of my favorite blog posts (and one that people really appreciated):
One thing that wasn’t super great during 2018 - my health.
After my dad’s heart attack I realized I really needed to make a change.
I committed to running 100 days in a row:
This is the best decision I made in 2018.
Not only did I become more productive, but I grew to absolutely love running in New York City. It is the most unbelievable place to run.
There’s nothing better than running on the West Side on a hot day.
Meeting Casey Neistat
Another benefit of running in New York… meeting Casey Neistat.
I’ve become such a huge fan of Casey over the last years. He has really inspired me and I watch his videos all the time to get pumped.
I can’t think of many other celebrities that I’d rather meet. I was so starstruck.
Getting the biggest check of my life
It was around this time I got an email from Andrew Bialecki, the CEO of Klaviyo:
We got to talking, and a few months later, I asked them if they would sponsor the Starter Story newsletter.
They offered to sponsor the newsletter for an entire year! And paid for it upfront.
I was in absolute shock.
I didn’t actually believe it was real until the money hit my bank account - and when it did I had to leave work and go on a walk. I might have cried a little.
But in all seriousness, getting Klaviyo as a sponsor was a massive milestone - it allowed me to focus on building the site rather than chasing sponsors every month.
And it helped me hit $1,000 monthly revenue!
The craziest idea of my life
I was on a run in New York City and I randomly came up with a crazy idea… I wanted to launch a startup in 24 hours.
I committed to doing it with this tweet:
That tweet started going viral, and the rest was history.
Over 10,000 people tuned in that weekend to watch me build and launch a startup on Twitch.
I finished it in 17 hours and I continued to go viral.
It felt like I became internet famous for a minute. I got over 1.5K new followers on Twitter in one day.
I even got props from one of my idols… Pieter Levels!
Then I quit my job
Two days after my 24-hour startup, I went to my manager and quit my job.
It sounds so corny, but it just felt like that was the moment. I realized I needed to go full time on my own stuff.
I don’t really know where it came from - but I felt like I had to do it.
Getting more haters
I even got some more haters from my 24 hour startup!
(P.S. I wrote a massive post about the 24 hour startup if you want to learn more.)
I started a trend
All of a sudden, everyone started streaming stuff - I was getting tagged on Twitter as the “streaming startup” guy...
I started meeting tons of new people that were streaming, including the one and only Ethan, whom I admire a lot.
Then I decided to launch another 24 hour startup the following weekend. I was doing everything I could to capitalize on my newfound success.
I moved home
After I quit my job, I immediately left New York City and moved home into my mom’s place to prepare to go digital nomad.
I was all of a sudden working on my own stuff - 100% of the time - I had never had this feeling before.
I got to wake up in the morning and work on whatever I wanted. This was (and is) such an awesome feeling.
I finally got out of credit card debt!
It took me an entire year to do this:
Redditors also started a petition against me. At this point, I stopped caring about that stuff!
It was also nice to have so many people comment nice things in the thread - we beat the haters!!
A crazier idea - 24 Hour Startup Challenge
I could only think of one crazier idea than launching a startup in 24 hours - and that would be organizing an event allowing hundreds of people to do it as well.
With my newfound freedom, I birthed the idea of the 24 Hour Startup Challenge - and I teamed up with two internet friends to launch the most ambitious project of my life.
This reception on this was insane - it was the biggest thing I’ve ever done.
It was also a lot of pressure. For those 3-4 weeks - I worked the hardest I ever have in my life.
I even got a crazy shoutout from my indie startup idol, none other than Pieter Levels.
I also got to make connections and interview a ton of my indie startups idols - Courtland, Mubs, Pieter, and so many more people...
I even got a follow and DM from another one of my idols - Patrick Collison, the founder of Stripe:
The 24 Hour Startup event was a massive success. Hundreds of people signed up, and in the end, 96 startups were launched.
In two weeks, we went from an idea to the biggest indie startup event of all time! We raised and gave out $4,000 in prizes and did all of it on a $0 budget.
And that brings me to today! A few weeks ago, I flew to Thailand to start my digital nomad journey - traveling the world and working on my startups.
2018 was such an amazing year, through many ups and downs, but I’m especially thankful for all of the people that have helped me throughout this journey - even in the smallest ways.
Ready for 2019
I’m realizing that my journey is just beginning.
Although I’ve had some nice success, I want to 10x it. I want 2019 and the next few years to be even bigger. I’m ready to go all in, work hard, build and launch tons of stuff - and most importantly find my way!
I’m so excited. Thank you for reading.
Update: A couple people mentioned they were trying to reach me over text, my American number doesn’t work anymore! Hit me up on Instagram or you can iMessage me at [email protected] :)