mother of unicorns. not a hacker. social distancing since 2018.
How did you feel when you were nominated (… and won!) the category for Contributing Writer of the Year ?
I started writing on Medium in 2017, when Hacker Noon was in its early stages as well.
I was super excited to find a publication that was amplifying the voices of technologists like myself.
David Smooke accepted my articles and we started messaging via Twitter and etc. I think the relationship has been mutually beneficial as I enjoy writing, and Hacker Noon has been able act as a megaphone for my words. I appreciate that very much.
The reason I began writing was that I reached a point where I did not feel like I was growing much from becoming better and better technically. It was at that time I became convinced that the way to continue growing is to shift from personal growth to helping others grow – in other words, to shift from growth to contribution. I wanted to help others grow and writing was the most effective way for me to do so.
I was honored to be nominated and to win Hacker Noon’s ‘Contributing Writer of the Year’. It feels good to know that my articles and courses are helping other engineers achieve their own personal growth goals.
The only way to really be a 10x developer is to have 10x the impact as the result of empowering others.
What is one mistake you’ve made as a writer?
At some point I got it into my head that quantity is greater than quality. A whole bunch of marketing gurus will tell you “you need to publish every day or every week!”
I tried. The quality of those articles were far below the standards I try to have, and as a result did not get much engagement.
Sure, consistency is important to some degree, but I think it’s more important to say things that matter.
What is your real job?
I am bootstrapping a company called “Cloud Native Entrepreneur” which helps software engineers learn about entrepreneurship and break false beliefs they have about starting ventures of their own.
I also do quite a bit of DevOps and Microservices consulting on projects ranging from startups, to government grants, to enterprises.
How do you keep up on your tech industry’s latest developments?
By becoming embedded in the communities. I am a co-organizer of the NYC Node meetup, and I’m pretty active on a few Industry slacks and Twitter.
Which topic do you usually read on Hackernoon.com ?
Software engineering, Entrepreneurship
What was the last book you read and was it any good?
Last year my best friend, Erik Anderson, died. His heart stopped.
He was out in the boat yard working on a new house boat he had just bought, when his life abruptly ended. He had a congenial heart defect since he was born, and that day his heart just stopped beating right then and there.
I had just gotten back to NYC when I found out, after visiting my dad in Massachusetts who was admitted to the hospital for a heart problem.
I looked at myself, and I wasn’t happy with what I saw. I was unhealthy, 40 pounds overweight, unfit, and I now was positive that you could just die at any moment. I was pretty shook.
I knew I had to turn things around. At was this moment that I decided I was getting healthy.
This led me to a journey into the world of nutrition and exercise and what I found was incredibly surprising: basically everything we are taught about nutrition in the United States, where I live, is wrong.
I mean I guess it should have been obvious from the statistics. 88% of citizens with metabolic issues, and 42% obese. Obviously something isn’t working.
I could tell you the last book I read, but it was more of a series of books and experiences that led to my current understandings, so I’m going to tell you about those books instead of just one.
A belief I’ve had for quite a few years now that finding someone who already is an expert and doing what they say can save years of time. So, the first thing I did was find an expert who already had the results I wanted.
The expert I settled on was Dr. John Jaquish.
Dr. Jaquish is the founder of a company called Osteostrong which helps people reverse osteoporosis. He invented a technology to help people experience the benefits of high force impact through their bones that leads to incredibly dense bones in gymnasts without the risk of gymnastics after finding that is what gives them their super bone strength. I found out only a couple years later that Tony Robbins is a partner in that company as well.
Anyway, Dr. Jaquish had a new product called the X3Bar, and he was super jacked and ripped, and I wanted to be super jacked and ripped, so I decided to just do what he says. It consisted of ~10-20 minutes of exercise a day 6 days a week, which aligned with what I had read in “The Four Hour Body” by Tim Ferris, and nutritional advice. Within the first three months I had lost 30 pounds.
Now, one year later, at my maximum weight loss I was down 42 pounds of fat, and have put on several pounds more of muscle since then.
I have to admit, at first, I thought some of the advice sounded crazy – but it was given incrementally, and the results were honestly just great. “Just do what the expert says” I thought.
The first bit of advice was something called “Intermittent Fasting”. Basically, skip breakfast, and don’t eat late night snacks. By limiting the amount of hours in the day that you are consuming, you are giving your body at least 12 hours of time to enter a phase called “autophagy”.
Autophagy is kinda like garbage collection – just like in Java – but for your body. If you are eating every few hours your body never has a chance to run this GC job.
Easy enough. I already didn’t eat breakfast, and I could be disciplined enough to stop eating all night.
In a few weeks I was blown away as the fat just started falling off effortlessly.
Ever notice that one good habit leads to another?
“I exercised this morning, I should probably keep that going and eat healthy too…” Well, that’s exactly what happened.
The next major piece of advice: cut out refined sugars and carbs.
By fasting, even intermittently, you’ll eventually reach the end of your glucose reserves and start burning fat for fuel instead. This is a natural process in humans called Ketosis. By cutting out refined carbs and sugars your body could stay in this fat burning state instead of coming in and out of it during some of your fasts.
Within three months I was down 30 pounds.
During that time I knew what I was doing was working, but I wanted to know why.
Why was this way of eating, that is high in fats, where I had grown up in a world that demonizes fats, working?
The first book I read was one called “The Bulletproof Diet” by popular biohacker Dave Asprey. This introduced me to the concept that despite popular belief, many plants are actually bad for many people! For example, nightshades – such as peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants – have very negative side-effects for about 25% of the population!
The book also introduced something called “Bulletproof Coffee” which a way to prepare coffee for use in fasting support.
It was quite an interesting book that really challenges the standard American diet with a lot of science based evidence, though it’s from 2014, and some of the science has shifted a bit with new studies through 2020. The ultimate conclusion of which is that you should adapt a diet that definitely will not cause any sort of inflammatory response in your body, and the best way to do that is to eliminate many things for an extended period of time, and then slowly add them back in so you can isolate exactly what foods are causing you to feel crappy.
I do terrible with tomatoes. They give me acid reflux.
I was pretty impressed with Dave Asprey from reading that, and around the time I finished reading it he was releasing a new book called “Superhuman” which was about how not to die and then start to reverse aging. Also super interesting – the effects of blue light and infrared lights for example are pretty fascinating. For example, the infrared light of the sunrise in the morning actually prepares your skin to better convert UV rays into Vitamin D.
At this point I was only about 3-4 months into this journey of transformation when Dr. Jaquish had an update. He was officially endorsing the book “The Carnivore Diet” by the surgeon, Dr. Shawn Baker.
I was intrigued. Everything else he told me to do had worked great, and after learning so many things about what I thought I knew about nutrition was incredibly wrong already, I figured this was worth reading about as well. Also, to get another perspective on the topic I read “The Carnivore Code” by Dr. Paul Saladino, as well.
Essentially, everything we consume at the end of the day is a chemical. Many plants contain chemicals as defense mechanisms because they don’t actually want to be eaten.
The books provide an in-depth look at the biochemistry of humans, what chemicals are in the foods we eat, and a hard look at the damage caused by treating epidemiological studies as facts and causation rather than correlations. At most, epidemiological studies should be grounds for creating hypothesis to be tested by interventional studies.
That is almost like picking up where the Bulletproof Diet left off as it advocates using the way of eating to understand what a solid baseline feels like and then to experiment with adding certain things back in. For example, there is good evidence that fruits can be effective for muscle growth when combined with stretching regimens and can help with electrolytes if an individual is not sensitive to them.
It also talks about the environment – for example, regenerative farming seems to be the best bet for actually improving the environment as it is carbon negative – meaning carbon is actually sequestered back into the soil. I’m looking forward to reading the book “Sacred Cow” by Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf to understand the topic more deeply when it comes out soon.
I also read “The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting” by Dr. Fung.
As a result, for the past several months I’ve been eating a mostly carnivore diet and exercising 10-20 minutes 6 days a week, eating one or two meals a day in short eating windows, and have had really excellent results. I am the healthiest I have been in years, since before a broken hand and a torn ACL.
I mean, it sounds like I’m shilling here – but I assure you I am not paid in any way by anyone here. I have had transformative results by doing these things and maybe it will intrigue someone else to do the same research.
I’m also looking forward to reading Dr. Jaquish’s new book which should come out soon called “Weight lifting is a waste of time – so is cardio and there’s a better way to have the body you want” to understand the science behind why High Intensity Variable Resistance Training works so effectively.
So, that was a super long winded way to answer this question – but it’s also an example of my writing process which is a question coming up soon. This whole story was something called an “Epiphany Bridge story”.
Epiphany Bridge, wow, that’s a term I have not heard of before! How many articles did you write last year?
I probably only wrote a handful of public articles this past year. I did write A TON though.
I wrote about 50,000 words broken into about 50 article length sections for my new course DevOps Bliss . The course walks through setting up Kubernetes on Google Cloud using Terraform from scratch, setting up GitOps and Continuous Deployment with Jenkins X, and covers some more advanced topics like autoscaling, monitoring, alerting, load testing, custom metrics, end to end Single Sign On and Authentication with Keycloak, setting up a Postgres Operator for declarative DBs, and more.
I also experimented with creating video content on a Facebook page I run: https:// www.facebook.com/imakethingsfortheinternet
Do you have a writing process? Please share details.
For the stories I write, I generally try to follow a format called “The Epiphany Bridge”. I’ll get to that in a moment… but first…
Titles are more important than the content!
(Open loops are important too. What I just did was an open loop…)
If no one clicks it, it doesn’t matter if the next great classic novel is contained within. Period.
A good formula for a title that sells clicks is something that will lead the reader towards pleasure and/or away from pain.
For example “How to <blank> without <blank>!” Is a good baseline as it does both. An example of this: My Journey to DevOps Bliss Without Useless AWS Certifications.
A Journey to DevOps Bliss is one that results in pleasure. AWS Certifications cause pain, so we move away from that.
It’s only when the content inside does not deliver on the title that people get upset and call it “clickbait”.
I have a document with line after line of title ideas without any content – such as “I have a plan to take over the world, and Microsoft Github repos won’t cut it”. I probably won’t ever write this one as it was about how teams can’t have private repos and there are scenarios where that is cost-prohibitive, but apparently Microsoft felt the same way, as teams may have free private repos now as well. Darn – it was a great title I think.
By the way, if you don’t want to take my word for it – Prince EA, who’s content has literally BILLIONS of views says the same thing. Come up with titles first – write content for the best ones.
If you can add a subtitle, the subtitle is best used as a bold promise speaking directly to the reader: what will you get out of this? “Learning these microservice patterns will make you a better engineer” – for example.
Once you have the title down, it’s time to write the content.
The best articles have a single goal for the article. Trying to convince people of more than one thing at a time greatly reduces your success.
That single goal is to help a reader understand that you were just like them, then you went through some sort of process to reach the epiphany of what you had to do in order to achieve a transformational result.
My goal is to help people grow and in order to do that they need to understand that I went through that same growth, or am attempting to go through that same growth. They need to understand that I was exactly where they were, and what I went through to get past that obstacle, to climb that mountain. This story of growth and transformation is known as an “epiphany bridge”.
So, as an exercise… stop for a moment. What have you accomplished recently? Did you learn a new framework? Deployed a new tool to production?
A few months ago you didn’t know those things! That’s where your story begins. It’s where others looking to do what you did are now. In this stage of the story you need to make it clear where you are, what are your goals, and to build rapport, talk about your inner- thoughts, beliefs, desires, and struggles. Make your mess your message. Be real. Connect.
Now that your goal is clear, talk about what you tried – what didn’t work, what did you do that really set you back?
At some point, it clicks – you have that “ah-ha” moment, where you finally understand. Your epiphany. If you told the story well, so did your readers.
You see, humans are kinda weird. We are conditioned from a very early age to love and learn from stories.
“Story time kids! Gather ‘round!” – some adult. “Hell yea! Storytime!” – you.
When we hear stories, the reason that they are so powerful is because we envision ourselves as the protagonist. This means when the hero of the story reaches some sort of dilemma we get to consider what we would do in that situation. We then get to learn from the mistakes and successes of that person.
To think one doesn’t learn from the mistakes of others, and that you need to make all the mistakes yourself is ludicrous. Imagine if we all had to get eaten by a bear to learn not to fuck with them. No – you just need to hear a story about how a man was killed by a bear, and you know you should keep away. We would not have made it very far as a species without this ability.
So, use this to your advantage – it’s engaging due to the rapport building connections made early on, and leads others to the epiphanies you’ve had so they can have them as well, and save months or years of effort.
Oh, btw – earlier on I mentioned “Open Loops are important too”. An Open Loop is when you bring up something that gets somebody curious… and then you don’t tell them what it is. It makes them want to keep reading. And now that loop is closed.
Like any good TV show – leaving an episode with an open loop is probably a good idea…
I’ll need to write more about storytelling soon, such as how watching the movie Cars will make you a better writer…
If you could vote for your favourite Hacker Noon feature, what would it be?
The statistics are nice, and I haven’t used the new Web Monetization API feature yet but that seems pretty cool!
What’s your biggest vice?
I’ve been trying to make healthy ice cream with decent results so far. Ice cream is actually a lot more similar to an omelette than you’d think.
Would you like to share more on what you are working on right now?
I have written a lot on the Cloud Native Entrepreneur website, I encourage you to check that out and read the home page, as well as my own Hero’s Journey (a structured epiphany bridge) about hanging out with penguins in South Africa while learning about digital marketing on the about page.
What is one thing you’d wish to change about yourself?
I am a perfectionist. I have been trying to make my new mantra be “take imperfect action”.
Perfection doesn’t exist and leads to procrastination.
I also have this deep-rooted belief that if I don’t know how to do something I should “focus on my weaknesses” and learn how to do it. That’s some BS advice. Focus on your strengths and superpowers, and outsource your weaknesses. I should do this more.
If you could change a global issue that is one of the world’s biggest problems today, what would you change?
The definition of entrepreneur that I subscribe to is that:
“An entrepreneur is someone who finds a problem and decides that they are going to make it their mission to solve that problem.”
With starting my company Cloud Native Entrepreneur, that’s the problem I decided to make mine. I want to empower engineers to have the confidence and knowledge to start their own entrepreneurial journeys, so they, in turn, can pick a problem they’d love to solve.
I’ve had quite a few failed companies before a successful exit at as a CTO in a startup in an accelerator. Even then I had gripes with that process.
You can read that whole story here.
I don’t want VC’s. I want to build a sustainably grown business that helps people I would love to help.
Many of the toughest problems in the world have been solved by people just like this, who choose to solve a problem that no one else would.
So many engineers could be out there doing what they love and changing the world but instead are writing advertising algorithms for tech giants. This is sad. One of my students, for example, is an incredibly gifted engineer who is blind. He has the power to help people in his situation like no one else does because people want to learn from others who have been in the same situation.
If you are someone who doesn’t feel like you are growing anymore, than I want you to consider this: the next stage of growth is contribution. If you don’t feel like you are growing enough personally anymore, maybe it’s time you shifted to helping others grow. Helping 1,000 People can make a world of difference.
Is there anything else you wish the readers to know about you?
Read more about my story here: About
It’s long, but like, it’s pretty good, I think. 🙂
Where are you living at right now? Brooklyn, NY currently, though I have my eye on Mexico once that’s like.. allowed again.. I figure that will force me to learn Spanish.
What is your favourite breakfast meal? I don’t eat breakfast. As for breakfast foods – bacon and eggs.
Do you have a phrase or a quote you live by? Expect more from yourself than anybody else will.
Favorite color: Blue – it matches my eyes.
Favorite song at the moment: Just “chill” playlists – things without words – lo-fi beats, jazzy.
Favorite podcast: Never got very into podcasts – I’m a writer because I’m a reader. I’ve probably listened to more Joe Rogan podcasts than anything else though.
Favourite tech app you use daily: No, haha.
A tool you can’t live without: The Internet.
Hey there Hackers: it’s now August, the very first month of Hacker Noon’s 2020 Noonies Awards season! Visit Noonies.tech to make your VOTE count for the best writing on Hacker Noon. Vote for the Product Writer of the Year, the Data Science Writer of the Year, the Artificial Intelligence Writer of the Year, andddd check out out other categories honouring tech startup co-founders, and others!