Simplero Blog

The business of transforming lives, and life as a conscious entrepreneur

Calvin Correli

Our Server Had Babies!

First, I hope everyone's safe. My heart aches for what happened in Paris last week. But like my French friend Orane said, we must go on like normal. We can't let them win.

So on to today's topic: Our server had babies!

Well, not exactly. But where there were previously 3 of them, we now have 7. Or so.

Before, we had mainly one server that ran everything, with two secondary database servers, just so we had instant backups of our primary database, in case a hard drive started to fail. It's served us pretty well for a while, but it also has some obvious drawbacks.

In order to scale, you can either make the server bigger, or you can add more servers. Making a server bigger in-place is not really possible, so you'd have to set up a new server that's bigger, then move things over. That's complicated.

That's why having a structure with one load balancer in front and multiple application servers is better, because then you can add more application servers as the traffic increases. Each individual application server is disposable, you can remove them, add more, create them over from scratch, as needed.

But the setup itself adds complexity. More moving parts means more things that can break. The loadbalancer itself can fail.

When I moved to new servers last year, I wanted to go with multiple hosts, but the complexity was not worth it at the time. So we ended up with a much simpler one-machine-for-everything setup. And apart from some recent overload due to some server-to-server notifications, it's worked well. But it was time for a change.

The biggest concrete reason it was time for a change was that I wanted to hand over management of our primary database to someone who has a team dedicated to this. That's Amazon and their database service. Amazon can run an entire database cluster with replication, backups, up-to-the minute snapshots, and make sure we never run out of disk space the way we did the other day. It lets me sleep easier at night knowing they've got that covered.

Moving to a new database server means moving to a new datacenter. You want to have your application servers and your database servers close to each other, since they may talk 100 times for a single page load. And moving to a new data center is a great opportunity to redo the entire server infrastructure and get it the way I wanted it from the start.

So we now have two dedicated application servers (which is more than we need), two dedicated background job servers (which is way overkill right now), plus dedicated servers for another (non-critical) database, testing, and a few other bits and pieces. 

Already, I'm feeling how nice it is to be able to try out something on one of the application servers, without having it take down the whole site. Or I can spin up a copy of the main database and try something out without having to impact production. It's really neat, and we should be a lot more stable and fast going forward.

Of course, with any transition as massive as this, there are going to be some mishaps and fallouts, but I think (knock-on-wood) that we're pretty much there now.

Solving Puzzles

This type of work is complex for sure, and some of it is idiosyncratic and arcane, but it's also intensely logical. There's a part of me that really enjoys figuring things out. Just get in there, read, try, think, google, and figure out how it works, and how to do what I want. Just one step at a time. Cracking one piece of the puzzle at a time.

I think it's a great way to learn things and to make things happen. It's what I did with bartending and mixology a while back. It's what I've done with music production and songwriting. My friend Jeff who's worked in the music industry his whole life said he's never seen anyone pick up music production as quickly as I did. I'm honored.

I'm not sure why I'm sharing this, honestly. It's not to brag. It's just something I've discovered about myself by doing this. It's always worth it to look out for these things that you're really great at and that you really enjoy, and make a note, so you can choose to use it in your life.

New Features in Simplero

That's pretty much it. This infrastructure project has been pretty all-consuming for me these past couple of weeks, weekdays and weekends both. I feel like I need a vacation :)

Random Links from around the Interwebs

Why New York Subway Lines Are Missing Countdown Clocks by The Atlantic. The article is way too long, but it's a fascinating illustration how technology projects go off the rails. You think you can just add one more requirement here, and a little requirement there, and suddenly something that could be done for $100,000 ends up costing $200 million and never gets finished. Getting technology projects actually finished is a never-ending process of fighting complexity. It's how I've been able to singlehandedly create a software solution that's able to hold its own against players hundreds of times bigger.

Secure passwords are important. I love this little generator.

Taylor Swift talks about making the 1989 album. So awesome.

Lots of love and peace to you all, and a happy Movember :)
—Calvin

Calvin Correli

Please Welcome Mandi

This year is all about expansion for Simplero. At the end of last year, I was back to being just me, after both Swanand and Kristine left to pursue their paths. It was a good change for all, but it was never intended to stay that way. And it hasn't.

In July, Kareem joined as Chief Operating Officer, and his primary responsibilities are to create a system for customer acquisition, and to build out a team around Simplero. We're hard at work at both of those tasks. 

The first person we brought on board was Jim Shook, who's working with us as a consultant on the marketing side.

This week, Mandeep Virk joined the team as our Director of Customer Success. We call it customer success, because we want to do what we can to proactively and reactively help our customers be more successful. The more successful our customers are, the more successful we are,  so we want to do everything we can to help that along.

Mandi comes from a background in operations, sales, and luxury retail, and has a knack for going into a business environment and immediately figure out what's working, what's not working, and what to do about it. That's an invaluable skill to bring to the table, both for Simpler and for our customers. She'll also be an active part of our outward face, and she'll help us create much better instructional material so that you, our beloved customer, is empowered to do more on your own.

So when you reach out to us for help, you'll generally be hearing from Mandi.

I'm personally really excited to see how the team is growing, and it's challenging me to grow as a person and as a leader as well, which is exactly how it should be.

New Features in Simplero

We've been busy bringing Mandi on board. Mostly fixes this week.

I did find time to implement a new copy-to-clipboard library that was released over the weekend. We used to have one way back that was based on Flash, but we all know Flash sucks donkey balls, as me and my programmer friends used to say back in the day. (Oops!) So for a while, the solution was a popup-window where you'd have to hit Cmd-C or Ctrl-C to copy from.

Now there's a browser-native solution that works in the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, and IE. It does not (yet) work in Safari, unfortunately, but hopefully it's coming. I'm a Safari-first user myself. But in those browsers where it's not yet supported, it'll select the text, so all you have to do is hit Cmd-C or Ctrl-C after clicking the body to copy-to-clipboard. I hope you like it.

I also added the option to issue a credit without returning any money at all.

And we fixed some issues with the podcast links in spaces.

And improved how video and audio files are downloaded.

So, you know, even in a week where not much is happening we tend to find the time for those little tweaks that make things run just a little smoother.

Random Links from around the Interwebs

The ad blockers are blocking web fonts as well. I noticed this in Simplero, too. Our icons disappear when ad blockers are used. Not much we can do about it that I know of.

The whole ad situation is such a mess. Last night I was watching a show on Hulu. I'm a paying customer. And I don't have any adblockers installed. And yet, a screen came up saying something to the effect of "we're trying to load a message from our sponsors, but we can't, and so we won't play the show you want to watch, and instead you need to go here and follow these tutorials to try and troubleshoot why we can't show you ads".

The thing is, we all love buying shit, so there has to be a way to present ads for things we want, in ways that we want to watch them. Of course, that's harder than just making shit products and pumping out shit ads, but that has to be the way forward. At least one can hope.

Automatic face recognition is here. I'm endlessly fascinated with this new world we're living in with cheap surveillance, data storage, data analysis, drones, and everything being connected and hackable. Our laws and our ways of thinking about these things are so out of date, and things are happening really really fast.

Porsche refused to implement Android Auto, because Google wants to know everything about you as part of the agreement. Google is a pretty scary company, re the previous story. Isn't it interesting how they won't say exactly what information they want from the auto makers? The distinction between Apple and Google is becoming more clear by the day. Google is in the business of knowing everything they can about you, and using it for anything they wish. That's it.

That's it for this week.

Lots and lots of love,
-Calvin

Calvin Correli

When Is It Time to Commit to Your Business?

Before I got into the information business in 2008, I paid my bills as a freelance programmer, and I hated it.

I knew I wanted to get away from selling my time and into a product business.

I knew in my heart I could do it. That I could make information products and make it work. Not because I'm particularly gifted. But because I was determined. And I know that when I commit myself to something, I will figure it out.

So I just made the choice one day in the spring of 2008 to draw a line in the sand and say "no more freelancing", even if the money from the information business comes in slower than I'd like. Which they did.

My bank account went about $10k into the red. My wife went nuts. My parents urged me to take a job with Microsoft for a few years so I could make some steady income. To be fair, my mom also lent me an additional $30k to make it through this transition.

But I resisted and persisted. It took a couple of years before things stabilized, but in the end they did.

The conventional wisdom is to play it safe. Build up your side business nights and weekends, while you maintain your day job.

I can't really fault that. I think it's sound advice, like getting a degree and taking a steady job with good benefits and a pension plan.

It's just not what has worked for me.

When I know in my heart that something's my future, and I know in my guts that I can make it work, then I just go for it. I don't play it safe. It doesn't mean i don't think. It doesn't mean I just jump out from a cliff without looking. But I'm okay with taking a calculated risk.

When I decided to no longer do freelance and dedicate myself to product income, I knew I could always go back to freelance if I had to. I knew there was a way out for me, if everything went to shit. And that gave me the confidence to jump. I also knew that I wouldn't need to take that escape route, because I was determined.

The way I look at it, there's enough fear holding us back already. How about we take the fear of not having money out of it for a bit. Most of us give way too much power to money. They're just paper, or numbers in a computer somewhere, but we make believe they're everything, like they're our right to exist, our ability to survive, our worth, and our parents. They're not. They're just something we as a humanity invented, because we thought it'd be useful.

If you know in your heart that you'll make this work, then why slow down the process by doing it with belt and suspenders? You can if you want to, but you don't have to.

So I'm not going to advise you to do as I did.

I am sharing this because maybe it resonates with you, and it lets you see things differently. Maybe you realize that you've been playing by other people's rules and other people's fears, and they're not really your own.

Sometimes the time to fully commit to your business is just right now, whether it looks that way to outsiders or not. Because you just know.

Calvin Correli

How to Hire the Right People

Kareem started last week last week as the COO of Simplero, and I couldn't be more excited.

I went through a very specific process to make the hire, very much inspired by Danny Iny at Firepole Marketing, and I'd like to share that process with you here.

Preparation

Before you begin, you need to know who you're looking for. Create an avatar. Really envision what it's going to be like working with this person, what will it look like day-to-day, what will it feel like. This helps you identify what exactly you're looking for.

I worked with the Wealth Dynamics profile. It's the best personality test I've found to date. I'm a Creator, which means I'm excellent at coming up with ideas, I love to reinvent things that don't need reinventing, I'm an incurable time optimist, I'm not good with details or finances, and my head is up in the clouds and I don't really care about (or have any talent for) keeping my fingers on the pulse of the marketplace. I'm halfway between introvert and extravert.

According to Roger Hamilton from Wealth Dynamics, your first hire should be someone with a profile two steps to clockwise from you. For me that would be a Supporter, which makes perfect sense. So I made it a strict criteria that my COO would be a Supporter.

The first couple of candidates I got were people who were Creators, Mechanics, or even Lords. Those would have been disasters. Could you imagine another creator? That would just amplify all of my weaknesses. Or a mechanic? We'd both just tinker and tinker with stuff, but no-one would ever know about it. No, a supporter is definitely the right profile for me.

I've found that doing the inner work is really important too. I went to get some healing on the hiring process from my healer Holly Star, and I took time to investigate how my own self-worth  and communications lessons could mess this up, and make sure I did not let them interfece. I took time to visualize and feel into this stuff and release what needed to be released so I could move on.

Subtractive Synthesis

Most synthesizers (specifically subtractive synthesizers) work by first generating a basic sound through an oscillator (sine wave, square wave, sawtooth wave, etc.), and then applying various filters to remove the parts of the sound you don't want (highpass, lowpass, etc.), until you have the sound you do want.

Hiring works the same way.

First you gotta get high quality candidates into the funnel, then you have to keep screening away the folks that don't cut it, and then you're left with hopefully just a few candidates to pick from.

So it starts with sourcing the candidates. We placed ads on Indeed, Angellist, and a handful of other places, plus I started talking about to everyone I know.

Think of hiring as a marketing process, only this one is aimed at candidates, not customers. There's actually a lot to this thinking. Maybe you can make your customer acquisition process more like your hiring process, and your hiring process more like your customer acquisition process. There are some very interesting power dynamics at play between the two processes, typically.

Anyway, your ad is a piece of marketing copy, aimed at getting great candidates to apply. I took pains to write it personally and well, with my own tone, and to specifically use words and characteristics that would attract Supporters, and people who share the same values as me, and repel others.

Then comes screening. I had Amy Wright handle this part of the process for me. Amy has been great to work with. I would have gone absolutely bonkers had I had to do all of this work myself. So she'd review resumes, do an initial phone screening, and if they passed that, we'd ask them to take the Wealth Dynamics test. If they passed that, she'd hand them off to me for my interview.

Trusting My Intuition

During the interview process I got much better at trusting my gut. I'd know in just a few seconds whether this was a person I'd want to work this closely together with. In the beginning I'd just stay with the interview for 30 minutes or even longer, even though I "knew" it wasn't going to work.

Over time, I'd just take notice of the feeling in my gut, say it flat-out, and end the interview. "Listen, I've learned to trust my intuition, and my intuition is telling me this is not going to be a fit. Rather than waste your time and mine, let's just end it here." Invariable people would agree, they had the same feeling, and thank me for being so honest.

After passing the first interview, I'd meet with candidates for lunch. It would be more of a social thing than an actual interview, though we'd talk work stuff too, of course. Then I'd conduct a detailed behavioral interview and drill into any specific concerns I had at that point. And finally I met with Kareem and his wife for dinner with my wife, mainly so my wife Nomi, whose judgment I very much trust, could get a chance to meet him as well. Once that was done, and she confirmed my feeling, the deal was basically sealed.

I also had plans to ask them to perform an exercise. This is Danny's idea, and I love it. For example, if they're going to be writing articles, have them write a sample article. Something short but relevant. And here's the kicker: Then send it back with edits and ask them to make changes. This is not about the changes. It's about seeing how they react to taking directions.

The Hire

In the end, for the COO position, we didn't come up with anything relevant for an exercise, and in the end it didn't feel necessary. It's still a great tool to have in your arsenal, though.

I also administered the TKI Conflict Mode Instrument test. I know I can be pretty conflict-averse, so if I got someone in who was very overpowering, or also very conflict-averse, that could become a problem. At least I'd like to know where we stand with this.

Towards the end I also talked to references. At this point not so much for vetting, it was more to learn about how to best work with this person.

In the end, Kareem did not come in via any of the ads. He came through a referral. I went to a Marketing Meetup here in New York a couple of months ago, chatted with the organizer Richard, and then invited him to a party at my home a few weeks later. As an organizer of a marketing meetup, I figured he know a bunch of people, so I mentioned it to me. Two days later, he introduced me to Kareem, and that turned out to be the one.

Closing Thoughts

I hope this was useful to you. I used to think that I could do everything myself, and that I should somehow. It wasn't until about six months ago that I fully realized how futile that is. There are things that I'm great at and there are things that I suck at and/or just don't enjoy. Why not get some people on board who really love those things, and build a team that complements each other. It's so much more fun and enjoyable than having to do everything by myself.

Once I really got that, I made it my top priority to figure out how to hire and build a team. I read tons of books, talked to advisors, and got busy implementing.

I'm so glad I did. I know my life will never be the same. I'm so done going it alone.

Calvin Correli

News from Simplero

I'm so close to having my new COO start. We're right now finalizing the last details before he can start. It's very exciting. I think you're going to love him.

Meanwhile, I wanted to share something with you that I thought might be useful to you too.

When I started out as a coach, I had this belief that I should be able to help everyone who showed up at my doorstep. I think it was really at the time about a desire for someone to see and help me, and my own frustration often when I was trying to get help, it didn't actually help much. So I wanted to do better.

But the fact is, you can't help everyone. Some people are just so committed to their suffering that there's nothing you can do. Some people are in need of something that you can't provide. It's like being a dentist and someone comes in the door with a broken guitar they need fixed. Sorry, you gotta go down the street for that.

It's the same in the information, coaching, and healing businesses. You've gotta be exactly who you are, and offer what you have to offer, and focus all your effort on attracting the people for whom that's incredible valuable. No need to try and change yourself from a dentist into a guitar shop. Just be a really great guitar shop and focus on getting the people who really need guitars.

It's such a simple and obvious fact, but I think especially when you're just starting out, it can be easy to lose sight of that, because you just want to get your business off the ground. And similarly, when you're a natural born helper, you just want to help everyone, because that's who you are.

But know that if you take in someone who's not a perfect fit for you, then you're not only creating misery for yourself, you're also now holding back that person from finding the help that would really be optimal for them. Really, if it's not good for you, it's not good for them.

Lots of love and growth to you,

-Calvin

Calvin Correli

Love Your Crisis of Meaning

You know these periods that you go through, where you're not sure where you're going or why. The thing you were working so hard on or for just yesterday now leaves you drained. The thing you used to be excited about now leaves you cold.

I think it's normal to go through these periodically. They say that you usually have one big in your lifetime (for me that would be my divorce and move from Denmark to the US a couple of years ago), and then smaller ones much more frequently.

Last week I was in one of those again. I just couldn't bring myself to do any real work. Nothing excited me. I felt tired to my bones all the time. It's waning now, but I can still feel it.

I think it's important to let these things run their course. They're part and parcel of creative life. If you're creative, you're going to have these periods where your priorities and desires and meaning shifts. It's what tees you up for the next creative burst. If you try to push them down or press through them, my feeling is you miss out on the gift that they offer to get to know yourself at a deeper level.

There's always another layer to our creativity, to our life. A little bit of quiet and downtime is needed to get to them.

Whenever friends reveal to me that they're in a crisis of meaning (they don't typically use those words, but it's easy to spot), I always celebrate. It's life-affirming. It literally is new life breaking through. 

You have to pause and question your beliefs in order for the new subtler layer to surface. Your current belief system, your insistence on what you know is right and wrong, who you are, and who you're not, is what's holding that creative force back. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Love it.

Chill. Go for long walks. Explore something new. Listen to music that intrigues you. Meditate. Explore. Let your curiosity guide you. And be grateful for the experience.

Soon enough, life is going to return to normal, and all the pieces of the puzzles will fall into place again, only this time in a new and different configuration.

Calvin Correli

My Latest Obsession

Hi Reader,

I'm completely obsessed with Lady Gaga these days. I started reading a short bio about her, not sure why, but I did, and I mentioned something that stuck with me to my voice teacher, Lorraine, and then Lorraine started telling me her story of meeting Lady Gaga (of Stefani), and how Lorraine had just known, right away, that she was going to be a superstar, mostly because Gaga had seemed like she just knew. There was neither self-aggrandizement nor fake humility. It was just matter-of-fact. I'm going to be a superstar.

Turns out, she studied fame intensively. Andy Warhol, it turns out, was a student of and obsessed with fame: How is it created, what does it mean, how to manage it. Lady Gaga studied Andy Warhol. And in just a few short lives, she went from living in a dinky $1100/month apartment on Stanton, a mere five blocks from where I live, and doing burlesque and heavy metal and hairspray burning shows, to selling out Madison Square Garden.

I went by her apartment building the other day. Stood in the doorway and tried to channel her energy. The more I learn about her, the more amazed I am. I think I first heard about her in 2010, and immediately fell for her music, but didn't really take her seriously as an artist or know much of anything about her until now.

And I'm blown away by what I learn. She's really something. She touches something deep inside of me. A pain, a sadness, a longing, a love, a beauty, a desire for expression. So many things all at once.

And the fact that it all happened within spitting distance from where I live makes it even more fun and interesting. I checked out where Andy Warhol had his Factory on Union Square as well. I love this city so much.

Here's a few resources I found valuable:


Calvin Correli

When God Calls...

Back in the fall while eating at the bar at Acme, I "randomly" met Allan, who owns a theater right here on Bleecker street. We really hit it off and ended up talking for hours. Ever since it really landed in me to do this show, I've known that I wanted to do it at his theater and with him. I haven't seen him since, but then Sunday night, as Phoebe and I were walking home from dinner with friends, we walked right past the theater. I always look through the windows to see what's going on, and this night, Allan was sitting right there, talking to someone.

We were in the middle of a tense conversation, and I really wanted to go in there and say hi, and at the same time I really wanted not to. I was scared. What if he's in the middle of a conversation (he was, obviously). What if he doesn't want to talk to me? What if I'm interrupting? It was an old voice: "What do you want? The grownups are talking. We don't have time for your silly needs."

It took me a little bit, and I was pretty nervous, but I got Phoebe to go back with me, and we got in there and said hi. Allan asked what was going on in my life, and I told him about the show. He said "please keep us in mind". I very calmly said "thanks, I'll consider it". Actually, I don't remember what I said exactly. But we agreed to meet about it in a couple of weeks. Yay! So exciting!

I've noticed this pattern quite a few times now. Some opportunity comes up, and it's right then and there. I feel the urge to grab it, but I definitely also hear all the voices saying not to bother. It's not that important, there'll be other opportunities, it's not a good time, and so on. More and more I'm taking those opportunities, and I have yet to regret it.

Like Lady Gaga said: "When God calls, pick up the damn phone!"

Calvin Correli

Throw It (All) Away!

I've been cleaning my house this past week after my wife learned about Marie Kondo's book from Christine Eilvig. Phoebe bought the physical book, I browsed through it on the elevator ride up to the 20th floor, and it really caught me, so I went ahead and bought it on iBooks as well and read it over the weekend. It's so absolutely. cool.

It's 90% throwing stuff out, and 10% organizing the stuff that's left. I thought that give that I've moved between continents four times and been through divorce, each time shedding massive amounts of accumulated "stuff", that I was pretty lean. Well, there was still a lot to get rid of. And I learned a ton from it.

I learned that I feel guilt towards my stuff. A shirt I bought that I never liked. I feel guilt, both over having spent the money, and also toward the shirt for not wearing. It's a perfectly fine shirt, just not fo rme. I should wear it more. At least I need to keep it in my closet. What Marie teaches is that all our things are there for us. If they don't bring us joy (or we absolutely need to keep them for other more practical reasons), then get rid of them. So that shirt had to go.

Same with books and course materials. I've always loved non-fiction books, CDs, DVDs, online courses. And I've gotten rid of lots of books and manuals and CDs and DVDs each time I've moved. But I still had quite a few that I bought a long time ago and wanted to "get to" someday, mostly out of guilt. I started asking myself the question: Would I buy that book again today? If not, then just get rid of it. Why would I keep it? Apart from the guilt, it's the fear that there's some valuable information in that book that I'd miss out on if I didn't read it.

But there are tons and tons of resources available to learn everything I could possibly ever need to know. Books, people, blogs, youtube, google, online courses, intuition, you name it. Holding on to these books is rooted in a fear that I may not have what I need in the future. It's scarcity thinking. It's a fear of the future that keeps me holding on to the past, plain and simple. Unless they bring you a palpable feeling of joy, throw them away, and trust that you'll always be able to get what you need and have all your needs fulfilled in the future. Life will keep providing you with opportunities to learn everything you need to learn.

Your things exist to serve you, not the other way around. Let them do their job and serve you. And if they're not serving you, set them free to serve someone else in this or some other form.

Clearing out your piles of stuff really helps you live in the present, without being stuck in the past or afraid of the future. It brings clarity, confidence, lightness, and joy. 

And this goes for your business to. Your business and your customers exist to serve you as well. Of course, you're there to serve them, but ultimately, if the relationship is not serving you, or the way things are structured aren't serving you, it's on you to change it. If you keep doing things that don't serve you, then you're dampening yourself, and ultimately you're preventing the rest of us from receiving the gift that you're really here to share. Because that gift will definitely be about serving yourself as much as serving others.

Calvin Correli

What Is Simplero and Why Do You Need It?

I rarely talk about Simplero and why you'd want it in my newsletters or otherwise, and it would probably be a good idea to do so. It's also one of the things I'm not that well equipped to talk about because I'm too close to my own product. But let me give it a shot:

If you're selling services, like coaching, or acupuncture, or ... anything, really ... and you're currently NOT selling any information products, then you have a challenge: To make more money, you have to either work longer or raise your prices. But if you instead package your most valuable information up as an information product, then you can sell that many times, and each sale dosen't take more of your time, hence your time no longer limits how much money you can make. So you definitely want to add information products to your business.

If you're selling information products, then Simplero is your best option for managing it, because it doesn't require you to manage 5 different systems, and it doesn't require you to hire a team of people just to figure out how to manage it, and it's not nearly as expensive as some of the other options out there.

Stay tuned for more on that in another post.

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