"Success isn't final, failure isn't fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts." —Winston Churchill
Six months ago, I was down.
I gave everything I had to turn Willpowered into a sustainable business – and my rewards for the effort were:
- A company doomed to failure
- Thousands of dollars of debt
- And a spot in my parent's basement.
Here's a graph showing my financial situation at the end of June:
I endured months of losses, had no idea how to turn things around, and finally decided it was time to consider quitting.
But as I reflected on how far I'd come, and what I wanted to do with my life, I came up with the idea for Reverberation that would build off my work with Willpowered and help me achieve more than I initially thought possible.
So I let go of all distractions, fear of embarrassment and I got back to work.
Here's a graph showing what happened over the next five months:
Here's the real surprise, though: that growth isn't from Reverberation...It's from "Wilson," an app I built with no coding experience, no degree, and no other options.
If I was going to save my dream, I needed help. Because I couldn't afford to hire an employee — I learned how to build one.
This post will tell you: What Wilson is, how he works, and why everyone reading this could do exactly what I did to build something like this.
WHAT IS WILSON?
First off, Wilson is not artificial intelligence, he's not a robot, and he and I have a strictly professional relationship (Scarlett Johansson version not yet available).
Someone with no experience is not going to create the robots that take over the world.
Wilson is simply a database and a set of rules.
When he receives certain information, he runs scripted operations. That basic programming is all I can create myself.
He gets the information from over 30 apps I use to run my business.
- Quickbooks for accounting
- Dropbox for file management
- Mindomo for mapping out my ideas
- PayPal & Stripe for processing transactions.
- ConvertKit for emailing subscribers.
And much more. This image doesn't even cover all of them.
All of these apps have the ability to "talk" to each other through something called "API calls."
Through this process, Wilson can "check-in" and ensure all of those apps are doing their job — and notify me when they're not.
HOW I BUILT WILSON SO QUICKLY
On a very basic level, content creators have 3 jobs:
- Create content
- Market content
- Build the business
All of my worst periods were when these three factors were out of balance.
If I didn't write consistently, my content became stale.
If I didn't market effectively, I wouldn't drive traffic to the site.
And if I didn't analyze what was working, I'd write things nobody wanted to read.
So my goal was to build an app to handle steps 2 & 3.
Thus, Wilson's purpose was clear:
- Publish content on various platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Emails, etc.
- Analyze top performing content and publishing platforms.
- Report back to me with recommendations.
With that vision in mind, the learning path I needed to follow became crystal clear.
Rather than create Wilson from scratch to run every single operation in my business, I just needed to figure out how to get him to "talk" to apps built to perform those exact functions.
This was even easier than I anticipated.
Not only were there tools like Quickbooks that could handle all my accounting for me, but there were also those that could handle almost all of the API calls for me!
I didn't need to get Wilson to talk to all 30+ apps, I just needed to get him to talk to 3!
Zapier: Which handles sales, finance, accounting, and more complicated processes.
If This, Then That: Which handles marketing, social media, and emails.
Hazel: Which handles all file-sorting, task-management, and organizing data.
Because I knew the whole picture I was working toward, I saved weeks of time trying to build something from scratch or even learning how to do API calls to each app individually.
HOW I "TEACH" WILSON WHAT TO DO
Once the data is filtered into Wilson's database, he sends it to an analytics dashboard that I can see to check-in on things.
Then I sift through that information looking for useful insights about content, marketing, etc.
Then I "teach" Wilson how to interpret similar data so he can do it automatically next time.
Depending on whether I'm mobile or at home, I either use Siri (Apple's digital assistant) or Alfred (a tool designed for customizing commands).
With that overall idea mapped out in my mind, it was time to get to work.
HOW I SOLVED THIS PUZZLE
If I dumped out a box of 1000 puzzle pieces, how would you solve it?
- Look online for "7 ways to solve a puzzle in less than an hour?"
- Try to come up with the "perfect plan" that will connect all the pieces effortlessly?
- Dig in until it started getting frustrating, then move onto a newer, more exciting puzzle?
- Or take one piece, look at the box, figure out where it fits, then do it all again?
The right answer is clearly #4.
It's a no-brainer. No matter how big or complicated the puzzle, it can be solved by taking it one piece at a time — goals are no different.
No goal worth pursuing will happen effortlessly. (Anyone want to buy a 10-piece puzzle?)
Whatever your goal, you will face moments of stress, frustration, and boredom. There will be times when you're stuck, there will be times when you realize that you put a piece in the wrong place, and there will be times you wonder if this is really worth it....
But as long as you keep at it, the final picture will begin to take shape.
Entering September, I hadn't begun work on Wilson yet, and my finances were only worse.
At that point, even some of my strongest believers started to worry about me — especially when I responded to their concerns by stating my intentions to move to London.
I only sunk deeper — what right did I have to say I could make it to London?
It turns out, none. I won't be making it there by the hard deadline I set. But that deadline forced me to confront just how disorganized I was. It created the scarcity of time, and the necessity for Wilson.
So rather than putting the project off until later, it forced me to let go of distractions, and get him up and running.
This led to a virtuous cycle:
- I added more tasks to his set of rules
- He took more tasks off my plate
- I had more time to add even more tasks to his set of rules
Do that every day and good things start happening. Whi yeahch is why the full system isn't even complete, yet it's still doing better than I ever could alone!
This system is full of issues, and I still have a lot to learn.
However, even this flawed system was enough to save me from failure, save me from doubts about "wasting my twenties," and save me from the endless worry about making next month's rent.
In it's place are the knowledge and skills to create a system that doesn't just save time or money — it creates them.
After six years of struggle, I solved the financial puzzle. Not through genius, luck, or even a great plan; but by solving one piece at a time.
As I reflected on my journey, I realized what kept me going wasn't unshakable confidence, positive thinking, or visualization.
It was the pain I feel every time I see someone give up hope.
When we lose hope, we lose everything. We approach the unknown with fear, rather than curiosity. We close our minds and disregard anything we don't fully understand. We become angry and never get the courage to share our greatness with the world.
I genuinely believe that everyone in this world has the desire to become great at something they care deeply about — it doesn't matter if it's in science, sports, family life, whatever.
If that person realizes this purpose and discovers how it fits into something bigger than themselves, they will treat each day as an opportunity, not an obligation — and we all benefit from it.
Despite all my failures, I woke up each day with the idea that this was another opportunity to use science and technology to help every person achieve whatever greatness they seek. I
Time to take on the next puzzle...