cogent free knowledge

Personal blog of Joel Clermont, a Milwaukee PHP, Ruby and .NET developer

30x500 Orientation

I recently enrolled in 30x500, an online class designed to teach you how to launch successful products. I know how to run a consulting business (been there, done that) and I know how to build software applications, but I had no real idea how to build and launch a product. After tweeting about my enrollment, a few people responded with curiosity, intrigued at the idea, but not yet ready to put down the money to join. Today was orientation, so I decided to start documenting my experiences right away, not only for my own benefit, but also for those perhaps on the fence about taking this class themselves.

Orientation began with the instructors introducing themselves. Amy Hoy¬†and Alex Hillman, the course creators, were joined by Brennan Dunn, a former alumnus of the course. Speaking of alumni, there were a lot of them taking the course again. One of the interesting aspects of 30x500 is that you can re-enroll in the course at any point in the future with no additional cost. Enrolling again isn’t a sign that the course is ineffective, it’s a sign of just how dense it is with information and how supportive and amazing the community is.

One of the words I noticed come up more than once was “frenetic.” You could sense the enthusiasm of the new students taking the course for the first time (myself included). We were all eager to get started and dive in, even though the official first day of class isn’t until November 5. “Frenetic” also applies to the level of effort put into the course by the instructors. You might think that since the course has run several times before, they might be on auto-pilot, but quite the opposite is true. In fact, the three of them completely revamped the course from the Summer 2012 semester. For example, instead of a 12-week arc, this has been refactored into two cycles of 6 weeks each. The alumni in the room were pretty excited at this propsect, so the instructors must be on to something here.

While there was a lot of information to absorb today, I came away with two key lessons from today’s orientation:

  1. DO THE WORK. No, seriously, do all the work. Students are tempted to cherry pick what “makes sense” to them or skip over things that seem unimportant, but this is a recipe for failure.
  2. Unlearn what you have learned. Many of the students have either tried to launch a product before or have a head full of ideas for products they want to build. The instructors repeatedly emphasized the need to push that aside and focus on the 30x500 method.

Outside of these two main lessons, I made note of a few smaller nuggets of wisdom:

  1. Don’t be afraid of people copying you. This might be a natural response since we’re all in the class to launch a product, but the instructors were quite firm in allaying this fear.
  2. Practice writing. On paper. This is a skill that I let atrophy, but I’m going to need it for 30x500. I’m taking all my notes by hand in a notebook, not in a text editor. While I’ll be summarizing things on my blog, that is just more practice writing and summarizing, but not my primary means of capturing information.
  3. Build and cultivate tiny habits. Early on, we were recommended to participate in Dr. BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits program. I’ll be honest, it seemed overly simplistic to me, but I gave it a try the first week. I’m now hooked. I’ll definitely be posting more on this topic in the future, but the quick feedback loop of setting and meeting a few tiny habits is surprisingly life changing.

Our first reading assignment will arrive on Tuesday and I’ll be continuing to journal my experiences here.

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