Ray Deck - Rubber-Ducking your Life

Season 3, Episode 6 | August 9, 2021

In this episode of the podcast, Dan and Bekah talk to Ray Deck about rubber ducking your career path, the importance of trust and relationships, and accepting that we're probably wrong more than we're right.


Ray Deck's Profile Photo
Ray Deck

Ray is a trained data scientist, occasional angel investor, and software entrepreneur. His 25-year career spans industries from law to finance. Most recently, Ray is the founder of Sustained Ventures, a software product studio where he also publishes essays on technology and markets.

Ray's thoughts can be followed at sustainedventures.com/essays, and his less-thoughtful self is on Twitter @ray_deck.

Show Notes:

In this episode, Dan and Bekah talk to Ray Deck, a trained data scientist, occasional angel investor, and software entrepreneur, about finding the right career path through growth, learning, and motivation. We talk about the importance of trust and listening, and Ray drops a bunch of great resources to help everyone find their own path.

Favorite nonfiction books:
Links to things mentioned in the episode:
Virtual Coffee:

Transcript:

Bekah:

Hello, and welcome to season three, episode six of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. I'm Bekah. And this is a podcast that features members of the Virtual Coffee community. Virtual Coffee is an intimate group of developers at all stages of their coding journey. And they're here on this podcast, sharing their stories and what they've learned. And we're here to share it with you here with me today, is my cohost Dan.

Dan:

Thanks Bekah. Today, we're joined by Ray Deck. Ray is a trained data scientist and occasional angel investor and a software entrepreneur. Ray is also a very active member here at Virtual Coffee. He lends his time and expertise, as well as he leads a few different interest groups, uh, for our members, which we very much appreciate. We talked with Ray about finding the right career path through growth, learning and motivation. Ray shared his thoughts about the importance of trust and listening. And he drops a bunch of great resources to help everyone find their own path.

Bekah:

We start every episode of the podcast like we start every Virtual Coffee. We introduce ourselves with our name where we're from, what we do and a random check-in question. Today's question is what is your favorite nonfiction book? Hi, my name is Bekah. I'm a front end developer from a small town in Ohio. And non-fiction is kind of general. So I'm going to go two different directions here. Um, if I'm talking like memoir nonfiction, then I'm going to go with Beauty and the Broken Places. If I'm talking like self-help, then I'm going to go with Scattered by Gabor Mat. I think that's how you say it. Um, it's a book that's about ADHD and it was super helpful to me after I was diagnosed last year.

Dan:

Hi, uh, hi, I'm Dan. I am a front end developer from Cleveland and yeah, I was, uh, I was scrambling because I was trying to remember any nonfiction books that I had read recently. I, I don't, I don't read a lot of nonfiction books mostly because, uh, I have trouble getting through them. Um, And so I don't think I have a favorite. I certainly don't have, you know, anytime you see favorite, I think of books that every read, you know, and so there's a lot of like fiction books, every read a bunch of times. Um, but so now I'm like scrolling, scrolling through GoodReads, trying to see if I have anything that I want to. The Radical Candor was fine. You know what I mean? It was like, it was fine. Um, I appreciated some stuff in it. I appreciate it. Um, the atomic habits book, uh, that was cool. I made it most of the way through both of those. Um, I actually just started, so this is on this is that GoodReads. I'm cheating a little bit, but I read a book called, um, it's called Shit Actually, which is a play on Love Actually. Um, and it's by Lindy West and she, she basically just, uh, reviewed old movie favorites and talked about. Basically like what held up and, um, you know, what was nonsense? And it was very funny. I, I laughed out loud on number of times, so that's going to be my official answer.

Ray:

And I'm Ray, uh, I'm a data scientist by training. I've been starting startup software companies for about 20 years. And I think the book that had the biggest influence on me is the Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Ed Tufty, who was one of my favorite professors back in college. Uh, and his book I keep on returning to his way to better explain complicated ideas.

Dan:

Um, I saw a presentation where they talked about a bunch of stuff from that book. And I actually like that. Um, A part in there where he, I think you can correct me if I'm, if I'm wrong was talking about, uh, this, this diagram of Napoleon's like battle, you know? And, and like, there was like a, like a very nicely what UX, uh, you know, illustration and, um, that has like stuck in my brain. I don't know why it stuck in my brain. I was probably like 10 years ago. I had went to that talk.

Ray:

There is marvelous, um, you know, visualization of complex data that dates back hundreds of years. You don't have to do with computers.

Bekah:

That's really cool. I'll have to check that one out. Um, so Ray, thanks so much for being here with us. We're really excited to have you on the podcast today. And when we start off, we like to hear your origin story. So what got you to this point where you are here with us?

Ray:

Yeah. So, um, coming in school, um, I was doing social science and a little too focused on the quantitative side of it. So I was doing more operations with search as it related to that. That sort of led me down the road to be doing a bit of management consulting and working in finance, actually mortgage finance early in my career. Um, and what I discovered was that the analytic techniques I had were kind of limiting. So I started learning more coding, right. And learning how to develop using the tools available back in the 1990s. Uh, and this led me to, you know, street smarts coding that I turned into my first, second, third, fourth businesses. Um, eventually going from someone who builds someone, who's managing people who are building back to someone who builds again. Um, it's kind of going back and forth over that, um, until about 2005 when I was diagnosed with cancer, uh, and then spent about six months being told that I wouldn't see the end of that particular year. Um, and then sort of launched out with my most recent company that I ran for about a decade, uh, before realizing I was sort of not really contributing to it anymore and looking for my next thing to do. Um, and they started a company and been trying a few different things. Now I've got a prog studio going, um, In the course of this came to the pandemic. Right. Um, and suddenly everything changed for everybody and like the way people manage the way people work, all of it is different. And I had this, um, revelation that I was more wrong than I was. Right. And this is probably true all the way through. Right. And we all are. Um, but I wanted to kind of rediscover what it is that people are doing now. Right. This can project forward, as opposed to what I had known and could project into the past. Great experiences where something, but there's a question to like, where's the world going? And I heard about VC, um, and VC is about people who are entering the field and figuring out where they're going to go next. And so I came here with a selfish motivation to learn, to find out what people are doing. That's just at variance with what I thought was right, or what I was doing, where a place where, you know, I knew that I was more wrong than I was right. And I could listen to people, um, and understand where they're going and hopefully, and this is sort of thing that I've evolved into, um, provide some service as well. Right? How can I have a positive impact on these people's lives, even as I'm trying to learn from them so they can have a positive impact on mine. And that's the feedback that I'm in right now.

Dan:

Hmm. I love that. I love the idea of, um, you know, realizing that you're wrong more than you're right. You know, and it's the way you said it is. Like, it makes sense in it. It's like one of those things that, um, I think you said this, but. Everybody in fact is probably wrong, more often than they're. Right. You know, but it's, it's hard to admit that to yourself. Um, maybe sometimes hard to, um, I don't know, make, take action on that. Right. Uh, other than just like ignoring, trying to ignore it, forget about the times that you were wrong. Um, what, was there something like, particularly something aside from just the pandemic and maybe some of the soul searching that a lot of us went through that, um, resulted in that. Realization or revelation as he put it.

Ray:

Uh, yeah. Um, I had made a, a couple of errors in the course of 2019 and 2020. Um, a lot of it having to do with, uh, who I would put my faith in. Um, that was causing me to, okay, well, what's, what's the right thing to be doing here. And then that all slams together with a pandemic, which is changing lifestyle quite a bit. Right? So that, you know, this idea of how I would work of, you know, go to an office and like be with people and be leading them with heavy. It's just different now. Right? Cause I'm now working remote, which I appreciate is not as new a thing for many others, but for small companies are actually trying to move fast. It is. I think more unusual than it's usual or at least that was true in beginning of 2020. Um, and the, um, and it was a whole bunch of new things for me to learn and thing and patterns that just weren't working for me anymore on an immediate basis, as well as having gotten a little bit kicked with like who I should be working with. And, and, and what's a good basis for trust. Right. So these were all things I was, uh, sorting out, coming into the beginning of the pandemic, um, and then figuring out, okay, what am I doing next? And then that would eventually lead me, uh, later in the winter, discover BC and be able to have the pattern here even as I was doing that a bit in my business work, sort of in the course of the fall. Does that make sense?

Dan:

Yeah, absolutely.

Bekah:

You said this, this there's this idea of what a good basis for trust. And I'd like to hear you talk a little bit more about what you've learned or if there's, if you've kind of narrowed that down or to find that in any way.

Ray:

Sure. Um, I think of, I've learned a couple things about trust. I think, uh, the first is one needs to accept the idea that one might be wrong. Right. Uh, the, the, there's an idea of a leap of faith, right? You leap and then you kind of hope there's something I, but you don't have a guarantee. Um, and I, I think there's a, there's a bit of, can you make those leaps a little smaller, so you don't quite fall all the way to the bottom of the abyss when it happens. Um, and so that one can be earning trust. Uh, one of the neat things about this environment we're in now being more remote is that people can't really lay the Juju on you, the way that they could. Um, if you're just in person, right? There's a certain presence. People can have that like makes you more inclined to follow them or to trust them. And when you're over this kind of pipe, that kind of thing, doesn't work as well. Right. Cause you need to be more explicit. This both makes it a little bit harder to start trust relationships, but also makes it hard to start bad trust relationships. So that's something I've definitely seen in terms of how this thing changes. Um, and the second is that trust well earned takes time. Um, and I will tell people who are talking to me about potential angel investment type things that I only invest in people that I've known for over a year. Uh, because if I haven't known you for a year, I don't really have that basis of seeing your consistent behavior there's is a place I should be putting, you know, the capital that otherwise is important for the future of my family. You know? So the, um, so I think those, those. Those those, those two things have put yourself in a place where you can trust and be wrong and not have it be the end of the world. Um, and then be patient before you're doing something big, more, you know, bet the farm style, um, are the lessons I've taken away from it at this.

Dan:

That's interesting. That's very interesting. And Bekah, yes, basically the question I was going, I was going to ask it the idea of, uh, of, I mean, the idea of trust is, um, I don't know something that's always important, you know, and I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm just constantly fascinated by the ways that, um, sort of the, the zoom, you know, culture has like changed, um, how we communicate and how we do different things. And that, that I had never considered this, the, the body language and the things that people can do to instill trust. I don't know, in a, in a fake way, like, there's probably a better way to phrase that, but like you were talking about right. There's, there's things that people can do to like physically make like, help make a person trust them, you know, and those go away when you don't have like the body language in the room. And probably, you know, I don't know, fancy meals and stuff like that too, I suppose. But, um, the, the, the, the body language thing has been really interesting for me because I I've actually felt, um, I dunno, uh, some amount of more freedom. Yeah. In like in zoom, like locations, because I don't have to, uh, I don't have to worry about my body language as much. Right. I don't have to worry about, uh, you know, talking about doing presentations that realize that I don't have to do, I don't have to worry about, um, what my hands are doing. Right. And what I'm doing with my hands, what I'm doing with my legs, how I'm standing or home, you know, whatever. We can see each other's faces. I mean, we're right now in most zoom calls. Um, so there's still some of that connection, you know, it's not just the. Like not just a text chat, but, um, it does remove some of that. Uh, I dunno, nuance, you know, for better or worse. Right. It's, it's really interesting.

Ray:

The, the tools one can use to project trust at a difference, or also trust that distance or also. Right. So for example, what you're doing, Dan right now with that bigger microphone that's sitting in front of you picks up more of your voice timber, right? And is, um, uh, it is projecting more trustworthiness than somebody who is just using the microphone on their AirPods. It's actually one of the reasons why I'm talking into a microphone right now, I sort of thought it was a silly thing to have until I realized how important it was for things like zoom meetings, um, the lighting that you've got behind you, the setup you have, right? We talk about like room Raider and, and, and sort of the silly things along those lines, but these things help you project trust. So the tools that we have that allow us to project trust through context, as opposed to just the message. Are different now than they were before. I tend to think they're less potent, right? We don't have the same aura effect that we can have like directly in the room, but there are definitely people who are like super compelling when they're on TV. And not that much when they're in person. Uh, I think we had a president who is a little bit on those lines. Um, and we have, um, different tools. Now. We just need to understand how to put them to work so that we can be getting maximum value for the things.

Dan:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And that, those, like some of those, like the lighting and the voice stuff, you know, is, that's almost a cosmetic, you know, trust is kind of like the fake projecting trust stuff that we were talking about before. Right. Um, and so that goes back to, I also very much like how you said you to really like, be able to know for yourself that you trust somebody it's like knowing them for a year. Right. Because then it doesn't matter how fancy. My lighting set up is, you know, after a year, after a year you'll you'll know whether or not, um, you can trust me or anybody else, I suppose.

Bekah:

It's interesting as you're talking about this. Cause I'm thinking I taught an argument class, um, back when I was teaching. And one of the key things that we looked at was the rhetorical triangle. And so you have like Ethos, Pathos and Logos, right. And Ethos is that idea of trustworthiness. It's the tone and the style of the person. And so in this digital world, There has to be this like shortcut way of projecting that. And in a lot of instances and social media and tech moves so quickly. And so what you're saying, these things that kind of establish that, that allows a shortcut in order to do that. And then, you know, Pathos appeals to emotions and Logos. That's where, you know, you, you become really credible by. Showing that you understand what you're doing, that you can demonstrate that, you know, the things that you're talking about. But I think that we. We leaned so hard today on Ethos and Pathos that sometimes that Logos gets lost a little bit. So rather than really thinking about whether somebody knows what they're talking about, we think about how we feel when we hear that person talk, how they appear to be an authority or not. And I think that tends to lead a lot of people down a path that it's not productive or useful.

Ray:

Right. I mean, of course in argumentation, you'll learn that the appeal to authority is a logical fallacy, right. It takes you out of the, the structure of it. Um, and, and, and I think this too, to bring it back to the technology industry, uh it's this is complicated stuff. Right. The code that you're looking at, the, uh, the, the nature of things we're trying to build or edit or create, um, are just very hard to hold. Right to hold your head directly, but not simple systems even have a mental model of it. So at a comp at a, a complicated system level is, is really difficult. And so you wind up with, okay, I have an edge of it. Right. And how do I trust in that edge and how I trust in the edge the other person has. And that's a, that's a tough thing because you just don't know. Um, and you don't know because none of us, or very few of us, I would say are smart enough to actually hold it in. So, how do you, how do you, how do you build the trust that like the sure you're holding onto leg of the elephant and they're holding onto the trunk? Um, are you actually communicating with each other so you can put together the floor picture?

Bekah:

Yeah. And it's interesting. This concept of trust and how important it is on our journeys and our paths, but also how it impacts how we trust ourselves too. Because a lot of times I think that when we think about how we trust ourselves, we do it based on other people's perceptions of us or our interactions with those people that we do trust. And so when you get into a situation where, you know, you're following someone or, or working with somebody who isn't really trustworthy, And that impacts your ability to see what path you could be on or what your potential is. Does that make sense?

Ray:

Yeah. Um, the right people to advise us and to be our lightposts is, is a hard and important thing. Um, and I think, you know, one of the things I conversations sometimes have with entrepreneurs is their reticence to commit to a path, right? Like they're afraid they're are more afraid of being wrong than they are excited about being right. Um, and there's an expression that more was lost by indecision than by the wrong decision. Um, and the, there there's an opportunity to be just giving people some more confidence. Not that they should follow your advice, right? Not that you should do the thing that I say you should do, but that you should do. Right. That you should go forward with that, which makes sense for you. Um, and that you have a trust in them that they can then apply that trust to themselves. There's a guy named Simon Sinek. Uh, he wrote a book called, uh, called, um, Start With Why. And he actually has a famous Ted talk too. I don't know if you've ever seen it. Um, and he talks about three levels of, of what you're about. He says the inside is the why then around that you have the, how then around that you have the what. Right. And you've got lots of whats. You might have a few hows, but have one why, what does the thing that really motivates you? And to the extent that we can help people find their why. Right. W what, what is the important thing to them? Then they're in a position where they can be making important decisions, the hows, right. That are long-term decisions that allow them to move forward, as opposed to being, you know, like we started afraid of being wrong.

Dan:

Yeah, I love that. I, that indecision thing is, is real, you know? And it's, I think it's like everybody is everybody's affected by it, you know, from time to time. Um, so like, it kind of talks about how you can. People, what do you do when you find yourself in that situation of, you know, it kind of stuck, maybe your motivations are a little different, you know, from case to case, but like you're stuck in decision, you know, you're, you're, um, I don't know, lost or whatever, like what do you do personally, if you're, if you're in a situation like that,

Ray:

Well, it helps have people you trust to be able to talk about. Right. Um, I think Bekah, you and I had a conversation where I use the expression believable people, um, and that, that comes from um Ray Dailo. Um, who uses it in the context of, he actually has a whole app based on believability that he uses for decision-making over at his, a hedge fund called Bridgewater. Um, and who is believable in a given context, matters a lot. Now, if you're not sure who to trust, that's a whole different thing. But if he has some people who you can trust, who you can go back to who are believable, uh, and this is something you accumulate over a lifetime, right? Go back to them and ask. And what I have found in the course of having those conversations is that there is two kinds of value. The first kind of value is that these people who I trust will listen to what I'm saying about that. And then will feed that back to me, right? Feedback a, you know, their, their, their, their opinion on the situation or what have you. But the second thing, and this takes some training. But the second thing that I've learned to do is to listen to myself. The very thing that I'm saying to them is most often. At least implies the answer of what I need to do now. Um, and I gotta say, like, when I'm talking to entrepreneurs who are doing a one-off thing, like we've done this before, actually in the, um, in the Indi, uh, startup hacker meetup, um, I sort of listened to what someone's saying about their situation for about 10 minutes. And then I kind of repeat it back to them using different words. They say, wow, that's such great advice. I've really only been repeating it back to them. Um, but that can be worth a lot too. I mean, th th there's, there's such a thing as the value of a sounding board. Um, and being able to just listen to yourself can be one of the hardest things to do, but that can be the job of your best friend.

Dan:

Yeah, I love that. So this is like rubber ducking, except for not. Tech stuff. Right. Almost right. You know? So, so like rubber ducking in tech, I guess when you're stuck on a bug or something as you, and I explained to somebody or, or, you know, or an object, the, what you're trying to do. And then sometimes the answer becomes clear to yourself. Um, just based on that, right.

Ray:

rubber ducking your life.

Dan:

Yeah.

Ray:

And now you have a podcast title.

Bekah:

Okay.

Dan:

I love that

Bekah:

Okay.

Dan:

concept of rubber ducking. Most of the time in a tech, um, context and, you know, a development context, but. A lot. Um, and in Virtual Coffee and, and in our, um, and in the podcast, I feel like it's, it's made a, it's made a number of appearances that rubber duck, we got a picture of Drew's. Drew has a, you know, actual rubber duck. He sits on his desk. We got a picture of him cause he was holding it up and talking to it during the podcast episode that he was on. And when you did get a shot of it. So I got a shot of it for the, for the show notes. Um, I like that. I like that idea though. Just that finding that, that trusted person, you know, that can kind of.

Bekah:

So there. Especially in tech, when we have so many people who are working remotely or who are self-taught, there can be a lot of isolation and there sometimes can be a really hard, it can be hard to find that soundboard right. Hard to find the people you trust. So what advice do you have for people who are in the situation where. That would be really great if I had somebody that I trusted and can talk to, you know, how do you get to that?

Ray:

Well, it's a hard thing, right? I, I, it's not going to be automatic. I would say that if you've met somebody in Virtual Coffee, that's not the person, um, because you don't have nearly enough depth, right. To have that kind of, you know, soul bearing trust. Um, and. This is where a family has become helpful. This is where a childhood friends can become helpful to the extent that you keep up with any, um, this is where people in your community can become helpful, right? This is where you have that kind of depth, uh, that doesn't need to come from work. And I think one of the things people think is that they need to talk to somebody who's in the context, right. That they are talking about. But, you know, particularly talking about. It could be a rubber duck, right? So it could be your, you know, it could be a minister. It could be, you know, an aunt, it could be, you know, whoever it is that, that, that is important to you in your life, who you would trust to not repeat it. Right. The things that are bothering you the most, it's really the confidence that's going to be most important when we talk about that trust and then allowing that reflection to, um, to happen. So if a combination of non-repeating and ideally not carrying the, the, uh, the judgment of it too far forward, that can be hard to find in a work context. Um, and I wouldn't look. Casually, uh, it should. And it accumulates over time, someone you met on Virtual Coffee two years ago that you've been keeping up with and have now a deeper relationship with that could be a thing, but of course, Virtual Coffee isn't even that old.

Dan:

More over a year though, right?

Ray:

Oh yeah. Over a year. I can invest in somebody

Bekah:

those listening, you just got to wait literally like another five months and then you can have your rubber duck.

Dan:

Um, you mentioned

Ray:

There's also a thing. Sorry, just one last idea. There is such a thing called a Mastermind, uh, which is a, uh, structure first introduced back in the 1930s. It was something that Henry Ford did, uh, that was in written up in a book by Napoleon hill. And it's actually pretty popular in the startup community right now, um, which is just in agreement among a few people who are all doing the same thing. In this case, startup founders, uh, that was said in the room stays. And usually they're coming in with the biggest business blockers. What have you, and most of the time it is the same kind of phenomenon we just talked about that applies to anything else. So, you know, I sort of talked about, Hey, you need to have this depth of, you know, um, what have you, in order to, uh, be the basis of that trust. But there is some indication that you could decide to do this with a structure and an agreement ahead of time and a little bit of, um, peer pressure that says, Hey, because we're doing this as a small. We're all agreeing that what's said in the room stays in the room. So there, I think there's, there, there is definitely potential for being able to provide that kind of con uh, uh, counsel in confidence, not from someone wiser than you, but at least someone who you trust not to repeat.

Dan:

Well, and I, and a group of people. Right.

Ray:

Yeah. And the small group seems to be where the magic of that is. Yeah.

Dan:

with, with the masterminds concept. Um, w in those cases, in at least the ones you've seen are those people who have a history, like a relationship already, or are they sort of like for like minded people, but not necessarily know each other yet, you know,

Ray:

The two that I've done have both been in the category. We were strangers at the beginning of it.

Dan:

Yeah,

Ray:

Uh, and frankly, that was part of the benefit, right? That, you know, we, we had the, um, you know, the, the false confidence of anonymity, right. Uh, that, Hey, we could all leave and maybe it didn't work out and it's not like we'll run into those people again, because the world is big and, you know, no matter what your business is, is your is probably relatively small compared to the world. Um, so there there's. There's definitely an opportunity to be starting a little bit more for cold. I mean, I know I said like the whole two year thing, what have you, but that's my experience on the one-on-one and this mastermind thing is something I've only experienced much more recently, but I think it's a way maybe to be able to get that jump-started, um, and could be interesting, even at the level of a VC initiative,

Dan:

Yeah. I mean, I definitely, like, I like the idea a lot, you know, it's, it's an interesting concept. Um, and we have found in Virtual Coffee, the like value of small groups, you know, um, just in general, right. And

Ray:

Okay.

Dan:

just being able to talk and, you know, in small rooms and break rooms and things like that, um, it, it seems like one of the highlights of. Dunno our experience or whatever, our, uh, mission, I don't know, whatever, whatever the word is, but, you know, uh, th th this sort of intimacy of, of, of something like that, um,

Ray:

I'd use the word way. There's a Virtual Coffee way.

Dan:

the way, yes, this is the way

Bekah:

Yeah.

Dan:

a man, a man, sorry, I just got sidetracked by the Mandalorian. So,

Bekah:

I have a

Dan:

yeah, go.

Bekah:

Okay. So if say you're working with a small group of people in some capacity that we talked about in this conversation and. You can kind of see a path that would, maybe you, can't kind of like you are pretty, have a pretty strong feeling that you can see a path for this person in front of you. And you're trying to guide them in that direction. And maybe this is wrong. Maybe you're like, no, you don't try and guide anyone. You help them get there themselves. But what I'm trying to get at is like, sometimes people just can not see that path or they're very resistant to that path and they refuse to try it. So, you know, how do you, how do you navigate that situation where you're trying to help somebody find the right path for themselves or, um, you know, the thing that, that, you know, would be really good for.

Ray:

I'm wrong more often than I'm right. I don't know what the right path for them is. Um, I think I used to give, you know, that kind of, um, didactic advice more freely and I've, uh, I've been beaten back by that a bit. Um, you know, I think cancer did that a bit to me, just sort of the experience of like, you know, being an entrepreneur, figuring out what works and what doesn't has put that into me. Um, and having, and getting to be in groups of people, uh, VC included, uh, that are not like me. Right. Has also helps with my humility and to the extent that I can keep building on my humility. I think I'm going to be much better off when I see people in that kind of situation where I think that they are running into a wall. The thing I've learned is to don't say it, oh no, don't run into the wall. Actually. I just had this conversation with them, an entrepreneur, um, an email back and forth what someone who I'm invested in, um, who by the way is, uh, at risk of running into the wall. Um, and I wrote this whole note out saying, look, man, you're running into the wall that you're, you're, you're going to run out of money. This is going to be a problem. You know, I can hear your number to dah, dah, dah. And then I sort of re-read it. And, uh, and this is something that my wife says I'm good at. I threw away the email and I wrote another one and I wrote the email. That was, why are you doing this? What was the reason you started down this journey? And what's important about it. Uh, and how can you find what's important to be focusing your attention on the stuff that matters? And not be spending on the stuff that doesn't matter to you. And here are like the five other people who are really smart, who are sitting on your board. These are wonderful resources, go talk to them for what's next. Right. And they might give more didactic advice. But like my thing was just a, how can I help this person rediscover why they were there in the first place? And if I can do that, Then I can put them on the tracks game. The answers can be right for them instead of the particular policy. I think might've been right for me.

Dan:

I love that. I love that that's an experience I have to sometimes where I write something out sometime I guess, I suppose most of the time it's some sort of snarky tweet, you know, or a reply or something, but, um, you know, the, initial. You are clearly wrong, you know, whatever, like what you're doing would feel wrong for me, that, that, like that idea, you know, and not, you know, not trying to put it on to somebody else. Um, and just the action of throwing away, the writing it out, I suppose. It's probably helpful for you, you to reprocess, but, you know, throwing it out and then kind of reframing it as, uh, as a here's some things to think about. Right. Um, it's gotta be more helpful most of the time, uh, to the people. Although, I mean, not although, but like even if probably sometimes people are asking questions, so hoping for some sort of easy answer, you know, um, I think the, the, the answers, the kind of answers that you provide, that, that you've provided to me over over the last year, um, are, are ultimately much more helpful even if, no matter how much I beg you, you won't just tell me exactly what to do. Uh, I just like, I love that approach. I appreciate it very much.

Bekah:

But also sometimes it would be nice to know what should I do?

Dan:

Okay. Uh, yeah, for our listeners, I be like, Ray is infinitely patient with us, both Bekah and I individually and probably together have come to Ray for advice a million times. I don't, I don't know how many times, and it's always been good. And, and this approach, I never really put it in words, but this is approach is exactly why. You know, it's that, that process of, um, reframing things, probably just re spitting out the things that I said to him, you know, but, uh, in a more connected manner, um, I don't know. I, I, something that I appreciate personally very much.

Bekah:

Yeah, same. And I know Ray also has been running two of our small groups at Virtual Coffee, the Indie Hackers Group and the React. What's the full name of the React group?

Ray:

I called a group mentoring actually, after your idea from April.

Dan:

okay.

Bekah:

So the Group Mentoring. And so I know that there've been a lot of people who have benefited from that, and I always forget the day and usually schedule something else at the same time. So I haven't been able to make as much, but as I've wanted to. But when you are moving in these different groups or. If you're meeting with someone individually or you're talking to an investor, is there a standard approach that you kind of take going into those situations? Are you really like looking at the person in that moment every time and trying to figure out how you can both learn and learn from and support that person?

Ray:

So there's something that in my own head, I called the Dr. House Rule. Um, which is, uh, which is after a TV show is on decade ago. Um, uh, where is a medical version of Sherlock Holmes? And the, the, the premise is that if you've gone to the ER and they can't figure out what's going on and they take you to a specialist and they can't figure out what's going on, they then bring you to Dr. House, which means that every time I'm talking with somebody. Is actually talking with me about their problem. Uh, it must be not that receptive right. To easy answers. Right. Cause you would have gotten them. Um, and, and so that's the reason, it's one of the reasons I take the approach that I do. Right. Which is, um, you know, try to discover what's going on inside. You know, there's this idea in systems theory, um, that, uh, in a complex system, like an ecological system, um, both the problem and the answer are inside the system. So trying to apply resource from outside the system is often kind of destructive, right? So there's like an example of like, if you were in Bangladesh and this time too, and you're, you're looking at poverty, um, there's one theory of, well, let's go bring a factory to town, right. We'll be able to arbitrage the labor. It will, uh, we'll, we'll raise people's living standards and, and that'll all be good. Um, but then when you look there, there's like plenty of economy down. Right. They just don't have quite enough, um, liquidity going on. And so th there was a guy who I should think won the peace prize for this who came up with the idea of micro loans. Which is to create financial opportunities, not by having a big factory come to town. Right. But just to enable these people to do transactions among each other, and then by greasing the gears of commerce, allow them to make each other's, um, may make each other wealthier and raise the overall standards. The answer wasn't to come in from the outside with a big new factory. It was just to enable what's on the inside. And I think that applies in systems as big as Bangladesh and as small as, a human being.

Dan:

I love that idea. I don't really have anything to add to it or, or, or to delve in, but this is one of those moments. We have these in the podcast where we, something that guests says just kind of like Bekah and I are, both just like processing it, you know, uh, galaxy brand kind of moments that, um, that I dunno, I don't have anything to say. Really. That was a very good answer.

Bekah:

I would like a three hour conversation on that. Can we, can we schedule an evening lecture as well

Dan:

so, all right, so I'm going to go back a little bit to the, to the interest groups. Um, they you've been, you know, running, um, and I guess, I guess my, you know, the indie hackers group, um, is sort of a group of like-minded people. It's almost close to the masterminds thing, although, although it's not like a specific group of people. Right. But it's, you know, um, Um, the people that join the meetup are kind of all on their own journeys of, you know, indie hacking and stuff like that. And we kind of all talk and give advice and, um, and Ray kind of moves people through the, you know, discussions, um, which has been cool. Uh, the, the react group mentoring it's, it's, it's a little bit different, right? This is, this is a, this is a meetup where there's people who are, um, learning react. Or, or have learned it and are working in it. And then there's people who have been, had some more experience with it that hang out a little bit together. Um, can you talk a little bit about like your ideas about that group and how it's, how it is, like, how it started, how it's been going, you know, w what what's been good about it what's been, if there, if anything bad about it.

Ray:

Yeah, well, um, I would look to the participants to answer the question of what's been good or bad. Um, Luma I'm I'm, I'm running the groups through Luma as a platform. Um, and what this does again, to ask for people's feedback and the feedback I've gotten so far has been in the quality of, you know, five stars and then nothing in the comment box. Uh, and while I appreciate the kind stars, like knowing what people value would help me. Um, both get more out of it, uh, as well as help others get more out of it. So to the extent that I can be, uh, using this podcast as a request for comment, uh, I would, um, you know, I've been doing this since April, once again, I think out of what was it called the month of month of sharing was that was whatever the challenge was. That was sort of what inspired me to start these two little meetups. Um, and the, the thing I really liked about the react meetup is the ability to just connect people. Right. Like, there've been a couple of them where like, maybe for half of them I'm talking or something, but the best ones for me, those are the ones where I'm talking barely at all. I am just keeping the conversation, moving between smart people, commenting on somebody's problem. And it can be very cool when it's like you Dan, or it's going to be Ryan or Kirk, you know, uh, talking smart about a problem that somebody has. But the thing that is just revelatory to me is when it's someone who's not one of you who is, who is themselves relatively junior, or perceive themselves to be junior and they are helping each other. Because the problem you have is just the problem that's directly in front of you. And it's strange to you, but it might not be strange to someone else. And that's not a question of being junior or senior or up the ladder or progressive that's just context. And when I can have people of different contexts come together and make each other smarter, and then they come out and they are greater. Uh, that's the mission.

Dan:

Yeah, that's great. I, I've also enjoyed those times, you know, and I, uh, It's funny. I try, you know, as, as a participant in the meetup, I do try, like, I try to, I mean, I love react and I love coding, you know, and I get very excited about all that, you know? Uh, and so I try to, I try to, um, get people engaged in all that stuff. Um, and it's just, uh, it's always funny cause I'm sure Ray can see me just getting really, really antsy sometimes, you know, Somebody asked about, uh, you know, CSS and tailwind and, you know, CSS and JS. And there was, there was some really good discussion, really, really, really good, um, discussion. And I was just like literally sitting on my, on my hands. Cause, cause it's like, I've been doing CSS for a million years. Old guy opinions about it probably. But, uh, I mean, that's just my personal anecdote about it. Um, the, the, the, the meetup has been really fun and I've been, I've been really thinking about different ways that it can be, you know, if for instance, more people start joining or, you know, if it gets bigger, you know, ways to, um, kind of keep it going with the intimacy it has, you know, so it's like so far, it's been most of the time, what like eight to 10. People does that sound right

Ray:

Yeah, there are 20 plus less two of them.

Dan:

Oh, okay. Nice. Well, I missed the last one. So, um, yeah, 20 plus is a, is a, that's like a solid amount of people for, for kind of a, um, meet up like that. And it's, you know, um, I don't know. It's, it's very cool. And it's a very cool, uh, service that you're providing to the community and to like the people and honestly, the meet you. I mean, I learned things watching. Um, watching other people go through these as well. Um, lots of times there was the, uh, I don't know which one it was awhile ago or somebody was working through authentication and, you know, react hooks. And, um, and I think as a group, we all just decided, like we had run a little bit longer on, on that problem, but we all wanted to see, you know, we all wanted to see the outcome and get through it. So we all kind of sat as a group and cut through the whole thing, you know, and it was great. Um, I don't know, I just, I just appreciated it, you know, as, as, as a consumer, even as a, as a group member, um, it was, it was very cool. Um, that's all just to say, I appreciate the work you've been doing on it, and I appreciate that, that, uh, that meetup group has been, it's been really cool.

Ray:

Well, for anyone interested in participating they're on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at

1:00 PM, central as 1:

00 PM. Eastern. Oh, got that one wrong.

Dan:

Hmm. Yes. Yes. And, uh, the, if you're in our slack, the help and pairing they're usually links are posted there too. Um, and help and pairing a channel. So definitely check those out. Uh, if you're interested in react.

Bekah:

So when you're talking about all of these different things that you do, I'm trying to. Think about it in terms of mentorship. And I'm wondering if you think about it in terms of mentorship, because it seems, you know, uh, maybe a little bit different than the way that we understand or traditionally think of mentoring.

Ray:

Yeah. I think a mentorship as being a, um, a relatively intense relationship. Relatively high trust on both sides. That's a nontrivial time commitment. Um, uh, and I find that the best model is one that actually came from a guy named Bob Mesta. Um, and he, he wrote about it in the Harvard business review too. And, um, and, and his approach is it's. He, he, he structured them as 90 day programs. Um, where he is going to work with somebody who's, you know, looking to make a particular kind of change in their life, right? Want to move from phase to phase B on something. And he's there to help them make that change. And he's measuring himself based on their, his success and helping them make that. And he measures the other person based on their commitment to making that thing happen as well. It doesn't need to be all the work on it. Right. It's not trying to maximize the change is trying to move from one state to another. And I find that to be a sort of a useful way of looking at right equate to create limits. Uh, I found that to be really good for masterminds too. Right. There's a, what's the change you're looking to make in the next quarter. And then we're committing to meeting weekly, right. To be helping each other, make that. Right. Um, so when you have something that's going to be a more intensive kind of commitment, knowing what does success look like? And what's that? What does the commitment of resource? Um, I think matters matters quite a bit. And a lot of, you know, the things I tried to do here, I try to be helpful. Um, but again, I try to be humble. Right? I am learning as much, if not more from this. Uh, then this group is potentially gaining from me and I understand that that is a value I'm receiving and that I'm grateful for.

Dan:

Yeah, that that value proposition of being in a community, um, is always an interesting one to think about too, you know, as somebody who's, you know, you said, and I agree that. The Virtual Coffee has a lot of people who are career changing, you know, starting their careers and things like that. And then, um, some members who are, are more senior, but, you know, been around for a while longer, um, not changing careers, you know, uh, and that how to provide value as a community to more senior members, senior developer, IE members, um, has been something that we've we thought about from time to time. Um, and that's, for me, that's the, that's the same answer as is. I've just like learned, I've learned so much from everybody, you know, I learned about, um, how a lot of my assumptions, you know, can be wrong, you know, learn about, um, how people learn, like all the different ways that people learn things, you know, in general, um, It's it's. It's cool. That the way you phrase it, I, I, um, I really appreciate that. That's cool.

Bekah:

You know, I, I think, you know, one of the things that I would like to know about if, if you okay, I think I asked you about how do you evaluate strengths and weaknesses. Right. And I would love for you to be able to share that too, because I thought, you know, it definitely goes along with this conversation, you touched on some of it already, but just to be specific about that, because I think that, you know, that self evaluation can be really useful in determining where we are going.

Ray:

Yeah. Um, Approach I take, and this again comes from Daleo is to find, you know, believable people, you know, who you trust and to go ask them about where you are strong. Um, and then. You know, weight, their believability, um, based on, well, how inclined are they to just say nice things about you? And a lot of this can come from like domain expertise, right? So like, you're trying to figure out where your technical skills are. You talk to somebody who really likes you, whose technical skills you value, and they rate you on your technical skills or they comment on it. Right. I say, rate, it's not like it's a formal survey or anything. Um, and they say, well, yeah, you're really good here. You could use some help here too da da da, but then I also think you're a wonderful leader and you have all these other skills, like. But that's not what you're believable on. Right. And what, what people often do when they are evaluating somebody else is they will soften it way by saying nice things are outside of their door. And the, uh, and when I'm looking for that kind of feedback, I'm not looking for the, to hear a bunch of nice things, right. I'm not looking to get bucked up, I'm looking for, um, the, the advice that would allow me to make a change. Right? So I'm not just looking for the negatives I am looking for, like, where is it that they have the useful advice that is believable in that domain? So that technologist who then proceeds to say my leadership skills aren't there. Maybe I'm paying attention to that. Maybe I'm going checking in on my leadership skills, but I'm not walking away with, um, a policy prescription based on what that person had to say, because that's not the domain in which they are believable. And I know this all sounds a little structured and what have you, but it really does make a difference because then that way, like there, um, there's this problem. Okay. Th th th there's a, uh, an old Dilbert, uh, where it ends with, it was such a good idea in my head. Right. And lots of ideas are good in our own head. Uh, there's a parallel thing that my sister and I have two sisters who are physicians and they both have told me separately. There's no such thing as a mentor. Whenever you have something that's just in your head, you can persuade yourself. That is a good thing. Or you can persuade yourself. That's a bad thing. Or what have you, it's this a morphous bit. But when you actually have to use a technical term, serialize your thoughts, right. And move them across platforms, one person to another who then you have a high degree of trust in that I found to be where there's a lot of value to, um, to, to bring out those thoughts, to figure out what's real. And what's not. And to your point back, I figure out where those strengths and weaknesses really are.

Bekah:

Yeah. I've also found that there, there are some people that are really good at identifying strengths and weaknesses through conversation. And can, can give those to you or to talk about them. I hear you say this. This is what it tells me about you. And, and in those situations, I find that there's like a. A much faster degree of trust I have in those people who are able to, you know, see and evaluate, but also be honest about those, those things that they see. And then it allows me to kind of think about it, reflect on it and realize, okay, now, now what do I do with that information now?

Ray:

Yeah, no, that's, that's a really good point. There is such a thing as. Um, and you can be trained to do this better and you can use experience to do this better. And I'd like to think that I've applied a little bit of training and probably a bit of experience to do it better for others. Um, but the proof of that.

Bekah:

So. I was just gonna say, like, along those lines, are there resources that you've also found helpful? I mean, you've given us so many resources here, which we'll all go in the show notes, but anything that you haven't mentioned or you've personally found like, okay, well, this really helped me on a journey. It helped me to fill this gap that I wasn't able to find through self-reflection or working with other people.

Ray:

Um, yeah, I, there there's a whole, you know, universe of, you know, self-help literature, but if someone's going to read just one, I, I strongly recommend Covey's Seven Habits. Um, it is, um, it is excellent, um, as a sort of guideposts for how to make yourself both smarter and kinder all at the same time. Um, and I'd also say that he wrote another book right afterwards. He called it the eighth. And you said the eighth habit. Cause he ends the book with this idea of sharpening, the saw investing in yourself. And we talk about always be learning, but like doing it in a compounding way. Um, but he said there was an eighth habit and the eighth habit is elevating others voices

Bekah:

Hmm.

Ray:

and helping them, uh, Find their strengths and contribute to the world. Um, and you know, rather than ending with the idea of self-improvement ending with the idea of improvement of others. Um, and I think those in combination, at least so far for me right now, you know, outside of say religious texts um, have been the, the, the most meaningful and immediately helpful, um, guides, right. To trying to, uh, be a better person.

Dan:

Oh, I love that idea. That, and I feel like that's part of, I hope, I hope I was part of the Virtual Coffee, you know, way as well, you know, as a community, you know, doing that for each other, um, you know, help fill out raising. Elevating their voices and everything. Um, I think that, um, yeah, I dunno. I was going to say, I think that, I think that's a great way to wrap up. I, you know, that, that idea of, of, of helping, uh, helping each other, um, together, you know, and. Did you say that it was a whole second book? Like he followed that up an entire book with the eighth habit? Is that what you said? I'm sorry. That's cool too. I'm I'm definitely. I go, I'm going to, now that we've, we've mentioned about four or five non-fiction books that I'm going to be putting on my, on my, uh, to read shelf.

Bekah:

I just want to say, right. Thanks so much for not only being here and talking to us on the podcast so we can share this with everyone else, but for everything that you do in Virtual Coffee and for everyone that you support there, we really appreciate it. And, um, we're very happy to have you on here sharing.

Ray:

It's a delight and I'm grateful to both be here and to be in the community.

Dan:

All right. Well, we'll talk to you later, Ray! Thank you.

Bekah:

Bye. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. This episode was produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel and edited by Dan Ott. If you have questions or comments, you can hit us up on Twitter at VirtualCoffeeIO, or you can email us at podcast@virtualcoffee.io. You can find the show notes, plus you can sign up for our newsletter to find out what Virtual Coffee's been up to on our website at virtualcoffee.io.

Dan:

Please subscribe to our podcast and be sure to leave us a review. Thanks for listening. And we'll see you next week.


The Virtual Coffee Podcast is produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel and edited by Dan Ott.