Lukas Z's Blog

How to Generate New Product Ideas?

I am reading a business book now. It’s called “Ready, Fire, Aim”, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. But actually it’s pretty good. Especially the part about product ideas.

From the book, here’s the idea on how to successfully launch a product:

Product ideas are safer if they are evolutionary, not revolutionary. When a business invests a lot of money in marketing something, and the market isn’t interested (yet), it’s a big risk.

The better option: Like a surfer on the beach, wait for the wave. And jump on it at the right moment.

Ideally, your product creates a wave that breaks the dam. When the product or product category reaches critical mass and everyone wants some of it.

And how to participate in these market waves? Either by launching a me-too product or by innovating. The first one is easy to do but might be more difficult to market. The latter works by looking at the top products that are currently trending and by changing a thing or two about them. Either by adding some feature or by solving the same problem in a different, new way. Or by being cheaper, or by adding some warranty.. and so forth.

Of course companies like Apple are an example of businesses that innovate against themselves. By making the next iPhone a little bit better than the last one, they are essentially killing the previous iPhone. But by doing that they ensure that no one else does it to them. They keep moving.

Now, by now this is probably all common sense. But I think it’s good to have that metaphor with the wave, the right timing, and the pattern of innovation by looking at the current leaders, in mind.

Are Salespeople Sleazy?

I don’t know about you but for me salespeople had a bad reputation. I think it’s simply because we think they pretend to give a damn to get us to open our wallets. It’s a bit sleazy. And there’s all kinds of characters we remember from books like “Death of a Salesman” or Simpsons Characters like Gil the salesman who switches careers a lot and always fails. They have a looser vibe attached to them don’t they? And let’s not start about real estate agents.. how much money they charge for a PDF and a half-assed tour through the house, right?

Well, I changed my mind about all of that. People who work sales are now like heroes to me. Let me explain why.

First of all, I am a believer in the free market, in business and entrepreneurship. Think about it.. what would the world look like without entrepreneurs? All the things we do and own.. most of them we’ve purchased from businesses that started as startups, sometimes recently and sometimes long ago.

Anyway, SALES is a big part of business, especially when starting out. Rarely can you open shop and people will just come (although the right shop at the right time might get lucky - “the tide lifts all boats”, they say). One has to go out and find customers, at least until the business reaches a point where it just works by itself.

And it’s not easy. You have to go out and talk to people and suddenly you are the “sleazy” salesperson..

At least that’s kind of what I thought when I started a business many years ago with two other guys. And we decided we had to cold-call businesses. Man, that was HARD. I completely believe when people (one example is Youtube Business Coach Sam Ovens) say they had to drink alcohol just so they can do the calls.

I would say it’s definitely harder than chatting up a girl on the street… just to give a comparison.

Buuuuuut.. it’s necessary. At least for many businesses it is. And what is necessary simply has to be done, but I believe the right mindset is key.

Just as people who think money is the root of all evil will avoid getting rich, consciously and subconsciously, so will salesmen fail who believe they are sleazy liars. So… the answer is selling stuff that we believe is really good for the customers. Or by qualifying them to see if there’s a fit. The golden path is when the salesperson honestly can say .. “yes, this is good for you and your situation”, or “no, this is not for you, I don’t recommend we do business”.

Anyway, I wish I could say I have been in business for 20 years selling stuff.. but I haven’t. I’m just dumping my thoughts here.. and mixing in some of my own experience. Yes, I did cold calls, but it’s been a while.

I just got inspired to write about this topic because last week a salesperson came over to my place. He was selling some sort of installation safety checks for the house. And even though I didn’t buy from him I realized a) that I respect what he does, that b) it isn’t easy - at least for me, and c) it’s curious that salespeople have a bad rep when in fact they are key to businesses and businesses are key to our lives.


Of course there are also many businesses who don’t have direct customer contact. Or they can get it all done with Facebook ads and automatic sales funnels and whatnot. (Although probably they would need to talk to people first, unless they want to spend a fortune trying different ads.)

Thanks for reading, stranger on the Internet!

The Graduate

On Saturday I saw a very old movie that I haven’t seen before. The Gruaduate. You probably know it but in short: It’s the story of a young man who graduates from school and doesn’t yet know what to do with his life. At the same time his former teacher seduces him and he starts an affair with her.

I was expecting to watch a few minutes and then turn it off but it hooked me after about 10 minutes. It’s just very good and enjoyable.

It’s set in the late 60s, 1967 I think. And it’s the time where people start to think about new ways to live. To make a cut with the life of their parents and to try something new. It’s really nice to see the break performed in the end of the movie. And now, over 50 years later, we can of course look back to what happened later.

What’s interesting for me is that I believe many things have ever since improved a lot. But of course many people don’t feel that way. Those are the conservative voters and those are the fans of people like Jordan Peterson, a Youtube celebrity, teaching young men about conservative values. And it’s interesting to see how much people like Peterson are opposed. (Apparently Marvel Comics even created a villain based on him.)

It looks like the conflict from “The Graduate” is not over yet, after all. It goes on. But I can’t tell if these days it’s still the 20 year olds opposing the parents or not. It seems that many Jordan Peterson fans are older.

Or it might be just my bias, since I tend to see the people who are my age clearer.

I can’t really hear the younger folks, perhaps? - To clarify: This seems to be the major theme in the movie. People of different world views can’t communicate very well in this film. They often say “What?”. Actually there’s a lot of “What?” in The Graduate. This was the director’s way to show the divide of world views. The inability of people to comprehend what the other side is saying. (It climaxes very nicely on that theme but I don’t want to tell about the ending if you haven’t seen the movie yet.)

It’s like the 2020s, in many ways. Or like any year ever in human history. We have our world views, our filters, and unless we can at least learn to accept that other people have a completely different world view, the road ahead may get bumpier. But luckily, I think, we can and do learn to accept it.

Meetings at Walmart


I am almost through with the book.

A tidbit from the last chapter I’ve read is how they conduct meetings. There’s much about meetings in the book, but I like this part in particular: In the end they are pushing for a decision. No “we’ll think about it” or “let’s schedule a follow up”. No no. Decide and implement.

By the way I highlight so much in this book.. it’s almost entirely highlighted. Also: Reading about Walmart is like reading about Amazon. Very similar ways of doing things. Especially interesting for me: His musings how computers and tech changed their business and allowed them to do what they do better and cheaper. It’s great to read about their technological transition in the 1970s and 1980s.

Sam Walton on Unions

I’m still reading “Made in America” by Sam Walton. (Reading it slowly, as I have reduced my book reading time in favor of other things.) And he of course reminds me of Jeff Bezos and Amazon, as one is the mentor of the other. Anyway, as you may know, Amazon is pretty much anti-union. And that gives them a bit of an evil anti-worker reputation. But I find Sam Walton’s view on unions interesting. And why he fought to prevent them at Walmart.

For him, a union is a kind of lifeform that lives off the fact that workers and management don’t agree. And once you have them, they will, so to speak, do whatever it takes to survive, meaning, the workers and management will keep not agreeing.

(I’m loosely quoting.)

Anyway, instead, they came up with a profit share program in which employees, he calls them “associates”, can buy stock, or get bonuses in the form of stocks. Walmart stock being what it is for the last 40 years or so, means that a lot of people, including sales clerks and truck drivers, became millionaires.

In defense of unions, it seems that the threat of unionizing pushed Sam and the rest of management in that direction. So an union, even though never founded, had a part in their profit sharing scheme, it seems.

Or maybe that’s not true. And they just saw that by motivating their “associates” with a share of the profits would motivate them quite well to serve the customers even better. And serving the customer well is the number one reason that made them so successful after all.

I wonder. Can social democratic parties pivot towards support for such schemes? By making it easier and advantageous for companies to make their workers partial owners?

About Fear and Being Stupid

Just a quick post for the “stumbling through life” category. I want to say this: There is a saying along the lines of “If I don’t feel stupid looking back a year ago then I am not learning fast enough”.

It’s of course about seeing the progress we make in our life, and because it’s easy to fool ourselves, and because it’s easy to run in circles (for sometimes ridiculous amounts of time), it’s good to have a way to gauge if we are progressing or stagnating.

The philosopher Seneca said “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable”. I am using this quote to suggest that having a goal is a great way to prevent stagnation. We can see if the port is coming closer.

But even better, by looking back, and feeling stupid we know that progress has been made. On the level of understanding at least.

Skipping to yesterday: I was in a virtual meeting and I was attacked for the first time in a long time. Someone did not agree with my assessment of a problem we had, and not knowing me, and being a bit full of himself, he decided to attack me rather aggressively. It was ok, I was able to state my case using some good points, but I felt excited, my heart was pumping faster, he had made me nervous. I was not expecting this, so he caught me with my guard completely down.

But! It’s like with feeling stupid in hindsight. This guy gave me an opportunity to learn something about me. How I react to stress, how I deal with direct criticism. He put a spotlight on an area in my life that I can improve.

Now, as I said, this is about “stumbling through life”. I know there are people who are much more guided, driven and frankly strategic about their life. They probably cannot fathom what I am talking about here. (And I am trying to become more like them, too.) But I believe people like me should resonate with this post. Nothing is for everyone after all.

In the end, the question is: How can I get into more such situations like yesterday? How can I get to the point where I can say “Wow, last week I was so stupid.”? Knowing a good method to do that would be cool. I’ll blog about it when I figure it out.

The Essentialism of Sam Walton

The title is a bit fancy, isn’t it? It’s the first thing that came to mind. (I’m using this blog as a diary now, just typing either here or into my private diary which is of course not published.)

Anyway, I have started reading “Made in America” by Sam Walton, which is the autobiography of the founder of Wal-Mart. Which is one of the first discount stores, meaning, they buy larger quantities of merchandise from producers and wholesale and sell it with just a relatively small markup. But, do that often enough, and a fortune is created.

I started reading it after I heard that every manager at Amazon has to read that book, it’s required reading, as dictated by Jeff Bezos. Being a fan of what Bezos does (and stubbornly ignoring all the bad press about Amazon I guess..), I couldn’t resist to get that book. It must be good!

And indeed, it is. Not all good books are biographies, but most biographies are good books. At least in my experience so far. Because you get to know the person, and how he sees the world. (“He” because I haven’t read any women’s biographies yet.) And what strikes me with Sam Walton are the following traits:

  • At some point early in life he commits to being a retailer, and that’s it. After that he’s compeltely focused on it. It’s part of his life, the biggest part of course, next to being a family man and a citizen of small towns in Arkansas. (Haven’t finished the book yet, but so far this is what it looks like to me.)

  • He is relentless. When he travels he checks out the competition. The Waltons go on family trips together and Sam uses every chance to stop a stores that interest him (often he just heard about them somewhere) to check them out. He is constantly learning from the competition. “Everyone does some things well.” seems to be his motto and he’s out to find those things and use them in his own stores.

  • He is not fancy. He doesn’t mind going through the trash of his competitors to get their pricing (so he can set his lower I suppose), or doesn’t mind if any of his managers does it. The stores are number one on his mind, and social norms or what others think of him isn’t even close. (But he seems to be a very likeable and rather popular guy nonetheless. Very extroverted.)

  • He is constantly hacking and optimizing. To get into a trade show early he talks a janitor into letting him in. To get from store to store quicker, he buys an old airplane and learns to fly it to save time. And of course he’s constantly on the lookout for new merchandise. (On business trips, when others go out for beers after the day is done, he’s either sleeping or studying merch catalogues.)

  • He is frugal. In one passage he expresses his hope that future generations of Waltons will not become ‘idle rich’. He really seems to dislike the idea.

  • He makes a point in understanding bookkeeping and all other rather dull parts of his business. He doesn’t outsource any of it, he’s on top of the books, because they are essential for retailers.

I’ll stop here for now, but the book is so great, I might post again because I’m impressed.

Takeaways for my life: People are different and for me life was always more about variety and adventure. But I understand a) that this is definitely not the case for most people and b) that I need to focus to get things done.

I can tell you two things that I didn’t know to do one year ago: Play guitar and piano at a level that would allow me to join a good band(, however not as the lead pianist or guitarrist, not that). I also learned a lot regarding my work and other things that interest me.

In summary, I have made let’s say 10% progress in the fields of music, engineering, finance etc. The lesson is clear: Had I focused 100% of my attention and time on one thing, say guitar, then I would be a damn good player by now. And Sam Walton, he’s a 100% type of guy. Well, more or less, but he has that guiding north star in his life, and it shows him the way. He’s an essentialist.

There’s a saying, and I’m paraphrasing, but it goes something like this: “If a person starts to focus on a thing, the universe and all in it comes to help.”

Starting a Business: What Desire Really Is

I just want to mention something that I’ve read in the past few weeks which maybe seems obvious to most, but which has basically changed the way I look at the world. It has to do with Physics.


What I mean is that it’s possible to view the world based on first principles from the physics world. You can take concepts like energy, equilibrium, entropy etc. and use it as a very good lens to categorize every day experience and to make some predictions on it.

For instance, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Nature abhors a vacuum”. It basically means that nature strives for equilibrium. If you are in a hot room and the room right next to it is cold, then by opening the door an exchange will happen and you will end up with two somewhat warm rooms. Why? Because, applying the vacuum saying, from the point of view of the hot room there is a lack of hot air in the cold room, a vacuum of sorts (not an actual vacuum since there is air), and nature, so to speak (not literally), “doesn’t like that”, and instantly starts working on change.

Again, this is not what happens on the molecular or even energetic level, but it’s a useful metaphor.

Another metaphor may be activation energy. Some chemical reactions require an imput to get going. A combustion engine either needs a lot of pressure (Diesel) or a spark (Gasoline) to set off the combustion that frees all that mechanical power stored in the mixture. It’s the same with us. We do not wan’t to do something until there’s a large enough pressure in our minds to do it. It could be basic like hunger, so we stand up and make a sandwich, or it could be more complicated, like a depression that keeps re-surfacing, and finally it reaches the breaking point at which we open up the browser and start googling for local psycholoigsts.


For some reason I used to exclude the concept of desire. It seemed outside of physics for me and in the realm of human hopes, dreams, relationships and egos. For example I thought it’s not simple phyics why somebody would spend $80.000 on a BMW. That’s a ridiculous price for a car and it’s completely irrational and therefore it cannot have anything to do with physics.

But that is not so. It has everything to do with it. And being a mechanism it can be applied in a larger mechanism (= a business) with predictable results. Bascially it works like a clockwork.

It’s important to first uncover a characteristic of desire, which directly maps to the laws of physics: Desire cannot be created or destroyed. At least not by marketing. And at least not without putting as much effort into doing it as in iventing the fist nuclear bomb.

It just exists, out there, forever and will always exist. It’s the side effect (or even the cause?) of being human. It’s the side effect of how our biology and society evolved. It can change its shape, morph into something specific, like the desire to get a BMW, but it all leads back, essentially, to the root desire which has always been there. (Or, if it wasn’t always there and it was created later on, it was done by large glacier like forces that we cannot control anyway.)

Building a Magical Lens

If we reduce the abstraction just a little bit and look at this nebulous thing called desire as light, we can use another useful metaphor so we can start working with it. Because now that it’s light, we can try to build a lens and try to focus this light to come together in a certain point of focus. And this point is our business or product(, but I guess it can also be a person, since people seem to be really into celebrities and easily captured by them).

How? By tuning in to the right frequency (you know light has a wavelength and wavelengths correspond to frequencies, right?). Or hm, let me just use music to illustrate (music is all about frequencies, too): We get out there and play a certain chord on the piano, and if we do it right, all the people that think that the chordsounds great are those with the problem that we are creating a solution for.

If we are tuned in to the desire perfectly, what we say to them will resonate in such a way that they will assume automatically, and with conviction, that we also have the solution. And they will start following and we will have build that magical lens.

Like current that flows through the wire, because it has no better option, the prospects targeted in such a way, will by neccesity buy from us (or at least be magnetically pulled in to stick around and read a bit more of our copy).


As usual, this post developed a life of its own while I was writing it. I just want to emphasize that the shift in my perception was that these things are out there in the world, and they are happening, not because people are generally bored, but by neccessity. And it is possible to introduce things into the world that will have an effect. Not perhaps, but certainly.

Look around. People do it every day.

On Starting a Business in 2021

I decided to focus on starting a business in 2021. And I started by looking a several types of businesses to get sort of an overview of the landscape today, and to find out where some good opportunity may be. And there have been a lot of insights coming to me lately which I have been writing down in my diary. But I thought I might as well use my blog to write some of them down.

It’s more work to blog, however, because I have to pay more attention to grammar, readability and choice of words, so I will have to keep it short.

To begin let’s zoom out and start with the basics. There are two main tasks that need to be handled by entrepreneurs:

  1. Provide value
  2. Distribution

Provide Value

The first point is concerned with finding a gap between something someone wants to do and their ability to do so. There’s a gap which can consist of the actual ability to do something or the ability to do it better. I mean faster, cheaper, more effectively. The steps are:

  1. Identify the gap
  2. Device means to bridge the gap

There are a few ways to identify the gap. One way is to ask people, but the way we ask is important. For instance, some people will agree that there is a problem just to be polite. In other cases the gap is real but it’s not bad enough or happens not frequently enough that someone will actually pay for a solution. (A good way to find out is researching how they are bridging their gap so far.)

Another way is feeling the gap ourselves. This is known as “scratching your own itch”. If you are annoyed with the snow outside your house every winter, that’s an itch. Perhaps you then decide to invent a better snow shovel. After all, you will know what a good shovel looks like. That sort of thing.

Yet another interesting way I found was people looking at freelancing sites such as fiverr. And looking at demand for certain tasks. If there is a lot of demand for X, let’s say logo design, then it follows that there’s probably a market for logo design providers.

There are more ways, but to keep this post short I’ll stop here and move on to the next main point. Perhaps I’ll write more about finding gaps in a future post.

Ok so let’s say we have found a gap, now let’s move on to step 2: Device means to bridge the gap.

Here it becomes really a matter of skill. CAN we actually provide something useful? Can we build a tool? Can we write a blogpost? Can we connect two people that can help each other out? And so forth.

It really comes down to what we have now.

However, not having it yet is not a deal breaker. There is always the possibility to go out and obtain the needed knowledge or the neccesary tools. And this has probably never been easier than it is today.


Moving on, after we decided on our value proposition, on our solution for the gap or problem, we can build it. Or not even build it, but we can find out if it’s a good solution. If we have already built it (or a basic initial version, “the MVP”) we need to get it in front of possible customers to see if and how they use the solution. And if we haven’t we need to get in front of the customers and try to find out if they would buy it, if it existed, and if not, why not exactly, so that we can tweak our offering.

It’s basically the problem of getting an audience for what we have to offer. And it has always been a problem.

Let’s go back in time. Merchants (and philosophers?) in ancient times would stay in the market (and probably pay a fee for being allowed to do it), because that is where the customers were accustomed to go for their shopping. Jehova’s Witnesses today always stand in places like train stations, because they hope to capture a lot of the human traffic walking to and from the trains. They are all solving the distribution problem.

Online, the people are where? Well, they are on the big services we all know. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok… that’s where a massive amount of people go and that’s why these services can ask a fee from merchants (and philosophers) to set up shop there, so to speak. By posting an ad and getting in front of the eyes of the crowd.

There’s another way, of course. These services consist of all the of makers and hobbyists that post their content there. By positing our own content we can get views, qualified traffic (meaning people who are already interested in our subject), for free. So the two main ways of distribution are:

  1. Paying for someone else’s traffic
  2. Generating our own traffic

Of course both are not free. The first one costs money and the second one costs time, and one converts to the other. For instance, if you are employed, you could free up a lot of time by paying someone else to do your job. And you can make money by being a worker. (In the last two sentences yet another secret is hidden almost in plain sight.)

But.. actually, of course, I lied. There are more ways to get distribution. Very interesting ways. But I’ll skip them for now and write about them in some future blogpost. Or rather blogposts, plural, because there are so many.


The interesting thing about writing, blogging or journaling, for me is always that it’s surprising. I don’t know the end result of a post. I start to write and it kind of always writes itself.

Half an hour ago I was expecting to write something about the different kinds of businesses I have researched and some details on the ideas I’ve had but I ended up writing this thing about the very basics of business. Who knew!

There’s SO MUCH more to say about all this. I guess I’ll stop here however and write more later. I have a feeling that I have enough material for a book in my head. Some ideas include: Outcome inequality, keyword marketing (and actual numbers), where to put more effort: marketing or creating the product?, sales funnels, sales copy, cold calling and emailing, using social media to reach interesting people, building an audience on social media, stories of my own past successes, why learning from successes is key and learning from failures is not, surviving despite all the distractions, thoughts on local brick and mortar business, starting business as a software developer, waves in the market and riding them, surfing hype, how the patterns in the stock market map to actual patterns in business and life and the whole universality of it, pattern recognition and avoiding false patterns, how all this stuff is actually very simple in principle and why we like to make it complicated, on being a shovel during a gold rush, about fantastic websites and communities for founders, case studies of some great product launches, my own past product launches (including some nice hacks to get free distribution), stuff on mindset, the underrated insights and philosophies of Steve Zissou and The Big Lebowski, what we can learn about distribution from religions, perhaps specifically Jehova’s Witnesses, .. ah I could go on and no just listing ideas for posts. But I’ll stop now and instead go do my day job.

Thanks for reading, stranger on the Internet!

What Bitcoin and Communism Have in Common

This is basically a shower thought. Let me explain..

In a way Bitcoin is a huge brake, like a brake that stops a car, that we are building to reach our ideal of a decentralized democratic digital currency. Why is it like a brake? Because we have to spend energy, a very large amount of energy, to prevent something to happen that is natural. Just like it’s natural for the wheel of a car to continue spinning, and for the car to continue to move forward, we need to spend energy to apply a counter force to slow it down again.

So spinning is natural for the wheel, but what is natural for computers? The answer: Copying data. And performing operations on it. With just a little imagination and the right tools, anyone can make a computer do anything. (Remember Steve Jobs’ “Bicycle for the mind” metaphor.) The state of computers in malleable. So much so, that we invented error correcting codes, checksums and hashes to ensure that the data is unchanged. (These techniques of course play an important part in the technology that is Bitcoin.) But fundamentally, the computer remains a very malleable thing. It’s boundless and anarchistic in nature. Because the basic material it works on is information itself. And information seems to want to flow, just as a river wants to flow downstream. (For example, remember the last time you had to exercise willpower so you don’t tell a juicy secret to someone else?)

Bitcoin relies on having a lot of people agree on one set of data and for that data to be unchangeable (plus some other interesting qualitites). For this to work a mechanism called Proof of Work was invented, but in my metaphor it’s just a huge brake that prevents data from changing. And just as the brake on the car gets hot when it slows down the car by applying pressure and causing friction, the big Bitcoin brake of course also get’s hot and produces all that heat caused by CPUs and GPUs and other hardware calculating all those hashes, which, essentially results in more CO2 in the atmosphere. You just can’t cheat the laws of physics (unless you are Neo in the Matrix).

So what about the Communism? Well it’s similar. It’s a great idea with a lot of appeal at first, for example it seems to empower the little guy in the short term, but in the long term it fails because it opposes what is natural. In the case of Communism certain liberties that were a given in the west, had to restricted, to uphold the assumption that all people are equal (or something like that). What did they end up doing? They had to build huge brakes that prevented the people from leaving. They build sophisticated border walls and fences to contain the people. And on top of it an immense amount of bullshit, lies and brainwashing, had to be applied as well. Just so it worked. But it only worked for a while.

So Communism had to construct a big brake (or many brakes depending how you look at it), because it tried to do what was not natural for people. And Bitcoin has a big brake to prevent from happening what is natural to computers and information in general. Will it also remain a nice utopia that eventually failed because of the upkeep of that brake? Or will it change the rules fundamentally?

For me computers always have been about this nimbleness, this “think it and just do it”-ness, with ever faster CPUs and ever lower barriers to do more and more stuff. Bitcoin seems doomed to do the exact opposite. By making “mining” (Proof of Work) harder and harder (and, arguably, by spending more effort on convincing people that it’s good), it will use more and more energy, and thus it will always be an uphill battle. While computers get faster and faster and, perhaps, more people start asking: Why bother?

Having said all that: I own Bitcoin (and some Ethereum) and I’m happy that the mini amount I have now can buy a car or is worth a very luxurious holiday. So a part of me certainly doesn’t want it to fail.

And yet..