Cliff Weitzman is the founder of Speechify, a text-to-speech-audiobooks app and in 2017 was named in Forbes magazine's 30 Under 30 list. A senior at Brown University and Google Student ambassador, Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate who built Speechify as a tool to help him manage his own dyslexia. In our discussion, Cliff shared insights into his own entrepreneurial journey, why we should all listen to more audiobooks, why coding is so important in 2020 and why our goals should not become weights that we feel responsible for.
Here are some of the highlights from our discussion:
You cannot be a founder in 2020 without knowing the basics of coding. Learning to code gives you an idea of what is possible AND it gives you the skills to build something when you encounter a problem. It’s much easier to make a product by coding than it is making a physical product. Without tooling costs, everything becomes much more efficient.
“This sucks, how can I fix it” is a mantra that should be consistently running through our brain as a means of generating new ideas. In other words, we should be trying to train ourselves to reflexively think how we could fix an issue when we encounter it in society. The other technique for idea generation is to search for opportunities based on what is trending in society more broadly. Therefore, you can come up with an idea from a pain or you can come up with an idea from an opportunity.
Learning to listen to audiobooks at faster speeds reduces the time cost of a book. If you can only read three books per year, the depth and breadth of your reading will be severely restricted. By increasing our listening speed over time, we can dramatically increase the number of books that we can read in a year. We should always challenge ourself to listen at the fastest speed whilst still comprehending and not being 100% comfortable. By being just slightly uncomfortable we can increase our listening speed over time.
A little bit of slope makes up for a lot of y-intercept. Learning adds to our derivative and makes our growth exponential which means that we quickly overtake those who are just growing linearly by following the standard path in life and not looking to continuously learn and grow.
From the youngest age possible, we should be trying to make a detailed mental model of the universe and an accurate map of the world. If our mind is like a Google Map, we want to try to make sure there are fewer areas that are pixelated and so from the youngest age possible we want to make an accurate map of the world and the best way to do that is to consume as much information as possible which is easiest to do through books. Through this we should be able to create a mental model of the universe and the more accurate that mental model is, the better our decision making becomes.
Identify the pillars in your life that make you happy and work on them and those goals first. Be ruthless about cutting the things that are not important to you and invest everything in the things that you care about. Long term happiness can be achieved through working on your pillars but you can add spice and joy in the middle which usually come from adventures.
Relationships are the most important part of life. The most important decisions that you make is who you marry, who you spend all your time with, who your friends are and so optimising your relationships and interactions with others is highly valuable. One of the tools Cliff recommends is the best selling book by Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Our goals are not weights that we are responsible for or we have an obligation to. We should not become tied to our goals – our goals set the direction and we should focus on the system that gets us there but in a way that is not just flailing around without a purpose.
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