The amazing adventures of Doug Hughes

Posts tagged ‘Doug Hughes’

All Hat, No Cattle

I think I’ve finally made an important mental leap, as far as business and startups are concerned.  It’s not just the idea I need, it’s the execution of the idea.  So far, with the exception of Alagad, my execution on my various ideas has been less than stellar.

What brought this realization on was a post I saw on Reddit the other day.  This image was posted to /r/entrepreneur:

Ideas are just a multiplier of execution 2009-07-28 It's so funny when I hear people being so protective of ideas. (People who want me to sign an NDA to tell me the simplest idea.) To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions. Explanation: AWFUL IDEA = -1 WEAK IDEA = 1 SO-SO IDEA = 5 GOOD IDEA = 10 GREAT IDEA = 15 BRILLIANT IDEA = 20 NO EXECUTION = $1 WEAK EXECUTION = $1000 SO-SO EXECUTION = $10,000 GOOD EXECUTION = $100,000 GREAT EXECUTION = $1,000,000 BRILLIANT EXECUTION = $10,000,000 To make a business, you need to multiply the two. The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000. That's why I don't want to hear people's ideas. I'm not interested until I see their execution.

This screencap was taken from Derek Sivers blog. Why the poster posted an image and not a link to the blog, I don’t know.

I’ve ranted in the past about how many brilliant ideas I have.  And, in all seriousness, I do think some of them are pretty good.  But it would seem that my execution has been pretty weak.  Truth be told, I already knew this, but this image really crystalized the idea for me.

In fact, I don’t even technically run my own company, Alagad, any more.  Randy Miller, my father in law, took over as CEO about a year ago.  I still drive the company’s concepts and technical direction.  But, when it comes down to making sure we get stuff done that we need to, I’ve handed that off to Randy. For Randy, this must be like herding cats.

To a degree, I think the fact that Alagad grew to what it was at its’ peak (13 people and 7 figures of income) was almost luck and perseverance more than a good execution.  I had the passion for what we were doing, but I pretty much was clueless on how to generate leads and make sales.  To a degree, I think that’s because Alagad has always tried to be everything to everyone.  I’d say “If it can be done on the internet, we can do it.”  True though this may be, it’s not the easiest thing to sell.

So, with all these ideas I’ve worked on over the years (TaskForce,,,,, and many, many, more), I’ve failed to get anywhere because my execution sucks.  That a fun realization to have, isn’t it?  (No.)

I was talking with my psychiatrist the other day about ADHD, which I’ve recently learned I have.  I was lamenting how many half finished projects I have.  I’ll be working on one of my ideas diligently, and then suddenly come up with some brilliant new idea that I’m totally incapable of ignoring.  It’s so easy for me to get knocked off track and feel like my latest idea cannot be ignored!  It’ll be quicker, easier, bigger, and when it’s done, it will finance all these other ideas I want to do!

This is actually why I started ProjectSpark! last week.  I’m really hoping to find some people who can help me overcome some of my weaknesses, such as execution.  Because, frankly, I don’t want to flop around like a fish out of water forever.

For those who don’t know, ADHD is essentially an impairment of working memory.  What that means is I don’t have as much storage as other people do in the part of my brain where I work with information.  So, when I come up with an exciting new idea I essentially can’t remember why my previous ideas shouldn’t be immediately usurped.  I’m always seeing the world from a new perspective.  This might also explain why I can’t remember names to save my frickin’ life.

To help overcome this, my psychiatrist assigned some homework to me.  She wants me to create a flow chart of my decision making process.  Basically, I need to draw up how I decide what I should be doing at any given time, and where that will lead me.  The idea being that I can constantly refer back to this flowchart to go through a decision making process that doesn’t change every time I make a choice.  This should help me prioritize my work and keep my eye on the prize.  Frankly, I have no idea how the hell to do this.  I’m going to draw something up and probably share it here.  And then later I’ll revise it with her assistance.  I see the value in this, but I’ve got no idea how to do it.

So, now I know I need to improve my execution.  (Not that kind, sorry to disappoint.)  Figuring out how is the next big challenge.  Any ideas?

If You Are Not Doing What You Love, You Are Wasting Your Time

I woke up this morning to see this lovely inspirational quote in my twitter feed:

If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.
– Billy Joel

Don’t you just love quotes like this?  The implication, of course, is that you can always do what you want to be doing.  While I believe this is essentially true, it’s just not that easy.  There’s this pesky thing called “life” which has a tendency to get in the way.  And one also needs to account for self doubt and more practical roadblocks like money and time.

Over the last few days I’ve written about how I want to switch up my life somehow.  Essentially, I want to make a new job for myself as serial entrepreneur.  I am always having ideas for businesses and some of them actually seem good.  Even better, some of them are doable by me. I love developing these ideas and making something out of them.

My question for myself is, if I love doing this stuff so much, why don’t I just freakin’ do it?! My wife would argue that I do.  I spend way too much time in my office working on my idea du jure.  Why don’t I ever feel like I accomplish anything?

I have a particular pattern I follow when it comes to this.  I suspect I may not be the only one who has this pattern.

My Workflow

Basically, something happens while I’m working to make me have second thoughts about whether I should be doing this work or not.  Someone might have a negative opinion that hits a nerve.  Maybe there’s work that I don’t want to do.  For example, pretty much anything not-technical.

Once you run into something you don’t want to (or can’t) deal with, love begins to fade.  That may well be one of the most cynical things I’ve ever written, but there’s truth to it.

So, what can I do about this?  Are all my various ideas and projects doomed to failure, half done?  I sure as hell hope not!

I have to remind myself that it took me about seven years to figure out how to make Alagad, my consulting business, into something worth talking about.  I spent years flailing around more or less randomly until something actually worked.

My wife has a story she likes to tell that probably came from Dr. Phil or someone simular.  There was a man who was lamenting falling out of love with his wife.  He used to love her, but he just didn’t have the feeling any more, though he wanted to.  What did Dr. Phil (or whoever) say to this man?  He reminded him that love isn’t just a noun, it’s a verb.  Love isn’t just a thing you feel, it’s a thing you do.

Since I’m no Dr. Phil, I’m going to have to simply say that in my case I’m going to have to try to love what I’m working on, even if I run into self doubt, naysayers, or whatever.  From experience, I can say this is easier said than done.  I’ve always been a doubter.  Without evidence I am always skeptical.

The thing about patterns, especially behavior patterns such as the one I outlined above, is that they’re hard to break.  Those who have ever struggled with weight loss or addiction know what I mean.  To break a behavior pattern you have to do something different, which I’m trying to do.

Yesterday I announced a goal of mine publicly:

I will publish 12 KickStarter projects in the next 13 months, one a month, starting 30 days from now, until all 12 have failed or one has been funded successfully! I will have my first KickStarter proposal submitted by February 16th!

This publicly stated goal (any actually following through on it) is the first thing I’m trying to do to break my patterns.  I’m hoping that if I work publicly, talk about what I’m trying to do and the challenges I run into, that I’ll find a way to keep working and reach my goal.

I’d like to end this article by updating the Billy Joel quote above with a few edits of my own:

If you are only half doing what you love you are truly wasting your time.
– Doug Hughes

What are your experiences in this area?

And Now for Something Completely Different

I’ve decided to enroll in an improv class at DSI Comedy Theater in nearby Carrboro.  There are a few reasons why I decided to do this, but the initial inspiration came from a video clip I watched recently about QR Codes.  I’m working with a few other people from Alagad to launch a new non-profit that will make use of QR Codes to facilitate charitable donations.  While researching the idea I came across this clip from a presentation by a guy named Scott Stratten from a company called UnMarketing about where to use QR Codes.

I give talks a couple times a year.  Mostly these are on technical topics like building mobile applications or the finner points of web development frameworks, etc.  I’ve also given the odd Pecha Kucha talk.  I’ve been known to sneak the occasional one-liner into a presentation and love getting a laugh from the audience.

But, improve is supposedly much more than that.  Here’s how DSI Comedy Theater sells the classes to business people:

You won’t survive the business world unless you are able to communicate and collaborate in the workplace. Key improvisation techniques help business people to think on their feet, creating new ideas effortlessly, actively listening to others, and working productively inside team environments. Workshops will help you learn to read any audience and will heighten your professional flexibility, making it easier for you to accomodate clients, customers and manage conflicts in the workplace. You will make more money.

And that’s… The Bottom Line!

I like to think I’m pretty good at thinking on my feet and coming up with new ideas and interesting connections between not-obviously related things.  But it can’t hurt to practice and learn more.  And, maybe this will help improve my presentations.

Beyond that, I’ve been a bit of a cynical curmudgeon lately and avoid doing anything out of my tiny little comfort zone.  I used to pride myself on doing things I wasn’t comfortable with.  So I’m hoping I can find a way to let down my (remaining) hair and relax a little bit and have some fun.

I’ll post updates here and rehashes of the classes here as I take them.

Transition Point

Hi, I’m Doug Hughes.  This is a reboot of my personal blog at  I used to have another blog here a few years ago where I wrote about personal and technical topics.  This was back in a time when I was still getting my company, Alagad, off the ground and a lot of business and personal content was mingled together.

A while back I moved most of the content from onto the Alagad blog and simply pointed to  That was fine and dandy, but it is now time for me to reclaim my own personal space on the internet.

The reason I’m doing this is because I’m going through a bit of a mid-career crisis.  I haven’t really talked about this publicly before and, honestly, I’m not quite sure why I’m going to start now.  Perhaps it’s so I can talk through the challenges I’m having.  Maybe I can get useful feedback from those people who read this.  Maybe it’s a narcissistic ego thing.  I don’t really know.

The problem I’m having is this: I don’t really enjoy the work I’m doing (contract web programming) as much as I used to.  There, I’ve said it out loud!  The world knows!  That at least that’s off my back!

There was a time when Alagad and programming was all I could think of, but these days I’m really longing to do something else.  A while back I hired my father in law as a program manager for Alagad.  Over time he took over many of the tasks I didn’t want to do such as collections.  This continued until we decided he should formally be the CEO of Alagad.  So at this point my role in Alagad is as a technical leader and programmer.  This has enabled me to luxury of thinking about doing something other than just Alagad.

In fact, in late in 2011 I quietly handed my resume around to a few companies but I didn’t really find anything I liked (that also liked me).  My idea was that I would take an extended leave of absence from Alagad, get a developer-level job with a startup company that I found interesting and use that as an opportunity to meet new people and learn new things.  It didn’t really pan out.

For those who are familiar with Alagad, please know that Alagad itself isn’t going anywhere, even if I do.  It’s being operated by capable hands and works is done, as always, by Alagad’s excellent employees and contractors.  If I step away from the company nothing will change.

Also, over the last few years I’ve brainstormed business and product ideas on an almost daily basis.  For a while I was trying to tweet one new business idea a day at DougsIdeas, but that petered out after a while.  I didn’t really get much feedback or interest in what I was trying to do.  However, I think some of my ideas are actually pretty good!  I even started work on a few of them, but I haven’t yet had any success taking them to any meaningful completion.

To complicate matters, I’ve learned that I have Depression and Attention Deficit Disorder.  I’m trying to treat these, but they sure can make it harder to do what you want to.  This has been very hard to admit to myself – or to anyone else, really.  I feel like I should be able to pick myself up do something, but it’s not really that easy.

What this all boils down to is this:

There are lots of things I want to do with myself.  By this I mean there are lots of businesses I would like to start or jobs I’m interested in.  I’m a curious person.  However, I don’t have a ton of time or money to invest in these businesses.  And depression and ADD often stymie me.

So, on this new blog I’m going to start trying to think verbosely about some of these challenges, things that I want to do.  I’m going to try to strategize ways to do these things.  I’ll also talk about other more personal things as well like family, friends, etc.  I’m going try to lay it all out for the world to see.  I hope to get some good feedback and support.  We’ll see where it goes.

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