two hour hook — exploration

Thirteen years ago, I found myself lost in the middle of Shinjuku Station. One of the busiest stations (connecting trains to subways) in Tokyo, the world’s largest city. Even though I was probably a nuisance to tons of travelers, trying to figure out where to go while obstructing people flows in the process. However, due to Japanese efficiency and politeness, it never seemed to be a problem.

I had an obvious goal; make it back to the hotel. I vividly recall how I felt at the time. Mesmerized by a tremendous amount of people. Flabergasted by the big city lights. Craving teriyaki chicken due to the smell emerging from smokey alleys.

After a while, a compassionate Japanese man approached me and said: “you seem lost, may I help you?”. Minutes later, I was on my way.

If you manage to incorporate this (first) hook principle, you’re on your way to building a successful product or service.

Present your customer with a clear, unambiguous goal. A goal that leads to success. Make sure that the environment is an exciting one to be in. If your customer slows down, or gets stuck altogether, provide kind and timely guidance to help them get back on their way.

Exploring is in our curious nature. Have your product or service cater to it in the right way.

two hour hook

As little as two hours of compelling gameplay, that’s all it takes (for me) to get sucked in and become (temporarily) addicted. What would entrepreneurs give to get people hooked on their product or service in 120 minutes or less? Spoiler alert: a lot.

Five seemingly random elements make for an immersive experience — exploration, friction, progress, increasing difficulty, and reward.

Products and services encompassing these principles are sure to get quick adoption and long-lasting retention.

the elephant in the chair

Instead of carefully dancing around the elephant in the room, pull up a chair for the majestic creature.

Elephants have huge ears and are sentient beings. If they’re in the same room with people talking about them, no doubt they will pick up on it.
Avoiding conflict is not a sound business strategy.

There will always be proverbial elephants in the room. Regardless of attempts to keep them out. Ignoring them just makes them sad and angry. Invite the elephant to the table.

Acknowledging is better than avoiding.

stupidity isn’t a handicap

In politics, stupidity is not a handicap. That’s what Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly once said. Does this thought-provoking statement hold ground in a business context?

The above statement can be interpreted in numerous ways.
Fake news travels faster than real news. So if ignorance truly is bliss, the politician (or entrepreneur) could literally spread lies unknowingly.

It could also mean that if a politician or entrepreneur is stupid at one point in time but has a burning willingness to learn and overcome ignorance, stupidity isn’t a handicap. It’s just a temporary setback.

The first definition is unsustainable in the long run. The second one shows enormous potential.

Be anti-fragile. Dare to admit you are currently “stupid,” but with ambition and eagerness to learn, all that can change (quickly).


Multitasking is a myth. Even though humans can perform multiple tasks at once, we’re not particularly good at it.

Computers, on the other hand, are built for multitasking and subsequently excel at doing so. In computing terms, tasks are sometimes referred to as threads. A computer’s processor isn’t influenced by hormones or lack of sleep and is typically built to run as many threads as possible at the same time.

For us people, with 100% of concentration (and dedication) to divide over tasks, running four tasks (simultaneously) results in 25% focus per task. Suppose they are easy, repetitive tasks that don’t necessarily require a lot of creativity or intelligence. In that case, you might get away with it. If that’s not the case, consider changing your workflow from parallel to sequential.

Pick up tasks that require full focus, one at a time, back to back.

very very long term

It’s not necessarily a problem if the people surrounding you don’t fully grasp what it is you’re trying to get at. While it’s certainly not a nice feeling to be misunderstood, it’s potentially powerful. All great innovators were ridiculed at some point, only to be revered later.

Don’t be discouraged if your entourage doesn’t understand what you’re trying to achieve. As long as you know, have a crystal clear vision and roadmap towards that vision, it’s all good baby baby, as Biggie said.

Years later, they will say, I was with them all along. I was a fan of the first hour. I always knew they would make it.

That’s your aim. Play to win in the long run.

season surf

Some businesses benefit (or suffer) more from seasonality than others. However, most companies, in one way or another, are impacted by seasonality. An icecream vendor, for one, will likely have a more challenging time selling ice cream during the wintertime due to reduced demand.

There are a couple of options to deal with this situation.

Option one. Either make all revenue during one or two seasons, so you can rest on your laurels for the remaining time. Not easy. It requires a strong brand and substantial financial buffer.

Option two. Apply aggressive marketing, among other initiatives, in an attempt to sell ice cream during the off-season.

Option three. Introduce new products (or services) that are better suited for the seasons where you typically see a decline in sales. Wafels could make an excellent addition. One that would likely sell more when the ice cream starts to sell less.

Don’t fight seasonality. Embrace it by making your business anti-cyclical.

sunday carwash

Queuing for a carwash at 8:45 on a Sunday morning. It’s a thing, apparently. Other people might run a marathon, or drive three kids to three hobbies, instead of, well… Sleeping. Why? Because they deliberately choose to.

As unlikely as some of these activities may seem to the rest of us, there is a crowd willing to go out of their way to achieve these very specific goals.

If you can create value, even though it’s a very peculiar value, subsequently profit from it, you (might) have a business (to consumer) model.

Cater that particular value to people who get out of bed early on a free day.

to do nothing

How to not do anything? A silly question. However, for entrepreneurs working long hours, the answer isn’t always straightforward.

What if I tweak this? Improve that? There is always work to be done.

Gaining inspiration is challenging in an always-on mode. Once in a while, decompression must occur to make room for new ideas.

Resting comes naturally for some of us, definitely not all of us. Make sure to schedule some time to not do anything at all.

trust is undervalued

Pay it when you can. That’s what the friendly guy at the bakery told me this morning. Their payment terminal was temporary out of order, and I rarely carry cash around. I only visited this bakery in particular half a dozen times and hadn’t met the store clerk earlier.

I absolutely love this tiny gesture. Here is why.

It oozes trust. The bakery is telling me they trust me that I’ll come around (one day). Granted, the amount is relatively small. It’s not like driving a new car off the lot without any securities. Still, I appreciate the gesture.

Obviously, I will return with the money. Furthermore, I’ll (probably) tip generously because I sure appreciated the hassle they saved me.

Finally, I’ll probably become a repeat customer. Reciprocity is real. Either knowingly or unknowingly, I will want to reciprocate this random act of kindness.

On average, it’s about 6.5 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep one. The above number varies tremendously based on your industry.

Be like the baker. Take (small) bets on trust now and then.