We’ve published our latest post “Why You Should Consider Investing in the Stock Market.” It discusses the differences between owning a traditional business versus investing in publicly traded companies. This post is important because it highlights the value I believe in, investing smartly can make you richer.
Ill add the post below because I think everyone needs to learn this lesson. However follow my latest blog Investing Brothers because we will be showing you how to invest smartly and securely.
“If you look at anyone mildly successful, they may have a good job with a good salary but that is usually not the main reason they are wealthy. What separates them from being poor or average is that they either own a business or invested in real estate assets. Luck, effort, and skills are part of the equation but the vehicle of wealth these successful people get on, are the same.
Owning a business or acquiring real estate property can be a daunting tasks. So how can the common person begin the path of wealth if they neither have a business or own real estate?
INVESTING IN THE STOCK MARKET.
The stock market is the market where publicly held companies are traded and issued through exchanges. It’s a place where companies can have access to capital in exchange for giving investors an ownership interest of the company. For small individual investors, the stock market provides an opportunity to invest a small seed of money and potentially become wealthy without taking the risk of starting or running a business.
What are stocks?
A stock is a unit of ownership in a company. Stock represent claims on a company’s earnings or assets. You can own 1 or multitudes of stocks within a company. Each stock has a value price which you can pay for at the time of purchase. You buy stocks from another trader or owner. Other common stock terms are equity and shares. Buying a stock in a company makes you a shareholder of that company. As a shareholder, you may have rights for the company such as voting rights and can receive dividends, a portion of profits of the company paid out to its shareholders. Thus, public companies can have thousands of shareholder or owners (however the amount of stocks you have may be insignificant and thus cannot affect the direction of the company).
In our observation, most people are not proactive investors. In majority of cases, people start investing when they get a job which provides a 401(k) plan. A 401(k) plan is a savings retirement plan set up by an employer for the benefit of their employees, to make contributions from a portion of your salary on a post-tax or pre-tax amount into an account to kept for your retirement. Employers can choose to match your contribution or add profit-sharing to the plan. Earnings in a 401(k) plan accrue on a tax-deferred basis or tax-free. This means that capital gains and dividends earned can grow tax-free or tax-deferred. Over a period of many years, an employee’s retirement account can grow to a significant amount.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
What Should You Do?
How should the average person gain wealth if he/she does not have a business or own real estate? We believe investing in the stock market is one of the easiest and fastestway for the common person to create long-term wealth over a period of time.
The advantage of investing in the stock market as opposed to owning a business directly, is not having to deal with the everyday operations of running a business. Making sales, managing employees, inventory, customer management, and dealing with legal issues can be a daunting task. When we invest in the stock market, we are indirectly owning publicly traded companies that already have a management team in place. So, we as individual investors, have free time to hold another job or pursue other interests.
Let’s imagine what could happen if you decide to buy a business:
You buy a coffee shop. There is a learning curve and as you make mistakes; location is not good enough, the business potential is not there, employee problems, product issues etc. Your only way out is to sell the business (often at a loss). It’s also expensive to sell a business. You need to hire an agent, pay fees and negotiate on the price while still paying rent to the landlord. The biggest consideration of owning a business is that you have to be there to run the business. There is a time commitment to managing the business which leaves little to do anything else. And if the business isn’t making money, you are not getting a salary.
Now if you buy a publicly traded company but realize you do not agree with the fundamentals of the company and its vision. The cost to correct the mistake is minimal (you sell your shares right away).
There are overwhelming evidence that investing in a well diversified portfolio of stocks has proven to be a great way to build long-term wealth. Historically, returns on investment from the stock market has been very generous (9-10%). On average, stocks have doubled every 7-8 years (with dividend reinvested). Over a long period of time, if you continue to invest and contribute to the stock market, you will probably have a decent nest egg. (you can view historic returns on investment from NYU.)
The market doesn’t go up every year. These are average returns. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. But if you build a well diversified and low-cost portfolio of high quality companies, there is a good probably for decent return.
Let’s say you invest $10,000 into the stock market at 25 years old. You could potentially double your money every 7.5 years. By the time you are 70 years old and assuming you make no more contribution; you could potential have $640,000 in your account. Now Imagine if you contributed more over your lifetime. Your money made money for you.
“It’s not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for.” – Robert Kiyosaki.
Investing can be fun and rewarding. Our next post will help you get started on opening a brokerage account. Subscribe to our blog to learn how to invest smartly and properly. We aim to make investing fun.”
If people knew how to invest properly, everyone would live with a better state of mind. With that notion, I have decided to start a new blog with my cousin Mark, to teach regular folks how to setup an investment account, invest properly by setting up your portfolio smartly and grew a retirement nesting egg. This new blog is called Investing Brothers. Head over to our site and let me know your thoughts!
Cloud services reduce the effort needed to manage infrastructure, provision servers and configure networks. Today the cloud market is primarily dominated by Amazon Web Services, followed by Microsoft Azure. As the new kid on the block, GCP is the newest entrant to a highly profitable and competitive landscape.
This post explores GCP from a business point of view — what you need know to make an informed decision for your organization.
Why go with Cloud computing?
For a company to remain competitive, it needs to reduce costs, increase business agility and remain flexible to handle growing needs. Infrastructure-as-a-service (Iaas) or public cloud services, are an indispensable part of your IT arsenal that allow you to focus on your core business. Here are 5 reasons to move to the cloud:
Business Efficiencies – Freeing your organization from managing a large IT department allows you to efficiently run business operations and focus on decision making that affects the future of your company. You free yourself, and your team, from worrying about how business activity impacts IT.
Reduce Staffing – Keep only the key technical specialization and engineering staff that your business requires, without adding operational personnel.
Scaling – To handle seasonal spikes, unexpected growth, or other changes in traffic, use cloud services to ramp up resources without purchasing hardware and software that goes unused during the rest of the year.
Reduce Capital Spending– Why make large capital investments for hardware, data centers, and staff when you can use the savings for business investment? Instead of risky large outlays, your cost is reduced to monthly billing.
Instant Anywhere Access – Cloud services allow your team to work anywhere with instant access. Team members only need internet connections and authorized access. This means better work conditions, a larger pool of talent (they can work remotely from anywhere) and more efficiency at getting things done.
We were invited to meet with Google at both their Chicago and Mountain View headquarters to discuss GCP from a .NET perspective. Since then, we have decided to move one of our applications from Azure to GCP, in part to see how easy it would be to migrate from one solution provider to another, and to compare performance between the two.
Although GCP is relatively new compared to AWS and Azure, Google has been beefing up their cloud offering. Not only has Google added new data centers worldwide since last year, they also offer one of the best pricing models. GCP does not require upfront payment or a lock-in commitment and offers discount for sustained usage. GCP charges you monthly for on-demand usage of instances by minutes used (minimum of 10 minutes). Google offers a sustained-use discount and publicly promised to pass along along to their customers any future price reduction. In contrast, AWS offers several pricing models; on-demand usage priced by the nearest hour, reserved instances – a commitment based pricing for a specific VM instance, and spot bidding for extra capacity available. Azure offers per minute billing with pay-as-you-go subscriptions, buying from a reseller, and an upfront usage commitment paid in advance or monthly.
Let’s talk about services. The array of storage options are impressive: from temporary and persistent disks storage for arbitrary objects (Google Cloud Storage), to relational databases (MySql, Sql Server), BigQuery (used by Google Analytics and SnapLogic), and BigTable ( “NoSql” database used by Google Search and Gmail). You have storage options for cost-efficient data storage based based on frequency of use and the geographic location of your customers.
There are inherent adoption costs to consider. While cloud platforms have common features, GCP, AWS, and Azure all offer unique services which promise faster time-to-market and lower costs. For example Google’s BigTable vs. Amazon’s DynomoDB vs. Azure’s DocumentDB. And for common features that everybody offers, implementation varies.
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”
On one hand, there might be little new learning if your engineers already know a specific tech stack (e.g. .NET or Java or Node.js). While cloud platforms can be accessed in a variety of programming languages, some implementations are easier to use. Google is growing it’s list of “idiomatic” client libraries that are true to the flavor of each language, particularly .NET.
Likewise, infrastructure management operations performed by IT are unique to each platform. Azure has it’s “Blades” web user interface, while AWS and GCP have a more standard web console. As Adam noted in his intro report on Google Cloud Platform, the GCP portal feels like a middle ground between Azure and AWS’s portal:
“My initial impression is that the GCP portal feels more approachable and snappier than the Azure portal. Another really impressive thing is how Google has really gone all out to make their tooling really accessible directly within the browser.”
Private servers are costly and difficult to scale, as opposed to public clouds. But you may be reluctant to give up private services and storage that are known to work well for critical applications. In this case, you might consider a hybrid cloud environment that uses a mix of public cloud with your own on-premise, private solutions. By moving the workload between the two, you can limit computing needs and manage cost more efficiently. This gives you greater flexibility and more options to deploy data when and where you need it. For example, you could use a cloud provider to host your development environment and less critical data.
An important caveat: While AWS and Azure offer hybrid cloud infrastructure, Google does not currently support a dedicated hybrid cloud solution. Physical bulk data import and export can only be done via third parties currently. However, Google does offer simple data transfer options for business migrating from AWS onto GCP through Google Stackdriver (Google’s platform for managing applications on Google Cloud Platform and AWS). If a hybrid approach is necessary for your organization, you may want to wait until GCP catches up or look into AWS or Azure for a more robust hybrid implementation.
Security is one checkbox that no organization can afford to skip. GCP has numerous International Organization for Standardization certifications for its cloud security. The standards serve as assurance that Google has taken specific internal measures to secure its users’ data and protect it from unwanted intruders. GCP has the following certifications: SSAE16 / ISAE 3402 Type II, ISO 27001, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, FedRamp ATO (Google App Engine), PCI DSS v3.1 and conducts annual audits with an independent auditor.
Planning for the future
Although Google Cloud Platform is the new entrant to the public cloud space, it offers tons of capability, resources, and competitive pricing that is attractive to businesses considering a move to the cloud or switching from AWS or Azure. Google has put strong emphasis on growing its cloud platform and we will only see improvement from here on. Anticipating the future for your business begins with making the correct business decision. The first step starts here. Why not take a free spin with Google Cloud and see the benefit for yourself?.
I am fat. Rather, I was fat. I was not obese but I was not skinny nor healthy either. I was getting close to obesity and I was hitting record weight early this year. But I went through a life impacting moment and had a chance to reflect upon myself. From the self-reflection, I decided to change for the better. I decided to go on a diet.
My decision to go on a diet, at first, was mainly because I was attending my friend Socrate’s wedding in Paris as one of the groomsmen. This meant I had to look good. My weight had spiral off into record high starting November 2015 to highest in Feb 2016. Ever since I moved back from Hong Kong, I’ve been gaining weight but it was around the end of 2015 to early 2016 that I had the biggest gains. I believe it was because of:
1. Stress. Stress from lack of job, stress from joining a growth hacker bootcamp, then stress from working at an early stage startup. This is probably the biggest factor to my weight gain.
2. Lack of activity/movement and poor eating choices. I was driving to San Francisco to work every weekday which is about 2–2:30hr per day of commute. This left no room for workout as I left home very early and only got home late at night. Because of the lack of time and the combination of stress, I was just eating unhealthy and drinking a lot whenever I could.
3. Lack of rest. Because of the hectic schedule, I compromised on rest. I rested over the weekend but it never felt that it was enough of a catch up, to make up for the week. And so… I became fatter.
I think I was 180 lbs/ 81kg at my heaviest.
After getting laid off in March, the stress that felt like a huge burden over my shoulder came off and my weight stabilized. I remember going biking the weekend of my layoff and noticing that I’ve felt free and energized for the first time in over 6 months.
As we got closer to Socrate’s wedding, my model friend Meisha, who I credit in getting me started in the right path, shared with me her diet routine. It’s as follows:
No red meat. Yes to tofu and fish. Chicken very rarely.
No processed carbs aka refined carbohydrates.
No sugar except whole fruit (no juice.)
Rice is ok (brown rice is best) and eat plenty of veggies.
She doesn’t drink alcohol at all.
30 mins of daily activity.
Because I was not working, it was easy for me to pick up this diet. I went biking every morning starting in April until my flight to Paris. I made congee (rice porridge) almost every day and I was eating that with veggies, fermented tofu/soybean and soy sauce. I eventually ate less and less and it started showing very minimal results by the wedding time (I knew I weigh less but the physical appearance did not change much. At least to the people at the wedding who knew me when I was skinnier in HK, I was still fat).
What my routine was:
Wake up, eat a banana or yogurt or cereal. Became lactose intolerant after moving back from HK so did not drink milk.
Go bike ride in the morning for 45–60 mins at Vasona Lake. At first I would start at 9am. Gradually I started earlier and earlier. Usually Monday through Friday.
After biking, I would go get a cup of coffee, an ice latte (and later just ice black coffee) and either go home or work from coffee shop until lunch. I went back to looking for a job and spend most of the day doing so.
I might have an bowl of por (plain with soy sauce, rice seasoning and fermented tofu) or a fruit around 10–11am If I was feeling hungry.
I included rice in my diet and ate plenty for lunch or dinner. My reason for eating rice is simple. Being Asian, I grew up eating rice since I was old enough to eat. My body had accustom itself to rice and only feel truly full after a bowl of rice. Over 2 billion people eat rice in Asia and they don’t have an obesity problem like Americans.
Cut out all red meat. Chicken once in a while. I was eating mostly rice and veggies and the occasional seafood/sushi. Nothing processed so no hot dogs, no pizza, no junk food.
Cut out most processed bread and chose whole wheat/grain when I was left with no choice (such as going camping in Yosemite and making breakfast for the group). I ate noodles once in a while.
Drinking plenty of H2O (my body stores water since my chins get fatter when I don’t drink water).
I choose veggie options when we went out to each. Veggie pho, veggie burger, veggie wrap, tofu options even if everyone around me was eating chicken or burgers. The one thing was that I was consistent. I never cheated. I only had a short amount of time until the wedding!
I ate enough to fill me up but not over. I didn’t starve myself. Yes, I ate less and less as I progressed through my diet but I didn’t starve. This concept is very important. Starving yourself is going to make you gain the weight back and more. Intentionally fasting is different.
Early dinner around 6pm. If I was hungry late in the evening, I would eat a fruit or greek yogurt with chia seeds. No more instant ramen as I used to do.
Overtime my meals became smaller and I ate later each day. What I didn’t know then, was that I was practicing my own version of Intermittent fasting. It felt limiting at first but one quickly gets used to it as you follow a routine, know which places you can eat at and what options you can go for.
My Paris trip for Socrate’s wedding and visiting my relatives. A short visit to London to visit my cousin Celine.
My diet was on pause for the duration of the trip. Surprisingly I did not put on any pound after my return (I also came back sick) and had to go to Seattle the day after I came back from Paris.
After coming back from Seattle and having gotten used to the diet , I continued on. It wasn’t hard since I was on it for the last 3 months. This time I was researching and watching a lot of youtube video about health, diets and cooking. I saw how food was made and how much butter, oil, fat was used in cooking meals which made me eat at home more (such as rendering fat to make steak taste even better). I was drinking less and had broken up with my girlfriend prior to the trip, which meant, I ate out less and lower the possibilities of eating unhealthy food.
Taking Control of My Life
My weight loss was slow and steady. That is one thing people need to understand, results come with effort at a steady pace. There is no such thing as miracle diet (one that is legit and natural at least). I felt better but didn’t measure myself so I didn’t know how I looked to outsiders until I went on a bike ride up the hill with my cousins mid-June. Since I was biking and doing cardio in the morning, the ride up the mountain, called QuickSilver, wasn’t too tough. The people who rode with me complimented how well I did and how much weight I had lost which might have contributed to my ride efficiency. “You look like you lost a lot of weight since our ride beginning of the year.” Not only did I show physical change but I felt better too. I felt more energized and refreshed.
Slowly July came around and getting to 30 was depressing because I felt I was behind in life compared to others who turn 30.
The week of my 30th birthday, I came to the realization of a big motivational factor and a life changing thinking.
I can’t control who hires me and I can’t control who I end up with in life. But the one thing I do have control over, is my health.
Being healthy became my own personal goal. I needed a personal goal that was separate from my professional and relationship goals. Something I did only for myself. This goal isn’t to impress some chick or my boss or my family. It was something I wanted to do for me.
July 15 – Bday dinner with my relatives
Photo with my niece and nephews
I have a new drive and I began to read and watch as much as I could on health, fitness, diets, cooking and intermittent fasting. I came to realize few things:
Losing weight is simple. Consume less calories than you use; a calorie deficit. However getting to that answer isn’t simple. It is also about what you eat and when you eat. I’ve found that for myself, a 20% calorie deficit seem to be around a good range for weight loss while eating all the macronutrient you need.
Not all calories are created equal. 1 calorie from protein isn’t the same as 1 calorie from a cup of oil or 1 calorie of veggies. Check out this short Ted-Ed video: What is a calorie?
Diet and exercise are lifestyle choices. An investment for the future. Like all investments, you see results after letting it nurture itself over a period of time.
Your willpower and personal choice are your greatest strengths. Self motivation are the biggest factors.
Health and fitness experts are moving away from using calories when teaching about dieting and eating. Remember the simple weight loss formula; consume less calories then you use? Well the bad news is that you can’t lose weight if you keep eating junk food even if you reduce the amount of total calories you intake per day. I learned the new diet term, macronutrients or ‘macros’, which is according to Merriam-Webster: a substance (as protein or carbohydrate) essential in large amounts to the growth and health of an animal. Macronutrients are a simplistic way to look at the food you consume. Its broken down into 3 categories: proteins, dietary fats and carbohydrates. The 3 essential components of what you need to consume to be healthy. The irony from my readings; vegetable is considered a carb and the term “Simple vs Complex carb” or “refined and unrefined carbs” are often confused. To understand carbohydrates, watch this short video from Ted-Ed: How do carbohydrates impact your health.
Easy tip to remember: Celebrity trainer, Duffy Gaver, list out three pillars ofany diet which he calls the 3 legged chair. You cant make the chair (diet) stand up if you don’t have all three:
1. Eat right. He makes his clients eat mainly brown rice, chicken breast and broccoli. No alcohol at all.
2. Train and workout right.
3. Rest & Sleep well. Can’t have a good diet without a rested body.
Diet and Fitness as a Goal
One Youtuber, Radu Antoniu, caught my attention with his videos about fitness, eating and strength training. His videos are insightful because he adds facts and logic behind it. I ended up learning about Intermittent Fasting through his video. I’ve read about skipping breakfast in the past and often used to do it during college days but he convinced me through logic and examples. One of his video became my motivational factor and sprung me into action; “How to Stop Cheating and Get Lean for Good”, a video about discipline, habits, behavior control and auto-suggestion. I have watched this video over and over. Radu suggest to a trick to create a habit, an auto-suggestion by two methods: a goal card and following and watching fitness (or motivational) role models.
The goal card is an ideal taken from speaker Bob Proctor, to remind yourself what your goals are. As you begin to see and read your goal card daily, it becomes a subconscious goal. Your conscious mind can focus on something else while making better eating/exercise an earlier habit to maintain.
My goal card is tucked away in my wallet and in my laptop, the two items I carry with me only a daily basis.
Lose weight. Be lean, be fit. Eat healthy and work out. Target weight = 147 pound.
Get a job (old goal). Lose debt, be well off. Work hard and learn new skills for financial and professional success.
The goal card may seem silly but it cost you nothing and the benefit could be life changing. The great thing about the goal card is that it can always be updated for new goals. I continued to watch Radu’s video and learned that he started his fitness journey from joining another program called The Aggressive Fat Loss Program by Kinobody. Greg O’gallagher, the owner of Kinobody has a YouTube channel which contains a lot of what people should be doing to start getting lean and muscular. I ended up buying the Kinobody Aggressive Fat Loss program by finding one of his landing page with a big coupon discount (yay growth marketer in me!). Its built around intermittent fasting and a workout routine. I was already fasting from having an early dinner, but took it a step further with Greg’s program and Radu’s videos.
The underlying open secret for Radu and Greg’s program is a combination of intermittent fasting and a specific workout routine. Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating when you force the body to prolong a fasted state and reduce the time spent in the feasting state. It allows your body to control the amount of new fat produced by using the old storage when you are fasting. Intermittent fasting has become popular as of late with noticeable results. It is not a diet and it is not for everyone. Read The Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting by James Clear for a good introduction and the many variation of IF (5–2, 6–1, alternative day, weekly etc.). Be sure to consult your doctor while carefully listening to your body. I’ve found it to be very effective for me and while there are many different variation of intermittent fasting, I implemented a 16 hour fast and 7–8 hour window consuming only coffee and water during my fasting period. My routine previously was enjoyable because I was not watching the clock but actively listening to my body of when it was really hungry (or just needed a quick snack) and full. It was however, very similar to IF in terms of timing so adding a more stricter schedule was not all too different and the results started showing signs around mid-July. I like to joke that It was a 6 month journey after all, trying what works, what doesn’t and what I felt my body was best doing. The Kinobody program is a form of intermittent fasting combined with calorie counting. At first, the program suggest eating the food you normally eat with one meal larger than the other, and slowly lowering your caloric intake to reach your desired weight. I choose to maintain my dietary routine and ate just I have been for the past months. In a way, I’ve slowly adjusted my timing to match a full 16 hour fast — 8 hour eating window by starting slowly and pacing myself.
The one aspect of the Kinobody’s Aggressive Fast Lost program that I did not follow was the workout regimen. I did not have a gym membership so I took to biking to get my cardio workout done. I was training for the Levi Gran Fondo, a charity ride across Santa Rosa October 1st that was 60 miles of road cycling with almost 4000 ft of elevation gain. I found cycling to be the most enjoyable way to exercise for my lifestyle and diet (training for the ride was an added bonus).
Wake up at 6am and go biking for 30–40 mins. I bike the same distance as before but because I am getting more efficient at biking, It takes me less amount of time to finish. I increase difficulty by not changing gear and trying to ride as fast as I can. I go to sleep around 10:30pm.
Drinking TONS of water all day long. Sometimes coconut water as a treat and sometime sparkling water. It helps to fill you up as well.
Coffee after my bike ride as part of the mechanism to blunt hunger.
Lunch around 12 or 1pm. Meals include: congee, chipotle burrito bowl, salads, rice and an omelette. I’ve added a little bit of fat (yum to avocados!) and protein. I’m eating to my full potential or until I feel satisfied.
Fruit or greek yogurt (with chia seeds) in the afternoon.
I go out with friends Friday night. Yes I try not to overdo it but I understand going out means eating and drinking unhealthy. I just have to account for this when eating for the day.
In August, I joined a new company and sometimes have only time for biking 3–4 days a week.
I sometimes walk around the neighborhood after dinner If I feel too full for about 15–30 mins. I feel that walking after eating helps me digest better.
I try to eat around 6:30–7pm at night. My meals include white or brown rice, some sort of veggies and chicken or tuna salad once in a while.
Weekend work at our family’s shop so I’m waking up at 6am everyday of the week and maintaining the 16ish hour fasting. Some days I eat earlier, some days later. It depends on what my body is telling me. I work 7 days a week so I’m confident most people can do this If I’m able to.
Dieting should be about tailoring other people’s advice to what your body is telling you. There is no perfect diet program that is tailored for everyone. You have to take all the good from each of them and adjust accordingly. It will take time, patience, testing and perseverance. Read your goal card everyday.
Efficiency Tip: Got an morning workout routine like me? Instead of listening to music, listen to audiobooks and podcasts to absorb even more knowledge while exercising. I’m currently listening to “Grit” by Angela Duckworth.
Recommended Intermittent Fasting and Other Reading:
The path of researching all I could about Intermittent Fasting let me to a fitness podcast called Fitness Confidential with Vinnie Tortorich. Vinnie mentioned a book he liked named The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung. Intrigued, I bought the book from Amazon and I highly recommend it.
The Obesity Code by Dr. Fung, who is a nephrologist (kidney and diabetes doctor) and founder of the Intensive Dietary Management Program specializing in type 2 diabetes, explains how people have become obese, what is it and what we can do to cure it.
Dr. Fung surprised me when he explained that obesity is not about people not able to regulate their calories in and calories out, but it is caused by a hormonal imbalance. The culprit is the hormone insulin, the storage of sugar and fat hormone. Dr. Fung argues that insulin is like a gatekeeper in 2 compartment storage system. You have a refrigerator and a freezer. The refrigerator is where you store glycogen aka sugar for quick access while fat is stored in the freezer. Insulin is the gatekeeper that prevents you from accessing the fats in the freezer while bringing more sugar from the fridge to be stored in the freezer. In this cycle of overeating sugar and eating more frequently, people tend to have high levels of insulin for a period of time. This in turn, creates insulin resistance within the body and as a causal effect, makes the body increase production of insulin thereby making you more fat.
The current methods of treating obesity are lacking as studies have shown that by decreasing the amount of calories you intake, you decrease your caloric expenditures. Simply your metabolism slows down because your body seeks to be in a homeostasis and isn’t going to let you die off. Dr. Fung uses the analogy of a coal power plant. Say you were burning on daily 2000 tons of coal. Suddenly, you receive 1500 tons. Do you still burn 2000 tons? No you reduce the amount you burn otherwise you risk burning through your stores and have the power plant shut down and create chaos and havoc to our mobile connected youth! Your body works the same; the less calories you intake, the less you burn. That is why the calorie theory of “Eat Less, Move More” does not work. What has shown to be correct is the Hormonal Obesity Theory and how sugar is the root cause of obesity.
Sugar is deadly. Sucrose and especially fructose increase insulin levels and over time give rise to the American obesity epidemic. Its considered “empty calories” that contain very few nutrients and promote overconsumption (when has a kid ever asked for a second plate of broccoli vs. a second slice of cake?). Dr Fung informs the reader that Fructose is “The Most Dangerous Sugar” and has found its way into majority of the processed food available. Artificial sweeteners are not better, if not worse even for you, as they too raise insulin levels without having a calorie count. I love when he asked the reader, “Consider all the people you see drinking diet sodas. Do you knowanybody at all who said drinking diet soda made him or her lose a lot of weight? Anybody at all?” P174.
The Solution So if the calories in, calories out model doesn’t work, what does? You’ve probably already guessed it, its proper eating and especially, Intermittent Fasting. Why is IF so effective in curbing insulin and getting the body to lose weight? We know that refined carbohydrates leads to increase in the production of insulin and cortisol thus eating a low-carb, high protein or fat diet makes sense right? Unfortunately not so; “The biggest problem with high-protein diets was that they didn’t really work for weight loss. But why not? The reasoning seems solid. Insulin causes weight gain. Reducing refined carbohydrates lowers blood sugar and insulin. But all foods cause insulin secretion.” (189).
Obesity is a multifactorial disease. What we need is a framework, a structure, a coherent theory to understand how all factors fit together.
Dr. Fung’s framework is a two part process. What to eat and When to eat. For healthy eating, he recommends 5 steps:
Reduce your consumptions of added sugar (anything processed has added sugar).
Reduce your consumptions of refined grains.
Moderate your protein intake.
Increase your consumption of natural fats.
Increase your consumption of fiber and vinegar.
Eat wholesome natural and unprocessed food while drinking plenty of water, coffee or tea. In regards to when to eat, Dr. Fung simply has one word,fasting. Fasting is completely different from starving. As Dr. Fung explains,“Starvation is the involuntary absence of food. It is neither deliberate nor controlled. Starving people have no idea when and where their next meal will come from. Fasting, however, is the voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual, health or other reasons. Fasting may be done for any period of time, from a few hours to a few months.”(237).
“Fasting is the greatest remedy- the physician within.” — Paracelsus, founder of toxicology and one of the fathers of modern western medicine.
When you fast, you prevent insulin from increasing for an extended period of time. It forces your body to switch over to burning fat stores for energy and improves insulin sensitivity. “Most diets restrict the intake of foods that cause increased insulin secretion, but don’t address insulin resistance. You lose weight initially, but insulin resistance keeps your insulin levels and body set weight high. By fasting, you can efficiently reduce your body’s insulin resistance, since it requires both persistent and high levels.” (240). Dr Fung follows up on how hormones adapt to a fasting state and debunk myths about fasting. He believes that anyone and everyone can learn to fast and makes life simple.“This is the ancient secret. This is the cycle of life. Fasting follows feasting. Feasting follows fasting. Diets must be intermittent, not steady” (248).
Remember my goals? I am pleased to say that on the morning of September 11, I’ve reached the weight of 147 lbs/66.7 kg and my debt has been paid off. I now need to write new goals! I’m enjoying life and have never felt better. The mental change I’ve made allowed myself to be happy knowing I am aiming for better things in life. I cant wait to ride on October 1st for the Levi Gran Fondo.
When friends wonder what my secret formula or recipe to achieve this weight loss, I tell them, months of research and testing, healthy eating and living. Often times, that answer doesn’t seem to satisfy them and I am expected to share a sort of secret formula. I tell them the formula that worked for me is: low stress + sleep + Paleo diet + Intermittent Fasting + exercise (I heard that HIIT works well too). But in reality, what you need is motivation, perseverance and a desire to go from Unhealthy to Healthy.
I was recently contacted by Jumpstart Magazine, the entrepreneur’s magazine in Hong Kong, about life after an acquisition.
Here’s an exert of the article which can be found here. Issue 11 of the magazine can be viewed online here .
There are a number of reasons why startups get bought: They could have a powerhouse team that could be a great addition to the acquirer, or technology that can be plugged into an existing product. Or perhaps they’re a friendly competitor with complementary product offerings.
In the case of transport app Taxiwise, which was an all-cash deal “in excess of seven figures,” it was an acqui-hire where co-founders Jean-Marc Ly, Truong Lam and Lawrence Tse were seen as key cogs to launching Ikky’s business.
Ly remembers making the shift from entrepreneur to employee after exiting his startup: “When my co-founders joined Ikky as full-time employees, it was a very different shift in terms of mindset which we had to learn quickly. We were not ‘founders’ so needed to operate within metrics and the boundary of our roles,” he said.
With the help of the Taxiwise co-founding team, Ikky “underwent different business model changes” and launched the app while signing up “a considerable amount of restaurants.”
Ly added that their new roles had pros and cons. “You had less of ‘wearing different set of hats’ which took a while to get used to. You do miss the founder way of thinking but know that you have more resources and are much more set up for success.”
Fast-forward to two years after the acquisition and the Taxiwise co-founders have moved on with their lives. While Tse went back to teaching, Ly said that he and Truong decided to move back to the US to be closer to friends and family.
“Since our move back to the US, Truong and I have been involved in advising other startups and joining the workforce as designers and growth marketers. We used our entrepreneurial experience to redefine any team we join and add a bit of scrappiness to it,” he said.
Building your company’s brand and messaging is immensely important as they tell the story of your product and company. According to Stanford, branding is “what people say, feel and think about an organization. It’s a set of mental and experiential associations that, when taken together, tell the story of who you are.” Branding done right makes people say things like, “This brand reflects my personality” or “I like the values this brand stands for” which ultimately affects reputation, conversion and sales. Strong brand value gives companies an edge in a crowded marketplace and helps companies to compete on things other than price which leads to a stronger relationship with customers.
For many startups, branding and messaging are often only in the back of founders’ minds. There are usually more important things to take care of, such as the product, than focusing on branding from the start. However, there have been at times, companies who have attempted and succeeded to create a strong brand impression as part of their core strategy. Hipmunk is a company where the brand was conceived along with the idea of the business.
Hipmunk’s advisor and early team member, Alexis Ohanian, said when he first found out about the idea and mascot of Hipmunk, “I see this as a huge advantage for us since none of the competition has any character with which to build a connection to their users. When people have a fantastic flight search experience on hipmunk, we hope they’ll associate that with the silly name and the cute logo”. With this mindframe, the Hipmunk founders set out to create a company centered around a chipmunk for users to identify with their brand.
Messaging on your site is equally as important. It is the marketing message and the first line of communication to your potential customers. It’s the first impression, the first part of the process to understanding your brand. People often confuse branding and messaging to mean the same thing. But it is far from the same. To make things simpler, we can use this metaphor: Branding is the mural, whereas messaging is the paint strokes. You need to lay down the foundations of brush strokes (value prop, assets, pic, headline) to ultimately create a beautiful mural (the company, story, characteristics).
The 8 Second Test & Value Prop
The average attention span of most people is 8 seconds. We can use this test to determine if a site’s message has been communicated effectively. In 8 seconds, can you understand what the site does? Were you able to effectively communicate your value proposition and offering?
I showed this site to my 12 year old niece, Kristina, for 8 seconds to see if she could understand the purpose of Hipmunk. She answered “I think it’s a website to help you travel better and they have a cute logo”. 8 second test passed!
Above the fold, the viewer can easily read Hipmunk’s value propositions.
The location and benefit are just as intended and easily convey what benefits the user will get out of using Hipmunk. “I watch new users interact with the site for the first time and you see these Hipmunk eureka moments or aha moments where they are like, ‘Wow, this is new, this is useful, this is the way it should be.’ When you have got that as a start and you can associate that with a memorable brand, you have got something that is going to stick around a little longer.” says Alexis Ohanian. “We’re building a consumer application, so we really need to build a brand that will win over regular people who are simply looking to take the agony out of flight search.”
The chipmunk mascot gave consumers something to remember that other travel sites lacked. It took a while for the brand to grow its userbase but now, Hipmunk is a common name for travel sites.
Over the years, Hipmunk has evolved to better suit new and returning users. Let’s take a look at how their site has changed over the years using the messaging framework conceived by Graham Hunter and taught in the Growth Track at Tradecraft. This framework says that good messaging consists of 4 things: explain, emotion, evoke questions, exclude/include. You don’t need to have all 4 elements at once, but ideally should strive for a balance or a mixture of the 4.
Oct 6, 2010
Hipmunk at the very beginning was very plain and had almost no messaging or any other assets, simply the words “Flight Search” and the chipmunk mascot. The user was left to figure out the product or services this site offered and lacked any connection with the user. A travel booking widget gave a hint that it was for booking trips (flight/cars/taxis?).
Dec 24, 2011
A year later, we saw some improvement with a Christmas theme and partnership with Rovio’s Angry Bird and social sharing icons for a more modern feel. The messaging had playful emotions especially during the holidays and sought to include a potential subset of users who are familiar with the game. In a way, it’s to align or piggyback (no pun intended) on a stronger brand which conveys a similar message.
May 11, 2012
In 2012, Hipmunk added an animated video as part of their marketing message. Animation explainer videos were the trend and offered an easy way for companies to explain their solution in a short and simple way. However, the video was located in the top right corner, and getting users to click on the video might have been difficult because the following year, they removed it from their site.
July 28, 2013
In 2013, Hipmunk completely redesigned their site. The chipmunk wasn’t as big and dominant as in previous years, and the background had a darker tone of blue, going away from the light blue of the early days of Twitter. The search widget was also redesigned for a faster and more simple search experience. The cartoonish clouds evoked a feeling of being sent away which adding social proofs from credible sources provided the user with more authoritative sites that both explained and provided credibility of their service. We also saw a more refined and simple nav bar. It communicated the services available and allowed the user to jump to what they needed.
Sept 1, 2014
Little change from the previous year except an addition to their tag line: the fastest, easiest way to plan travel. “Popular destinations with Hipmunk city guides” was added as a way to entice visitors to book. The site continued to play with the emotion of the freedom of travel and evoking questions… specifically “where next?”
The Hipmunk of today has a vastly different look from when it started. Gone are the cartoonish clouds and social icons of last year; and in their place are images of beaches and palm trees suggesting a more lifelike feeling of summer relaxing. We also see a value prop section, a stronger call to action for their mobile app and top destinations. The Chipmunk makes a bigger appearance in both the search box and value prop section. The 8 second test worked well in my initial test because it seems like the site has become more effective over the years and has now reached that sweet spot for that test.Overall, Hipmunk’s messaging has been consistent throughout the years signaling their value, to help travelers get to the best places in the easiest way possible.
The chipmunk mascot of Hipmunk has become a beloved icon on the web. Hipmunk has done an incredible job of managing and leveraging the chipmunk to further its brand and get loyal fans to create user-generated content. They even launched several campaigns on social media such as the “Hipmunk Me!” campaign that incentivized users to interact with the company in exchange for renditions of the users with a chipmunk appearance.
Hipmunk’s mascot has been selected numerous times as one of the cutest brand mascots of all time. Using this mascot, Hipmunk has been able to create a lasting impression in the minds of their users and get them talking about their brand. The mascot has become the brand and what the company stands for.
As we have seen in Hipmunk, great branding and messaging does not happen overnight. Building a mural takes a lot of effort and patience. Sometimes you may need to redo a stroke or two but with practice and time, you will end up with a great piece of art. Hipmunk was able to achieve a strong connection with their users and used that as fuel to power their brand. Sometimes you just need to start on that first paint stroke on your way to building a masterpiece.