Ethan Reeves: Lessons from a Modern Day Renaissance Man - 10,000 Customers versus a Student Solopreneur

In this episode, Ethan Reeves joins us to discuss his experience building Extemp Genie, a software company used by Speech and Debate teams across the country.

Ethan Reeves
Ethan Reeves
April 1, 2020

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Ethan Reeves joins us to discuss why and how he founded and built Extemp Genie, a software that he began building in high school as a solution to the problems he recognized while competing in Speech and Debate. 

The software is now used by schools and students around the country. He runs the company as a one man team all while completing a degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Alabama.

Through the interview we uncover other projects of Ethan's like theatre, fitness, and personal productivity management.

Some Facts About Ethan: 

  • Was homeschooled. 
  • Began Programming at 10 years old. 
  • Has performed in 60 musicals. 
  • Has discipline equals freedom tattooed on his left bicep. 

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Transcript (courtesy of Audiograph)

Episode Transcript

00:00 you are listening to Episode 5 of the Louis and Kyle Show with Ethan Reeves there's a big one that goes through all of these things so this is a thread and I just realized this because you asked this question I never realized it before but this same thread runs through speech and debate it runs through 00:20 theater it runs through programming it runs through business it runs through a lot of stuff so when you're acting you the same thing goes for when you're speaking you have to separate your brain into two segments at least this is how I always thought about it so when you're up acting on stage there's part of you that's in the scene there's part of you that's living the character there's part of you that's actively feeling the emotions and 00:40 dealing with everything there and then there's a second part of your brain which is looking at the broader picture it's thinking okay um where are all the set pieces on stage uh how long do I have to make my next costume change am I properly cheating out towards the audience it's analyzing all of those things so you have to be both emotionally engaged in the scene and detached from it at the same time hello and welcome to another Episode of the Louis and Kyle Show a podcast where we like to bring on very interesting successful happy motivated people and 01:20 dig a little deeper on what they do why they do it how they did it and learn from them by asking thoughtful questions and having a fun conversation today we're joined by our friend Ethan Reeves I actually met him in chemistry class in my freshman year i'm not sure how come adam he runs a speech and debate software company that a lot even my own team here in nevada 01:40 uses and I didn't even know him before uh realizing that we use the software he created which was a really cool connection he's a renaissance man he sings he's an athlete he's a programmer he's a public speaker he's just an extremely interesting and diverse person so we'll let him tell us more about all those different passions and projects he has so Ethan welcome to the Show thanks for having me yeah it's our pleasure uh the first question a little timely more than I realized is you're homeschooled and I think a lot of that contributes to how you're able to do 02:10 so many interesting projects and have so many interests developed before you even started out in college so first question is can you tell us a little more about your experience being homeschooled and then after that talk about maybe some pointers from people that are now unexpectedly homeschooling their kids right so it's a good question because I mean being homeschooled definitely did 02:30 define a lot of my early identity and the way that I related to myself and to social expectations and structures of authority I mean the biggest thing I got away from it that I i took away from homeschooling is i've almost always been in control of my own life and of my own education and of my 02:50 own time i've never really been forced into a structure where I just had to toe the line and check the boxes and so because of that I think I think probably really the only thing I got 03:00 from it is that I had to make a lot of those decisions earlier on I had to figure out okay what is actually important to me what am I interested in what do I want to pursue 03:10 and I had to figure out a lot of that stuff when I was 15 or 16 rather than most people I would say figure it out post college because that's what a lot of the structure drops away but I had to establish that structure in the first place and so that's given me I think a a helpful framework for looking forwards at stuff um as far as tips from homeschooling as to how to pull it off these days yeah uh so I think for students which is especially a lot of us college students right now are dealing with this I mean the biggest thing is you have to 03:40 keep yourself accountable so you have to lay out actual structures for yourself because you're not going to have those structures coming from people in authority above you so you know get out your to-do list your calendar or your planner or just a whiteboard or whatever you need to keep track of all that stuff and then I think from a parental perspective 04:00 just let your kids do what they need to do just because they're back home now doesn't mean that you should suddenly assume the role of being their teacher or their principal they're not going to deal well with that 04:10 I know that I would absolutely hate that if especially being a college student now any of my parents were to do that or even going back into high school if the the parental and the teacher role roles would be suddenly exchanged like that it just wouldn't work at all so I think give your kids the space they need and if they're starting to annoy the heck out if you just throw them outside that's what my mom always did to me so I don't know go into the woods fixes everything take a few laps around the block and yeah no exactly energy go bounce on the trampoline get the energy out so would you advocate for allowing the kids to like follow their passions or try to um like cultivate an in classroom type setting where they are learning like 04:50 math for an hour science for an hour that type of thing so that's and this goes for homeschooling overall homeschooling is not not just as diverse 05:00 but a more diverse mantle than quote-unquote traditional schooling is because there's a lot more flexibility in what it can be and what specific mechanism of 05:10 homeschooling you pursue is going to be heavily dependent upon the situation it's going to depend on what the parent is looking for what the parent can provide as far as time 05:20 and expertise in and just the the motivational level of the student so like back in high school I was able to pursue all of my passions and basically have that be how I did my education but that really only worked because when you took the summation of all of my passions together and how much energy I put towards them you got a 05:40 well-rounded education that transferred well into college in the professional world not everyone is going to be that way I just got lucky that a lot of the things that I really like to do 05:50 are also things that society and the economy puts a heavy amount of value on but I think as with anything it's good to to define a certain amount of balance between those things because almost any passion that a child or student has can be used to drive their educational their educational experience forwards 06:10 yeah I think now we're gonna we're gonna get into some of those passions that we clearly see through you the first question that we have about that is when did you start programming and and how did you learn the program yeah so I started programming and I don't know the exact time because it's so far back in the depths of the past for me 06:30 um I want to say it was either 9 or ten years old um it was when I first started programming um so it's it's it's hard to remember learning to program because these are like very deep early childhood memories early childhood yeah of course yeah right so because I basically I learned to program almost right after I learned to read I didn't learn to read until around third grade I was very late coming to that but I basically started programming and so my dad's been a 07:00 software developer and a very incredible very talented engineer for the past 40 years doing a bunch of variable stuff and so a lot of people ask like well did your father teach you and i'm like well 07:10 not really basically all that happened is and I remember this I remember one day my dad sat me down on a computer and Showed me a little python program called turtle and turtle is basically where you you type in simple programming commands and you drive this little turtle and it makes like circles and diagrams on the screen um and I just really thought that was 07:30 fascinating and then that was a saturday evening and I remember that the next day in sunday school I was writing for loops in python in crayon 07:40 on the back of my coloring sheet and that's that's my earliest memory of learning to program um the first big program that I wrote was a 07:50 clone of a little submarine game from my mom's pda right personal digital assistant I built a clone of that and then about a year after that I built a yu-gi-oh card counterfeiting program tell us about the counter what do you mean by that so I just met that you would like you would put in all of the statistics and the image and 08:10 like the levels and everything that you wanted and it would generate a pdf that had nine cards on it that would let you print it out and cut it out because that's what I wanted as a kid and I just built what I wanted did you ever try to use those oh yeah no I mean I used it with my friends I didn't like try to like sell them or set up an empire or anything but i'd like to i'd like to make the point that he was like 08:30 13 when when this was happening yeah I was 13. we just we couldn't get these things that's true so then uh what kind of 08:40 projects so you started doing games and little handy stuff and then what did you get into trying to kind of make your first commercial project because I know it's in high school that you started this company yeah so the looking back the actual step to get there was one of the next things I worked on was a piece of software for cutting cards so like formatting team policy 09:00 cards and briefs properly and that was called brief builder and then you go back a step real quick for people that haven't done debate don't know what that is yeah so cards are it's essentially a quotation from an article plus a citation and a quick tag line which is basically a summary of the card uh and it lets you skim through and use a large amount of information in an efficient way exactly so it's a unit of evidence but the point is there to get it formatted properly and all 09:30 put together and do that efficiently because you're cutting potentially thousands of these things I wanted to build a little piece of software that would help with that and so I did that and I think that was around 13 12 to 13 years old um that never really went anywhere it was just kind of me throwing a bunch of stuff together but it was fun and I learned a lot 09:50 and then so transitioning over to how I started extemp genie so basically so I competed in the ncfca which is the national christian forensics and communications association 10:00 back in high school which was a christian homeschool league very small but generally a high level of competition and everyone was very competitive in that and we transitioned over to digital extemporaneous about I want to say a year and a half after the nsda did okay and I had done extemporaneous for two years before that and it had been to be honest a little bit of a nightmare we had 26 filing boxes filled with articles and printouts and that was just 10:30 a pain to deal with and what is extemporaneous speaking right yeah good question excellent I didn't debate so I know I I did all these things too but right right right I i competed I didn't write programs for any of it I was I was just participating yeah but an explanation of what these things are extemporaneous extemporaneous is what's called an individual event in speech and debate which means that it's just one student competing not on the team just for themselves and the basic format of it and it varies a little bit depending on the league 11:00 but you're given three current event topics generally sourced from the past 90 days so questions about the news and things that have been happening in the world and then you have a certain amount of preparation time usually 20 to 30 minutes to prepare a seven minute speech on that and you're allowed to reference articles 11:20 and such that you have originally picked off or these days downloaded to your computer exactly so back before computers were allowed at all everything had to be printed and then computers were allowed and most people were just sort of doing a print save to pdf sort of thing and keeping them all in a dropbox folder but I figured that there was a way to automate the entire process and so basically the first year I just 11:50 wrote a very small piece of software that took about 20 rss feeds and culled through them and downloaded every single article that Showed up in those rss feeds to the student's computer and put it into an interface to search and read through all that and what that does is it removed thousands of hours of individual 12:10 effort and that formed the kernel of what would grow into my current business okay that's awesome uh so your your business is an automation of that that problem where you're you're carrying around like tubs of paper because you when you get this card 12:30 that is random you need to be able to find information about that right and you have no idea what the topic's going to be so aggregated all that potential 12:40 information in advance since you can't use google or anything once the round started exactly and that's that's the core of it but it's spread out beyond that to a bunch of other things as well so there's the ability to collaboratively work on like highlighting content inside of it and organizing things into folders and collections there's an integrated shared practice questions feature where students can submit and then I review and republish practice questions for extemporaneous so that they can work on that 13:10 there is a dashboard for the coach so that they can look at analytic statistics on how their entire team is functioning that's awesome I thought that was a really clever feature you added letting 13:20 me 13:20 see who's putting in what amount of work and stuff right and even how much are students actually reading because the metric used to be how much are people filing like how many actual articles 13:30 you're saving but since you can hit a button and download 300 000 of those that wasn't really relevant anymore so I figured okay well what's where do you actually learn from this so it lets students it lets coaches track how much 13:40 time their students are spending reading yeah so on the business side of that like you're you're a one-man operation running a presumably a pretty large business if if Louis is high school yeah um you know across the country yeah it's yeah tens of thousands so what's that been like for you um you're a full-time student I i've i've watched you have a full-time job before you you're you're very active you're outside all the time you've got a kettlebell with you 14:10 like constantly you know um so so how do you do it so I mean it's it's been a trip um the biggest thing that i'll say is 14:20 the workload varies heavily dependent on the season so the business itself is seasonal and most of the actual business side of things happen 14:30 in the fall when school budgets are opening up so that's what i'm dealing most with customers and such um in the spring and summer it's essentially dead because at that point anyone who's going to have purchased 14:40 will already have purchased and at that point it's just maintenance um historically i've generally used the summers as my development time when i've been implementing new features and fixing things so I i rewrote the entire software from the ground up freshman year of college and that was a lot uh that was probably the most work I put into this thing ever it was about looking back at like my programming logs it was about six months of full-time work that I put in in addition to being a 15:10 full-time student during that period so that was a lot but I mean I think the biggest thing is so you got to build systems right it seems like 15:20 my my assumption was when Kyle's like how did he handle this i'm like he probably just automated everything as he could along the way yeah yeah right exactly and so I mean the the vast majority of my business happens through online credit card payments which means I don't even have to touch that right so I don't have to deal with those customers they just purchase it and then the licenses are granted to them 15:40 and there's all the documentation and tutorials and install guides and everything there so on a day-to-day basis all i'm dealing with is some customer service emails and schools that need actual in-paper purchase orders probably the biggest impact it has on a day-to-day basis though is that there's always the possibility that the whole thing melts down that's the concern have you ever had a close mouth oh yeah no i've had I had one about a month ago that almost 16:10 wrecked everything I had one freshman year that was a nightmare but I mean and i'll share this because this is part of what running a small business is so freshman here I published an update 16:20 which it was a small update I changed like 10 lines of code barely anything in there but I changed the way in which the number of articles that a user had stored the count of the number of articles was saved I changed it from being what's called a string to an integer and then I parsed it out in the wrong way and to make a long 16:40 story short the only bug that went out in this software was that if the user had a hundred thousand articles in their database it 16:50 would truncate it at the comma and it would say that there were only 100 articles so all of the content was actually still there but everyone woke up the next morning to find their count of their articles reduced by a thousand a factor of a thousand right a factor of a thousand not subtracted yeah and so basically I 17:10 woke up I i think I got like a call at one am and I took the call and then I went and I saw like two one star reviews on my webstore page 17:20 and like 20 emails and then I was like oh no everything is falling apart and I mean to be totally honest what I did was I went and I cried in the Shower for an hour 17:30 and then I i picked myself up off the floor and I worked for the next eight hours from like 12 to 8 a.m the next day and I got it fixed 17:40 and then you just move on with your life well the technical was the technical fix easy and just the customer service fix the there's a problem yeah I mean the technical fix was easy but and when people people reported the issue very differently than what the issue actually was okay so sorry always report the issue as the world is ending all my articles have been deleted when in reality just the count was different um but you got to parse through all of that and figure everything out the biggest thing like that's a very good lesson that i've learned from all of this which is just overall responding to 18:10 crises is that stuff's going to happen and you just have to take a breath and step back and I mean there's there's two steps you've got and I didn't come up with this I stole this 18:20 from a book and this is just common sense but you gotta stop the bleeding right so you gotta actually respond to all the emails deal with the reviews contact people let people know that you are 18:30 actually working on the issue and then you have to fix the actual root problem um but i'll tell you this just as a piece of business advice you can get away with a lot of mistakes and errors and that's important because especially as a one-man team and as any business you are going to make a lot of mistakes and errors you can get away with a lot of that without seriously damaging your core business as long as you're accessible and in contact with your customers if if if they see that there's actually 19:00 a human on the other side of things they will grant you so much more slack and understanding than they would otherwise yeah what book was that that you that you referenced 19:10 so that was actually street smarts by norm bradsky and bo something I forget the the full names for that but that was one of his processes there 19:20 I just assumed that it was uh extreme ownership by jacob willing yeah yeah exactly we'll get there uh so one thing I want to go back on real 19:30 quick is we kind of just said okay you wrote debate software now you hun tens of thousands of users how did you grow this one-man Show you're your programmer accountant marketer yep how did you start from okay I have software that I use myself and is useful to I have a large user base yeah so i'll i'll say this to start off I one of my projects recently has been i've been reading an awful lot of business material and just trying to actually learn the structures that explain how i've been successful because my business has been successful but looking back at the process of getting it to being successful I essentially just flew by the seat of my pants and had very little idea what I was actually doing and why those things were succeeding but 20:20 looking 20:20 back the single biggest thing is I have I had and do have a piece of software which was very very very very helpful 20:30 for people changed I solved an important problem for that niche so it radically changed the way in which those people 20:40 operated in that event on a day-to-day basis and in addition to that it gave people that use the software a competitive advantage so if you had the software you gained a competitive advantage which meant that then people who didn't have the software saw that they were at a competitive disadvantage which means the entire playing field shifted up a notch based upon the fact that this software and others like it were now available yeah and so more so than in a less competitive market I think because people were very 21:10 invested in competing and doing well and extemporaneous and that was a lot of it initially so I initially started off spreading just within my local speech debate club and within 21:20 contacts that I knew I didn't do any real marketing for the first year or so um and then after that I realized okay most of my user base is in nc cfca 21:30 most of the actual competitors are in sda which is what I did right and so the single most important thing that I can do is target that market and so I sat down 21:40 and I was like okay how can I target this um I took out ads in rostrum which is the speech and debate magazine that that speech debate league publishes I went to an actual national competition and set up a booth there um but before all that webinar too right yeah I did um because I bought so much advertising from the nsda I got to the point where they would actually start partnering with me for producing certain types of content and hosting webinars and such and that was great as well 22:10 but the single biggest thing tracing it back that I did was and this is a little bit sketchy but this is kind of what you do when you're a small business and you're just doing what you can and I was able to do this because I was a single person and I had more credibility but basically I found an online database that had the contact information of every single school that was in the nsda it was the sort of like the competitive ranking website that had all their points listed right okay and then it turns out that the way that the database was set up was the first school to register on that system had an id of one and the second school had an 22:50 id of two and to query for a specific school with a specific id you just added that id to the url so I basically just in half an hour wrote a python 23:00 script that scanned and web crawled every single school in the nsda and then I pulled an email address for each one of those and then I wrote a 23:10 personalized email to every single one of those talking about this is my software I am a previous competitor you know i'm a college freshman this is what I think 23:20 it could do for you thank you for your time and I sent about 8 000 of those out over the course of a month that's incredible so the response rate on that was actually insane um generally for email marketing like that you're gonna get like maybe a two percent response rate or click-through 23:40 rate 23:40 at all the response rate that I was looking at there was more like thirty to forty percent oh my god I mean I think that speaks to actually solving a problem you know 23:50 it does it does um if you listen to our books podcast um we talked about zero to one and how iterations that are in order of magnitude uh 24:00 better than the last iteration is going from zero to one so you know you you kind of have a little monopoly on this on this market and that's 24:10 because you created something that was so it was an iteration so it's like the same thing but it's completely different you know yeah yeah completely different system that's awesome 24:20 um and i'll i'll say this too but what really helped there was so like with that email campaign I made the decision to have no images no fancy typography no cleanly laid out anything at all it was just a gmail message and it was sent from my email address plain text signed off with my email signature and everything perfectly normal no it did not look like marketing and in fact I didn't even send it through a service like sendgrid or something like that what I actually did was I i wrote another little script where I had a spreadsheet of all the scraped email addresses on one side 25:00 and then I had my gmail on the other side and then I wrote a little piece of software that would actually move my mouse and control my keyboard to copy and paste the emails and my 25:10 template into my personal gmail and then let me edit them and send them from there so they were coming from my personal inbox with a personal message from someone who was a 25:20 student sent two current coaches so they had an investment in me as a student because they were coaches and exactly the emotional appeal of all that 25:30 and the fact that it was actually legitimately useful information and the email was only about four sentences long with a single link in it I think I think 25:40 that's really funny that you wrote your own email marketing automation software so your email didn't look like it was from automated email marketing yeah no yeah I mean that's that's 25:50 exactly true um but because I mean it's been really cool over the years to see says okay you know i'll get an email for a new purchase order or something like 26:00 that and they'll be like oh where I recognize this name from and then i'll look through and i'll see that that was someone who had emailed three years ago right who's just now purchasing even for instance because a lot of what it did was it set all of the seed points to let it spread by word of mouth and I i got very lucky by being able to 26:20 find that resource and get that amount of stuff out there that quickly it let me grow things a lot faster I mean the difference was actually insane as far as 26:30 so I went from about twelve thousand dollars of revenue one year to about sixty thousand dollars in revenue the year after that and I credit most of that to that marketing campaign that's yeah five times growth in yeah from a year I guess like you said about a couple days of just 8 000 emails yeah yeah it was like 26:50 maybe a week worth of actual effort the five extra results that's crazy yeah it really matters what you choose to do yeah leverage points yeah exactly and that was a critical leverage point and I knew it was a leverage point because first off there was unexplored territory there secondly every one of those that actually sank in as someone who purchased the software would then virally right exponentially spread that as well out so I was trying to get us I was trying to get seed points because I knew it could spread by word 27:20 of mouth but the word of mouth spread would be too slow so I needed to get it spreading from more points exactly and to get the actual credibility behind it too um and that's just while we're on this whole topic of marketing and looking back there's a lot of things that i've learned now about how I spread that I didn't realize initially so when it started off it was just basically individual people and people who were the early adapters and then it slowly spread 27:50 to the other groups and then finally i'm now at the point of market saturation where people buy the software not necessarily because they've researched it well and they've selected that it's the best thing not even because they really know why they should have it but just because that's what everyone else is doing that's when you know you've you've got yeah that's monopoly tremendously right and I mean it's not a monopoly I do have competition you got [Laughter] that's funny but I mean actually that's that's another interesting experience too because so I have one differentiating yourself right I have one competitor in this market 28:30 and that is a very intense competition experience right walmart doesn't have one competitor but when you only have one competitor it is a staring match right are they are they a big team do you know there are they a big what a big team like dev wise oh yeah so he has or had at some point I can't speak to the actual details of their business because i'm not them right I can just see things from the outside but I believe he had three developers a designer a customer support person and then himself running things on the business versus Ethan right basically versus some 14 year old kid in his 29:10 basement but the advantage that I had there I had two advantages there and I think this is something that's very important for me to try to remember going forward into future business ventures I had two advantages first off I was the customer yeah that's true um you were the kid you were still a competitor right yeah I was the competitor and he 29:30 made the mistake of thinking that the market was driven by the coaches because the coaches held the purse strings but really it's the competitors that drive everything because competitors 29:40 will spend their own money if they think it gives them a competitive advantage that's a fact that's a fact right and so by targeting the competitor rather than the coach I differentiated myself there um and I knew that I wanted to target the competitor because I didn't care about what the coaches thought at first they'd become an important part of the business with the analytics and everything but I was a competitor and I knew what I 30:00 wanted as a competitor and then tying that in with the fact that because okay there's there's certain advantages to running in a total autocracy as a business right because there's there's no meetings there's no communicational overhead at all going from a business thought to a programming proposal to having it 30:20 developed and published out I could move in that iteration cycle vastly quicker than he could or any other business that's at a larger scale could it reminds me of the difference between home school and regular school it's exactly the same thing it's exactly the same thing and it's I only thought to run my business in that way because I had had that same experience so it's not as if I made a choice that this is going to be the best way to run this company because now I know things about like how communicational overhead can work inside 30:50 a company and how even adding one additional programmer can actually put the thing way behind schedule but at that point I remember right literally randy talking 31:00 about that yep yeah um what's that called there's a there's like uh there's a term it's communicational overhead I thought there's a specific like term for the phenomenon where adding a specific programmer actually adds delay there's a law I don't remember what it's called right exactly I passed the class um 31:20 lots of new things so I i think that's probably the one thing that I would attribute all of that success to was I was aligned with the actual knees of the market 31:30 and I was in a spot to rapidly adjust and iterate on them quicker because I mean you would go to a tournament you use your software on your computer 31:40 and say oh shoot it would be if I if it was like this if it organized this it would make it so much easier then yeah it would be over the course of the next week between the next tournament you'd implement that 31:50 try it out and then that'll expand the possibilities even further so that's it being your own day-to-day user is a tremendous advantage I think it's it's such an advantage and 32:00 it's one of those things that i'm not sure if i'll be able to maintain the the tightness of that iterative loop going forward into future business things just like secretly start competing again 32:10 just shave the beard go to high school tournaments and I mean the flip side of that is and I okay I don't run my business perfectly I don't put as much effort or 32:20 as much time and thought and precision into it now as perhaps I should and that's because i've got a lot of other things going in my life right now as well right but i've noticed that there has been more of a disconnect between when I was competing day to day and using the software and writing it and where I am now and I can feel how that the iteration loop has gotten larger and that that's a bad thing how what do you how are you handling that or what's your strategy or are you still formulating that because it's kind of a 32:50 fresh realization still formulating the strategy it's one of those things that i've kind of realized over the past year which is that I am going I am currently becoming and will forever become more disconnected from my market moving forwards so I need to take steps to remedy that interesting you gotta create some sort of pipeline with freshmen with freshman 33:10 programming prodigies that also do debate yeah I was gonna say you just gotta find more Ethan's and then yeah yeah like 14 year old Ethan's exactly right you can neutral down even further by 33:20 requiring them all to be named Ethan because then the coaches might still think it's you right exactly well that was an awesome example and story of your business and you're very reflective about it and I really like how you came in and you kind of just when you're doing it you're kid you're in high school you're a one-man Show you're doing whatever you think you need 33:40 to do in the moment to get the next result improve the product get more customers and now you're kind of more in an academic thinking context and you're like okay why did that work what can I actually learn from this because 33:50 I might be graduating from this business and like a couple of senses how do I replicate my success and using your own 34:00 history as a case study is a super powerful experience to be able to have so that's that's great uh yeah one critical thing that I want to say there which is and this has been a hard lesson for me to learn for anyone who has any semblance of success with anything early it's very easy to think that the thing that made you successful 34:20 was you you're my decision that's a very yes that's a very very dangerous dangerous thing so it's not simply that any business venture that I have is going to succeed because of me it's that a certain set of scenarios lined up to make this a success and it's critical to see what those set of scenarios and circumstances were so that it can be 34:40 replicated yeah if you didn't solve a legitimate problem exactly you would not have seen the same success even if your product was 10 times better it wouldn't have mattered because it just would have been a neater another neat tool you know what I mean I think that's the display of humility as well to be able to to retroactively realize that about your your business absolutely Kyle yeah I was just gonna say quickly that um it was really interesting to hear how you know you were doing all these things just naturally and then through your your current education with the business books you're like oh wait that's uh that's this that's this yeah that's really cool let's get into a couple of your other just fun passions 35:20 and talk about that a little bit so you also do theater and you sing let's see I mean i've only heard that like once I only knew that from like one little icebreaker we did as a group once 35:30 and you just like belt it out into song and that's that's all I know about the fact that you're like also a performer yeah um so 35:40 I i did theater all throughout high school I did about 60 musical productions I think what do you mean like performed in or performed in okay 35:50 yeah what do you mean 60. that doesn't even make like one Show 60 times or like 60 different like 60 different Shows because over a period of 10 years 36:00 full-time business competitive in debate also taking classes yeah over I mean I i was heavily active in theater for 10 years throughout high school well it's before high school at that 36:10 point it's basically from like age nine on once again and I would do five to six Shows of the year um and so that just built up over time 36:20 and then I did what was your fault lessons as well seven years of voice lessons yeah that would depend as well um I mean it different Shows are different I I was lucky enough to get a lot of lead 36:30 roles um that was a blast the secret advantage that I have there is i'm a male tenor in theater and the demographics of being a tenor really help out it turns out that that 36:40 vocal first off on a genetic level being a tenor is rarer than other vocal parts for a male and then secondly on a social level it's rarer for guys to be involved in theater than it is for girls to be involved in theater so I had two demographic advantages which meant that I just didn't have that much competition I mean I i did my best on everything too 37:00 but that's definitely part of it as well same thing if you just because you're a tanner doesn't mean you get the part you also have to be good and a good actor right you have to be on pitch as well exactly uh do you still do theater at all or uh I did some freshman and sophomore year I haven't had as much time to allocate to that i'm doing voice lessons with the university right now actually which is great as just a single credit voice for non-majors class and theater and voice overall have been very important because they're so drastically different from everything else that I do I mean i'm an electrical engineering 37:30 major with a minor in mathematics and computer science and I run a software company everything's very analytical in general so having a much more artistic 37:40 emotional subjective outlet has been very important sure I think speech and debate and um and theater are closer than then you're giving a credit though 37:50 they absolutely are I also I did interpretive events all throughout speech and debate as well which is just hiv I did I did hi I did dramatic interview I did duo's I did I did everything can you say what that is exactly so an interpretive event is I actually I really miss them they're a blast so imagine if you're fun to watch so you take a book and then you cut out sections of the book so you reduce it abridge it basically excuse me down to like 10 minutes and then you perform the entire thing yourself playing all of the characters and 38:30 it is a really unique beautiful art form that you can learn a lot from and I i miss them they're they're an awful lot of fun I did I did hi too Kyle I did yeah the 2000 old man by mel brooks and carl reiner where I just did a very old man jewish accent for the whole thing that was pretty much the only thing that was funny about it yeah and then I did a diary for wimpy kid at two tournaments and then I was realized I did a terrible job making the script I stopped and just started doing extent instead um so are you said that there are very little intersections between you know software like mathematics and all and theater were there any that you can point to that were intersections that helped you on either of them yeah there's there's a big one that goes through all of these things so this is a thread and I just realized this because 39:20 you asked this question I never realized it before but this same thread runs through speech and debate it runs through theater it runs through programming it runs through business it runs through a lot of stuff and I guess I guess i'll get there but okay so when you're acting you the same thing goes for when you're speaking you have to separate your brain into two segments 39:40 at least this is how I always thought about it so when you're up acting on stage there's part of you that's in the scene there's part of you that's living the character there's part of you that's actively feeling the emotions and 39:50 dealing with everything there and then there's a second part of your brain which is looking at the broader picture it's thinking okay um where are all the set pieces on stage uh how long do I have to make my next 40:00 costume change am I properly cheating out towards the audience it's analyzing all of those things and so you have to be both emotionally engaged in the scene and detached from 40:10 it at the same time same thing goes for when you're doing speech and debate there's one part of your brain that is actively speaking and constructing sentences and dealing with 40:20 all of that stuff and then there's another part of your brain which is looking at what's going to be my next point how's the judge responding to this do I have the sticky tags on my evidence properly and so you have to process two 40:30 things at the same time I think it's more than two I think it's way more than one two um i'm i'm taking that there's one that's dealing with speaking and everything and then there's one that's 40:40 dealing with 40:40 everything else and it's frantically running around between all of those exactly right and debate is high stress and it is high stress it is hot we're doing all of that under pressure 40:50 but the thing that I realized here I just realized right now is that same exact way of bifurcating your brain so that in in one section you're engaged with the situation here and in another way you're looking at the broader picture is incredibly valuable for for instance responding to crises in businesses right because there's part of you that is emotionally responding to that you just experienced a basically miniature trauma but then there's another part of you which is analyzing it and looking at it from a higher level down so do you think that there's transfer between these different contexts of just being able to multitask in high stress 41:30 situations or not even high stress but just high computation in small amounts of time yeah absolutely okay um same thing 41:40 speech and debate theater business business actually is less so than this because you generally have more time to respond to things than you do in theater and speech and debate because it's the artificial constraints 41:50 of like right the actual performance the actual set the actual speech itself like things are happening and you have to deal with them and you have to keep going okay and that's the Show must go on I think that's a very interesting lesson uh and I think the transfer you got from that not to just repeat myself is super 42:10 interesting because 42:10 a lot of people do pursue different lines of activities and don't really take one they're not compounding the benefits 42:20 they're not like accruing the benefits of okay doing these disparate activities but it sounds like you found a way to do seemingly different things but analyze them or think about them or realize the way in which they reinforce each other I think that's something that is true of a lot of the habits and a lot of your activities that makes you very successful is there's compounding benefits to everything you do 42:40 because if you become really good at programming right first like your business is based off programming right the way or i'm the end user experience of your business 42:50 is based on programming it's here's software I made that helps you out but the way that you're able to run your business so effectively I mean one of the ways right is the fact that you're also 43:00 creating internal software solutions to every set of problems which makes you better at running your business independent even if your business wasn't a software company the fact that you're solving internal problems making things more efficient using that same programmer's mindset is super valuable yeah and so everything transitions over to everything else right so the skills I learned from speech and debate basically taught me how to write and how to speak persuasively and that transitions directly over even just how to defuse a situation when you're dealing with a customer service email right it's it's just illogical arguments um stuff you learn in theater 43:40 about how to elicit emotional reactions from people about how to feel certain things and behave certain ways that transitions directly over into marketing right 43:50 you're telling a story it's the same thing there all of these things tie into each other I think there's a there's a and you're leaving out all the obvious ones too which is the funny thing 44:00 which is oh just you know public speaking from theater oh yeah sure that's useful too right exactly and on the sales force on podcasting being confident talking 44:10 loud and clearly and projecting all I mean just like the obvious ones you're skipping out so you're getting into the weeds here in a good way I like it but what i'll say here and then we can move on from this 44:20 there's a tendency in the modern world to be very domain specific right so that you do just one thing and you are very good at just that one thing but I think that a 44:30 lot 44:30 of the benefit that we as especially as humans instead of like computers right can bring forward to the table moving forward with how automation and 44:40 weak artificial intelligence is going to slowly start to change things is that we can see connections right we can tie multiple things together and so I think that learning something new something different is always always going to be helpful so I would encourage people rather than just intensely focusing on becoming excellent 45:00 at one specific thing spread out a little bit right there's there's more aspects of yourself and of being human that can apply to work and personal life and social life and spiritual life and it all ties together broadening your horizons rather than arrow and that's why I asked you that question because I think that um the intersections are where like yeah excellence comes in you know I mean yeah this is something you probably read in the business books because it's in like all of them but like the dilbert the dilbert thing right 45:30 where scott adams the creator of the comic strip dilbert he's not the world's best businessman he's not the world's best cartoonist he's not the world's best comedian but he's definitely in the top 25 for 45:40 all three of those things right exactly he's an above average artist he's an above average comedian or above average above the average person's level of funniness above the other average person's level of artistic 45:50 ability and knows more about business than the average person and that's what allows them to create a comic strip that no one else can create right right so you're not the best program in the world but you're you're the best probably one of the best programmers that was a high school speech and debate student that did extend that at the right time at the right time who was homeschooled so that he had additional time to exactly the projects exactly exactly but it's the fact that you're combining those things in a unique way that no one else is that's making you 46:20 better because if you just try to at 14 years old okay I wanna i'm good at programming I wanna use the skill to make some money i'm just gonna apply for programming jobs you probably wouldn't have been like i'm sure you're 46:30 very talented but you're not like programming's not the thing that you're the absolute best in the world at right it's the fact that you combined it with something where there's no competition in programming because historically 46:40 speech and debate kids are like liberal arts pre-law type tight-minded people not the science tech minded so that's how you apply that competitive advantage uh so what are some things that you're 46:50 currently learning so what i'm currently working on now and that's that's one of those it's a big question that i'm always asking myself um so you know i've got school happening 47:00 right that's important I have all of like the base level stuff which so okay over the past about three to four months my main focus has been on consolidation so as in just like getting things better that I that are necessary right so i've been focused on business and a lot of that stuff for a long time but okay 47:20 like how good are you at feeding yourself how regular do your laundry and dishes get done you know like have you established good working systems for that do you have ways of recharging your energy so i've just been working on a lot of those like being a decent functioning human things for a while which is important but what i've shifted into recently and 47:40 this is a project that's been on the back burner for a little bit of time and I honestly I did some soul searching and I realized that the single biggest source of anxiety was that I wasn't 47:50 pursuing this as much as I thought I should be um when there's that cognitive disconnect between what you think you should be doing and what you are doing right now at least for a person like me that drives me insane but what i've been trying to do is so post college my plan is to start and run businesses um I don't currently have some golden idea that i'm planning on doing for that and the thing that I realized is the most important thing that I can do between now and graduation is shape myself into the best business 48:20 person that I can be right and so I spent a lot of time trying to look for okay how do you learn that how do you get there and it might not be the best solution but what i've come up with is okay there's this there's a book out there called the personal mba by joshua kaufman yeah it's a good book um first off I would highly recommend that it's one of the most 48:40 informationally dense and useful things i've ever read I should probably read it honestly it's fantastic so much in there it's an incredibly broad perspective on everything it's very good a crash course on the 10 most fundamental components of business sales accounting finance marketing it's a good 10 minute chapter on every one of those things and this blog's fantastic too it's it's very good but that book was based upon a summation of a wide set of business resources and so the other part of the personal mba is the reading list and it is 99 books that he has compiled and heavily curated and selected and he has he the thing I really appreciate about that list is he lists exactly what his selection criteria are right 49:30 and so every single one of those books fits in there for a specific reason and has held value over time and is differentiated from the other ones in there 49:40 and so what i'm doing is i'm reading through that list right so over the next year and a half to two years i'm going to try to go at at least a paste of one book a week I am reading through all of those i'm about nine books in at this point and you think it's valuable so far I have learned a ridiculous amount so far what's been your process for 50:00 reading these books because i'm sure you're not just reading them and not making notes and not kind of yeah so I i've been developing this slowly but yeah exactly because that's the most important thing because to be honest I don't give a crap about reading 100 books I care about actually learning from it exactly that's something I know that's I know you wouldn't just read a book to read a book so I want to hear more about 50:20 your plan for actually integrating that knowledge in a useful way yeah the only thing that matters is what do you actually learn from it and then how do you actually act on that and so as far as 50:30 the learning from it what I generally do there so i'm purchasing them all on kindle which gives me access to them on my kindle on my computer on my ipad anywhere I need them also if we're just talking about 99 50:40 books that's a huge stack of books I don't want to have to deal with moving that around with me for the rest of my life and these are important reference materials so digital just made a lot of sense um 50:50 as I read it I highlight aggressively things that I like that I deem important that I hear useful for me typically so usually i'll have two to three 51:00 highlights per page and then after i've finished the book or finished the chapter depending on what i'm doing I take notes based upon skimming from the highlights in paper in pencil taking them on paper is very important there because first off it helps you retain it better and it also forces you to actually 51:20 summarize and synthesize your own words in your own words there have been studies that have been done and i've known this myself when you take notes on a computer you take the initial batch of notes on a computer you tend to just copy things over and most of learning comes from taking in information and processing it to the point that you can spit it out in a 51:40 different way and so by taking the notes in paper in a little tiny column I only have four or five words to express a concept and in order to express a complicated concept in four or 51:50 five words you have to understand it and be able to communicate it and synthesize it yeah so that's been very helpful we can have a whole conversation on knowledge management oh yeah so I take that in into paper and then once I have that in paper I then take the paper notes and I transcribe them over to my computer okay um because my paper notes are 52:10 nearly illegible what I think is really interesting about that is you've this is a book i'm reading right now called how to take smart notes by sanke ahrens okay i've been summarizing it on twitter and the author like 52:20 so i'm pretty hyped about that but describing a very similar process to what he outlines in this book as an effective way to read and retain uh because the process he talks about is you as you read you can make what he calls fleeting notes which are notes that aren't designed to be your permanent reference material it's just right highlights in the chapter 52:40 so that after you read the chapter you can come back in review your highlights and turn those into a useful note and what you're doing is exactly that so you're making the highlights reviewing 52:50 them and making a quick summary of what that highlight meant in the margins or on paper in a very brief format and then to make it actually useful to yourself in any context that's when you're transferring it to 53:00 the computer in a more legible readable way and that's what he's kind of described as like an extremely effective system for doing so because the other thing i'll throw in there is sorry Kyle uh two more things in that so first off generally when I finish a chapter I try to immediately go back to the beginning of the chapter and just flip 53:20 through and read all my highlights from the chapter because it's so easy just in the period of a chapter to forget everything that was in it um and then when I finish a book I try to immediately do that for the whole 53:30 book just quickly skimming through it yeah we got to get you on read-wise you'd love that if you don't already use it I don't it's this software that imports all of your kindle highlights 53:40 automatically and then does a spaced repetition type review of them on a daily basis yeah I i definitely like that I hit you with a space repetition yeah 53:50 we could do a whole long we could do a whole podcast on anki as well i'm sure yeah but it sends you either an email or on their web app you can review 10 highlights or more but just in batches of 10 from your books on a spaced repetition basis you can do uh closed deletions in there where you like take out certain words from the passages uh and then have to do them for active recall and stuff like that 54:10 and determine how often you want to revisit those highlights you can make notes on them and tag them so it creates this personal database of all of your highlights and allows you to review it on a regular basis 54:20 two more things on this whole project that i've been working on so I also just put this together yesterday which is an overall spreadsheet that tracks all of I didn't put the project together yesterday I put this 54:30 spreadsheet together yesterday that is actually going to track my progress through all of them and you know I have a nice green checkbox emoji that I get to put by a book once i've read it completed the paper notes and completed the typed 54:40 notes and then I have progress bars little sparklines for each of the books and it's just it's just so nice to have some semblance of progress because this is a giant project 99 books is a lot of books it's at about 300 pages each it's going to be about like 30 000 pages worth of content I mean we're 55:00 talking like thousands of hours here of time right so you've got to be able to break that down into small things and so that's been really helping there what are some of the books so some of the books are one of the nine you've 55:10 read so far yeah yeah so what have I read so far uh let me go find that for you let's find the spreadsheet yeah I mean oh yeah no fun in a spreadsheet right so actually okay off the top of my mind it's been 55:20 street smarts the power of less blue ocean strategy rework okay I have rework right here yeah um 55:30 thinking fast and slow daniel common amos first yep a couple mores that I can't remember right now that's a solid list though yeah yeah it is and you read all of thinking fast and slow oh I am three quarters of the way through okay yeah that's one of those books I don't 55:50 even know if i'd recommend reading it all straight through it once because that's more of a reference book than anything else yeah and so one of the other things that i've been trying to do with all of this 56:00 is there okay there's a difference between knowledge and accessible knowledge right okay let's get into that I i am very much so trying I hate chance right I especially when it comes to business because my first business it was all based upon chance and instinct and intuition and that was useful and it got me where 56:20 I need to go but I can't depend on that moving forward what I need to do is have actual mental models and strategies laid out for these things that I can print 56:30 right structures for making decisions for laying all these things out and so what i've really been trying to do with this with the summarizing with the 56:40 notes and with all of that is to basically just build lists of things that I can look back on because you know 10 years down the line i'm like okay I need to increase revenue I can just quickly go flip back through my notes and i'll immediately have you know 10 different ways that you can increase revenue inside of a company and yes you could sit down and think up all of those but most of your ideas 57:00 aren't new ideas right very very very little is actually innovative and so it's just if you can access things that other people have done before you 57:10 that's so much more helpful that's fantastic I think it's hilarious Louis that you asked the question you're like I know that you have a way that you are tracking all this and he's 57:20 like yeah I mean I have a spreadsheet yeah there's there's lots of notes like sparklines everything I got some I got some good stuff on uh reading and something called progressive summarization which is kind of what you're doing yeah but if you read if you read the article I might give you a few ideas for like how to actually how to even improve the process even more then we'll have to tell you about realm research because I think that would really level up your game here but we can do that later so it's a note-taking app that network thought but we can it's 57:50 kind of we can get into it it's a little in the weeds I want to hear you talk about jocko jacob yeah who's jocko what is he important to you what have you learned from him 58:00 yeah so jocko willink was a navy seal for something like 20 years he led u.s forces in the u.s seal forces in the battle of 58:10 ramadi so something that might be familiar to people chris Kyle american sniper right that was jocko's lead sniper um but the biggest thing there so there was a point in my life most of my life i've actually been very relaxed right i've been very seat of the pants i've gotten by on basically privilege and talent and luck right and that can only take you so far though and so there came a point it was about 58:40 end of freshman year midway through sophomore year where I started really sort of looking at myself deeper and figuring out okay are you what you 58:50 could be right now and the answer was no and one of the things that really helped me get through that was all the content that jocko has produced um there's the jocko podcast he's got a large series of books but all of it is basically it's just very down-to-earth sane things the the core the core of all of the philosophy is discipline right and discipline is doing the things that you know you need to do it's taking action in a regular automatic basis you don't depend on motivation you just depend on actually doing what you need to do and that has been such such such a freeing thing for me because it is transferred over into every single other section of my life to the point where I have it tattooed on my forearm right I have discipline leads 59:40 to freedom here on my arm and i've seen the results of that everywhere like literally everywhere from just having a pre-cooked pre-frozen burrito in my freezer so that i'm not starving to death to working through you know 100 business books to get me where I need to go professionally and it's it's been a shift in 60:00 perspective about what is an acceptable baseline for me that's great it's kind of you have this realization that okay i've been by all conventional measures very successful and that's just a result of dumb luck in the fact that i'm a little bit smarter than the average person imagine where I could be if I actually was strategic right and had that same potential one of the the other things i've i've always been I mean I did debate I was into philosophy yeah one of the things that i've already done right one of the things that i've always tried to measure myself by is it's about the ratio of what you've been given 60:40 to what you can give back right because I have had an awful lot of advantages and an awful lot of luck and because of 60:50 that it means that at least this is how i've constructed stuff for me I am therefore ethically responsible to do a lot with what i've been given because if I 61:00 didn't 61:00 it would be spitting in the face of it all you know because I mean so on a flip side to here one of the things that I think about sometimes is so okay 61:10 for instance looking at so my father my father grew up deep south country alabama he taught himself to program on commodore 64 back in the 80s that he bought with the money he earned mowing his church's lawn then he went air force rotc and then transitioned into defense contracting okay that's one generation back that's all the sacrifices that he made to get me where I am right now we go another generation back we look at his parents so my grandparents my grandmother grew up literally without 61:40 any shoes there's photos of her as a kid and she never has shoes because her family was too poor to afford shoes they were sharecroppers in the deep south and she had I want to say 61:50 11 siblings um and my grandmother got married to my grandfather when she was 17 and this was right towards the end of 62:00 world war ii my grandfather was in the navy he was basically on the way to japan when things wound down there and didn't end up deploying I think that's the case that might be totally wrong um but and I mean she worked in a sewing factory sewing the feet onto footy pajamas for 20 years to buy my dad groceries right and so it's it's one of those things where everything that you have right now you didn't earn it right there there are very very very very very few people who are truly self-made um everyone is building on the shoulders of other people behind you and it's just one of those things that I 62:40 try to keep forwards in my mind which is that you are where you are here because there are there's literally you know millions of people in a chain behind you that have fought and lived and bled to get you where you are right now and you owe it to all of them to make the absolute best of the situation you're in 63:00 right because I mean you know why imperative sense exactly why did my grandmother spend 20 years sewing defeat onto footy pajamas 63:10 to get me where I am right now right as as a a chain of events but that's what it was for it was to pay it forward and i've been very lucky to have that chain of people behind me and because of that it implies a certain amount of responsibility or at least that's how I cast things in you're blowing Kyle's mind here that was yeah in a good way in a good way that was really good that was incredible no that's I mean it's awesome that you have both the humility but also the just the 63:40 resp that's just Shows such a deep level of respect and appreciation and gratitude for everything that you've been given and an immense sense of just specific responsibility too these are all aspirations too okay so i'm not necessarily actually if you're not trying to bring any of these things it doesn't mean that I actually truly am that respectful and that disciplined and that driven but you're aspiring to you're aspiring literally exactly and I think you've uh just through the debate company saved even if they're not your relatives or 64:10 any people you know directly you've saved countless of hours and you've made a lot of time a generation of competitors in uh in that competition you've upped the 64:20 playing field so dramatically by making instead of the limiting factor in those rounds being the quality of their evidence now it's okay the quality of the synthesis of that evidence exactly the quality 64:30 so you've increased the ability of these people to compete at a higher level and think at a higher level and that just creates a whole generation of people more equipped to engage in higher level thinking and be better speakers and that and sub of itself will create a cascading effect through the society from all those people that go out into different roles in the business world and different academic pursuits and they'll be smarter because of it and that's something that you allowed to happen because they weren't spending hours and hours and hours in high school 65:00 doing manual labor mainly in the sense of saving it going and clicking save as pdf and titling it I mean that's that's real time that you saved for those kids to do more importantly yes 65:10 and following that line of thinking you know it goes straight through to their uh the generations beyond them their kids and their kids kids if they have that same uh ideology about like you're standing on the shoulders of the people behind you and um they're able to stand taller because they're they're thinking more critically about the world because of the software that you put in their hands yeah not that 65:30 that's any license to slow down and stop but it is a good story of uh it's a good story to look out and realize the 65:40 potential of okay in my life i've already been able to have this level of impact with something I almost created by accident right uh so with a level of intention and discipline what further level of contribution can I make exactly that's fantastic i've seen the possibility i've seen the glimmer of what is possible and now I want to see how far I can go yeah I think one huge uh avenue of potential for you and this is something you've obviously worked on with locality and other things is these are all projects you've done 66:10 with really without much collaborative effort this has been like how much can Ethan accomplish in an eight-hour work sprint in a basement not even how much can Ethan accomplish if he 66:20 has a team of 20 people helping him expand his potential so that's just a huge avenue for expanding your productivity and output by opening up the door to collaborate with large teams 66:30 right and I mean but on the flip side here too that's one of the things that i've been really trying to learn through all of this reading and that's something I really gained from locality was I was working on a team for the first time 66:40 ever 66:40 and that's that's a totally different ball game is I have a specific set of skills which have applied very 66:50 well to a specific set of business and life experiences that doesn't mean they're going to transition well to everything else right I mean to be honest saying that you're highly skilled at 67:00 one thing is the same thing as saying you are highly blind about something else right and so identifying the gaps in all of that is what i'm 67:10 trying to do moving forwards you talking a little bit about locality that was a problem we have ryan on here uh last week and put that Episode out and kind of explaining the social theory and his right purposes for but what's your perspective on it so locality was a application that we were trying to build to help catalyze in-person community right that was the goal behind it and at this point it's it's pretty much stagnated and gone its way because there were a lot of mistakes along the way and i've learned so much from all of that um probably I think the most important thing that I learned from that was that I do not have a midas touch right it was I mean to be frank I you know put two years ish of effort with one summer being full time and got an actual yield on the business side of zilch and that's very important because I because and literally before coming out 68:10 of genie coming out of high school it was one of those things that I said to myself I was like okay Ethan you need to fail pretty soon right otherwise when you do fail there's gonna be way more at stake um and I think that's one of those reasons why in general you should always try to pursue opportunities that present themselves because you're going to learn you're going to grow from it no it sounds like you got a lot from that experience I did yeah that's great uh one thing related to locality but not actually related at all is the kettlebell 68:40 yeah the kettlebell tell us about the kettlebell you love the kettlebell you think it's god's gift to exercise tell us tell us why that is right so the story behind this is 68:50 over the summer we were all working in a large co-working space together and an entrepreneurship program and every day I would bring to work a 40-pound kettlebell 69:00 yeah it's just like a steel ball with a handle yeah yeah and I would sometimes like when I was at my desk waiting for my software to compile you know you do a couple kettlebell swings or like a couple cleans or snatches or something I mean I think I like the kettlebell because it's versatile it's a full body workout it's portable it's relatively cheap it can be used quickly it's a simple instrument I also think there's something kind of nice and aesthetic about just a big ball 69:30 of metal that you have to fight with like a big floppy off-balance ball of metal um because especially when like when you're writing software when you're 69:40 dealing with other people sometimes you just need to get angry at something and so it's nice to be able to just take out your like physical and mental effort on the kettlebell rather than your co-workers and it's also like physical fitness is important for me because it ties into mental resilience and physical resilience and everything else there so yeah I think uh watching you from across the across the room every day was really cool I would come over and use it sometimes as well I that um I i did crossfit for a while and um the instructor there would always say that if he was going to go to an island where he could only bring one thing for fitness he would bring kettlebell which is you know kind of a no-brainer yeah yeah I mean so 70:30 right now right so tuscaloosa is under a 24-hour curfew which is there's a bunch of different words for it lock down shelter in place they're all the same 70:40 thing yeah um but really nice to have I i got I have a kettlebell right and then I bought a I think it's called a power tower so it's basically a pull-up bar plus 70:50 dips bars plus elevated push-up bars all in a stack together and that's been keeping me sane do you have that in your apartment there I do I have it in my apartment yeah 71:00 and that's really nice so so I think that that flows nicely into um the coronavirus and and everything that's happening with that could you share a little bit about 71:10 how it's affecting your life and what you're doing in this quarantine to come out stronger and then also just what you think about it from a from a from a high level view 71:20 high level view right so uh how it's affecting my life right now so university of alabama all its classes are online school is cancelled most people are not back from spring break so most of my friends and strong social ties are no longer in tuscaloosa there's you know you can't go out to eat there's nothing to do in the city so it's to be honest i'm kind of enjoying it i'm really kind of enjoying it because 71:50 so much of the time I get annoyed at all of the little all of the little things that come up right so like I i have detailed time logging stuff and I track and I time block my days and I know how much time it takes for me to get to campus and get around campus and all that stuff and I don't have to deal with any of that right now and that's kind of nice for a little bit so it's been nice to remove a lot of those things and just focus on the people who are here that I care about that I can spend time with the things that I know that are important for myself and to be able to do those so as far as what i'm doing to come out stronger I mean i'm focusing more on reading i'm focusing more on establishing the routines and habits that I need to for the long term i'm focusing more on intentionality because there's 72:40 a lot of the default structure that's in place in all of our lives has been stripped away right you don't see your friends when you go to class you don't hear your friends talking about the due date for your assignments 72:50 you have to be responsible for that yourself right you are not next to panda express when you're on campus which means you have to make your own lunches so it's all of these things that the structures have been stripped away and it's it would be very easy to fall into a pit of netflix and microwave pizzas right but i'm not choosing that rep i'm choosing the route of personal responsibility because and in a way right so this whole crisis is horrible it's causing a lot of strife and anxiety and death and pain and economic damage and everything else there too but I think the way that you look at a crisis is absolutely critical um over the long term improbable things become guaranteed right I mean i've always known exactly black swan events are going to happen I have always known that within the period of my 70 to 100 years maybe 120 we'll see how life extension stuff technology goes or what not we'll see how my telomeres are doing by the time i'm 70. 74:00 um there will be several large-scale disruptions of life as we know it right that is a guarantee this is one of them um i'm guessing that which is a very stoic perspective like it's going to happen yeah I mean it is a stoic perspective and that's intentional and so it's not an unexpected thing that chaos happens chaos is a part of the system what is totally in your choice is how you respond to it there's a there's a difference here between okay 74:30 the coronavirus is not my fault right I am not a rna-based virus okay it's not my fault however my 74:40 responsibility yes right it is a metaphorical baby that has been dumped on my doorstep that I now have to deal with right so and there's a bunch of 74:50 different ways that ties in I am responsible for ensuring that I am not spreading it right I am responsible for ensuring that I am responding to this with discipline and with peace I am responsible for ensuring that i'm not spreading panic right i'm responsible for ensuring that this does not derail the goals and dreams and aspirations that I have for myself and so once you flip around that perspective to this is something that has happened to me to this is something that I have the 75:20 opportunity to learn and grow and deal with through it changes a crisis into an opportunity absolutely and Kyle and I kind of think 75:30 of it the same way that's we started this podcast because of the extra time afforded to us because exactly so yeah and we touched on in our last Episode about books about uh the fact that black swan events like you know fat tailed risk will happen in the long term yeah it's yeah exactly it's like guarantee the um property of large numbers you know because going back to theory of probability this is a little bit in the weeds but if you take a probability density function and you integrate from zero to infinity the probability is one which essentially means that the probability of any event over a sufficiently large period of time is one yeah I think that's a um a really powerful point actually it's gonna happen it's gonna happen yeah so I think you've talked to both of us a little bit 76:20 about your morning routine before um can you can you share can you share that to our audience so that's continually a work in progress that's kind of one of my habits what my hobbies is to fiddle with all of my daily habits and see how they all play out that's a bad habit right there um a lot uh I mean there's been shift in 76:40 that i've shifted when I go to sleep when I wake up i've been on a 4 30 schedule at some point i've been on a 5 30 schedule i've been on a 6 15 a 6 20 a bunch of stuff right there right now i'm on 7 30 wake up I generally then brush my teeth read through I have a personal personal value statement that I have printed off in a bunch of different places which sets my expectations for how I should deal with the choices in life and I read that and then I try to take about two minutes to just let that mull through and get a little bit of direction for the rest of the day and then I generally work out for 20 minutes to half an hour right now that's a combination of either going on a run in the morning doing I have like I was telling Kyle I have a power tower in my apartment now so I have pull-ups and dips and incline push-ups available to me plus my kettlebell plus jump ropes 77:30 so it's some combination of all of that stuff I found that if I don't exercise in the morning it's less probable that i'll exercise throughout the day and if I don't exercise throughout the day then I am an 77:40 anxious jittery mess so physical fitness is one part of it undoubtedly but also just maintaining my sanity is very critical there too 77:50 um and then usually after I work out I will drink some water and I take my supplements which right now looks like what's the stack what is the stack 78:00 so once again i've shifted through a bunch of stuff there at one point I had a whole stack of nootropic compounds and all this jazz but then I did more research into that and I was like wait none of 78:10 these have a single study about long-term effects not a single one of them and if you're going to be taking something every day for the rest of your life the accumulated effects matter so these days basically I take a multivitamin I take fish oil I take two I don't know how many milligrams it is but I take a certain amount of creatine um those are creatine especially is very well studied and then I have like a green powder juice thingy I like those yeah um micros and macros yep and then I eat breakfast and then generally when i'm eating breakfast I do my planning for the day and this transitions into one of the other things that we're going to talk about which is how I deal with personal productivity systems and planning and all that such um and so what I can do for that is that's a system that's been shifting around a lot I started off with a 79:00 straight bullet journal which slowly shifted into basically a bullet journal where the only thing I had in it was time blocking and then I have swapped over to a a5 six ring refillable planner binder at this point um as bougie and sort of annoying as that is um but then inside of that there's a couple critical components so I have my daily sheets which I have drawn out in a google sheet actually that I adjusted everything properly to be the right paper size with everything I need in that there's a couple things on that I have a section for just notes I have a section for overall tasks that I need to write down and then I have a wide column down on 79:40 the left side that has my daily essentials and this this is probably I think one of the most helpful tips that I can give in this which is I have a list of I think it's seven things right now that I need to accomplish in a day and i'm very forgetful I tend to get involved in my work or in my recreational activities or 80:00 something like that and so just having a list of stuff I need to come back to helps out a lot actually if you don't mind i'll just read through that really quickly i'd like to hear I was about to ask for it anyway so things i've got to achieve in a day in no particular order I need to drink two liters of water I need to eat three meals I need to have slept over seven hours I 80:20 need to exercise I need to have socialized I need to have achieved something and out side of personal productivity and everything else I need something extra that I love that could be reading science fiction book or playing a game with someone or going for a walk in the morning um and I found that if I can actually check all of those boxes the little voice inside my head that yells at me on a day-to-day basis is perfectly happy so that's awesome I really really like 80:50 that 80:50 um that has helped a lot and then I also have a morning checklist and an evening checklist in there and then the core of the daily 81:00 is I have time boxes laid out so I have 16 hours worth of time boxing laid out in 15 minute increments so then I can and on different days I schedule to a different level of precision right because it depends on where you are but i've found so much so that if you set a time if you pick what you're going to do and when you're going to do it it will actually happen my general rule of thumb is if it's not on the schedule it doesn't exist 81:30 um even if that's as simple as blocking out two hours that are just called work and then I go over to my overall task list and I just do things on there 81:40 but as long as you you have to give the time a purpose like a batch an interval exactly right and that's a fine thing to do but if I don't do that and that's that's been a habit that i've built up over the past year and a half actually is using those time boxes and it's at the point now where the habit has its own pull and if I don't do that and if I don't have that recorded it gives me anxiety which is actually good because it's a it's an important thing that helps keep me on track it's a sense of security that I know what i've done and I know where my time and resources are going do you do that 82:10 on the weekends too it depends um some weekends I want to achieve a bunch of things oh like another thing i've done during quarantine I found two 82:20 old raised garden beds out to the side of my apartment complex and ripped them all out and planted a garden right so like that's one of the things that I did have time blocked out on one of the weekends you know was four hours for fixed garden bed number two right and the other thing with time blocking that I really find is important is it's not about just making work happen right it's about making things happen that's that's all it is it is a tool for taking your aspiration to do something and changing it into an actuality of the thing will now happen you know like I i mean I time block out everything from like i've i've had blocks which literally say do nothing I have blocks which say two hours to watch a movie you know but as long as it's allocated up in advance and I know that it's there I feel way more comfortable about having that time to relax absolutely and the other advantage there too is blocking out specific time for work and relaxation is critical because that means that I don't feel guilty about my relaxation I think 83:20 that's something a lot of a lot of people miss about time blocking is if you schedule you can just because you're time blocking doesn't mean you're blocking every minute towards work if you block in your leisure it's going to be higher quality leisure because you're more because you can actually it's what you're supposed to be doing you're supposed to relax like every day in quarantine here you know i've been eating lunch at 12 83:40 and I could eat lunch in about 10 minutes at my desk I have a bunch of stuff meal prepped I could just eat it while I work or read something but i've chosen not to instead I take a nice hour to cook myself 83:50 something nice and watch an Episode avatar the last airbender you know and that's been a really great thing that brings some joy to my day but the point is if I 84:00 wasn't as disciplined about that and as rigorous about that then it wouldn't happen and then at the end of the day you look back and everything's just kind of mushy 84:10 and I don't like that yeah yeah um the only other things i'll say about like my personal planning productivity systems I have two 84:20 other modules in this planner system which is I have a overall task list that follows the it's called personal kanban I don't know exactly how to pronounce 84:30 that I think it's a japanese word yeah um but basically the core thing there is you have a queue of options of things that you need to do I have that divided into personal 84:40 business and school because those are the categories that my life generally breaks down into and then the key thing is that you try to be only actively working on at a maximum three of those at a time so you don't have I found it's very very very detrimental to have a bunch of things in progress at the same time it's much better to get like one thing 85:00 done and get it off of your mind so you know it's a to do doing and done trello board on paper um I use a laid out 85:10 spread in my planner and then I use sticky notes for the actual individual tasks so I can move them around which works well in an analog system and then I have just a standard calendar that I made in google sheets and printed out and the calendar helps a lot too because it gives you a wider perspective on things it's the macro and the micro yeah I love that all of your your personal productivity systems are built by you instead of being bought on the internet like most people would do you know you just made it right I mean to be honest I i find those won't work because and the other thing here too is if there's something that you're going to be doing literally possibly every day for the 85:50 rest of your life it take the time to make it yours right like you'll get some ideas from the internet but right and I mean I 86:00 absolutely did but I mean i've tried a bunch of different things to get to this spot and i'm sure that in three months i'll be like you know what i'm gonna scrap all this and i'll shift it around i'll change it 86:10 but yeah that's that's what my my systems look like I suppose no that's one of the better answers we'll probably ever get for that question yeah exactly okay well um I guess one good last question would be for you to just share some of your favorite books ooh favorite books ah just a quick easy question yeah no no but let me think about it because I was joking uh that's not a quick easy question 86:40 I could look over at my bookshelf for a second here uh yeah that's what me and louis did for yesterday so if we're gonna go into i'm gonna start with fiction I am a 86:50 huge fan of science fiction I love my like 700 page science fiction books dune yeah no so i've got a giant poster of 87:00 arrakis on my wall yup so the structure of the first book is a science fiction it follows the same structure as the 87:20 canterbury tales with pilgrims tales that all tied together into an overall narrative it's a great book fantastic so dune in hyperion and then two weird ones that i've always come back to um the chong tsu which i'm totally mispronouncing but it is a collection of taoist writings actually and I have found that to be very helpful for 87:50 it's just kind of opening your mind up and not focusing so much on all of the little things if you're familiar at all with the the the story of the the butterfly dream right is it a man dreaming he's a 88:00 butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he's a man and just talking about the relativity of a lot of those things that's the original source for that um it's a good read it's very fun I recommend the burton watson translation that's what I have and i've always read and then last one on this list is it's a it's a little tiny book from like 1952 it's called I dare you and I would very very very highly recommend it it's very short um when you start reading it make sure 88:30 you have about two to three hours because you're probably going to just go ahead and read the whole thing but it's just a very good enthusiastic positive encouraging practical guide to just living a good sane life um and that's that's one that i'll crack open if I need a little boost that's great yeah I just finished reading uh the six books 88:50 of dune wow all of them dang all that I just finished book six like two days ago and I started are the rest of them worth it it depends on investigar they're different books they're good but they're different they're not the same at all uh and the first half of the series is very different from the second half yeah but and then technically doesn't 89:10 finish until books seven and a half or seven and seven and a half or whatever that his son writes but I wasn't willing to get into those and I just looked up a summary of those on wikipedia I said I finished everything uh well Ethan this is fantastic this is everything we hoped it would be you're glad to hear it super interesting guy you got a lot of interesting stuff going on you're humble which is awesome and you're doing things to take your talents and raw potential and make something worthwhile of them thank you so much 89:40 thank you so much for coming on with us and stay safe out there yeah wait watch and wash your hands and wash your hands with one parting message that's been my motto watch your hands all right cool i'm gonna stop recording thanks guys well that wraps up our conversation with 90:00 Ethan Reeves thank you so much for listening I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did he's a super interesting guy when it comes to his daily habits the books that he reads and how that informs his business both in terms of identifying where he was lucky versus where he actually had a good strategy in place and his project with the personal mba going forward super interesting guy 90:20 super excited to hear about his upcoming projects in the next three months thank you so much for listening to this conversation if you want to support the Louis and Kyle Show please follow us on social media interact with our content there or leave 90:30 a rating or review on itunes and see you in about a week with the next Episode thanks so much guys bye [Laughter] [Music] you

Louis Shulman
Co-Host of The Louis and Kyle Show

Louis is finishing his degree in computer science from the University of Alabama. He loves books, exercise, and internet challenges.