Why You Need to Keep a Digital Journal as a Creator with Andy Ayim

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“I don’t need to write it down because I’ll remember” is hopelessly naive. Sorry if that stung, but it’s true. You need to write things down, as Andy Ayim MBE learned when he started his digital journal.  He’s a father, husband, creator, thinker, investor, and founder of The Angel Investing School. He has invested in over 17 gap-closing startups. And he would be completely lost without what he calls his “Tracker” – a digital journal he keeps in Notion. In fact, he believes his Tracker is so crucial, that he considers it DIY coaching and counseling too. So let’s dive into why YOU need to keep a digital journal, and how to make it happen. Plus, in the PRO show, we talk about investing, single-vs-multi-focus, and how Andy invented Spotify, and I invented Facebook…

Top Takeaways

  • “You’re never really failing if you learn from it.” Your digital journal is like the “Google Analytics of your life.” You can keep track of what you do, how do feel, and lots of other data points to help you learn.
  • This can also be an eternal source of content. If you’re logging books, thoughts, and ideas, you can reference your digital journal when you’re feeling stuck to look for inspiration. 
  • Get started the way that works best for you. Andy started with a Google Doc before moving to Notion when he understood what he needed.

Show Notes


Joe Casabona: “I don’t need to write it down because I’ll remember” is a hopelessly naive sentiment. I’m sorry if that stings, but it’s the truth. You need to write things down. Andy Ayim MBE learned that when he started his digital journal. He’s a father, husband, creator, thinker investor, and founder of the Angel Investing School.

He’s invested in over 17 gap-closing startups. And if you don’t know what that is, don’t worry I asked later on. And I say all that because he’d be completely lost without what he calls his tracker, a digital journal that he keeps in Notion. In fact, he believes his tracker is so crucial that he considers it DIY coaching and counseling too. So let’s dive into why you need to keep a digital journal and how you can make it happen.

Plus, in the pro show, we talk about investing single versus multi-focus, and how Andy first invented Spotify and I came up with the idea for Facebook first. Also, if you want to see me just jaw-drop, react to what MBE means, this is a fantastic episode for that as well.

The top takeaways. You’re never really failing if you’re learning from it. “Your digital journal is like the Google Analytics of your life,” Andy says, “and you can keep track of what you do, how you feel, and lots of other data points to help you learn from all of your experiences.

This can also be an eternal source of content. If you’re logging books, thoughts, and ideas, you can reference your digital journal when you’re feeling stuck to look for inspiration. And to get started, do what works best for you. Andy started with a Google Doc before moving to Notion when he understood what he needed. I like to use a combination of Bear Notes and Craft. And Apple at the time of this recording is releasing their own journaling app. So do what you feel most comfortable with.

This is such an incredible episode. Andy and I got connected over LinkedIn, and this was our first real conversation, and it’s a good one. So I know you’re going to love it as much as I did. But let’s get to the intro and then the interview.

[00:02:16] <music>

Intro: Hey everybody, and welcome to How I Built It, the podcast where you get free coaching calls from successful creators. Each week you get actionable advice on how you can build a better content business to increase revenue and establish yourself as an authority. I’m your host Joe Casabona. Now let’s get to it.

[00:02:38] <music

Joe Casabona: Look, I’m gonna skip the niceties for a minute because right before I hit record, Andy just dropped on me that he has a distinct honor from the queen. Right? It’s a queen’s honor.

Andy Ayim: Yeah, yeah.

Joe Casabona: MBE. I was asking him how to pronounce his name. Andy Ayim MBE. And he just dropped that on me right before we started recording. Andy, thanks for being here.

Andy Ayim: It’s a pleasure to be here.

Joe Casabona: Really excited. We’re gonna talk about more in the pro show. I don’t usually promote the pro show immediately but I want to talk about that.

Andy Ayim: Absolutely. We will do.

Joe Casabona: So Andy Ayim MBE is a father, husband, creator and thinker and investor, and founder of the Angel Investing School. But that’s not what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about something near and dear to my heart, which is digital journaling. So I’m just gonna come right out and ask first question, how crucial is your digital journal to you?

Andy Ayim: Firstly, I love that I can actually keep count with Joe today and talk about my tracker, which is my journey. And for me, it’s been transformational in my life because it gives me insight when I look back and connect the dots into ideas, lessons that I’ve learned, what brings me energy, and what reduces my energy. So it allows me, in a geeky way, to always have like a Google Analytics of my own life so I can optimize and use my time to do more of what I love.

Joe Casabona: Man, Google Analytics of your own life. I love that. Gosh, we’re like five seconds into this and already my mind’s being blown. I didn’t even say, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here. So Andy, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here.

Andy Ayim: That’s awesome. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, this is a little behind the scenes for the folks listening, is this is my first five interviews today and I usually don’t do that.

Andy Ayim: I’m not your first to be honest.

Joe Casabona: I know. You’re like catching in my precious. So I’m really sorry. I’m not gonna say who the last one is. Right? Maybe, dear listener, you’ll be able to figure it out. But this is great. “Google Analytics of my life.” This is super important, right? Because this is something that I did really judiciously, I’ll say, during the pandemic. And I use the theme system journal, which I love. You’ve heard that from Cortex brand, but there are just a few prompts in there for me, like something good, something bad, something I’m looking forward to, and then generally how I’m feeling.

What I like about that is it’s easy to look back and remember the bad times. Like I’ll do my year-end review. And I’ll be like, “Oh, this felt like a bad year.” But then like reading back, I’m like, “Ah, this really wasn’t that bad.” Or I’m kind of the opposite. I tend to remember the good stuff. But it’s good to be like, Oh, yeah, that was a really dark time for me. Like March was a tough month or whatever but I made it through. It gives you important perspective. So “Google Analytics for my life” is such a great way to put it.

Andy Ayim: Thank you. Thank you.

Joe Casabona: So you’re so your digital journal, which you call your tracker… we’re kind of building this, if people will read the title, as an eternal source of content ideas. But you mentioned a few things that are just, I think, important personal metrics, right? Lessons you’ve learned, what brings you energy, what zaps your energy.

Andy Ayim: Absolutely.

Joe Casabona: What other stuff are you putting in your journal? Is it mostly around that or is it like random ideas? I’m really curious about that process.

Andy Ayim: So I’ve got like seven categories in my journal. I started off actually writing my journal on pencil and paper. It was actually like a physical journal. And it was when I went backpacking back in 2011. I went to South America. I remember my friends were saying, “That’s not the right thing to do. You’re gonna get killed. That’s crazy.” But I loved it, Joe. I spent three months just camping, traveling, and just getting in nature. I did Machu Picchu, went to the Inca Trail. I did it all in South America.

Joe Casabona: Oh, it’s amazing. Yeah.

Andy Ayim: But the problem was twofold. One, six years later, I hardly remember anything that I did, because I can’t rely on my memory anymore. And the second one is, I’m not flicking through all of that paper to find that one thing that I’m looking for. So I said, I need a system that makes it really easy for me to search and find different things that I’ve been through in a quick and easy way. So that’s why I created my Notion tracking. That’s why I have my categories or tagging system to allow me to easily find information when I’m looking back and connect the dots. So my categories are… are you ready for it?

Joe Casabona: I’m ready.

Andy Ayim: We’ve got health and fitness.

Joe Casabona: All right.

Andy Ayim: We’ve got work in business. We’ve got friends and community. We’ve got personal life and family. We have learning and knowledge. We have hobbies and creativity, emotions and spirituality, and savings and investment.

Joe Casabona: All right.

Andy Ayim: Then across all those categories, I’ve got a subcategory for, was this a win, was it a lesson? I’m someone that likes to reflect failures. You never really fail if you’re paying attention to the lessons that you’re learning.

Joe Casabona: Love it.

Andy Ayim: Or was it a testimonial? And I love that one because that allows me to save all the love that people are sharing with me and just screenshot it from a WhatsApp message or from a LinkedIn DM. So I get a real language of what they said and when they said it. When I look back, I’m like, You know what? That’s energized, that’s a good reminder of who I am and what I do.

Joe Casabona: That’s so smart. I wish I did more of that sooner. Because then when I’m making a landing page or whatever, right… and I mean, this is from the business point of view, like what you said, right? If you’re feeling down on yourself, you go back and you look at the testimonials and you’re like, “Wow, people have really been impacted by my work or whatever. Whatever gives you energy. I really like this.

I want to double click on because we’re gonna get into like, these are the ones that work for you. Some might work for other people. But I want to borrow my friend Justin Moore’s phrase: Double click on the hobbies and creativity. I’ve heard less of it maybe post-pandemic. But something that used to bum me out a lot is when people would say, “I don’t have any hobbies or my job is my hobby.” And I’m like, that’s an extremely sad… it feels like a very sad existence. Right?

Andy Ayim: Yeah.

Joe Casabona: Like, I wake up, I go to work and then I…. and I used to think the same thing. Like, Oh, I’m so lucky. I’m a web developer. I love making websites. My job is my hobby. And as I got older, I was like, “God, I need to do something not in front of a computer screen. And now that I have kids, it’s even more important. But I’m really curious, what kind of stuff do you categorize as hobbies creativity?

Andy Ayim: Yeah, it’s a great question. One is running. I love to go on runs, especially like free to forests where I live. The downside is because we’re all knowledge workers, it’s really hard to switch off from our work. It’s not like I go to a factory, work on a car and my hands when I go home and I can’t work anymore. So sometimes it’s like the energy and endorphins when I’m running that new ideas come into my head and I’m like, Do I stop and write down or do I just keep on running and try ignore that thought?

And as someone who challenges sometimes, the only thing that I do to really switch off is I love to go and swim in a sauna. I don’t know. There’s something about the water, it just feels really good. When just going through that tiredness for me. I love doing that.

And I love reading books that have nothing to do with the industry I’m in. So I read a recent book called Small Worlds, and it’s all about this kid like growing up with his best friend who he actually really likes and his dad passes away. Nothing to do with work, but just helps me to switch off and re-energize.

Joe Casabona: And that’s really important too, right? Because I’m pretty bad at reading fiction books most of the time. I mean, I love TV shows and movies. Like I love pop culture in general. But finding books like that is really important because not only does it help you switch off, but it also gives you new perspective. Right?

Andy Ayim: Absolutely.

Joe Casabona: I remember… name drop alert. But I was at the D23 Expo, it’s like the Disney Fan Club Expo-

Andy Ayim: That’s awesome.

Joe Casabona: …and I got to meet Don Hahn who has produced multiple movies for Disney, including The Lion King.

Andy Ayim: Wow.

Joe Casabona: And I said, “How do you find inspiration when you feel like you’re stuck?” And he said, “You gotta look beyond your medium, beyond your work. You know, get books about posters, get books about different eras. Look at things that you normally wouldn’t look at to find inspiration. So reading books that have nothing to do with your industry. Whether you realize it or not, it probably affects your work and gives you a new perspective.

Andy Ayim: I fully agree. And even as you were talking, I was thinking about some of the podcasts I listened to, like Snap Judgment, which is a storytelling podcast, or National Geographics about random places in nature. And just by my mind traveling to those places, by listening to that content, I come back and sometimes it’s like, “I can solve that problem now. I just need a time away from work in order to come back with a new perspective.

Joe Casabona: That’s so crucial. We honeymooned in Italy and-

Andy Ayim: That’s nice.

Joe Casabona: Oh, it was ama… It was the first trip in a while where I didn’t even bring my laptop.

Andy Ayim: Wow.

Joe Casabona: And to your point, I had a little field notes notebook with me where I wrote down my general thoughts and stuff like that, which is in my keepsakes box, but I should probably move it to a digital system. But when we got home, I had so many thoughts and stories about.. Like one was like how il Duomo in Florence was built-

Andy Ayim: Wow.

Joe Casabona: …and how they thought it was impossible, and how we can apply that to our own creative work, and the constraints really help us. I wouldn’t have had that if I was like consumed by my phone or like in Florence, but on my laptop and not out, like seeing things and learning things. It’s so important.

Andy Ayim: Absolutely. I fully agree. And even when you talk about that inspiration, I was out in LA a couple of weeks ago and I just went to an art exhibition. And it was with a guy called Jason Mayden, who was part of the team that designed the Jordans.

Joe Casabona: Oh, nice.

Andy Ayim: The Jordan brand. And he painted these pictures of his dad himself and his nephew and sons and how by dealing with trauma through his life they’re having a brighter future. And it was so beautiful to see him storytelling images. And I was so inspired. Not to say that I’m gonna go and now do this for my business, but more to say, Wow, that’s just such a different perspective and different way of looking at things.

And I just really appreciated that space. It got me thinking about actually when I work with teams, do I provide that psychological safety to have conversations like I had in that room that day at that gallery.

Joe Casabona: I love that. And it can feel risky sometimes, right? I mean, I think about this a lot. Marvel movies, again, big Disney fan.

Andy Ayim: I love Marvel movies.

Joe Casabona: Me too. And for the first 10 years, they basically all followed the same template. It was like, guy gets power, bad guy has same powers as good guy, good guy beats bad guy.

Andy Ayim: Same hero’s journey.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, exactly. Right. And it’s classic. People love it. But my favorite Marvel production to date is WandaVision. I actually have like a-

Andy Ayim: I thought you were gonna say Endgames. Oh, that’s interesting.

Joe Casabona: Oh, Endgame was so good too. Because, I mean, it’s a two-part movie where after the first part you think the bad guy wins. Spoiler alert, I guess. But no, I loved WandaVision because it was so weird and different and they took risks. But they also got inspiration from a lot of Americana TV, which, I mean, I’m all about… I’m here in the United States. I’m all about Americana. So finding that inspiration to other places and taking risks can help you create something really great, I think.

Andy Ayim: Yeah, I agree completely. I love that thread that we just discussed. That was awesome.

Joe Casabona: So good. I’m really excited to be talking about this. So I’m gonna ask you what you use for your digital journal, but I do want to point the running thing. You said you love running. I run out of necessity so that I don’t become like an even fatter load. And it’s just like the easiest thing for me. Like, I go and I put on my running shoes and I run. But that’s the reason. I don’t like to run with my phone because I don’t like something flopping around in my pocket and I don’t want to be able to check anything. But I run with my Apple Watch. I have the Apple Watch Ultra because I’m a sucker. But I press the action button is my… I have an idea shortcut.

So if I’m listening to a podcast or a song and I think of something, I press that button and create a new note in Bear Notes for me.

Andy Ayim: Wow, that’s so smart.

Joe Casabona: And hopefully through the heavy breathing it gets the right dictation or enough that I remember what it was. Sometimes I’m like, “What did I try to say here?” I want to be able to capture ideas wherever I am. So that’s why my whole system is a complicated mess. But you, for your digital journal, what do you use?

Andy Ayim: Like I said, I used to use a physical journal and then I moved to-

Joe Casabona: Real quick actually. Do you remember the… because I love analog tools too. This whole interview is lighting you up.

Andy Ayim: Man, Joe, it wasn’t even a brand. It was like from the stage show-

Joe Casabona: Bound paper.

Andy Ayim: It’s like Target. There we go.

Joe Casabona: Awesome.

Andy Ayim: So the pages are probably off that falling out and now. And then I moved to Google Docs, but it wasn’t as easy to filter and to find things. Like I couldn’t control everything unless I remembered the word. And that doc will be full of like 17,000 words when you get to the end of the year. So it was just a bit of a beast.

So I was like, “I need to move to Notion and create a database, but I don’t want it to feel like a database. I just want it to feel like a journal.” I loved it when I started screenshotting and attaching images, writing a little bit of commentary, and adding the categories so I could filter, so that every six months when I was looking back, I would just filter on each category, like health and fitness and I’ll just answer three questions: what worked well, what didn’t work so well, and what lessons have I learned based on that?

And then I’ll set intentions for the next six months to say, am I gonna continue with the intention I had at the start of the year? I’m not gonna change my intention going into the next six months. So at the start of this year, my intention was I want to be a full expression of myself wherever I am, at home, at work-

Joe Casabona: I love that.

Andy Ayim: …at church, in the community. I just want to be me. And this makes six months… I’ve changed it to say I want to be more audacious. Because I think that when you have audacity as an entrepreneur, it allows you to think bigger and do more and to dare it to do. So that’s been the next six months for me. I can tell you are feeling that one as well, Joe. Right?

Joe Casabona: Yeah. That’s great. Because it’s so funny. What’s the phenomenon like when you hear something once then you start to hear it everywhere? The Baader–Meinhof principle. Right?

Andy Ayim: Yeah. When you see a car, like, “Oh, like I like that car.” And then like, I see that car everywhere.

Joe Casabona: Oh, you see that car everywhere. Or you hear a song on the radio and now you’re hearing it everywhere. The “be audacious” is very… I saw Wes Kao give a fireside chat, like interview style about spiky points of view and how you need to share your spiky points of view. That playing it safe means that you don’t stand out. And since then, I’ve heard it multiple times, most recently at this moment. So it’s so funny that you say that. I feel like maybe it was for a while…

I guess real talk here for a while. I got really nervous about posting anything online midway through 2020. There was a lot of social injustice and therefore a lot of strong opinions. And if you didn’t say the right thing, you said the wrong thing.

Andy Ayim: The council culture.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. And I was like, “I better just play it safe…” Because I’m like a straight white guy. I don’t know. I barely know anything. So I got really nervous about… I mean, I don’t really post political opinions online anyway. Nobody cares about my political opinion.

Andy Ayim: You just didn’t want to offend anyone. You didn’t want to step on no toes.

Joe Casabona: Exactly. So that ingrained itself into me over the past few years. And now I’m like, Why am I playing it so safe? Am I afraid to offend anybody? I’m from New York. I’m an Italian. We are not supposed to care.

Andy Ayim: But even that reminder of who you are, that comes from your tracker sometimes. You read a testimonial, you’re like, Oh yeah, that’s a good reminder of who you’re.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. And so some of my… You know, in podcasting, I have controversial opinions, heavy air quotes here, but that has been my best-performing content so far because people have opinions and they want to chime in. Be audacious, I love that.

Andy Ayim: But you see even that, what you just said with the content, exactly the same for me. When I look at my best-performing posts, they’ve been provocative.

Joe Casabona: Love it.

Andy Ayim: Like, what’s the reason that VCs don’t invest into Black founders? Ooh. Yeah. Let’s go in and let’s have that conversation.

Joe Casabona: That’s amazing. My best-performing posts have been provocative. And it makes sense. Again, people wouldn’t want to watch a TV show or a movie where you don’t feel it. Like you just watch someone go throughout their day. There’s a reason that reality shows are scripted a little bit.

Andy Ayim: Exactly.

Joe Casabona: Or at the very least, the conditions are set. In the most generous iteration of this, they’re not scripted, but all of the ingredients are there for something dramatic to happen, right?

Andy Ayim: Yeah.

Joe Casabona: And so nobody wants to watch somebody just hanging out in their living room or taking their mail to the post office. That’s boring. And even though in those Marvel movies, you know, the good guy’s gonna win in the end, there’s still that tension. There’s still that provocation like, Oh my God, Thanos just snapped half of the population out of existence. What’s gonna happen now? Really interesting. I didn’t mean to turn this into a Marvel talk.

Andy Ayim: I’m cool because I love it too. I think that’s also why, you know, a lot of creators in the knowledge economy, like you and I, why a lot of people really enjoy following us because we’re iterating in public. They get a front-row seat into us as we’re along the journey with them. We’re just a few steps ahead. And I think that’s what they really value from people like us.

When we spoke about hobbies and creativity earlier, one of the things that I intentionally do is something called FNEs. Friday Night Experiments, where I just experiment and try things out. And I create a space on Friday where it’s safe to fail. There’s no downside. It’s all upside and learning, and I just want to try things out.

One of my best ideas for my business came out of that Friday night experiment. It was a jargon buster. You know, it was a dictionary of terms. Like, what does this mean? What does that mean? And it breaks down a hundred key terms and really plain English with examples. It came out of the Friday night experiment.

Joe Casabona: Oh, that’s great. That reminds me of 20% time at Google.

Andy Ayim: Yeah, exactly.

Joe Casabona: Which I don’t know if they do that anymore, but I mean-

Andy Ayim: I don’t know. Google has changed a lot, as you know. Right?

Joe Casabona: Google has changed a lot. I mean, man, they kill products so fast, faster than Thanos killed half of the population. But Gmail, right, Gmail came out of the 20% time. Right?

Andy Ayim: Yeah.

Joe Casabona: I mean, that’s like a… I don’t know if it’s a major part of Google’s business, but it’s an important part of their business. Right?

Andy Ayim: Yeah.

Joe Casabona: That’s really cool. So you use Notion. I’m gonna also just say, again, like, you should check out Cortex, the podcast. Like what they talk about and what we are talking about here jives really nicely. They have a yearly theme. They don’t like resolutions, but they like yearly themes. And it sounds like the year of Audacity would be like your yearly theme or whatever.

Andy Ayim: Exactly.

Joe Casabona: Love it. So you use Notion, I want to do a little Quentin Tarantino thing where like we have this answer and we’re gonna go backwards a little bit before we get to the fun thing that people love talking about, which is tools and creating your own journal. What got you started journaling? I think we touched on this a little bit, but what was the thing that made you think, man, I need to write this stuff down?

Andy Ayim: So when I first went backpacking about 15 years ago now, and I went to South America, I remember feeling like I’m like the first person in my family history to ever go to Latin America. I mean, my dad, my dad’s dad, my dad’s dad dad, no one from my family history had been to South America. And to even say that, it sounds kind of crazy.

So I thought, “I just want to document as much of this journey so that all of my pictures relate to exactly what I’ve written down and almost create this mini book so that anyone in my family or any of my close friends can read it and check out this experience on what it was. And at the time I started a private email list to email people what I was going through during the time, I was going through a terrible English, terrible grammar, but great memories. And I think people appreciated that they were getting an inside view into a Pack Packers journal.

Joe Casabona: Oh man, that’s really cool. Again, you had like a physical journal, but one of the things that… again, going back to my honeymoon two weeks in Italy, I made sure to like, have location history on my phone. I had a burner phone. Not really a burner phone, but I had a Nexus phone that wasn’t my main phone.

Andy Ayim: It wasn’t your iPhone.

Joe Casabona: Right. Yeah. Yeah. I made sure to have location history on the whole time. And then that served me really well because a couple years later, my mother-in-law who sadly passed away from cancer last year-

Andy Ayim: I’m sorry.

Joe Casabona: …her and her son, my brother-in-law, went to Italy and they were like, “Hey, you posted about this really cool restaurant in Florence.” And I was like, Oh, let me bring up my location history. I knew I was here on this date. So we were able to kind of recreate our itinerary, thanks to that digital log.

Andy Ayim: Look at that. And that’s just another way of tracking where you’ve gone and what you’ve done. And the reason I called it a tracker rather than just a journal is because when I was out in nature in the Serengeti, this is another trip I did across East Africa, I camped for 30 days, we would have these trackers who had no maps, no Google maps, no ways, no apps and they were able to track where the lions were, the buffalos were, where the monkey was, where there was danger just from their memory. And that was so inspiring to me that I was like, You know what? I want to be a tracker one day. And this is my version of tracking.

Joe Casabona: Gosh, that’s awesome. That’s so cool. I mean, at some point, all humans were like that, right?

Andy Ayim: A hundred percent.

Joe Casabona: Like we wouldn’t survive if we didn’t know how to figure out if danger was near.

Andy Ayim: And what’s really cool about that, Joe, is that cities have kind of ruined us in a way because it’s artificial is false. We can’t even hear the birds and nature. But now we’re entering into a really unique phase where we need to rethink cities because everyone’s working from home and not offices anymore. Like we were attracted to cities because of labor and work. So actually, what do cities of the future look like? Now we have to rethink what these areas can be used for because we’re not all working in offices anymore. I feel that’s a really cool opportunity.

Joe Casabona: I grew up in the suburbs of New York. I will not say upstate. I’m not from upstate New York. I don’t care what city people say. Now I live outside Philadelphia, so the noise and light pollution is still there. When I go visit my parents, one of my favorite things to do is sit out on our deck and just look up because you can actually see the stars. Like see black sky and just all of the stars. And it’s like, grab a cigar, enjoy the night sky and the sounds safely. Because if I hear anything that freaks me out, I’m going back inside. Really cool thought.

So you wanted to document as much as possible. And then of course you had the physical notebook, so you decided to move to Notion to track everything. I should say you’re making… I’ve interviewed my friend Sara Loretta, on this show, I’ve interviewed Marie Poulin, and I feel like you are making the strongest argument to use Notion for me because it’s like-

Andy Ayim: Oh, yeah.

Joe Casabona: I keep everything in Airtable. I love Airtable. The thing you said about Google Docs, like keeping things in Google Docs, but it’s like hard to search, I start writing social posts in Google Docs, and then I have an automation that copies the content of Google Docs into an Airtable based-

Andy Ayim: That’s interesting.

Joe Casabona: Because it’s easier to search and find stuff. And then I can track, like, have I posted this on Twitter? Have I posted this on LinkedIn? And I’m like, Yeah, I can go there-

Andy Ayim: I’ll put that whole social calendar in my Notion.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, right. The way that you’re like, oh, I can filter views, right? Because my notes app… I use Bear Notes mostly. So like, you can tag stuff in Bear Notes. It’s really good. And then for deeper research and a lot of stuff I’ve been using Craft, which is a nice app, but like Mm… I wish there were, they have folders. I wish they had tags as well. Kind of for that reason. Like, finding stuff in Craft is not as easy as… and like they have this universal search, but it’s really not as you… You gotta know it’s there kind of.

Andy Ayim: Well, look, Joe, if I can convert you, I’ve got a template of my tracker that I can share with you that you can just duplicate to get you started. So you don’t even have to start from scratch.

Joe Casabona: Oh, that’s awesome. You know what? A lot of people have shared stuff with me via Notion. I have a Notion account, right? But maybe this is it. Maybe this is the turning Point, my friends. Episode 326.

Andy Ayim: I’m gonna check in six months’ time, I’m gonna see how you’re doing.

Joe Casabona: See if I’ve joined Notion Nation. The thing that has kept me from Notion is the automation stuff. I know they have Zapier-

Andy Ayim: It’s not strong enough.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, exactly. Airtable has its own built-in automation, but then it also works with other stuff. But they prioritize that ChatGPt and AI in Notion over this integration. So I’m like, that’s the wrong way on the roadmap.

Joe Casabona: I know. Well, I mean, you gotta. Everything has to have AI these days. Craft has AI. Ulysses just put out an email saying they’re considering it, but they’re not sure if they want to do that. Because you know, that’s a writing app. You really want people to just be able to write AI in your app and then publish it.

Andy Ayim: Notion’s asking me, do you want me to finish off what you’re writing? And I’m like, “Not really, because you don’t know what I’m about to say.”

Joe Casabona: Right. Yeah. You know what? Other people have said based on what I’ve written. But that’s not what I’m gonna… And especially for a personal journal, like come on.

Andy Ayim: Exactly.

Joe Casabona: Oh yes, ChatGPT, how did I feel today? Have you seen… This is gonna be a small side quest. Do you see prompt engineers who are like, you are a blah blah. You are an Angel investing expert who also likes to journal. You’re feeling sad today, write a journal entry about how you’re feeling sad. I’m really sad about my investments. Oh, good job ChatGPT. You really captured the essence there. Wild. Thanks for letting me go on that. Okay, cool.

So we’re like inching into this a little bit. Tools and creating your own journals. I feel like every six months I change my task manager as if that’s the problem and not the fact that I just don’t put stuff in my task manager as much as I should. The important stuff I do, I still like writing that down. I have a Kindle scribe and I usually write down all the stuff I have to do for the week in there, and it just never makes it into my task manager.

But the notes apps, I’m really more intentional about switching because I know that there’s a lot of stuff I would have to move and migrate. I use, again, Craft for the deeper research stuff. I’m not doing the daily journaling as much as I’d like to anymore. I’ve gotten a little bit away from it. But I really should get back to it. I was doing analog tools for that.

But what would you say… How did you land on Notion? You used Google Docs, you realized that there was a… even though Google’s like a search company, searching inside Google Docs is terrible. How did you land on Notion? Did you evaluate other tools or were you just like, this looks good?

Andy Ayim: I think with Notion, I was initially getting started with using Notion when I was starting my most recent business. So I thought, all right, Notion could be like the hub, the knowledge management system where anyone that I work with, any freelancers, I can work with them in this space. And I quickly realized it can do a lot more than I thought it could.

James Clear says in Atomic Habits that we don’t write a level of our goals. We fought to the level of our systems. So I was really intentional around, all right, what systems are gonna implement? And I think the thing that really hit home was I did like a time audit. Well, I looked across my last, I think, month and I used a framework called bed, black, and blue, where all the red tasks was the admin tasks, the infrastructure tasks, the HR stuff, the stuff that doesn’t make me money is a cost, but I just gotta do it, getting through emails.

And then we had the blue task, which are like how I make money today. Revenue tasks. I just sold a place on my course. Excellent. And then the Black task, which is strategy, which is what I call future revenue, where I’m thinking about tomorrow, I’m thinking about the future, I’m thinking about what I want to do next.

And I quickly noticed that I’m spending too much time in the red, a little bit of time in the blue, and hardly any time in the black. And I just felt in my heart like, that needs to be reversed. So I ended up hiring VA, virtual assistant to take more of the red. I started using Notion to plan more for the Black and I started using Notion to start executing on the Blue. And that’s what really got me into a rhythm of using Notion more regularly before setting on my tracker in there too.

Joe Casabona: Oh, I like that. I think this is a really important lesson. Because people see how Sara or Marie Poulin or whoever is using Notion and this really complicated system. The same thing can be said of me. People see how I automate and I have these big complicated automations, and they think, Well, I’m not gonna use that because I’m not at Joe’s level or Marie’s level or Andy’s level. But you started using Notion for this one very specific thing.

Andy Ayim: And I think it’s really important as a creator, by the way, to always ring-fence your learning around like an MVP, around something small that I can focus my learning on. It’s like me saying I want to launch this website, so therefore I’m learning how to do email marketing, I’m learning how to use Stripe and payment software, I’m learning a little bit of design. I’m learning a little bit of copy in the spirit of achieving this goal of launching the website.

So for me, my goal was I want to reclaim some of my time and spend more time on strategic and on the thing that add value today. So that allowed me to focus what I was learning and doing to achieve that goal. And then it becomes less overwhelming. So it’s little things like time blocking. You know, every Monday morning for two hours I’m gonna write content. On Wednesday for two hours, I’m gonna use my tracker and my journal and reflect on what’s going well and what’s not.

And I just started putting these intentional rhythms into my calendar and trying to honor them. Like no meetings during that time. You know, that’s my time. And that’s what got me into a better rhythm of how to work. Because I think as entrepreneurs, meetings can sometimes be your biggest distraction and downfalls.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, 100%. I’m very guarded with my calendar. I mean the times that you saw when you booked, those were specific time blocks where I like to record. And usually Wednesdays are recording days. That’s why I have so many today. As we record this, obviously this is gonna come out on a Monday. But I think that’s really important. I think one lesson to take away here is… I don’t know if you have kids. Oh, you do. because you’re a father.

Andy Ayim: I do.

Joe Casabona: How old are your kids?

Andy Ayim: Five months and six years.

Joe Casabona: [inaudible 00:36:48] Congratulations.

Andy Ayim: Thank you.

Joe Casabona: Very nice. Five months and six years. I’ve got six, three, and one and a half.

Andy Ayim: Oh, wow, congratulations.

Joe Casabona: Thank you.

Andy Ayim: Those are nice gaps.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the one between the last two is a little closer than we would’ve liked, but luckily we like our kids. But something that really threw me off with my journaling was I had, in my calendar, shut down routine at 5:30 PM every night. And that was great until my daughter started taking the bus to school. Because that means I’d have to pick her up at three and then she would have like iPad time, whatever while I finished work, but then I have to go pick up my kids.

So my whole afternoon on the days where my wife works was interrupted so I need to be a little bit more intentional. This time audit framework is really, really interesting. Right? Red, black, blue. I like that because I felt like I’ve been focusing too much on, even though I have a VA, on the-

Andy Ayim: The red.

Joe Casabona: I’ve been focusing too much on the blue tasks. Like I need to make money now, today. Like things were really slow and what am I gonna do and increasing costs or whatever. Instead of the black tasks. And I think that if I were handling the blue tasks better, I wouldn’t feel that time-crunched to work right up until 2:59 and then go to the bus stop to be there in time to pick up my daughter, right?

Andy Ayim: Exactly.

Joe Casabona: So I think that’s really important to have this system in place. And ring-fence you’re learning with on an MVP minimum viable product for those.

Andy Ayim: I think parental entrepreneurship is a whole topic in itself because you almost have to, by nature, change your rhythm. You have to adapt, you know?

Joe Casabona: Yeah.

Andy Ayim: You suddenly… I used to love sacred time in the mornings. I’ve got a five-month-old. It’s non-negotiable.

[crosstalk 00:38:46]

Andy Ayim: The mornings are now officially eaten. So I’ve had to adapt and change my work schedule in this season, which won’t last forever because of that. And it’s probably a lesson in entrepreneurship in terms of like those that are resilient and really last a number of years in business are able to adapt even when things change and they’re not in their favor.

Joe Casabona: That’s so crucial, right? Because you see these… I saw Khe Hy used the term thread boing on Twitter. And you see this all the time. If you want to be productive, wake up at 5:00 AM and work for three hours straight. Oh, tell me you don’t have a kid without saying you don’t have kids. If I wake up at 5:00 AM which I do, I shower, I get coffee, and then hope my kids sleep until 6:30.

Andy Ayim: That sounds realistic.

Joe Casabona: And in the winter totally because the sun’s not beaming in early, right? My biggest takeaway from this interview is I gotta get blackout curtains for my kids’ room for the summer.

Andy Ayim: It makes a difference. It actually makes a difference.

Joe Casabona: A huge difference, right? That’s like, oh, the sun’s awake, so I’m awake. But that’s really important. You gotta be adaptable and you’ve gotta do what works for you. So with that in mind, as we come to the end here, now in the pro show, we’re probably gonna talk about a lot because we were all over the place a little bit today. I was like, This is gonna be a real tight episode because there are a lot of good stuff here. We’re gonna talk about-

Andy Ayim: You should talk about The Marvel edition.

Joe Casabona: I know. The Marvel… I might have to add chapter markers into this episode so people can find the threads. But we are gonna talk about Andy’s experience as an investor in gap-closing startups which is very values-based investing, which is really cool. But that’ll be in the pro show. You can sign up over at casabona.org/join to get ad-free extended episodes of this and every episode of How I Built It, as well as my Automators newsletter every Friday. But before we get to that, if people want to get started with journaling today what do you recommend for them?

Andy Ayim: So if you don’t have Notion and maybe you’ve got your own software that you’re using, perfectly fine. The key thing is not all of us can afford therapists. Not all of us can afford coaches. So this is like DIY coaching for yourself in your pocket. So you want to create a really simple structure where you can really measure what’s working well, what’s not working so well, and what lessons am I learning? And once you do that for around 30 days, you start to form a habit.

So for people starting out, I’ll choose a certain part of the day that’s uninterrupted. It may be the last 10 minutes of lunch. It may be the first 10 minutes of your day. It may be the last hour of your day. But you choose that consistent time where you can just get into a rhythm of documenting what’s working well, what’s not working well, so well, and what lessons am I learning.

I promise you when you do that for 30 days, you’re gonna start seeing some value in the dots that you can start connecting across what you’re gaining. So forget categories, just those three questions each day at the same time.

Joe Casabona: What’s working well? What’s not working so well? And I’m sorry, what was the third one? I was like really-

Andy Ayim: What lessons have you learned?

Joe Casabona: Lessons have you learned? Awesome.

Andy Ayim: Because that’s what helps you adapt. Like you were like, “I need to get blackout curtains. You’re like, “Yeah, that’s a lesson learned.”

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. Like, oh, I tried this on Twitter for 30 days, it didn’t work. Maybe I should move to… Understanding that and keeping my lessons learned is what showed me like, Oh, short-form content is not really working for me. Like long-form content-

Andy Ayim: Interesting.

Joe Casabona: …is really where it’s at. You start to form a habit. I’m gonna call out myself as well as anybody else listening to this. I watch YouTube on my lunch break. I eat food and I watch usually Rhett and Link or John Boy. Those are my lunchtime friends. I can just choose to watch one fewer video over lunch and journal instead. I used to think, Oh, I’m gonna watch online courses during lunch. And I was like, Ah, that’s really my time to turn off. But reflecting, maybe that sets you up for a better afternoon too. Like, oh, I had a really crappy morning because this happened, I’m gonna reset and have a better afternoon. I love that.

Andy Ayim: Absolutely.

Joe Casabona: Now I’m gonna just point out here that the topic that we mentioned at the beginning or that we were talking about in the pre-show was becoming an internal source of content ideas. And this was such a rich conversation that we didn’t even get to that. So let’s talk about that for a minute.

I love what you said about we can’t all afford therapists or coaches. It’s sad, but it’s true. I think that I did BetterHelp at some point during the pandemic. Longtime listeners know that I had a little bit of a panic attack while watching my kids because my wife was at work and it was a very long pandemic. It was when my daughter brought me a bottle of water that I was like, “I gotta fix this.” My three-year-old should not have to have to take care of me. I take care of her. But I was fortunate enough to be able to pay for therapy. But just understanding how you’re feeling and how to adjust is a really good starting point, I think.

Andy Ayim: Absolutely.

Joe Casabona: So start with those three questions. Even if we’re just starting with those three questions, how does that become an eternal source of content for us?

Andy Ayim: Great question. So when you start connecting the dots, you’re gonna start getting ideas. Ideas are gonna be one of those things that just come in when your mind is wandering. And I gave a bit of an example earlier of that. I used to do these Friday night experiments. And during this time I’d often look through my journal and look for themes and patterns.

And one of the things I kept seeing people say is I don’t like the financial industry or ancient investing because I don’t understand what people are saying. I don’t understand this term. I don’t understand what an ASA is. I don’t understand what a safe is. I don’t want understand what these acronyms mean. And it became very evident to me that I need to democratize access to this information.

How can I make it more easier to digest and easier to understand? Because often in the finance industry, the use big terms that mean really simple things, but they’re just trying to keep the money and wealth to themselves. It’s a way of protecting themselves.

So I started breaking it down and easy-to-digest content pieces and then I created a jargon buster, a dictionary of terms. And now I’m creating YouTube shorts of that content. So the lifespan of that content created from that idea has lasted over 12 months.

Joe Casabona: Wow.

Andy Ayim: And that just came from looking at my journal and looking at some of the patterns that I was seeing. If I talk about the membership that we launched last year, it’s the same thing again. I was supporting a lot of entrepreneurs who weren’t necessarily angel investors, but they needed tactical support. “How can I grow my brand on LinkedIn like you have, Andy? How can I do cold DMs and sales like you have that actually convert to clients, you know? How can I think through scalable hiring practices and use this journal approach and use how-to documents like you talk about, Andy?”

I started just offering this really tactical advice, but in group coaching settings so that more than one person can benefit from it and I can scale my impact rather than having a one-to-one call. And that turned into my membership now, where entrepreneur… I say entrepreneurs come from personal development. And actually at the core of that personal development it’s this method of tracking everything you do.

Joe Casabona: I love that. I think that’s so awesome and crucial. And it’s true. This story I just told about my daughter and me having a panic attack, I wrote that in my journal and I decided to turn that into a personal story, right? Maybe if I hadn’t journaled it, I don’t think I would’ve forgotten it, but it wouldn’t have been top of mind for me. It’s not something that I would’ve…

I have a little story swipe file in my notes app, where something happens to me and I go like, Could this be a story that I turn into a blog post, into long-form content? I love that. And that’s a really big source of inspiration for me. Again, when I learned how il Duomo was built or I learned the real reason behind why Van Halen requested only Brown M&Ms… Do you know this story?

Andy Ayim: No.

Joe Casabona: Oh man, this is good. Maybe this is how we can wrap up. Though I usually like to let the guests wrap up on a good note.

Andy Ayim: You gotta tell the story.

Joe Casabona: No, I can’t just leave it as a cliffhanger. So for those who don’t know, Van Halen, huge rock band in the, mostly, 80s and 90s. They had a term in their Writer, which is like a concert contract with all of their requests and requirements. They had a clause, the last clause in there… I think it was the last C clause, but it was somewhere in there that they wanted a bowl of brown M&Ms. They could only be brown, no other color.

You’ll hear the color change based on who tells. Some will say red. I’m almost certain it was brown though. And people just thought they were being like prima donnas. But the reason that they had that clause in their contract was because they also did a ton of pyrotechnics. They had a lot of fireworks and fire and dangerous things going on stage that was also in their writer.

And if they showed up to their dressing room and they saw that it was M&Ms, but it wasn’t just brown, they know that the people who read the writing weren’t paying that close attention. So they knew that they could be in danger because people didn’t read the writer thoroughly. Which is just amazing. Right? Super cool.

Knowing that story and parlaying it into how you can pay attention to details or how you can leave these little clues for people to help you do your job better is really powerful. I think that’s really cool.

Andy Ayim: I love that. And you know what that made me think of, Joe, is that all of us have had ideas where sometimes we see it in reality in a few years later and we’re like, I had that idea. And the thing is ideas are overrated and execution is undervalued. I tell everyone, keep a track of the ideas that you have and keep an ideas backlog and let that backlog grow. Don’t worry about that.

Because when it comes time to look for inspiration, you’ve got this long list of ideas that you’ve captured. You know, Joe did this post two years ago and he spoke about this thing. What’s my version of that for angel investing or business building? Like, there’s gonna be a long list of ideas and you look at it at the right time, you’re like, Now it’s relevant time for me to riff off that idea and create content off the back of it.

So I find it so easy to create content now on LinkedIn, which is one of my main platforms because I just go into the backlog. And sometimes a backlog includes a post that I did a year or two ago that I now have new thoughts on. My thinking has evolved so I can actually evolve that post and repost it with a new start or a new perspective because I’ve also grown as an entrepreneur myself. So it’s a never-ending list of content ideas.

And if you haven’t got the ideas yourself, you start by paying attention to who you’re following on these platforms. They’re also a rich source of content. Because You’ll be surprised that there’s people that you can reach in your niche or in your communities that have no idea what those other people are doing and they prefer how you say and deliver content to them because they resonate with you. So that’s your superpower.

Joe Casabona: That’s a great way to end the episode. Andy, thanks so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it. If people want to learn more, where can they find you?

Andy Ayim: Man, I really enjoyed crashing out with you, Joe. We’ve gotta do this again in the future.

Joe Casabona: For sure.

Andy Ayim: People can check me out on andyayim.com and that has all of my information around my maiden list, the membership. If you want to get access to the tracker and more of that kind of stuff, it’s all there. And I’m gonna definitely post this episode on there as soon as it was released as well. So thank you Joe for this platform. We love what you do.

Joe Casabona: Awesome. My pleasure. This has been such a great conversation. Again, if you want to hear more of this conversation ads-free, you can sign up over at casabona.org/join as well as talking about investing in startups and values-based investing. I’m gonna share a little iOS trick for quickly capturing segments of text. And I’m gonna tell you how I had the idea for Facebook before Mark Zuckerberg did.

So Andy, thanks so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it.

Andy Ayim: My pleasure. Thank you.

Joe Casabona: Thank you for listening. Thanks to our sponsors for this episode. And until next time, get out there and build something.

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