October 13, 2020
Khe Hy is the creator of RadReads, a weekly newsletter covering how to live an intentional life.
Khe Hy is the creator of RadReads, a weekly newsletter covering how to live an intentional life. He's also the creator of notion.courses, a set of courses to supercharge your productivity through the tool, Notion.
Previous to RadReads, Khe spent 15 years on Wall Street, working his way to Managing Director at BlackRock, the largest asset manager in the world.
In this episode we talk about shedding his golden handcuffs, the angel investment he made in himself, getting media attention, and why consistency has helped him find a new kind of success.
Transcript and show notes can be found here
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Khe Hy 0:00
So I got the thing that 99% of my peers wanted five to 10 years early. It was nice. Don't get me wrong, more money is nice, but there is a gaping hole in my soul.
Jay Clouse 0:13
Welcome to Creative Elements, a show where we talk to your favorite creators and learn what it takes to make a living from your art and creativity. I'm your host, Jay Clouse. Let's start the show.
Jay Clouse 0:39
Hello, welcome to another episode of Creative Elements. Thanks for tuning in and spending the next hour or so here with me. On May 2 2019, I got an email from a good friend of mine. And it was a forwarded email and it was a newsletter with a brief note that just read you may dig this newsletter. That newsletter was RadReads a beautifully formatted emoji filled list of about a half dozen articles or so with a brief description for each. We're living in a moment right now, when newsletters are all the rage, we're seeing more and more people start newsletters on Substack. Some of them are even paid. But in 2019, when I got this email, it was still pretty novel. We've talked about curation on the show a little bit recently, but it wasn't really that common, then fast forward more than a year and I'm starting to hear a lot more about Khe Hy, the man behind RadReads, he's showing up in my Twitter feed, we begin talking back and forth a little bit on Twitter. And I see him collaborating with a lot of the other creators around me. RadReads is a weekly newsletter covering how to live an intentional life. And Khe works to deconstruct our complicated relationship with status, time and money. And today, his newsletter goes out to more than 20,000 readers, a number that I am personally envious of. And what's really unique about Khe's story is that he doesn't really have the background of the typical creator on this show. That wasn't his aspiration growing up as well here. In fact, when he was growing up, he thought success was earning a lot of money. And so Khe pursued the career that a lot of people do when they're trying to earn a lot of money.
Khe Hy 2:07
I hopped on the treadmill of high performance, achievement, status and money. And the easiest treadmill to achieve that, that I've found, at least in that time was working on Wall Street.
Jay Clouse 2:23
Khe spent much of his career at BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager with more than $7 trillion in assets under management. But as you heard in the intro, even after finding financial success, Khe wasn't happy. So he took a leap of faith, and he left his Wallstreet career behind to start writing an email newsletter.
Khe Hy 2:42
That would have been five years ago, and I would have been 36 years old. And to set the stage I would have had one one year old daughter and now I have two.
Jay Clouse 2:52
it sounds like a pretty big risk to take. And since then, Khe has been called Oprah for millennials by CNN, and the Wall Street guru by Bloomberg. And besides his weekly newsletter, he's become a go to expert for the productivity tool notion. In this episode, we talk about shedding his golden handcuffs, the angel investment he made in himself, getting medi attention, and why consistency has helped him find a new kind of success. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram @JayClouse. And if you haven't joined our Creative Elements, listeners group yet on Facebook, take a second right now click the link in the show notes. We'd love to see you there. Without further adieu, here's Khe.
Khe Hy 3:38
But I want to just take you back briefly to 20 years before that when I was a skinny Magic: The Gathering, playing geek valedictorian who couldn't get a date and couldn't keep a pound of muscle on there his body, because that really sets the stage for 36, 35 year old Khe. Because, I mean, I assume there's a bunch of nerds listening to this podcast as well. And you know, in 1996, it wasn't cool to be a nerd the way it is to be a nerd in 2020. So what did we all long for that time, we long for, you know, dates, girlfriends, boyfriends, significant others acceptance into the cool group, and didn't have any of those. So I had Magic: The Gathering skills, I can hack a little bit of HTML together. The one cool thing I could do is I could land a kickflip clip on my skateboard. But, you know, again, you can't show that off that easily. So, so I had set up a plan. You know, 1314 year old kid hatched up a plan and said, I'm sick of not feeling accepted. I'm sick of feeling unloved. I'm sick of girls ignoring me, kind of make a lot of money. And I kicked that plan off in my teenage years. And it's kind of neurotic and crazy and you know, we could talk about whether it worked or it didn't work. But fast forward, I hopped on the treadmill of high performance, achievement, status and money. And the easiest treadmill to achieve that, that I've found, at least in that time was working on Wall Street. And so we can talk about all the tactics that you know, 15 years, I got a lot of cool promotions, I got to go to the Super Bowl. I got to fly in, like ski and private ski mountains and all that stuff. But then something happened every time I got a bonus. And I mean, these some of these numbers were, I grew up as a lower middle class, like lower middle class immigrant family. I mean, some of the numbers were astronomical, where it's like, in one year, I made what my dad made in a decade and like stuff like that crazy. And I feel good. Like, yeah, the king of the mountain, I'd go like splurge on auto like $250 pair of diesel jeans. And then all my inner anxiety would come back roaring back about 14 days later. And so I saw enough of that cycle transpire where I thank my lucky stars that something inside of me said, Hey, Khe, you know that playbook, you hatch together when you were 13 years old? Have you ever considered that it might be flawed? And you asked me about, you know, 2015, 35 years old? Had a kid, I think you start to realize, yeah, I there was a big question, Is this it? And you got to remember the context of this, like I was a managing director. You know, for people who aren't familiar with that industry. That's like the highest non executive, it's like an SVP and kind of tech land. It's kind of the highest title you could be. It's typically like, 40, 45 year old plus, I was 10. I was almost a decade early. So I got the thing that 99% of my peers wanted five to 10 years early. It was nice. Don't get me wrong, more money is nice, makes life easier. You know, though, you know, Stewart Butterfield has like, you don't care about where you eat, you don't care about how you fly, you don't care about what hotel you stay at, like, you know, I had cleared those thresholds, there was a gaping hole in my soul. And I didn't know what it was. But one thing I knew was like, I looked at people 10 years older than me. And they had like x fives and private school, boarding schools, all that fame, their kids were going to Harvard and all that stuff. And I was like, I don't want that life. It's a good life. It's just not for me. But that leads to a much more almost like a much more anxiety inducing question, or it's just like, both. That's not the life for me. Well, what is? And it's one thing to ask that question when you're, you know, 22 years old living off of ramen. It's another thing to ask that question. When you have a kid, your wife is a stay at home mom slash artist, and you've, you know, quote, your parent, you know, your whole community, your tribe is like, do you knocked it out of the park? And so I had that unease. And it happened enough years. And we could talk about the tinkering that I had done, but it just happened enough that I'm like, you know what, I can't keep doing this. I need to know what else is out there. And so I just quit without a plan.
Jay Clouse 8:23
Alright, we're gonna get back to that point in a second. But you mentioned this like cycle of anxiety that you're feeling when you get the bonuses or the promotions and things like that. How early into your finance career, did you start to notice that anxiety or that whole?
Khe Hy 8:39
I mean, I think I that anxiety was that anxiety has been with me my whole life. And so I don't know if you could say that, like, I have, like grime ground grinded the enamels off my teeth that like, I need to change mouth guards every couple years, you know, I started losing my hair in my 20s there was a phase where I was so stressed out that I that like I had alopecia, like chunks of my hair would fall off of the side. Like, that's just not normal man. And people actually see me now and they're like, you have and I have a baby face. You could you could see it, you know, but people see me now they're like, you look 10 years younger. So I think it was always there. And my parents are very nervous types. You know, I didn't sleep well. I numbed myself with alcohol. So like, I don't think that I can point to one specific moment. It's almost like it was the only existence that I knew.
Jay Clouse 9:36
So you you basically step off of this ledge you say enough is enough.
Khe Hy 9:40
Jay Clouse 9:40
I don't want to feel this hole anymore. One, what were the reactions of the people around you, into? How did you start figuring out what to do with this life you have?
Khe Hy 9:52
Oh, man, the reactions. So this is a weird thing about I would say maybe Wall Street but maybe just like corporate people. Is that everyone talks about doing what I did. They blog about it, but only like point .001% like so few people actually do it. And so I preface it by saying that it's a very, it was a very unsettling time. It was exciting. But it was unsettling just the fear of like, Did I make the wrong decision? Right. It is kind of in hindsight, like, it's crazy to like walk without a plan. And we could talk, I'm being a little bit dramatic. Like there were, there were greens, there are lots of green shoots, but there was no business idea or anything like that. So how did people react? It was all over the map, I think that there was a, there was a sliver of the population that's like, props to you, I would love to do that. I just don't have the guts to do it. Then there is another path. And again, maybe it's me making this up like, this is me, like projecting my own insecurities onto what they were saying, or what they were actually saying, you'll never know. But that group was like, You're an idiot. Or, I mean, it got worse. An old mentor of mine, I heard through the grapevine that said, he said, This guy has like hundreds of millions of dollars. So it's not like a peer that I was competing with. He goes, I've seen this story before. He's not going to cut it as an entrepreneur, he's going to spend way more money than he thinks he does. And mark my words, in five years, his wife will leave him. I'm like, Dude, what did I ever do to hurt to piss you off. Another instance, I found out two years later, after I quit, because I started blogging, we could talk about I started writing publicly. And and that's the other thing about finance people, you know, they don't kiss Intel, they walk away, and they just keep their mouth shut, just to keep the option of coming back, then I was never bad mouthing the industry. But I was just saying like, this is not for me, this is x, y. And this other group of friends, good friends, there, I found that there was a group thread, should we stage an intervention? Like, should we get them to stop saying these things publicly? So that he keeps the option of going back? Thank God, I didn't hear that right away. And so again, were they jealous? Or was that a reinforcement of how unsettled I felt, will never know.
Jay Clouse 12:20
Something that I've told a lot of creators who are just getting started doing something, whether it's blogging, podcasting, whatever it is, they, they go through this pretty quick cycle, when they get started, where you make the post, you say, Hey, I'm doing this thing, subscribe here, if you want to follow along, and they see this immediate bump of people in their network that are like, awesome, I'm following along and they get excited. And then maybe they even get they stay consistent for a period of weeks or months. And over time, the actual attention they're getting is declining. And they're saying, Why is this happening? And it's my opinion, and I'd love to hear your take on this. It's my opinion that there are a large number of people around us close to us, who tune in when we start something new, because they want to see us fail.
Khe Hy 13:04
Jay Clouse 13:04
And when we don't do it, they stopped paying attention.
Khe Hy 13:07
Yeah, I, I think that there is definitely some shoddy fraud going on. Because it was kind of like, again, I don't want this to sound arrogant, but it was kind of like you're doing the thing that I will never do. So by seeing you succeed, it hurts. And by seeing you fail, it validates my decision.
Jay Clouse 13:28
I think it's 100% true.
Khe Hy 13:29
So there was definitely some of that, again, I don't know how much. But I really, really tried to treat the whole thing with grace, where it was just like, it's not like I'm better than you. And if anything, it was like, I'm fucking scared, man. This is scary. I might have made the wrong decision. And I think that there is this, this honesty to it. And I tried to preserve that, honestly, to this day, there was just like, this guy is just telling the truth. Like he's not sugarcoating both the good or the bad.
Jay Clouse 14:00
When we come back, Khe talks about the beginning of RadReads and the goals he set for himself after leaving his career on Wall Street, right after this.
Jay Clouse 14:10
Welcome back to Creative Elements. When we left off k had realized that he was not getting the fulfillment that he wanted out of his job on Wall Street. And despite his friends threatening to stage an intervention, he was about to strike out on his own. Khe says it was at this point that he sent his first unofficial edition of RadReads, kicking off a habit of consistency.
Khe Hy 14:30
I was sitting on a beach I still was employed January of 2015. And I had some time because I was on vacation. And I just I always love to read random internet stuff. And I found five articles Keith Reblock article and Adam Grant article Mark Maron interviewing Louis CK, shows you were in a different time. And I shared this five links just to 36 people in a BCC Gmail. And at the bottom of the sentence I wrote out I don't know, I'm on vacation. So I don't know when I'll have time to do this again. Famous last words right. I'm working right now on number 274. So that started, but I said, I hit send. And, you know, maybe eight of the 36 are like, this is awesome. I can't wait for the next one. And I'm like, Okay, did you not read my disclaimer in the PS. But I had loved doing, I really enjoyed it. I was reading all that stuff anyway. And so there was just that extra step of just writing a little blurb. And this was before link blogging. This is before everyone had a newsletter. So I had that thing going on. And people liked it. And I was probably, you know, six months into into the newsletter, zero months into quitting. And people were just like liking and I think that was, that was something that was really good for me. Because I'm a very type A post organized person, like, I need to always have something that I'm working on. And so it gave me a canvas. And that was the magical thing about the newsletter is like the newsletter became a canvas of like, really like a creative canvas. And it just meandered through these different thematic areas, picking along little business ideas, revenue streams, like along the way, but to your point, like, when did I ever feel like it was clicking? It's probably not until I had my first product to sell, like a real thing to sell besides consulting, and coaching. And that was like less than a year ago,
Jay Clouse 16:23
For clarity when you said, you're doing this for like six months before you quit? Is that a weekly email like this that you're sending out?
Khe Hy 16:30
I think it was getting close. I don't think it was like officially every week, but it was probably pretty close.
Jay Clouse 16:37
We'll talk to me then about these first three years, where, presumably you're still publishing this on some cadence, but you're saying you haven't really dialed in that this is the business yet? What were you doing to make ends meet? or What did you think you're working towards in this first three years?
Khe Hy 16:53
Mm hmm. So I was in a very unique position of having left wall street where I had a bunch of savings. And most people would take the savings and you'd be like, I'm gonna start this company. I took a slightly different tack. Again, I don't know if it's smart, or, or ridiculous. But I basically made an angel investment in myself. And so my wife and I, we said, What's some amount like angel investment, right? It 99% chance it goes to zero, and a 1% chance, it's like a spectacular return. And so we basically said, How much of our savings are we willing to light on fire, so that Khe can discover. And so we came up with that it was, you know, depending on how we lived, it was, you know, somewhere between 18 months and two years. And so that was really the plan was to just light that money on fire, and then see what happens. And it was a blessing, because it really let me just do things and not have to monetize them immediately. And maybe a little bit of a curse. In that it, there was never the pressure. Like in my mind, I was very insecure as an entrepreneur, in my mind, I was just gonna, like, play around for 18 months, do some cool creative projects, and then like, go back to Wall Street, or like, I thought I would go get a tech job.
Jay Clouse 18:14
So you didn't have a plan B, Plan B was if this doesn't work within a year and a half, two years, this is the.
Khe Hy 18:19
I probably I was like, I'll go work at a series C backed FinTech company and be like their head of Biz Dev. And that's very presumptuous of me to say that, but that was kind of the loose end. It was like, if that doesn't work, I'll just like, go back hand in hand to Wall Street and be like, guys, you were right. I was wrong. Take me back.
Jay Clouse 18:38
Was there like a threshold of success? Or like some sort of goal that you were working towards to know like, Okay, this angel investment paid off was a number. Was it like a number of subscribers? Like, how are you measuring whether this was going well?
Khe Hy 18:53
Yeah, I think the first one was, was, can I cover my living expenses? Right, because if I could generate enough revenue to cover my living expenses, then it was it was house money. Right. So I think that was really the thing that I was striving for, at first. And that's the thing about these models, like, you know, I'm a wall street guy. So people are like, Oh, did you model this? Do you think about, like, what the tax rate would be? And, you know, six years later, just think about, like, like, what was your assumption for the S&P 500? You know, my life was, it wasn't complicated, but like, it was a 36 year olds life where I had, you know, Roth IRAs, and I had an investment portfolio and I own some private companies and I had some interest bearing accounts and so like it, you know, one thing that was very lucky was that in the year that I left like the stock market has been on a tear. So like, even though I was like burning the money, like, you know, I was making it you know, you can't eat unrealized gains, but, but it was, you know, I thought better I always tell people if, if, if I had quit, and then There had been a bear market right away, I'd probably be employed, you know, a Corbin play. So that So to answer your question, the goal is always to get the cash flow neutral. So then I could, you know, I was playing with house money at that point. The other thing that I would say with just in the spirit of transparency was that I had, I had saved up some a decent amount of money, where, like, I felt good about, like saving for my kids college and all that, like I obviously I wanted to grow my wealth, but like I had, I had made some good adult decisions so that like, if I could be cashflow neutral, I could stay that way for a while. So that's and I think that's a unique situation relative to maybe others who listen to your podcast.
Jay Clouse 20:44
What else in that first three years of publishing RadReads stands out as milestone moments that you really learned something or felt like, Okay, this is going to work.
Khe Hy 20:56
Um, there were a few. There were some that that that had more promise on the surface. And you know, when you peel back the onion, they were not as promising and there were others that didn't look as promising on the surface and turned out to be extremely promising. So I would say the first the first milestone happen quite early, probably about a year after I quit, or not even nine months after I quit. And someone in my audience who I knew a business acquaintance. He said, I don't know what you're doing. But it's really cool. Can we pay you to come talk to our employees about how to be happy? Like, okay. It's not really how it works. But yes, yeah.
Jay Clouse 21:39
Yes, yes, you can.
Khe Hy 21:41
And so that, that's basically how I started coaching. I became a happiness coach for a financial services company, based on two variables. The person liked me from before, but we weren't friends. The second is that I was producing a canon of work that showed my ideas, my way of thinking. And so that was a first step where I'm like, write that because I started to make money. So it started to push out the angel investment, right when the angel investing looked like 18 months now i'd look like two and a half years, because of that income that was offsetting the burn. So that was the first milestone promising at the surface, promising behind the scenes. The second would be lumped into like press. And so there was a TEDx talk. And then two journalist pieces, CNN, and Bloomberg, they all happen like within six months of one another. Those are very important. The cnn one, I think CNN and Bloomberg, the TEDx turned to be a bit of a wash. I think it was before I realized that like, you and I could start a TEDx series tomorrow. But obviously, the CNN and Bloomberg were really, really good. CNN got way more exposure than Bloomberg, because it's much broader. But I mean, I think those two pieces, took my newsletter from 1000 subscribers to 10,000 in like three months.
Jay Clouse 23:06
Where do they come from? How did you get CNN and Bloomberg to hear your story and want to tell it?
Khe Hy 23:11
Yeah, so that's again, I mean, that the newsletter has been the my vehicle for serendipity, very straightforward. CNN was a was a money CNN Money now called Business Reporter, and the shrewd business reporters know that it's actually quite rare for someone to leave Wall Street and want to give an interview, like open book. And I think she just was intrigued by my story. She liked the newsletter. And so she, I thought it was just gonna be like some little like, backpage piece. And again, better to be lucky than to be smart. They ran it on the 30, New Year's Eve. And because it was a three day weekend, they kept it on the front page for three days, because no one was ranking one stories. Yeah, I'd be if I had to guess that piece itself probably got like a million page views.
Jay Clouse 24:02
Did they approach you or did you?
Khe Hy 24:03
They approached me. I've never pitched journalists explicitly.
Jay Clouse 24:07
But why not? You know, if this if this worked? Why aren't you Why aren't I why don't we just like pitching journalists constantly?
Khe Hy 24:16
A few reasons. I think the obvious, let's go from most obvious to least obvious. The most obvious is imposter syndrome, which is like who the alphas k he with his you know, at the time 1000 person audience to reach out to a journalist. I think that's the first one I still struggle to call myself a writer, even though I write three hours every day for the past six years. Because I'm a computer science major, i'm a finance guy identities are hard to shed. I think the second one is that if you're not from the world of comms and marketing, I don't think you realize how the game is played. I would remember like reading Us Weekly, or seeing my wife read, you know, Vogue or whatever. And you'd see this like, here is I'm dating myself. Here is Mischa Barton. You know, wearing, you know, blah, blah, blah, Tory Burch sandals and me like, Oh, yeah, like, you know, the best ideas, the best shoes rise to the top. If you're not from the world of marketing, branding and PR, you just don't know that. Or maybe I was just living under a rock. And so I'm like, Yes, like Tory Burch does have the best sandals. So that's why Misha Bard read it. I didn't know that Tory Burch sends hundreds of pairs of free sandals, to every frickin celebrity in the world, and then sells the paparazzi to go find them when they're wearing them. I had no idea.
Jay Clouse 25:42
Not to mention, even you know, journalists and reporters in general, they do great work. But as time has gone on, they are so pressured to put out so much content, that they can't be as stringent on what is newsworthy versus what is not when they have to publish five articles today.
Khe Hy 26:00
Jay Clouse 26:00
That's crazy. Totally.
Khe Hy 26:01
Totally. And I think that I was like, for someone who comes from finance, I should probably know this well, but like, I think I was naive about the influence of money and power behind everything, right? Like, like, look at the food pyramid, right? The food pyramid turned out to be a piece of junk, because the money of the food lobby, right. So I like I was naive about that. So that's one approach. One reason another reason. And I think with that comes like knowing how to pitch like there's a whole skill to that, like knowing how to pitch and knowing how to frame stories. Right? Again, you and I have learned way more complicated stuff than that. But again, you don't it's it was definitely an unknown unknown. And then I think there's a third part which kind of leads into, you know, one of my my personal frameworks, which is this $10,000 work framework, which is high leverage, high skill activities, right, those that's $10,000 an hour work. And on the other end of the spectrum is low leverage, low skill. I'm really good at that stuff that's like inbox zero and replying to your tweets and things like that.
Jay Clouse 27:06
Can you define leverage?
Khe Hy 27:07
Yes. So leverage is, the output happens when you don't have to do anything. You the business owner, or you the creator? So good example, I trade my team really well. When I was on BlackRock, when I went on my honeymoon, I did the unthinkable that you do in finance. I didn't turn on my Blackberry once.
Jay Clouse 27:27
You turned off the Blackberry, I was gonna really say Blackberry.
Khe Hy 27:29
off the entire honeymoon, no, no one at my level, or even no one does that. But I had to faith in my team, because I trained them so well. So training people is a lot of $10,000 an hour work. And so what was the leverage leverage was they could do all my work while I was gone. Another another example of leverage, like a look at this. I mean, a lot of creators will relate to this. How many people have pounded their head across their laptop, AB testing forms, to take that conversion rate from 3.67 to 3.82.
Jay Clouse 28:05
Khe Hy 28:06
Or you could cultivate relationships with journalists, you won't get on CNN, that's not a guarantee. But you could get on, you know, baby CNN, like, I don't know, whatever is like if CNN is number one, it's not, but you could get on, you know, number 100. With a little bit of planning, it's not going to happen right away. So that gets to that, that 10k work, right? So 10 you know, I reply to your tweet, I do a nice little clever tweet storm and I get a few things. I get a few new followers like I get the dopamines pumping through my veins, man, I'm on top of the world.
Jay Clouse 28:39
Khe Hy 28:40
I email a journalist and be like, Hey, I'm Khe. I saw I liked the article you wrote about coaching. A coach, if you ever need me, yeah. If you ever wanted to want to talk, here's my email. No response. I'd be better off. For every tweet storm I do. I'd be better off writing that second email.
Jay Clouse 28:58
Khe Hy 28:58
For the rest of my life. There is never this there's never a moment where that tweet storms a better decision.
Jay Clouse 29:08
After a quick break, Khe breaks down what he would do differently if you were starting today from scratch. So stick around and we'll be right back. Welcome back. Khe, told us that it took him three years to feel like things were really starting to click into place. And the more creators that I have on this show, the more I hear that timeframe of three years. So I asked Khe, if he could start over today, what advice he gives to his younger self to compress that timeline even further.
Khe Hy 29:35
Understand marketing, branding, copywriting, partnerships. basically find the leverage in your work. Right? I think you find the leverage is like the partnerships and press type strategies. And then the marketing is just like I was on can ConvertKit writing an email to my list, and I just had three I have amazing content. I did. I've been doing it this hour. boot camp every day. And I have three hours of the replays. And I'm like sitting down to write this subject line. I'm like three hours of boot camp replays. No one's gonna fucking click that, like, that's crap. That's garbage. I don't want to read that. And so I spend like 20 minutes. Coming up with a headline. Let me know what you think. Click to the screen.
Jay Clouse 30:21
Love this workshopping.
Khe Hy 30:22
What's the difference between effectiveness and efficiency? That was the headline.
Jay Clouse 30:27
That's the headline.
Khe Hy 30:28
Jay Clouse 30:28
I like it. I think you might even not even you might not even need the word, what's.
Khe Hy 30:32
Oh, yeah, the dare Oh, yeah. I like questions, but, but it does make it clunkier.
Jay Clouse 30:38
And I've also realized that having something that's like, four or five words so that it fits on one line on a cell phone screen does it really well.
Khe Hy 30:44
Yeah, well, um, yeah, I'm doing it. Maybe, maybe test them, we can share the results.
Jay Clouse 30:48
There you go.
Khe Hy 30:48
But but again, for three years, I wrote three hours of videos like the first hundred episodes of RadReads, it was like RadReads one RadReads two, RadReads three. So if I just understood like that little subtlety that like, you know, it's positioning, right, it's framing, like, if I understood those things, that would have been super powerful. The other thing is, again, it's a little bit of a luxury, but I've hired a lot of coaches, and very tactical coaches, copywriting coach, SEO coach, I wish I just hired hired those people early, I had this thing. And we could talk about this emotional side where like, if you haven't suffered, like, you have to suffer through it, for it to be worthwhile. Where I do believe, like, I want to get my hands dirty. So I know the right person to hire and the right questions to ask. So I would, I think I probably should, it's like, if like you need to go from zero to 100. on SEO, I think I should get myself to 20 out of 100, and then make a high consulting IR coaching hire, I would get to like 65, and then make that hire and that 45 is like a lot of wasted time. And it's just not the best use of your time. And there's just a lot of fucking around and like not a lot of like around, but just you just like chasing your own tail. For a lot of that time. I could have just shortened the title of the timelines,
Jay Clouse 32:17
What types of lessons have you learned from trying other content? Like you've been wildly consistent with rad reads a newsletter?
Khe Hy 32:24
Jay Clouse 32:24
You've also you did a year of podcasting. I was looking at your YouTube channel before this, which I didn't know existed and like you have a significant number of YouTube subscribers there. So like, how are you thinking about these different mediums? And what did you try? How did it go?
Khe Hy 32:39
So funny story about the YouTube subscribers, I think I have like 45,000. 35,000 of them came from being on Ali Abdaal's YouTube channel. So again, the power of partnership, right, I shouldn't be doing that. tweetstorm I should be finding all the Ali Abdaal's and positioning myself to get get on their channels. And again, that's not even the way to do it. You become friends. And then the opportunity comes up naturally, organically. How do I pick the medium? So I have dabbled with a lot of mediums. I did. You don't even know this? I did? I think a year of daily Snapchat stories. Whoa, okay, a year. What up snappers? Hope you guys are doing well. finally getting a little workout in. This one's gonna be spicy, recovering from jet lag. And finally in a routine, a tour of the property. That's the fitness center. With my little swerve on back to the pool, or at least is hanging. Little homie up there, chillin. That's how I got Oprah from millennials that I'm not even a millennial dude, I'm 41. But people knew me about this like weird old guy, like really backwards on Snapchat, just like, not getting how the language in the game works. But I was trying, I was trying so hard doing these little stories every day for a year. So I did a lot of one year experiments at a podcast for a year. I did Instagram stories for maybe like eight months or so. YouTube. I've just dabbled. So my strategy has been a few always follow the gravitational pole. And so if you feeling a pole, it just means like your energy's in it. And again, know why you're doing it. But if like, like, my philosophy to entrepreneurship is like, follow the fun. If it's not fun, stop doing it. And yes, there's ops and all that. But like, if it's not fun, like 90% of the time, stop doing it. That's why I stopped the podcast has just stopped becoming fun. And so the other thing I've learned that I would share with creators is pick one and get really good at it. Dabble with a second. So my pick one is email. I'm good at email. I like it. It works for me. And my dabble right now is Twitter. I think that I'm gonna play a little bit. I also think about your strengths. I'm a I'm a good writer. I'm not a good video producer. I've no fucking clue how to edit a video, podcasting, I'm okay add like stick with words, dude, you're good at words. Twitter's very natural. But again, and this is this will send us on a side tangent, I do see the promise. And the thing that excites me about YouTube, which is what I like about SEO. And what I like about email to a lesser extent is that there's a action email does not just YouTube and SEO have a natural discovery engine, podcasting and Twitter do not have a natural podcasting engine. And I am the kind of person that like, I want to, you know, get on to use baseball, I just want to get on first base a lot. And then I'll win the game that I'm playing for myself by getting on first base a lot. I feel like Twitter is much more of a hits the VC model, and I'm much more of the fast tortoise, where it just like show up, put in the reps, you know, and that's why I SEOs have worked like it's been a really good strategy for me.
Jay Clouse 35:59
Wait, what's a fast tortoise?
Khe Hy 36:00
A fast tortoise is if you expand over Horizon, it's the tortoise that just keeps taking one step one step on step and then you've got like the hare that Sprint's but then tires themselves out. And so I'm the fast if you extend the window, the horizon, on the fast tortoise, it might look like locally, I'm going really slow. But globally, when you look at the long game, I'm winning the race.
Jay Clouse 36:24
Take me now to whatever happened in year three, where you felt like okay, I found something.
Khe Hy 36:31
So again, it I don't want your audience to think that there were these binary switches, I think that coaching ended up becoming a pretty lucrative revenue stream. And again, I could have, I could have, if I just went all in on coaching, I could have easily not only covered my burn, but created a very nice life. It's just not, it's not something that I wanted to do a 100% of my time, I dabbled with speaking, I think I was a little too early in my career where I wasn't a good storyteller. And then I just kind of you need a book to be a speaker. And I just wasn't interested in writing a book at the moment. So coaching really kind of took the pressure off. But I never really monetized anything digitally. And so again, it happened accidentally, it was just a serendipity of it. So a year and a half ago. Notion gets it's like kind of v2 upgrade notion is a productivity app. For those who don't know, it's like a, it's like if Trello Google Docs and Airtable had a love child. And this app is really like everything I personally ever wanted in an app because like, it's like powerful enough to do a lot of things but simple enough that you don't need to code and just beautiful design like just great user experience. So I'm just like Foxman with this app solves a lot of my own pain points. And I just start tweeting about it writing about it. And again, it's like really lucky coincidence happened. Right? When that's happening. There's this little startup that comes out called Loom and Loom for those of you who don't know, it's like the easiest way to record your screen, it like literally puts the link on your clipboard after you're done. And you just drop it in, it expands to a beautiful social card. It's clean, it works all the time, Loom came out. And so what started to happen is just started creating as many tutorials on notion how I was using notion using Loom. Hello, everybody, welcome back. Today, I'm going to teach you how to use the Notion Web Clipper. And so we're going to do is we're going to grab web pages, organize them into a table, which is a spreadsheet, technically, it's a database, but think about it as a spreadsheet. And then we're gonna modify the data to show it in different ways so that we can share it with others. And what happened was, was was a few things people I just became an expert in Notion, not for any, like skill of mine, just timing like I was, I just use it the most in the shortest period of time and did it publicly. So that was one, one thing. The second thing is that the use cases of Notion aligned with a lot of the things that I write about, it's like organization prioritization, managing your life, building in public, no code, that kind of jive. And then the third thing is I had this kind of pent up demand from my audience because I never once asked them for money in five years. At that point, I had, you know, 15,000 readers with a 50% open rate. So like, people cared, and I never asked them for money. So I just flipped the switch. And I'm like, Hey, I'm gonna give it a shot. I got some good mentors. Tiago Forte is a big mentor and inspiration of mine. And I just went for it. I'm like, Hey, who wants this notion Cohort One September of last year, I think was 20 people at 500 bucks a pop, all live cohort based. I've only done cohort based courses. And just rinse lather and repeat, you know, at the time of this recording and preparing the launch, or number five, I think we might clear 150 students maybe 200. At that point like 500 students will have been through the course so that's how it started.
Jay Clouse 40:02
So now, do you think of yourself as a course creator? Like, is that where you're putting the bulk of your effort? Or is that? How do you think about your business model? Now?
Khe Hy 40:10
I think of it a few ways. One is, I love teaching. And that might sound weird, but I was talking to an old colleague of mine. And they said, you know, it might seem so weird what you're doing now you're this kind of like online personality. But I remember, in 2010, you got 10 analysts around the table, you whipped out your iPad, and over lunch, you taught us all how to use OmniFocus. And what GTD was. And so they're like, it's both crazy what you're doing, and it's totally on brand. It totally makes sense. And so I love the teaching side of thing. And if you can think of a if you look at like my portfolio of activities, coaching, even the way I write is it's not teaching per se, but it's a lot of like explaining and talking through. So I love teaching. So that's going to be a part of what I do. I love the internet. And I love just all the mediums and how they merge together through visually and sincerely and with words and with graphics and colors. And I'd like to be a pioneer in education on that not in like, Steve Jobs in type, like people will know me to reinvent it. But like, I think I have the toolkit and the purview to do something really kind of weird and cool. Along that vein, the biggest one is that like in my boot camp today, every every boot camp in the middle of their presentation, I do a pop up hip hop quiz, because that's fun. Today's question, what's the most popular Wu-Tang song not by Wu-Tang by an individual song member? You have to answer it.
Khe Hy 41:54
But I no idea tell me though. I want to know.
Khe Hy 41:57
The answer. Yeah, it's a Wu-Tang, Method Man and Mary J. Blige. You're all I need. So anyway, but that's so much more fun than like the crotchety professor that, like doesn't know how to turn on Zoom. Right? And so I would love to mash up all of those experiences together.
Jay Clouse 42:17
Do you think of yourself as a writer now?
Khe Hy 42:20
I do. I'm not like I didn't jump through the screen to tell you. Yes. I had to think about it. I'm just comfortable with not having identities, right. That's why when you ask me the course creator question, I'm just like, that might be the output of what I do. I think I'm more like, like some sweet internet sorcerer that has this cauldron of just bubbly stuff in it. And just like you just not sure what's gonna come out of it. That's kind of like how I view myself.
Jay Clouse 42:48
So five years into this, What's the hardest part? What should people be prepared for? If they're jumping off the ledge, similar to what you did with BlackRock.
Khe Hy 42:57
Funny. I tweeted this the other day, and I didn't think it would get much response. But the life of a solopreneur every morning, you wake up, you define the list of 100 things you do, you pick two, because it's just you. And those are the only two you could do if you're lucky. You do them, then you review check them, and you review them and you make sure like all the ops behind it are working. And then you feel really crappy about yourself for the 98 that you didn't do. And then you add another 10. Exactly. That's like, that's the story of solopreneurship so and so I guess I would say, I love what I do. I feel so blessed. I've had a set of unique circumstances. And luck has found me in many ways, and I put myself out there. But I don't want it to get lost. And again, I don't want this to be viewed as a brag. But every day for the past five and a half years, I have done that I have defined my work, executed it reviewed it and then felt bad about a big chunk that I couldn't get to. And there are moments when I'm like, I just wish I could like stare at my screen hung over and manage my fantasy football team. I just wish like someone would tell me what to do. Like I genuinely miss. That's why I hire so many coaches actually genuinely miss having someone telling me what to do.
Jay Clouse 44:24
Amazing. But is it worth it?
Khe Hy 44:26
Oh my god, it's worth it every I would say I'd ever want to retire because I feel retired. And that's the that's the paradox of it. Like, there's what I just said, and I would opt into that life every day.
Jay Clouse 44:45
This was a really fun episode to record. Because even though this is only the second time that Khe and I have spoken live on video, we have such similar views and we've had such a similar experience writing online that it feels like we've known each other forever. Khe, didn't get started much sooner than you you can get started right now. And as he told us, and as we hear a lot, it'll take two to three years for things to feel like they're really starting to click. But that's all the more reason to get started today. If you want to learn more about RadReads or Khe's notion courses, visit RadReads.co. and links to that are in the show notes. Thanks to Khe for being on the show. Thank you to Emily Clouse for making the artwork for this episode. Thanks to Nathan todhunter for mixing the show and to Brian Skeel for creating our music. If you like this episode, you can tweet at me @JayClouse and let me know if you really want to say thank you, please leave a review on Apple podcasts. Thanks for listening. I'll talk to you next week.
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