DROdio http://danielodio.com A Sanctuary for Founders and Entrepreneurs en-us Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:22:45 +0000 http://sett.com Sett RSS Generator Two Years in Ketosis: My Health Update http://danielodio.com/two-years-in-ketosis-my-health-update I've been doing a longer experiment with ketosis for about two years now. I started naturally slipping into ketosis when I started intermittent fasting and found that I really loved the way it felt. Most people have very little knowledge of what ketosis is and how it]]>

I've been doing a longer experiment with ketosis for about two years now. I started naturally slipping into ketosis when I started intermittent fasting and found that I really loved the way it felt.

Most people have very little knowledge of what ketosis is and how it works -- if they've ever even heard the term at all. If you fall into that camp and would like a quick primer, this Reddit "Keto in a Nutshell" is a great place to start.

Here's an update on what I've learned after experimenting with putting my body into a regular state of low-grade (~1 to 1.5 millimolar) ketosis for the past two years:

This is what I looked like back in 2010. I weighed 250 lbs, a 38" waist and I was on the verge of metabolic syndrome -- and I didn't even know what that meant until 2015. If you're not sure either, but your numbers are like mine, this would be a very good time to read up about it, because those with metabolic syndrome are at a 5x higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and 2x the risk of cardiovascular disease.

It's really hard for me to post that photo -- and in fact, that's one of very few photos of me shirtless, because I hated being that guy in those pics. I don't even recognize myself in that picture. My mental image of myself was never being that out of shape. But I had gone from being really in shape in my 20s to really out of shape in my 30s.

I've spent the last two years crawling out of the hole I dug for myself, through a combination of intermittent fasting, exercise, and ketosis. Here's a picture of me trying new clothes on in 2017. And let me tell you, it felt amazing to go shopping for new clothes after donating my old wardrobe of XL shirts and 38" waist pants that was now too big for me.

All of that sounds like a personal success, right? Well, not so fast -- what about my blood work results while on ketosis for the past two years? Here are the results of seven blood tests I've taken in the past seven years:

Although my triglycerides went down to 70 from 202 and my HDL (the good cholesterol) went up to 65 from 38, my LDL (the bad cholesterol) also went up, from 135 to as high as 201. Must be all the saturated fat that comes from eating bacon and other high-fat foods while on ketosis, right? And we all know that saturated fat is really horrible for our bodies, yes? The funny thing is that I no longer believe that's true. In his book "Eat Fat, Get Thin," Dr. Hyman, the director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, references large reviews of randomized trials, observational research and blood-level data that show no link between saturated fat and heart disease. He now believes saturated fats actually provide a net benefit to health so long as they're not ingested alongside a high carbohydrate diet (this NY Times interview provides a good summary):

When my higher LDL came back, I also ran an LDL-P test to test for the small LDL particles that are belived to be really bad. These small LDL particles are the ones that form plaque in arteries. My LDL-P numbers were off the charts, in a really bad way, scoring 2,155.

My primary care physician was concerned enough that she ordered a CT scan to find out if I had any plaque build-up in my arteries after doing ketosis for two years. And I literally just got the results back today:

Zero plaque, thankfully.

So what have I learned, and where am I going from here?

I'll break what I've learned into what I know to be true, and what I think to be true:

What I know to be true:

  • Intermittent fasting has helped me regain control of my body
  • Being in Ketosis provides me a smoother energy curve than glucose (which I find to be spikey, like crashing after lunch), with fewer hunger pangs

What I think to be true:

  • Saturated fat isn't bad, so long as it's not consumed with a high carb load
  • I'm honing in on the ideal diet [1] for me, which is probably something like a "pegan" to "pescatarian keto" diet (details below).
  • Controlling chronic inflammation is what really matters for heart (and general) health, and so the Tri:HDL ratio is a very important one to track & minimize. I've got a lot more thoughts on chronic inflammation that I'll write up in more detail at some point.
  • - While high LDL is universally considered bad by all doctors I talk to, my personal finding is that it's something to keep tracking and experiment with finding ways of lowering, but it hasn't casued any plaque build-up in my arteries (at least, not yet) so I'm not as worried about it as I was, so long as my Tri:HDL ratio stays strong.
  • - I also think that it's very possible -- even probable -- that things I think to be true, actually aren't true. So it goes with health and medicine, so take all of this with the appropriate caveats.

Here's what I'm trying next:

I've started experimenting in three-month tranches, with blood panels in-between. These are the experiments I currently have queued up:

Just started: Instead of keeping myself in an always-on state of ketosis through diet, for the next three months, I'm going to experiment with more of a "pegan diet" to see if that can lower my LDL while maintaining my other numbers.

Up next: I really want to try a "pescatarian keto" diet, where I keep my body in ketosis, but get my fats from fatty fish vs. other meats.

I'm also continuing to fast two days per week and exercise regularly through the experiments above.

And there's one last experiment I'm intrigued to try: A friend from college, Frank, is commercializing a ketone ester into a product called KetoneAid . I tried it for the first time this week and I'm pretty excited about it. Dr. Richard Veech is Frank's wife's godfather, and Dr. Veech has been studying ketones for the past 40 years at the NIH. Dr. Veeh states "A true ketone ester is a salt free and non racemic (D-bhb) drink that replicates the secondary fuel that the body produces during times of starvation," and this is what Frank is working on bringing to market. The cost to develop this kind of pure ketone ester has traditionally been $1,000 per gram. Frank is working to bring that down to $1 per gram.

I tried an early sample of KetoneAid and it was amazing. We tested my ketone levels, and they shot up to 3.4 millimolars within 15 minutes. Several hours later they were still above 2 millimolars. This won't mean much to people who don't track their ketone levels, but it would normally require a five day fast to get up to that level of ketosis. Here's a bit more about what this means:

When you're in ketosis, you don't get hungry as quickly because your body is in a mode where it's burning the fat stored in your body for energy. Drinking KetoneAid catapults your body into ketosis in 15 minutes, which means:

  • You get the benefits of being in ketosis without having to adhere to the strict keto diet protocol. For example, I could potentially eat a pegan diet (allowing for some carbs which I consider healthier, like oatmeal, sweet potato, lima/butter beans, peas, legumes and lentils) while still being able to get into ketosis.
  • It serves as a really powerful appetite suppressant. For example, here's what happened to me: Have you ever had an experience where you pick up to-go food, and you have to drive it somewhere before digging into it? So you've basically been cooped up in a car, ravenous, smelling your to-go food that you can't eat because you're not at your destination yet? That's exactly the situation I was in, except when I arrived at our destination, Frank met up with me and said "drink this," which I did (video below), and I amazingly then skipped lunch entirely and didn't eat again until 8 hours later. For someone like me that has a "food beast" inside that I have to work really hard to control through intermittent fasting, exercise, and diet, the ability to drink something and boost my ketone levels to run off that fuel for 8 hours is beyond description. Frank's just starting to ramp up production [2] so I'm hoping to get enough KetoneAid to do a proper longer term test of it.

Here's my experience trying KetoneAid for the first time:

Here was the followup 50 minutes later:

Here's a picture of the bottle (front & back):

Here's a picture of my ketone levels after 50 minutes:

[1] Re: Ideal diet: The word "diet" gets pretty twisted in our society. When I refer to "ideal diet" I'm talking about a long-term way of eating vs. a temporary diet.

[2] Re: Frank's just starting to ramp up production of KetoneAid: He's going to do a kickstarter once he gets ramped up; you can register to learn more on his website, www.KetoneAid.com. It's really, really, really hard to produce a quality ketone ester. I'll ask Frank to post some follow-up comments explaining why.

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Sun, 29 Oct 2017 05:33:52 +0000 http://danielodio.com/two-years-in-ketosis-my-health-update
Software dominates industries like the fire breathing dragons in Game of Thrones http://danielodio.com/software-dominates-industries-like-the-fire-breathing-dragon-in-game-of-thrones The Game of Thrones season finale was tonight, and I thought this picture was a pretty apt analogy of the insurgent role software is starting to play in a business' ability to dominate not just their industry, but multiple industries: ]]>

The Game of Thrones season finale was tonight, and I thought this picture was a pretty apt analogy of the insurgent role software is starting to play in a business' ability to dominate not just their industry, but multiple industries:

Amazon is now closing on its acquisition of Whole Foods, and this WSJ article headline sums up the impending carnage that acquisition will cause in the retail sector:

Ben Horwitz stated it succinctly in the a16z podcast when he said

"What Amazon is doing is the right approach, which is, you have one business; you get it working and it generates money, and then it can generate enough money for you to add another business."

Amazon is able to acquire Whole Foods and lower its grocery prices for shoppers because Amazon is not in the grocery business. It's also not in the books business, nor the retail business. Amazon is in the software business. Amazon's deep core competency in software (indeed AWS is the infrastructure that powers much of Silicon Valley) enables it to extract value from Whole Foods in ways that the grocer could not do independently. For Amazon, Whole Foods is a top of funnel platform to drive more Amazon Prime members; to bring more people into the Amazon ecosystem. It can afford to cut through the razor thin margins that most grocers depend on to run their core businesses, suffocating them in the process.

The rising dominance of software-first companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix has happened so quickly (only in the last decade or so) that it's taken most large companies by surprise. And that's not quite the right way to put it either because I don't believe that most enterprises yet feel the urgency of needing to make software a deep core competency for their very survival over the next decade.

Let Kodak be a guide for all enterprises that are reluctant to fully embrace the way technology is transforming their industries. The sneaky thing about technology is that it can look laughable and cute at first blush. Kind of like those baby Game of Thrones dragons when they first hatched. Then it matures and scorches the earth -- and not just in one industry, but across multiple industries.

It didn't have to turn out this way for Kodak. A Kodak engineer named Steve Sasson built the very first digital camera in 1973:

"Sasson showed these devices to his bosses at Kodak in 1975. At the time, it took 50 milliseconds to capture the image but 23 seconds to record it to tape... His bosses were unimpressed. “They were convinced that no one would ever want to look at their pictures on a television set,” Sasson told The New York Times." - Business Insider

Kodak was a 131 year old company that employed 145,000 people at its peak. It invented and patented the first digital camera. In 2001, it acquired Ofoto, an early photo sharing site. But Kodak's key error was, as FastCompany writes:

"Kodak seemed to want to drive digital behavior back to businesses it knew and could control. Rather than embrace digital, it wanted digital to fuel printing. First with the creation of cameras for the Kodak Easy Share line, then for printers and ink, Kodak wanted the warm glow of the bright yellow box and the family memories of a “Kodak Moment” to shift from digital sharing back to physical objects.
Is it possible for a company with legacy business holdings, and a history of owning a narrow sales channel, to evolve into a thriving digital enterprise?"

Software-first companies are already gaining strong footholds across multiple industries. Tesla in automotive. Betterment in finance. Netflix in entertainment. Lyft in transportation. The secret weapon of these companies is that software is scalable. A deep core competency in software creates a cocktail that's impossible for traditional companies to beat:

1. Speed: Software enables companies to learn faster, and therefore respond to the market faster. As Mark Zuckerberg said in Reid Hoffman's "Masters of Scale" podcast,

"The strategy of Facebook is to learn as quickly as possible what our community wants us to do. And that requires a culture that encourages people to try things and test things and fail, and it also requires building infrastructure to enable people to do that, because culture isn't enough by itself and the stuff isn't magic. At the end of the day, it comes from building infrastructure that enables it. So one of the things that I'm the most proud of and is really key to our success is this testing framework we've built."
"When you're building internet software that you can change every day, I think there's really something to the strategy of 'just learn and go as quickly as you can'... that's really core; I think more than any single product that we're working on at this point, that focus on larning quickly is the strategy of the company."

2. High gross margins: Software is scalable in a way that traditional businesses are not -- especially on a gross margin basis. While the airline industry has a gross margin of about 5%, the software industry has a gross margin of about 90%. Software-first companies can scale up with very strong gross margin, which they can re-invest to drive growth in adjoining industries. This is why, for example, Amazon has only had a few profitable quarters over the past 20 years.

Activist investors are starting to put pressure on corporate boards to extract more enterprise value from their businesses. I expect we'll see a lot more takeovers like Amazon's of Whole Foods as companies that truly embrace software eclipse those that don't -- or won't. At Armory, we've divided companies into five stages of software evolution:

Businesses that remain stuck in Stages 1 & 2 won't be able to compete over the next decade with those in Stage 5.

The reason my co-founders and I started Armory is to enable any business to make software a deep core competency and a competitive differentiator, and to get to Stage 5. As I wrote in our Company Manifesto, the very first baby step to winning with software is being able to deploy that software continuously to users, in the background like running water. Without that, even the best boardroom strategy is just talk. Just ask Kodak.

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Mon, 28 Aug 2017 08:38:14 +0000 http://danielodio.com/software-dominates-industries-like-the-fire-breathing-dragon-in-game-of-thrones
A great way to interview consumers http://danielodio.com/a-great-way-to-interview-consumers I've never tried this myself, but I've heard it works extremely well -- and in fact, I'd love for someone to try this and then post a comment on this blog (ideally w/ pics!) describing how it goes: As I've written about in the past, I've learned with Armory about the imp]]>

I've never tried this myself, but I've heard it works extremely well -- and in fact, I'd love for someone to try this and then post a comment on this blog (ideally w/ pics!) describing how it goes:

As I've written about in the past, I've learned with Armory about the importance of putting customers at the center of the company's focus.

If you're the founder of a B2C startup, here's a great way to interview prospective customers:

  1. Go to a Starbucks (or Philz, or Peets, or any high traffic, high turnover establishment that offers gift cards) and grab a table just outside or just inside the establishment
  2. Buy 10 to 20 gift cards for $5 each and lay them out on the table in front of you
  3. As people walk into the store, ask them if they're willing to give you feedback on your startup idea in exchange for a gift card.

Ideally, you'll have something to show them -- say a prototype running on your laptop or your phone. The goal is to solicit very specific feedback from them based on something they can actually interact with.

Huge bonus if they'll let you record the interaction -- maybe you have a co-founder there with you who's recording each customer's reactions on their phone.

Even bigger bonus if you can get the customer to provide you with their contact information -- or even a credit card number -- after you've interacted with them.

Using this approach, you should be able to interview 10 or so customers an hour. In just one morning or afternoon doing this, you'll be able to get a bunch of feedback from your prospective audience.

Why does hearing from customers matter so much?

I recently listened to this great podcast [1] about the evolution of basketball which illustrated both the simplicity and challenge of strong product market fit. Basketball back in the 60s and 70s had gotten boring because tall players were dominating the game. There was a lot of debate about banning slam dunks (which the NBA did for a decade), about moving the basket height up or down, and even imposing height restrictions on players.

But the answer proved to be beautifully simple: The 3 point shot, which allows shorter players (like Steph Curry) to balance the game out and energize it with killer edge-of-your-seat shots.

The beautiful thing here is that nobody was thinking about the 3 point shot when they were all throwing opinions out about how to fix the game of basketball. In fact, it was a competing league, the ABA, which was created to experiment with new approaches to basketball, and tried a dozen new ideas -- most of which were terrible -- from which came the 3 point shot.

The simplicity of product market fit is that in hindsight, it's obvious. But it requires actual experimentation and a willingness to try what may seem like bad ideas -- and to fail -- in order to find it. And this is why actually interacting with customers, running experiments with those customers to get their feedback, and then iterating on that feedback is so important.

And this is also why it can feel like it's not important to interact with customers: Successful PMF is often achieved due to small, simple tweaks -- things that founders think they can do themselves. And indeed, sometimes they can. But just like everyone was focused on solving for basket height, or player height, but the solution was actually away from the basket, I find that as founders we become fixated on what's in front of us, and it's the customers, by sharing their pain and reacting to prototypes in front of them, that leads founders most quickly to strong product market fit.

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[1] A note about the Overcast podcast app I used to share the link above: It's incredible and a highly recommended replacement to the default Apple Podcast app. It allows you to do things like:

  • Share a podcast from a specific point in the episode (like I did above)
  • Let the listener listen to that share from a web browser w/o having to have the app installed (like above)
  • Cuts out dead airtime in episodes, shortening listening times
  • Stream or download episodes -- no more waiting for an episode to download
  • Fast forward by a different speed than you rewind (I fast forward by 60 seconds and rewind by 15).

I listen to podcasts at 2x speed + Overcast cuts out ded space, which gives me even more speed. This allows me to rip through podcasts.

Tons more. Here's an article about it. If you're a hardcore podcast listener like I am, upgrade your listening experience with it. And PS if the creator of the app reads this: Just wish you offered embed code for the shares, so I could've embedded the audio right into the blog above!

Also -- Happy to share some favorite podcasts if you tell me what you're interested in (just comment in the blog below). Please share your favorite podcasts too.

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Sat, 17 Jun 2017 22:47:05 +0000 http://danielodio.com/a-great-way-to-interview-consumers
Build Your Startup Like a Matryoshka Doll http://danielodio.com/treat-your-startup-like-a-matryoshka-doll "Experience is what you get right after you need it." - James C. Wofford Armory is the startup I've always wanted to create. I'm applying everything I've learned over the past fifteen years from previous startups. Below are some of those startup lessons explained as a se]]>

"Experience is what you get right after you need it." - James C. Wofford

Armory is the startup I've always wanted to create. I'm applying everything I've learned over the past fifteen years from previous startups.

Below are some of those startup lessons explained as a series of Matryoshka Russian stacking dolls, with the customer sitting at the center, encompassed by product, company and tribe.

Build The Product Around The Customer. This sounds obvious, and I thought I knew how to listen to customers, but I've never done it like this before, and now I see companies of all sizes missing opportunities to build value around their customers' needs.

At Armory, we've talked to over 150 prospective customers since starting the company just five months ago. We have learned from them and found consistent pain points across multiple customers that we are addressing as we build the product. Importantly, we didn't write a single line of code until we'd completed 100 customer conversations. And I don't just mean quick conversations -- I mean thirty to sixty minute deep dives with the target customers, where all the founders took copious notes, dissected the responses after the call, and looked for patterns across calls. We'd often ask if we could record the call and then re-listen to it to ensure we didn't miss anything the first time. It's an intense process, something I've never done before in any previous startups, and it's an approach championed by co-founder Ben Mappen, our Chief Product Officer.

For example, here's something we learned in our first month that surprised me:

The Armory team increased deployment frequency by over 300x at a previous company where we worked together and we experienced how incredibly valuable it was to deploy faster. Faster deployments led to happier engineers because they could actually see their code running in production, it led to us working on parts of the codebase that hadn't been touched in a long time because there was less friction to actually ship an update, and it enabled the executive team to focus on getting an entirely new line of business started. In short, when we started Armory, we were sure that velocity would matter to every company because we knew how transformational it had been for us, and we were excited about starting a company to bring deployment velocity to other enterprises.

But after talking to our first 100 prospective customers, we realized that what they are really looking for isn't velocity, it's safety. For much of the Global 2,000, software deployments are really scary. In some cases, prospective customers told us about how they still deploy software by taking their website down for planned maintenance, getting everyone in a room, pressing the "deploy" button, and literally crossing their fingers in the hopes that the new deployment didn't break anything. They do this on a Friday night so it affects as few customers as possible. But that means when something goes wrong, their team has to work over the weekend to resolve the issues. These companies are so scared of deploying software that they are literally turning their service off, ensuring the end user can't even access their service during an update, and then affecting employee morale by making them clean the mess up on the weekend!

So while as Armory founders, we were passionate about the velocity enabled by continuous software deployments, our prospective customers just wanted to be able to deploy with safety and reliability. If we hadn't teased that out at the beginning, we would have been solving the wrong problem -- one that did not yet resonate with our target customer. In fact, deploying faster is just about the last thing you want when you can't even deploy safely and with confidence today. And even though we know that once we can help our customers deploy more safely, they will then become interested in deploying with more velocity, our job is to listen to, and solve for, their urgent needs today.

It's hard to overstate the impact of this learning we teased out of our first 100 conversations. We are literally building a different company because of it. We thought we knew the problem we wanted to solve, but building the product around the customer taught us that we didn't.

If there's one opportunity I see large companies waste the most, it's usually this one. Established companies have a customer base they can learn from, but many of them have unhappy customers that feel unheard. It's the biggest irony because as a startup founder you desperately wish you could have actual customers to talk to, and yet large companies squander opportunities to innovate, often because they have existing revenue streams to protect, and innovating can mean disrupting their existing lines of business.

I've also seen large companies squander opportunities to learn from customers because they want to make their product (whether digital or physical) perfect before putting it in front of customers. Companies with established brands have a natural inclination to want to protect that brand and the consistency of that customer experience, and they have the luxury of time -- their existing revenue streams that remove the urgency of innovation.

The reality is more nuanced: A company's ability to segment customers into innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards will enable that company to put the right level of innovation and ideation in front of customers that will appreciate it the most, and keep it away from the customers that won't.

Building a product around the customer begins at startup stage with listening to the urgent needs of target customers, finding patterns of needs that span across multiple customers, ensuring the need is something the target customer will pay for, and choosing a large or growing market to do all of this in. When the startup matures, it's about segmenting the customer base so as not to loose that ability to listen and innovate. Regardless of stage, not doing this spells doom for a company of any size -- it just takes larger companies much longer to die than startups.

We're applying the same approach to our product roadmap. Every single item there has been validated through multiple customer conversations. It's easy to think you understand the customer after a few conversations, but my advice to founders after doing this is to talk to 100 prospective customers before you write a single line of code, because patterns emerge when you talk to that many customers that you won't see otherwise. If anyone wants to learn more about specifics surrounding this process, like figuring out who your target customer is, how to run these calls, what questions to ask, how to get them on the phone, etc., I'll be happy to ask Ben if he'll write a blog post about it. Just drop a comment in below.

Again, all this sounds obvious, but if you're a startup founder, here's the litmus test: How many prospective customers have you really talked to? How many customers have you understood urgent pain points from? Where's the document with your recorded conversations and copious notes of each conversation for you to refer back to and tease commonalities out of? How much code have you written (or prototyping have you done) before truly understanding your target customer's needs?

Build The Company Around The Product: Companies with great products that work well and solve real problems create lasting, durable and scalable value. Facebook's advertising revenue is skyrocketing because its core product, the news feed, is very good. The iPhone was a hit a decade ago because it was a better kind of phone; same thing with the iPod before that. Having a strong product at the core of our company makes all the other aspects of the business better. It's easier to recruit new hires. It's easier to market strong products because passionate customers enable very authentic marketing initiatives (like mixing current and prospective customers at events). As Marc Benioff says in his book, Behind the Cloud, his tactic when building Salesforce was to turn "Adopters into Addicts." I really like that phrase, and we're focused on doing the same thing at Armory. But this approach only works when the product works.

Building the company around the product also means we provide very high levels of support to our customers so we can make sure they are happy with the product. We even retrospect with our customers twice a month to dissect where we're doing well, and what we can be doing better.

It's also easier to sell a good product vs. a bad one -- such an obvious statement that it pains me to even have to write it, but I've seen up-close how companies that prioritize sales over product hit a wall and can't scale past a certain level. Chasing deals will drive some revenue, but long sales cycles and a churning customer base will keep you from achieving escape velocity.

One really good piece of advice I got on this topic was from a fellow tech CEO who told me his business started to scale when he realized that the word "interesting" in sales pitches is a very bad signal. "Interesting" really means "not urgent enough for me to dedicate a budget to it right now, but interesting, so come back later and see if you've solved my urgent problem then." He started to treat "interesting" as a bad word for closing deals and used it to dig deeper and find out how he could make the product better in a way that would solve a more urgent need for the prospective customer.

Build A Tribe Around The Company: Tod Sacerdoti, the founder of Brightoll, has a great post on the importance of creating a Tribe in a startup (in addition to other invaluable startup advice). His perspective greatly influenced our goal of building a Tribe around Armory. A startup is, by definition, doing something impossible (otherwise it wouldn't be a startup), and doing impossible work requires a lot of understanding and support, not just from the people working in the startup, but also from the support network -- the spouses, families, and friends. We specifically prioritize events that will foster the creation of a Tribe, and we offer family-friendly perks and benefits, including free companion airfare anytime we send someone on a business trip.

We've applied these Matryoshka Russian stacking doll principles at Armory via three maxims we live by. These are dedicated to optimizing the product around the customer, the company around the product, and the tribe around the company:

  • One hour of talking to customers is worth 8 hours sitting in the office
  • Why Are We Building This? Do We Need To Build It Now? [1]
  • The Tribe Is Not Built from 9 to 5

I can blog more about these Maxims and how we use them to guide our decision making if anyone wants to hear details on that or some of the other things I've learned over my past startups (like doing 10 year founder vesting); just drop a comment in below. You can also read my CEO Manifesto on Armory's blog to learn more about how I'm building Armory.

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[1] This second maxim deserves a blog post of its own at some point. It's a saying from Andrew Backes, our first employee, who uses it to make sure he's building the right thing at the right time, but it also applies beyond code to all activities we spend time on. We've happily adopted it as an Armory Maxim -- thanks, Andrew!

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Wed, 25 Jan 2017 00:53:39 +0000 http://danielodio.com/treat-your-startup-like-a-matryoshka-doll
Instrumenting a Startup: The Tools & Services We're Using to Start Armory http://danielodio.com/instrumenting-a-startup When Isaac, Ben and I started Armory late last year, I found a lot has changed since starting my last startup, Socialize, in 2008. There's a suite of new tools available to instrument a startup that didn't exist eight years ago, including: Incorporate + AWS Credits + Me]]>

When Isaac, Ben and I started Armory late last year, I found a lot has changed since starting my last startup, Socialize, in 2008. There's a suite of new tools available to instrument a startup that didn't exist eight years ago, including:

  • Incorporate + AWS Credits + Merchant Acct: We incorporated Armory using Stripe's Atlas program, which costs $500 but provides $15k in AWS credits in addition to a host of other benefits (including getting a Stripe merchant account set up).
  • GCP Credits: We also got $20k in GCP credits via Google's Cloud platform for Startups
  • Payroll & Benefits: We chose Gusto for payroll and benefit administration and have been very happy with them (use this link to get a $200 credit upon signup)
  • Accounting & Expenses: Xero is a next-generation bookkeeping system and it integrates well with Expensify & Stripe.
  • BackOffice: We're using OfficEngine for back office administration. We also looked at Bench and InDinero but chose OfficEngine because they specifically work with Xero (vs. having their own proprietary accounting system). This gives us flexibility to keep using Xero if we outgrow the services OfficEngine can provide, vs. having to export all our data.
  • Communication: G Suite is still the best thing out there. We power our email up with Mixmax which offers BigDripper-style functionality. I can't say enough good things about CloudApp for visual communication, especially when paired with Slack.
  • Cap table management: This is something I didn't even know I wanted, but now that we've started using eShares, I can't imagine how we managed cap tables using Excel.
  • Other tools: We use Ghost to administer our Armory Blog. We use Rebrandly for vanity short URLs, and it includes link retargeting functionality. We use Adroll for very targeted advertising.

I haven't yet blogged much about Armory because we've been busy building. But if you'd like to learn more about the Software Revolution and how Armory is involved, head over to our Company Manifesto. I've also written a CEO Manifesto that describes the main jobs of a CEO in a startup (and the importance of creating a Tribe culture), and if you're interested in working at Armory, take a look at why life is awesome over here!

If you're generally interested in startups, head over to my "So You Want to Start A Company..." hackpad with my best tips on startups.

Above is a picture of Andrew and Isaac on-site at a customer. I'll write more about the experience of doing another startup over the course of 2017.

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Wed, 11 Jan 2017 02:07:32 +0000 http://danielodio.com/instrumenting-a-startup
Leverage The Last Mile http://danielodio.com/the-last-mile Most of the work went into building I-40. But for the three houses in the circle above that live off of Lomaki Road, most of the]]> One of my best "get things done" tricks: is that I focus on the "last mile" of whatever I'm doing.

Here's a picture to illustrate what I mean:

Most of the work went into building I-40. But for the three houses in the circle above that live off of Lomaki Road, most of the value came from the last mile of service roads that were built to make the interstate accessible.

I see people spending a bulk of their time on the big parts of a project -- the equivalent of building I-40. But then they leave the service roads -- the details -- un-built, which means they never actually unlock that value.

A good signal this might be happening to you is when you hear yourself (or others) talk about ways you could accomplish something without actually doing it. And especially often, I hear people waiting for a trigger before they take an action.

So if I ever mention to you "how can you 'last mile' this?" what I'm asking is, "what's that one additional thing you can do, right now, to unlock the value of the project, that's not dependent on an external variable?" There are almost always small things you can do immediately that will unlock that value. Some specific examples include things like:

  • Lock in those dates right now instead of saying "we should meet sometime soon."
  • Create that slack team right now instead of saying "we should see if the group wants a slack team" (and then when you talk to the group about it, you can tell them "we have a Slack team for you to join")
  • Send a version of that contract redline back with all changes accepted and your signature already on it (it's incredible how powerful this is -- all the other person has to do is sign and they're done, vs. nitpick your redlines)
  • And the 'last mile' list goes on

Hope that helps you unlock more value in the things you spend your time on!

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Fri, 21 Oct 2016 18:53:04 +0000 http://danielodio.com/the-last-mile
A Step by Step Guide To Take Control of Your Body http://danielodio.com/a-step-by-step-guide-to-take-control-of-your-body It just blows my mind how little we know about our bodies and how to keep them healthy. Most people I talk to aren't happy with the state of their bodies. They either feel like they're too fat, or too skinny, or some other complex. And it's not just feelings -- many peop]]>

It just blows my mind how little we know about our bodies and how to keep them healthy. Most people I talk to aren't happy with the state of their bodies. They either feel like they're too fat, or too skinny, or some other complex. And it's not just feelings -- many people, especially on the Western diet, are too fat. And in fact, are clinically obese but don't know it. That described me for a decade. I was literally on the verge of metabolic syndrome and didn't even know it. That's incredible: I was putting my self at double the risk of coronary disease, diabetes and a slew of other diseases and I didn't even realize it. I see that same benign neglect of the body in most people around me. There's a general dissatisfaction of their bodies, but very little action taken to improve it, and I think it's because most people are a combination of confused as to what the best path forward is, and reluctant to make big changes without being sure they're making the right ones.

So while I don't necessarily have answers, I can offer a plan to help you begin your journey to figure it out, and the good news is, it's a very simple plan and so easy to follow that I guarantee this will work for you like it has for me. (Or "Your money back!" so to speak) You just have to decide you want to try. Here it is, step by step.

Step 1 in DROdio's "Achieve Your Body Goals" Plan: Adjust Your Attitude (Seriously.)

The very first thing you have to do is decide to take control of your body's fate, and not to let yourself feel like a victim. You are not a passenger along for the ride. You are driving. You have to believe that you impact the outcome with your actions, because you can, and you will. I have. For over a decade I felt like a helpless passenger. As my metabolism slowed down, I'd continue to put on the pounds and couldn't figure out how to stop it. I started hating the scale; hating that I was becoming someone other than who I knew I really was. It wasn't until I took this first step that I was able to take control. You have to really want to do this.

Step 2 in DROdio's "Achieve Your Body Goals" Plan: Mindfully Prioritize Your Actions

Like Ghandi said, "Actions express priorities." Part of adjusting your attitude includes adjusting your priorities. To put it simply, you have to put your body first for a little while in your life. Not forever, but for long enough to change your habits and find a 'new normal'. This means you put your body over your work, over your family, over everything. I'll explain how below, but if you're not ready to prioritize your goals with actions, then you're not ready to improve. Every day we're each becoming fitter or fatter. There is no middle ground. And worse, life's default state is to become fatter and less healthy. You have to put in work to achieve the opposite result.

Step 3 in DROdio's "Achieve Your Body Goals" Plan: Create a Goal and Figure Out How You'll Measure It

Have you decided you're ready to take control of your body, and to put actions behind that desire? The next step is to imagine an ideal you. What outcome do you want to achieve? For me initially it was a body weight goal, but I pretty quickly switched to a body fat percentage goal. I want to be no more than 20% body fat. For a male my age, that's top of the healthy range. In order to create this goal, I first had to understand my baseline. You can only improve what you can measure. I bought this body fat scale, which calculates weight and body fat. It's not stupendously accurate, but it's served as a great directional guide. Now I had the data to see how I was progressing on a daily basis. (Once I started getting serious aobut this stuff, I realized my baseline was 34.7% body fat. Wowza. I had lots of work to do!)

Step 4 in DROdio's "Achieve Your Body Goals" Plan: Embrace Experimentation and Timeboxing

This is the really key step. There's so much conflicting literature (which I'll dive into below) that it paralyzes most people even if they can get through the three steps above. I hate how the scientific community changes its mind every couple decades. We're just coming out of a 'fat phobia' generation where we've been using artificial sweetners, margarine vs. butter, and sugars to reduce the amount of fat we consume. If you look at Western (and especially American) waistlines it's pretty clear this approach isn't working. Many nutritionists recommend eating many small meals daily, while more recent research extolls the benefits of fasting, including intermittent fasting. It's hart to know what to believe.

This is the only answer: You have to decide you are going to experiment for yourself to see what drives results for you. Here's the best way to do that:

1) Create a framework for experimentation. I would recommend you break your experiments up into one month chunks. You can do anyting for a month, right? Whatever actions you decide to take, do them for at least 30 days and evaluate how it's affecting you. Remember in step #2 above you decided to prioritize your body over everything else. That comes into play here. For example, let's say you decide you are going to try a 5:2 fast for 30 days. This means that in every 7 day period, you skip meals on 2 of those days nonconsecutively. In order for this experiment to really work, you can't do 5:2 "except on the nights that I have a work dinner." Or "except on the nights that I have guests in town." You have to prioritize this 30 day experiment above all else. This is your body we're talking about -- the thing that keeps you alive and in this world. It's worth a month of your prioritization. Maybe you decide to only do one 30 day experiment every three months. That gives you two months off between each experiment. You can run four experiments a year this way. Prioritize those precious months to find a new normal that you can benefit from for the rest of your life.

2) Decide on your first experiment. I have some more specific advice about that below. Nothing replaces just jumping in and tryig it. Start your first experiment today.

3) Decide in advance how you will measure the success or failure of your experiment. Are you going to be tracking some metric like body weight or body fat? Do you want to get baseline blood labwork done so you can track things like triglyceride levels, HDL, LDL, blood pressure? Decide in advance what will constitute success in your first experiment. An example might be something like "I want to lose 1% body fat within the next 30 days."

Step 4 in DROdio's "Achieve Your Body Goals" Plan:

Rinse and repeat until you find a set of experiments that a) are effective for you and b) are sustainable. Here's what this process has looked like for me:

As I wrote here, I was turning 40 and scared enough by the way my body was degrading that I was ready to do something drastic about it. I've run the following experiments that are both diet and exercise-related:

  • 5:2 Intermittent fasting: Fasting two non-consecutive days of every seven
  • 4:3 Intermittent fasting: Same as above, but fasting three non-consecutive days per week. You can find my fasting blogs here
  • Ketogenic Dieting: Staying in state called "ketosis," by eating a high fat, low carb diet, which I dig into here
  • - Rowing 1 million meters in 8 months
  • - Doing CrossFit three times weekly

I've gotten to the point where I really enjoy experimenting to see what the effects are, because for the first time in my life, it gives me control. It proves to me that I can move the needle; that I am in fact driving, that I can affect the outcome.

The challenge is that while I've found things that work incredibly well for me (like fasting), as I've gone down the health rabbit hole, I've ended up with more questions than answers. I'm going to dig into those below by layout the things I know to be true, think to be true, and am not soure about, and how all of this is driving my future experimentation.

WHAT I BELIEVE TO BE TRUE ABOUT HEALTH:

The healthier I am today, the longer and richer a life I will lead overall.

Inflammation = cellular destruction. "Chronic inflammation has been associated with many medical and psychiatric disorders, including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, autoimmune diseases, schizophrenia and depression" - Nutrients v.5(3) 2013

Insulin must be controlled. The human body secretes insulin in response to the consumption of carbohydrates and protein in order to regulate blood sugar. This process, in turn, drives the body to store fat.

Fasting is healthful for a number of reasons, backed up by strong science. "Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found that a compound produced by the body when dieting or fasting can block a part of the immune system involved in several inflammatory disorders such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. - YaleNews... The ketone body β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) "is a metabolite produced by the body in response to fasting, high-intensity exercise, caloric restriction, or consumption of the low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet"

Sugar is toxic. There's ample science that it is. A great place to start is this NY Times article and this 60 Minutes video.

The ketogenic diet may lower chronic inflammation in the body: "Our findings suggest that the anti-inflammatory effects of caloric restriction or ketogenic diets may be linked to BHB-mediated inhibition of the NLRP3 inflammasome." - NatMed 3/15 (What are "inflammasomes"? They are "key signalling platforms that... activate the highly pro-inflammatory cytokines," so, inflammasomes = causes of inflammation in the body). NLRP3 (a type of inflammasome) specifically "is associated with complex diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, gout, and multiple sclerosis... Blocking NLRP3 represents a promising therapeutic approach to complex diseases" ...and the ketone body β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) may inhibit them.

Refined carbohydrates with high glycemic indexes are bad: In Good Calories, Bad Calories, "Taubes elaborates by examining evidence of the effects of carbohydrates on tribes with a "traditional" diet high in meat or fat and low in carbohydrates. He finds that the introduction of refined carbohydrates in the diets in these cultures resulted in increased prominence of diseases of civilization like obesity and heart disease." ... "Taubes contends that carbohydrates, specifically refined carbohydrates like white flour, sugar, and starches, contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments. Taubes posits a causal link between carbohydrates and cancer, as well." Related: Bread is carbs; most bread is bad. Wheat bread has the same glycemic index as white bread. 100% grain whole wheat bread's glycemic index is 30% lower. (Often people eat wheat bread thinking it's 100% grain bread.)

WHAT I'M NOT SURE ABOUT HEALTH:

Is a 100% ketogenic really good or really bad for you -- or neither? There's conflicting evidence. On the one hand there is research that shows that a diet high in animal fats and proteins combined with low carbohydrate intake (aka the classic Atkins diet) creates a higher mortality rate: ... but on the other hand there is newer research showing the exact opposite: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows." - NY Times article 9/14, referencing this study funded by NIH: ... and that the act of being in ketosis (which occurs when you restrict carbohydrates) can protect the body from certain types of glucose-dependent cancers, delay the onset of dimentia, and reduce chronic inflammation.

My Next Experiment:

I've been eating ketogenic since November, and have enjoyed it. And I believe there may be some significant health benefits to staying in ketosis. My take-away from my three month ketogenic diet experiment has left me with more questions than answer, which is an indication to me that I want to keep experimenting. I might come back to a 100% ketogenic diet in the future, or I might do it for shorter periods of time in the future. I'm not sure yet.

What I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that fasting has been life changing for me. I've gone from a 38 waist to 32. From XL to M shirts (skipping over L entirely). From 245 lbs to 185 lbs. I'm going to keep fasting for the forseeable future, and I'm going to stay on a 4:3 fast until I hit my 20% body fat goal.

My wife Sue has been incredibly supportive as I've experimented. She's cooked some delicious keto foods, including keto bread, keto ice cream, and other keto deliciousness. Since I have very poor food willpower (part of the reason fasting is so good for me is it's binary: I'm either eating, or not, which greatly reduces the cognitive overhead for me), we're going to try the following experiment for a while to see how it goes:

  • No breads, pastas, noodles or other carb-rich foods on "regular" days
  • No food with high sugar or added sugars (includes yogurts, juices) on "regular days"
  • A de-emphasis on meat on "regular days" with the exception of high Omega 3 fatty protein (certain types of fish)
  • OK to break the rules occasionally on "indugent" days -- but when we do so, we do it together to make it something special for us as a couple. This might mean we eat out at our favorite french restaurant once in a while.
  • A focus on whole, unprocessed foods and an aversion to processed foods
  • A focus on low glycemic carbs like beans, lentils, colored yams, berries
  • A focus on nuts, high fat fruits and vegetables like avocados (technically a fruit!)

This pattern of eating is similar to the one espoused by National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner in "Blue Zones," which identified holistic lifestyles of populations that have long lifespans, which also includes strong social interactions and regular amounts of exercise. Here are some great blog posts written on the topic:

I hope you'll join me by beginning your own journey of experimentation!

=================

The picture above is of a keto-friendly "five dollar toast" that Sue made. It was as delicious as it looks!

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Fri, 12 Feb 2016 00:48:19 +0000 http://danielodio.com/a-step-by-step-guide-to-take-control-of-your-body
What I've Learned After a Year of Prioritizing My Health http://danielodio.com/uid/1241393 When I turned 39 last year, I knew I was in trouble, and although I hadn't recognized quite how bad my health had gotten, I knew enough to realize I had to do something about it. On my 39th birthday I vowed that by 40, I would be back in the kind of shape I had been in a]]>

When I turned 39 last year, I knew I was in trouble, and although I hadn't recognized quite how bad my health had gotten, I knew enough to realize I had to do something about it. On my 39th birthday I vowed that by 40, I would be back in the kind of shape I had been in a decade earlier, when I'd turned 30.

Today is my 40th birthday, and I've not only hit that goal, but surpassed it. I might be in the best shape I've ever been in. I'm in much better shape that I was when I turned 30. Possibly even better shape than I was when I turned 20, back in 1995. In this blog post I'm going to share how I did what I never thought I'd be able to do: Take control of my body and health for the first time in my life, which would require me to overcome my genetic predispositions and a tortured relationship with food.

The formula is equal parts motivation + relationship w/ food + relationship w/ exercise. So let's break it down in that way:

Motivation:

Motivation is a funny word; it sounds like something you just do. But I've been "motivated" to be healthy for decades. Who isn't? Nobody wants to be out of shape. And so I tried to eat low fat, tried to eat smaller portions, tried restricting sugar, tried exercising. I even ran a few marathons while in the kind of shape you see in the picture above, at left. And yet my body weight (and more importantly, body fat percentage) would still creep up every year from the year before... and I really didn't know what to do to stop it, even though I was "motivated" to try.

What I've realized after this past year of intense focus on my health is that my previous "motivation" was only a shadow of what I needed to actually effect change. It took a looming milestone like my 40th birthday to get me to really prioritize my health. But even then, four months into my "motivated" state, I hadn't made any significant changes. It wasn't until May of this year (when I realized I was going to miss my goal) that I really started making drastic changes to my life: I started rowing and I started fasting. I started prioritizing my goal with actions. More on that below. But the point is, your body is never static: Every day you're either becoming more or less fit. And unless you are truly motivated to become more fit by making changes the actions around how you eat and how you exercise, over time life will by default make you less fit. And that hole gets harder and hard to crawl out of the longer you let it go.

Relationship with food:

I've come to the conclusion that one's relationship with food matters way more than one's relationship with exercise. In our modern society with abundant food, it's just so much easier to ingest way more calories than you can burn. My relationship with food is what required the largest adjustment. In July I started fasting two days per week, and have written a lot about it here. If you only do one thing to try to improve your health, start by recalibrating your relationship with food. Research is proving that fasting is healthful in addition to helping reduce your caloric overload. I've posted my best tips about how to give fasting a try in this comment.

I've also recently been experimenting with a ketogenic diet. I'm running that experiment through the end of 2015 and will report back on how it goes. I've been reading up on recent research which shows that being in a keto-adapted state can help regulate blood sugar and may help starve pre-cancerous cells, in addition to other benefits. I don't know how bulletproof the recent research is, but I do know this: It takes 17 years for medical research to reach clinical practice. This means that much of the guidance you get from your doctor is based on decades old science. I encourage you to be curious, to experiment, to see what works for you and your body. At stake is nothing less than your very life and well being. You owe it to yourself to put some time into trying to optimize it.

Relationship with exercise:

I've always enjoyed being active, but I've never enjoyed having to exercise for health. I used to run a lot but never enjoyed it much. It was always an obligation to put my running shoes on, and I often wouldn't do it even though I knew I should, which made me feel even worse. But then, through CrossFit, I realized I really enjoyed rowing. So I bought this Concept2 Model D rower and set a goal for myself: I would row a million meters before my 40th birthday. When I set that goal I didn't quite realize how much work it would be -- I ended up having to row a marathon's worth of distance every week for half a year to hit that goal.

But I did it successfully, achieving it yesterday, one day before my 40th birthday. I've really enjoyed rowing -- it's low impact, utilizing my legs, my arms, my back, and my core. And it's really good cardio; I can keep my heart rate in the 135-150 range for an hour or more. I've also found that I've gotten some of my best personal record rowing times on fasting days, which makes me think that I really do burn energy more efficiently when rowing while in ketosis. Rowing may not be the thing that does it for you, but I recommend you keep trying different types of exercise until you find something you enjoy doing, and then set a big hairy audacious goal for yourself to meet.

I'd love to hear your stories -- if you're at the point in your life where you're ready to prioritize and optimize your health-- so we can walk this path together.

=================

Pic at top by SKO of me rowing the final meters of my 1,000,000 meter goal, at Pinnacles National Park

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Mon, 07 Dec 2015 07:09:41 +0000 http://danielodio.com/uid/1241393
Beyond Fasting: The Ketogenic Rabbit Hole http://danielodio.com/beyond-fasting-the-ketogenic-rabbit-hole I'm about to take you down a deep rabbit hole, on a path that will challenge what you believe about nutrition and health. This is a journey of experimentation, and I encourage you to keep a very open mind, and in fact, I hope you decide to experiment with these themes ]]>

I'm about to take you down a deep rabbit hole, on a path that will challenge what you believe about nutrition and health. This is a journey of experimentation, and I encourage you to keep a very open mind, and in fact, I hope you decide to experiment with these themes yourself. I'm not a nutritionist or doctor, but I am very passionate about finding ways to optimize my body and health (especially as I age), which is why I've been doing intermittent fasting for the past five months -- and that experience has been life changing. I've gone from XL to medium sized shirts, from a 38 to 32 waist, and most importantly, from 34.7% body fat to 24.5% (and my goal is to get under 20%). Intermittent Fasting has put me in control of my body for the first time in my life.

And just when I felt that I was really starting to figure it all out, this rabbit hole opened up. And it's called ketosis.

In addition to intermittent fasting, I'm experimenting with ketosis through the end of 2015, which is triggered by eating a ketogenic diet comprised of 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs. Yes, that's right -- in order to lose fat and become healthier, I'm going to eat mostly fat. The mind blowing counter-intuitiveness of that statement is why I'm writing this blog.

But before we can talk about this ketogenic approach to nutrition and health, we have to understand how the body uses two energy sources -- glucose and ketones -- and why, with your diet, you are probably only ever tapping into glucose (and how that may be making you unhealthier, especially as you age).

See an enlarged version of this picture here. The illustrations come from a video for a ketone supplement called Keto-OS -- see my comment below.

Glucose is the "lighter fluid" energy source that your body uses to create energy for its cells, whereas ketones are the "charcoal" -- harder to ignite, but can power your body for longer when used because ketones burn fat and are a more efficient metabolic energy source. Why does the human body have the ability to burn two entirely different types of energy? The theory is that as humans evolved, we went through periods of feast or famine and had to be able to make use of energy when available, as well be able to as stash away longer-term energy, which was stored on our bodies as fat, and then convert it to energy (via the creation of ketones by the liver) when the glucose was depleted.

But in our modern society, sugar and carbs are all around us, all the time. We never starve for 2 days between meals. This means our bodies dutifully store away excess glucose as fat, but we never tap into those reserves to actually use them -- we don't need to; our bodies can be powered 100% of the time with glucose thanks to plentiful access to calories all around us.

What this meant for me was that six months ago, I was on the verge of having Metabolic Syndrome, and I didn't even know it. Metabolic Syndrome (a proxy for insulin resistance) put me at an elevated risk for getting many types of Cancer, Alzheimers, Obesity, Diabetes, Stroke, and Coronary Heart Disease. One is defined as having it if one has three of the following five indicators:

  • Expanding waistline (above 40"; mine was 38")
  • High Triglycerides (above 150 mg/dL; mine were at 141)
  • Low HDL (below 40 mg/dL; mine was at 38)
  • High blood pressure (systolic BP > 130 or diastolic BP >85 mm Hg)
  • High blood glucose (above 100 mg/dL; mine was at 98)

Astonishingly, the prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome is estimated to be 34% of the US adult population, and if you've got it, you have a 2x increase in risk for heart attack. Dr. Peter Attia has an excellent hour-long talk about the ketogenic diet and Metabolic Syndrome, which I highly recommend to anyone who's flirting with these numbers, as I was. Here's a screenshot from his talk showing his numbers (and I've overlaid mine):

I'm going to get my blood re-tested next month to see how (or if!) intermittent fasting has helped bring my markers down from these at-risk numbers, but I know that at the very least my waist has gone from a 38 to a 32, which is encouraging.

The big take-away: When you eat sugar and carbs, your body burns what it can and converts the rest into fat as storage. But when you don't eat sugar or carbs your body switches to a fat burning mode called ketosis, and it becomes "keto-adapted" which means it gets good at burning fat directly, and your body doesn't care if the fat it's burning is fat you're ingesting, or fat it has stored away. This is why, counter-intuitively, when you almost completely remove carbs from your diet and replace those calories with fat, your body becomes more adept at burning fat instead of storing it. The ideal caloric intake ratio is 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs.

The big caveat here is that you can't have a diet that's high in fat and high in carbs, because whenever you ingest carbs, your body switches to burning them and you fall out of ketosis, which also means you start storing the fat. So if you're inclined to cheat on diets, and you just can't resist eating those carbs, then this approach will backfire on you. And I happen to be one of those people. I just hate having the cognitive overhead of having to think about whether I should be eating something or not (that's why fasting has been so good for me -- either I'm eating that day, or I'm not. Very binary). So why would someone like me who absolutely hates "diets" try the ketogenic diet for a month? It's because, just like with fasting, recent medical research is starting to show that staying in ketosis is very good for one's body, including:

  • Being in ketosis makes your body more efficient, which makes you less hungry. (Many people also experience a clarity of mind when their bodies switch to ketosis, myself included)
  • Ketosis helps get rid of abdominal fat, which is an especially harmful type of fat
  • Being in ketosis tends to lower triglycerides dramatically
  • Being in ketosis is known to raise HDL
  • Being in ketosis dramatically lowers blood sugar and insulin levels (In one study in type 2 diabetics, 95.2% had managed to reduce or eliminate their glucose-lowering medication within 6 months)
  • Blood pressure tends to go down in ketosis
  • Removing carbs from one's diet leads to lower inflammation
  • And most importantly for me: Low-carb diets are the most effective treatment known against Metabolic Syndrome

Eating on a ketogenic diet is interesting -- you can have in abundance the kinds of foods you usually restrict, so long as you don't let yourself go near sugar or carbs. Here are some examples:

A very ketogenic dinner: Pork belly (perfect ratio of fat to protein) and lots of veggies. The glass of wine contributes about 4 grams of carbs (my daily limit is 50 grams).

Dumplings made from cabbage instead of flour... and delicious!

Salami, with some special gluten free, grain free, very low carb "keto crackers" that my wife Sue baked.

For a snack, I have nuts or sardines, an incredibly healthy way to get protein and other nutrients.

If you'd like to go down this rabbit hole with me, I'd love your company. I don't know if I'll keep eating ketogenic past the end of 2015, but I am enjoying the experiment so far. If you want to dive in head first, I highly recommend the following resources:

Tim Ferriss interviews Dr. Dom D'Agostino:

This three hour-long podcast is incredibly medically dense but also incredibly good. If you're skeptical about what I've written above, I highly recommend you give it a listen. This is the single best resource I've found to date about this topic.

Dr. Stephen Phinney - 'Optimising Weight and Health with an LCHF Diet' - Part 1

This is a three-part series of videos (I've only linked to the first video), each about an hour long, and they're spectacular.

Dr Peter Attia on How he changed to burning fat instead of burning sugar

This is the video I linked to earlier in the post.

Peter Attia: What if we're wrong about diabetes?

This is a TEDx talk about re-examining the relationship between Type II diabetes and obesity

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Sat, 28 Nov 2015 05:11:15 +0000 http://danielodio.com/beyond-fasting-the-ketogenic-rabbit-hole
15 Month Performance Review: Betterment vs. Wealthfront vs. S&P500 vs. Other Options http://danielodio.com/15-month-performance-asset-allocation-review-betterment-vs-wealthfront-vs-s-p500-vs-other-options I wrote this post in August 2014 comparing Betterment to Wealthfront, so it's been about 15 months, and I thought it'd be a good time to check in on relative performance, as a buddy of mine recently wrote: "I saw your post on betterment. I'm thinking of moving everythin]]>

I wrote this post in August 2014 comparing Betterment to Wealthfront, so it's been about 15 months, and I thought it'd be a good time to check in on relative performance, as a buddy of mine recently wrote:

"I saw your post on betterment. I'm thinking of moving everything over to a roboinvestor. What's your thinking on betterment vs wealthfront, and whether you'd just dump everything on there?"

As I wrote in my original post, I put $5k into both Betterment and Wealthfrontto test them against each other. To date, both have under-performed the S&P 500 by a considerable margin. S&P is up 10% since August 2014. Betterment is down by 2% and Wealthfront is down by 5.4%. So, should I just have invested in the S&P 500? And as per my other previous blog, Show Me The Money: Six Strategies to Put Your Cash to Work, how should I re-allocate based on this new data? And what would I recommend to my buddy? Let's dig into the data a bit to come to a conclusion:

Here's a chart in my Betterment dashboard that compares the performance of my Betterment investment (in orange) to the S&P 500 over the same period (in blue). I also threw in a Vanguard bond fund's performance just for a benchmark on how a more conservative investment has done:

Sadly, Wealthfront's dashboard isn't nearly as sophisticated. Here's all they show me:

Interestingly, here's how the Wealthfront has actually performed vs. how they predicted it would:

Meanwhile, in my "six strategies" blog post I referenced investing in peer to peer micro-lending via LendingClub, and then I wrote this update on using the LendingRobot API to be more sophisticated about how I do the P2P lending. Here's the LendingRobot dashboard of my P2P returns to date:

So LendingRobot is predicting that the money I invested in LendingClub using its "automated investing" service (before I knew that LendingRobot existed) will return 8.92%, but the money I'm investing in LendingClub using the more sophisticated rules I've created with LendingRobot will return 13.20%, for a blended return of 9.79%. Needless to say, I've stopped using LendingClub's automated investing service and am using LendingRobot exclusively for all investments in LendingClub moving forward. But let's just assume I can make an average of a 10% return in LendingClub. Does that mean I should move all the ETF investments over to LendingClub?

Well, not necessarily: There are several drawbacks to P2P investing, namely:

  • Income that comes from P2P lending is taxed at ordinary income rates, whereas equities that are held for a year or more are taxed at long-term capital gains rates.
  • Dollars put into P2P are very illiquid because they're deployed into 36 to 60 notes, whereas the Betterment ETF funds are immediately available if needed.
  • The interest rate of those 36 to 60 months notes are fixed, so if inflation were to kick into gear in a big way, those returns would be fixed while costs rise. Arguably equities could perform better in a higher inflationary environment, or at least the money is more liquid so I could move it to other places.

And to add to the complexity, I recently found a Vanguard high yield ETF that's returning a 3.11% yield, which provides for a blended approach: the liquidity and tax benefits of long-term-hold equities with some of the income elements of P2P lending.

So at the end of the day, here's my answer to my buddy who asked: Your decision really has to be based on your goals. Are you looking for an income producing asset? Are you willing to deploy cash in a risky way? In that case I'd focus on putting cash into LendingClub, via LendingRobot. But conversely, are you looking to stash cash somewhere that it can grow with the markets, where you don't need any immediate income from it? In that case I'd go with equities because historically they return in the 7% range annually, they're more liquid and get better tax treatment. And even though the Betterment and Wealthfront investments have greatly under-performed the S&P 500 over the past 15 months, I'm still sticking with them for now (and for the bulk of my cash, with Betterment specifically, which I greatly prefer over Wealthfront from a user experience perspective). Logically, I buy into their approach -- I like the Tax Loss Harvesting, I like the diversification into large, mid and small cap stocks and emerging markets. But I'm definitely going to keep tabs on how things go over the next couple of years, and I'll keep writing these updates (I'm in this for the long haul -- here's to decades of updates!). If I don't see Betterment start to out-perform other alternatives over a multi-year period, I'll likely change my approach.

I'd love to hear feedback from anyone who loves to geek out on this as much as I do! And for those of you who don't invest at all: Start with something small. $50. $100. Just get into it. Try a few things. There's a world of difference between $0 and $100, even just in the way you feel like you're investing in yourself and your family's future.

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Fri, 06 Nov 2015 19:26:57 +0000 http://danielodio.com/15-month-performance-asset-allocation-review-betterment-vs-wealthfront-vs-s-p500-vs-other-options