David speaks with Kevon Cheung, an author and content creator.
Kevon runs a course, Build in Public Mastery, to help entrepreneurs show their work publicly to build up their brand and superfan base.
He wrote a book, Find Joy in Chaos, to help entrepreneurs build their online presence so opportunities and connections come to them.
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📹 Watch on Youtube
👤 Connect with Kevon:
YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/c/MeetKevon
📄 Show notes:
0:00 | Intro ****
4:49 | Starting online projects at 13 years old
12:48 | Changing education systems
16:10 | The transition from business to technology
28:37 | Being invisible online
33:12 | How writing helps you gain clarity
38:09 | The hardest things to write
39:10 | How to become more open
47:47 | How to stop being an amateur
51:43 | Building in public
01:02:52 | Managing life as a new dad
0:05:32 | How writing a book boosts credibility
01:07:56 | Building an online community
01:10:43 | The origin of the book title
01:12:53 | Overcoming obstacles when building in public
🗣 Mentioned in the show:
PHP framework | https://kinsta.com/blog/php-frameworks/#what-is-a-php-framework
Thomas Frank | https://twitter.com/TomFrankly
David Beckham | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Beckham
Babson College Fund | https://www.babson.edu/finance-institute/babson-college-fund/
Nat Eliason | https://www.nateliason.com/
Indie Hackers | indiehackers.com
Stu Patience | https://twitter.com/StuPatience
Driverless Crocodile | https://www.driverlesscrocodile.com/
Seth Godin | https://seths.blog/
Sunday Beam Newsletter | https://kevoncheung.com/newsletter
Public Lab | https://www.youtube.com/c/MeetKevon
Jordan Peterson | https://www.jordanbpeterson.com/
Roam research | https://roamresearch.com/
Building Public Definitive Guide | https://meetkevon.gumroad.com/l/buildinginpublic
Find Joy in Chaos | https://amzn.to/3YbXd7T
Mike Cardona | https://mikecardona.bio.link/
👨🏾💻 About David Elikwu:
David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist, and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.
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Kevon Cheung: I look back to who I became in the last eight years of my career and I Google Kevon Cheung, nothing showed up, only LinkedIn profile. I was pretty frustrated, like, how come I worked so hard, and I even started something. But it seems like all the effort, all the benefits, all the rewards went to someone else. Like I had no say in anything. So I think that was the biggest moment that, I really need to start building up my own voice
David Elikwu: Hey, I'm David Elikwu. And this is The Knowledge. A podcast for anyone looking to think deeper and work smarter. In every episode I speak with makers, thinkers, and innovators to help you get more out of life.
This week I'm speaking with Kevon Cheung. Kevon is the author of Find Joy in Chaos and teaches a course online called Build in Public Mastery, and that is essentially his calling card. He writes a lot online about this idea of building in public, and we talked all about, what that actually means.
We talked about his journey moving across different countries, different education systems, learning and experimenting throughout his journey from business school to building a startup to working on startups. He's had a really interesting journey and we got to unpack a lot of the lessons he's learned along the way. In particular, a lot of the, the behind the scenes behind the idea of building in public and what that actually means, the extent to which you share different things, the extent to which you are vulnerable, how it helps you to make friends online. It's really interesting topic, and I think if you have any ambition to be a creator online, this will be a great episode for you.
You can find Kevon online on Twitter @MeetKevon and you can find the show notes transcript, and read my newsletter @theknowledge.io.
Every week, I share some of the best tools, ideas, and frameworks that I come across from business, psychology, philosophy and productivity. So if you want the best that I have to share, you can get that in the newsletter at theknowledge.io.
If you love this episode, please do share it with a friend and don't forget to leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts because it helps us tremendously to reach other people just like you.
I think for me, I had been very stuck on, it's interesting, I'd gone on a bit of winding journey where I used to do a lot of entrepreneurial and creative stuff when I was really young. Then I think, through my family and just circumstances I got pushed into focusing exclusively on building a career. So I wanted to go into law, I spent a lot of time trying to get into law. I eventually did, I ended up at my dream firm. I was there for a while and then I ended up leaving. And so I had this whole plan of when I was going to leave, I think I decided I was gonna leave in February of that year, and I didn't leave until maybe September or so, but I was you know, building up a runway, getting some savings, you know, doing a lot of preparation to leave. I think after spending all of that time, it went well for a while. So the plan was, I was consulting for startups, I spent probably 12 to 18 months or so doing that, but then maybe a year into that, COVID started, the pandemic started, and so suddenly, even though you planned to have however many months of runway, suddenly you have far less projects. Loads of people are not interested in doing a lot of this work. And you're not panicking, but it's a, it's a very , it's a much more difficult situation than you envisaged. And so what's been interesting is at that point, I went back full-time, so I joined a startup full-time, and I've been full-time since and doing all of this stuff on the side.
But what's been interesting is, I'm in a much better position in general now, but I probably have almost more fear than I did then. There's almost something that I'm making money on the side, and money you make on the side is meant to be security for your job. But then kind of flipped where then, instead of going full-time on the stuff I'm doing on the side, because it was doing okay enough, my job then became security for that. So it was, it is the opposite, it was almost like your full-time job becomes your security for being able to do the other thing, and you have this fear able to let go and jump into it.
Maybe there's some parallels for you, I know that in your journey you had gone to business school and then you went into technology, I mean maybe let's, let's unpack and start from a more reasonable place. So from listening to you speak in other places before, there's a few things I'm really interested in. One is you said that you started getting online onto the internet, playing around, doing some stuff from around 13. So maybe tell me about that.
Kevon Cheung: So my online journey really started when I was 13. I was born 1990. So I think, like people in that period, I grew up with the computer, you know, the screen used to be like a cube, super big. So I was really curious about the internet and I don't know, I'm kind of introverted in a way, so I've been tinkering and I didn't know how to code, but I was pretty good at downloading PHP framework, install it, and then run the forum. So I had a quite a bit of success there, like thousands of forum members, like active.
David Elikwu: Wow. Wait, so how old were you when you were doing that? Just for clarity.
Kevon Cheung: Around 13 years old, 13 or 14.
David Elikwu: What was the forum about?
Kevon Cheung: It was about a local singer, a female local singer. So, it's still around because the funny story, let me share this because it's a really funny story. So I didn't really run it when I was 15 because I moved to the states when I was 15 and I focus on my study, but I just keep the forum there. And then it has been, how many years now? 17 years now. And during the 17 years, I've been shutting down the forum. But after I shut it down, someone would email me and say, can you please not shut it down? Can you bring it back? We are happy to pay for the hosting and the domain, but we just want a memory. So I brought it back, but until recently, like I think two months ago, I transferred the ownership to someone else because I don't follow that singer anymore, and it doesn't feel right that I'm still owning that, so I just give it away for free. But, yeah, basically that was my first fun project online.
David Elikwu: That's so interesting. Is the singer still making music or is it mostly nostalgia?
Kevon Cheung: I haven't been following her, but I think she is not really active in the scene anymore because it has been many years now. But she's still a really famous person. I'm not sure about music.
David Elikwu: Yeah. No, no, that's really interesting though. I think that's a very similar story to Thomas Frank. I think one of his first websites was also a, maybe kind of the opposite to you. It was a band that he'd heard of, but I think not listened to. I might be mashing this up, but I think he started the website. He made the website for this band, but he hadn't actually listened to their music until afterwards and then realized that he hated the band. So really interesting stuff.
Kevon Cheung: Yeah, I have another website back then, David Beckham. So I used to own david-beckham.com and that website was pretty big as well. He even organized fan groups when he came to visit our town. I think all this tells me that I'm really interested in the space. But when I went to the state to study, I gave all of that up for seven years.
I went into study business and finance. And Only when I was graduating I was thinking about what to do after that college life that I happened to say I was really interested in this stuff. Let's continue to work on it. So yeah, that was the start of my career.
David Elikwu: That's so interesting. Was it your decision to leave all that behind, or was that maybe something that was prompted by family? I know you were still 15 and I think you went to boarding school. That's the reason you moved.
Kevon Cheung: Yeah. Personal choice, I think when you're paying so much to go to boarding school and then going to college in the states, you just don't want to have any distractions. Like in my mind is like, study is the main thing that I'm supposed to do, but that also is related to, I have no idea how to monetize these online projects. I didn't even know that you can put on Google ads until after college. So that was a bit embarrassing, yeah.
David Elikwu: Yeah, that's, that's really interesting. I think I had a bit of a similar journey in that respect. So I started my first business, my first actual company when I was 14. And so we were selling electronics or importing electronics from China and selling them online. But funnily enough, I also stopped that business when I was 15, but that was not my choice. It's a funny story, I don't think I've actually told it before, but I mean, the long story short, I remember I was at the park with my dad and I think we were just sitting in the car, and he was suggesting to me that I should not do the business anymore and just focus on school, focus on my studies and stuff. And I can't remember how it came about in that conversation, but it turned out that he'd already filed an application to shut the business down because
Kevon Cheung: Can he do that?
David Elikwu: Yeah Okay. So because I was 14 when I started it. You can't be a company director until you are 16 legally. So it was an actual company, and so that meant is I had friend, a close friend of mine that was two years older than me. So I made him one of the directors cause he was 16 and then my dad was also a director, so my dad had basically already shut down the company.
So he'd already effectively shut it down and there wasn't anything I could do about it, but it's fine, that's when I just decided, okay, I'll just focus on school, focus on, on studying, figuring out what I actually want to do for a career.
I'm interested in how that journey was for you, because, okay, so you came to the U.S. I think you went to Boston when you were 15, but you came by yourself, your parents didn't come with you. So what was that like? Taking, I don't know if that was your first flight alone, but you are pretty much going to a whole new place by yourself. I don't know if you'd been to Boston before or been to that place before. What was the experience like?
Kevon Cheung: Huh. Funny that you mentioned. Now that I think about it, I don't think I visit the states before that plane ride. So I really bought a solo ticket, hop onto the flight. I still remember I entered a gate at the airport, so I said goodbye to my family, and I went in and I started crying because I was all alone at as a 15. But my parents arrange a family that I've never met in my life to pick me up over there and drive me to the boarding school. I was lucky enough to have someone to take care of me, but it was, it was definitely a big moment.
But I live in Hong Kong, I grew up in Hong Kong. It's actually really common for, kids around this age to study abroad. Some people would go to Australia, United Kingdom. A lot of people go to the U.S. So it's a really common thing, so I guess I didn't really think that I'm the special one. I'm just kind of walking the common path, so that we'll take college and then we'll move back to where we come from. But internally, I was actually really excited because in our local education system, it's a lot of memorization. So we would be really good at taking tests and quizzes and examinations. But when I moved to the States, I went from being a bad student to the best students because it was a very different learning style, and it was so much easier in the states that made me fall in love with learning, actually. So that's why my focus shift, like I was learning new things. I can pick my own classes that is out of the world for me. I can choose what classes to take.
So yeah. I think after all, I didn't regret giving up those internet stuff because just like you, I think it's awesome that we planted that seeds in us really early days and then we can build up our experience and then come back to that at some point.
David Elikwu: Yeah. You raised a really interesting point, and this is a slight tangent, but I'm interested in your perspective on, I don't know if it's specifically just immigrants coming to the US but the impact that that has when you are coming from a different system and particularly having a different approach to education, because I think I've heard that or found that a lot quite widely, not just in the U.S. But also in the U.K., but people that are coming from other places where maybe they have a slightly different approach to education are able to come and have this different mindset that allows them to thrive in a sense.
So how did you find, I guess first of all, you fitting in, in the new system in general, aside from just, having the spark for learning. So how easy was it to fit in and did you actually notice any difference in, as you mentioned, there's quite a few people that come over from Hong Kong that go to, whether it's the U.S., the U.K., Australia, other places like that. Is that a common trend that the other people feel as well?
Kevon Cheung: It is really funny you mentioned this thing because as you speak, I was thinking how this relates so much to how we do things on the internet these days. Running our businesses like here locally, this education system is hardcore, like, you go hard and I think a small group of people can make it and they can use this system to like get really high score and go to Harvard or Oxford. But in general, I think a more relaxed system, a more system that caters to everyone different choices would make it better for everyone. So I was thinking, it's just like Twitter, like you can go super hard and put out all these threads and a few people might make it, but generally, actually it's much easier to grow when you don't try so hard when you're just like building interesting projects and showing people, and people would just follow you.
So a bigger group of people actually can get success from this approach. That was just kind of randomly come out of my mind as you speak, but I think, you'd mentioned about adapting to the system. I remember it was very exciting because it's not just going to a classroom and sit there for the whole day where the teacher come in and out and rotating and you just have the same seat the whole day. In the U.S. between classes, you get to walk around, you get to walk on the grass, pass by the trees and then you can go to the grocery stores and as I mentioned, you can choose your own classes. I think the flexibility and the autonomy really empowers a different Kevon. It basically changed me completely.
So I think that's the biggest benefit. I don't think it's very hard to adapt because we are going from the heart system to the easier system, but it did take some time because it's a different native language and the culture is different. We, we have to play sports I, I'm not a very sporty person, but I get to try out like football or even basketball. So yeah, that was exciting.
David Elikwu: Fair. And so you didn't get back into doing any online stuff at all during this period, during the time you went to business school. Not until afterwards. So what was this transition point then? Because, so you went to business school and what were you thinking you were going to go into at that point? Because I know afterwards you did the bootcamp, I think with General Assembly. So, what kind of started taking you down the technology direction?
Kevon Cheung: Okay. So coming from Hong Kong, finance is the biggest thing. We didn't know any occupations other than banking, accounting, lawyers, doctors, right? So going into school, I thought I would be a person in finance. So of course that didn't happen in high school, but I chose a business school because I thought, okay, let's just study finance and get equipped so that I can get a job later on. But I did choose an entrepreneurship school, so I was leaving myself some space so that I can do some small pivot there. But I decided to major in finance because I thought entrepreneurship, you don't really need to say your major in entrepreneurship, but finance, you do have to say that. So I think the turning point was that in my senior year, I was elected to be one of the portfolio manager of the school fund is called Babson College Fund. And we were managing real money like 1,300,000, US dollar. So it is 11 undergrad and 11 MBA combined as a team. So I was so lucky I was chosen to be one of them.
But that really killed my interest of finance because I realized, all these portfolio managers, all they do is look at the company and then you give it a rating, buy, hold, or sell. But the thing is, you can choose a decision, choose the result first, and then you just kind of make up stories, or not make up stories, but select the right information to tell people to support your buy or sell or hold decision. And I thought that's really sad, I don't want to just be sitting here and coming up with stories to share with people.
So yeah, as I said, that killed my interest in finance. And when I was graduating, I was lucky. I didn't really need to get a job right away. Like I have some time to figure myself out and I thought, I like the internet, I love technology, but I didn't know how to code, so why don't I give myself another year to learn how to code and see what possibilities can come out. But as you mentioned, I went to a coding boot camp for three months, but between college and that three months, I was trying to start a startup but it failed miserably because I didn't know anything. The only thing I knew was sitting here reaching out to people and emailing, Hey, can we set up a meeting? I didn't know what I was selling. I didn't know what I should be doing at the meeting. So, but again, that's another seed that I planted in my journey. Didn't go anywhere, but I think it really affected me.
David Elikwu: Okay. Interesting. So then you do the, the bootcamp, you spend the three months, you go on to become a software engineer. Did you go straight into working full-time as a startup.
Kevon Cheung: I was a software engineer first, so I was hired by an agency in Singapore. And another funny story, so I came back to Hong Kong from New York and I was looking for jobs online and this agency in Singapore interview me, like me and said, we'll give you an offer. And I got the visa and I fly over in like five days. So I just moved myself in five days to a different country. That was exciting. And it really allowed me to practice my programming skills because I didn't have a computer science background. So I was in a very different place. I wouldn't be able to figure out algorithm stuff, but I was very good at web development, you know, I can basically built anything because of my experience back when I was a teenager. But that didn't last long, I was a software engineer for 14 months before I joined a startup and helped them with basically everything like expansion marketing and stuff.
David Elikwu: I find it also very compelling you've been presented at this point twice with very clear paths that you can kind of climb. So in finance there is a very clear trajectory of what the, the job looks like and you start at the bottom, you can work your way up and you had the experience being able to manage over a million dollars and you didn't necessarily like it and you decided, okay, fine, I'm gonna do something different. Then you are a software engineer and again, there's a lot of people that can do extremely well just being a software engineer. I'm saying just, but being a software engineer, maybe you go to a big tech company or you go to a different type of company and there is a very clear sense of progression there as well.
You left there as well to go into a startup. So what was the motivation behind that and what gave you the confidence to, because I think the balance with startups is there is a, there's risk. You don't necessarily know if everything is gonna work out, you don't know if, things will pan out the way that you think and there's probably some parallels there. Is this something that's in your character? Because you go to the U.S. at 15 by yourself, and I know that is something other people in Hong Kong do, but you know, you still chose to do that. Then you go to Singapore somewhere you, I don't think you've ever been before. Within five days you just spontaneously pack your stuff and you move there. And then again, now you are also moving to join this startup. So where does that chain of events come from?
Kevon Cheung: Huh, I think, wow, this is, this is a great conversation because it really brings back all the memories and reflection right of my own life. I think the main thing that has been leading me towards making all this decision. It's that I'm someone who need to love what they do. I cannot fake it. And I think that's related to the reports that I write for companies. If I don't like the company, I cannot say, Hey, let's buy this company because of 1, 2, 3. So for me it is a whole self-discovery journey. Like I study finance, I said, it's not for me. Okay, not for Big Corp. And then I find out, okay, I wanna learn coding. But when I was doing the coding job, I realized I love it, but I didn't want to be the one who is sitting here 24/7 to tinker around, just the webpages design or the database or the algorithm. I wanted to be able to probably more on the business and product side, but for technology companies. So they all seem like different directions, but when I look back, I think those are just small pivots. One little change at a time, which led me to where I am today. That startup was actually a kids coding school, so it's not a startup in like FinTech or a startup in pets, but it's coding. So it is really related to my interest at that time and it fits really well that, oh, I want to go back to the business side and now I get to spread love of coding. That was my passion at that point. Yeah. So it matched really well.
David Elikwu: Okay, and then from there, you started your own startup, I think you did another a startup at venture back where you raised some money from some angels. Was that a direct transition or was there some other steps along the way?
Kevon Cheung: Yeah, so I spent four years at the kids coding school. It's not a tech startup, it's more like an education startup focusing on tech. But I was working alongside the founder, the CEO. So I was really lucky, like, I think it's because of my mindset. I joined as an employee, helping the school expand to Singapore. See, you see there's a connection there. I helped them expand to Singapore because I was there. But I saw myself as an owner since day one, so I never really calculated how much work I'm putting in. I was behaving like a founder, so very quickly she looked at me as her left hand. So then I started to see everything in the business. But the business was pretty stable at that point. Kids coding school is just basically running classes over and over again. The summer camp schedule is done, you just like do it every year. The term classes are set as well, you just keep enrollment and then do the same marketing. So that's when I decided, hey, maybe it's time for me to move on, because things are very repetitive at that point. And as you can tell, I'm a person that I think I'm pretty good at zero to one. I'm pretty scrappy. So I decided to step away and try to figure out what to do next. Funny story, I think that year was 2018, that was my first attempt to become a creator. I started a YouTube channel at that point and I made six videos. You probably couldn't guess what topic I was focusing on, or did you find out? David, did you find that out?
David Elikwu: I did not, I did not research.
Kevon Cheung: Thank God. Thank God. I don't want people to find that, but it's still live on YouTube. I was talking about parenting and raising a kid in 2018, but looking back, it was completely stupid because I wasn't married and I didn't have a kid. But there's some part of me that I really want more, guys and fathers to put more effort and attention in the family, even though I wasn't there yet. I don't know what I was thinking. But anyway, I made six videos and I was sharing to my friends and families. Obviously it's going nowhere, I had no idea what my value prop is, I had no credibility, I have no distribution. So I decided to just step away after six weeks, six long videos, and lucky enough, I bumped into investors in Hong Kong that really want to start their venture in the software space because as I said, this is a very finance driven city. So I had all the knowledge to run startup company, right? Even though I hadn't have experience in SaaS, but they are confident in me that I can figure it out. So that's when I first started out running a SaaS company. But after 18 months, again, I'm a pretty mindful person, like if things are not working out, I'm able to say, let's cut it here, that kind of person. Like, I don't wanna just keep dragging, keep asking for money, keep like burning the cash. So that was 2019 to 2020 when I failed the SaaS company. Yeah.
David Elikwu: Okay. And you were willing to, did you have to, oh, I think the company kept going. You were able to just step back and you didn't have to shut everything down or give people back their money or anything like that.
Kevon Cheung: So the decision was that I would step away and then they would like, they still wanted to figure out what to be done with the company. So, yeah.
David Elikwu: Awesome. So then how does this lead to you, I mean, in some ways going back to YouTube, but mostly I think you start writing, you're doing this whole building in public thing, so how do you go from, I think you tried being the face of something in the forefront of something, and you also tried pivoting into having a whole business that you're running, and there were some parts of that that you didn't like, that you didn't enjoy. How did you find this balance of what you're doing now?
Kevon Cheung: I think the latest part of my life, the creator side in the last two years was a conclusion of all the things that I didn't want to do, because as I told you, I was on the funded side, I have investor to manage, I have a team of people, and we were burning a lot of cash each month. There are a few things that I was quite clear, like at that point, because my first daughter, you can see that I'm actually in my second daughter's room who is arriving in two weeks.
But at that point, two years ago, thank you, David.
Two years ago, my first daughter was arriving, two months after I decided to walk away. So I think that changed a little bit of me as well. I look back to who I became in the last eight years of my career and I Google Kevon Cheung, nothing showed up, only LinkedIn profile. I was pretty frustrated, like, how come I worked so hard, and I even started something. But it seems like all the effort, all the benefits, all the rewards went to someone else. Like I had no say in anything. So I think that was the biggest moment that, I think I really need to start building up my own voice and just happened, you know, because of COVID, the creator's space is getting bigger and bigger. So I still remember I read a blog post by Nat Eliason, have you heard of him? He's a big writing guy. Really amazing blog post, like the way he writes just transform you.
So one of his blog posts is about how blogging can change your life. And I decided, hey, I have so many startup failures in the past. I have dead ends, I've mistakes and maybe I can share it with people. So I was just testing myself out. I was following his advice of writing one article a week. So I spent eight weeks writing eight articles and I saw something after those eight articles were written. I saw that six of them were related to entrepreneurship, sharing, failures and lesson learned. Only two of them are about productivity, so I think that simple analysis gave me the signal that I just love being around entrepreneurs. And because I went away from the funded side, now I'm like, I love being around bootstrap entrepreneurs. So the community that I want to hang out with is super clear.
But that was it, I think I only have clarity on this little thing, but I think it's a very good starting point because it's a very clear group of people. And then I found out indiehackers.com and I was like, oh my God, this is so exciting. Everyone is like me who's trying to build something as a solopreneur. And I spotted a good opportunity at that point because of all my failures the parenting YouTube channel. This time I was like, I saw the term building in public and I was like, what the hell is this? This is pretty interesting. And it hit my heart really hard because I thought it resonated with my life principles. Transparency, honesty, and helpfulness. That's who I am, like as a person. So the turning point was that I googled building in public because a lot of people are tweeting about it, but I only saw four articles, which is pretty short, like a thousand thousand 500 words. And I was like, "Huh, no one is teaching this. Maybe, maybe I can just create something to help people with this". So that was, you know, the spark of my new journey. But this time a lot more mindful and, I guess strategic about it.
David Elikwu: Yeah, and I love that it came from you starting to write, so I was just talking to someone called Stu Patience who you might not have come across, but he writes a blog called Driverless Crocodile. I think he was referencing Seth Godin who says something like, you don't write because you have ideas. You have ideas because you write. And it's this process of putting yourself into the zone, picking up the tools, making things. Once you do that enough, then you understand what it is that you're writing, then you understand what it is that you're doing. Cause too many people take the opposite approach and they will sit back and wait until they have the perfect idea and wait until they can figure out what it is that they should be speaking about, what it is they should be writing about. But actually, I think, the reality is not only is it better the other way, but it's almost only happens the other way. I think very often if you start with a clear idea of what you think it's going to be, that's how people end up failing and not failing.
Needing to pivot. You start with this very clear idea of, oh, I think it's gonna be this, but once you actually start it, you will be hit in the face by reality and you will realize a lot of things about yourself, a lot of things about the market you're trying to sell to or write to, and you may have to change completely. Whereas if you just start from a place of curiosity, then you will start figuring things out and you will start pivoting slowly as you learn.
Kevon Cheung: I totally agree with you. So I'm part of Jay Clouse's community, and I think last week someone just asked something around this direction and I said something to her. I said, similar to what you said, I said, we are all faking ourselves somehow. Like when I say I want to talk about parenting on YouTube, is it really true? I think I want to do that, but actually maybe I don't want to. I just want to do it because I think it's a cool business idea. So writing really helps you gain clarity into whether you're really passionate about something. You really can show up every day to do it.
David Elikwu: Yeah. And how have you found cultivating that practice? Cause I know you still write, now you have your newsletter, and so maybe it's a two part question. One is, how do you find cultivating that practice? And then two is how does your writing tie into the business that you have now, which has quite a few different parts. And we can talk more about that in a moment.
Kevon Cheung: I think, because of writing, I realize I like writing. I have written blog posts for my startups before. But it was not very exciting because we usually come up with a topic like how to run virtual meetings, the six ways to do it, and I would just fall asleep writing it. But this time around, because I started with sharing my failures, lesson learned, it's all about me. I guess we are all kind of self-obsessed at some levels. So writing about me is easy. Like I can just sit here, write outline, and write for like three hours, non-stop. So I discover my passion in writing and like, blogging, newsletter, tweeting were very just the center of the conversations back then, two years ago. So I guess I started to make it a habit, make it a routine for myself. At first, I was writing this newsletter called Sunday Beam. which is just under my own name, Kevon Cheung. Like, whatever you wanna learn from me, subscribe here. And that was my first attempt, I just write a Sunday newsletter every week, and the growth was very slow.
I get like maybe two or three subscribers every week, but that's not important. I was well aware that the best part is just me writing and learning about my own journey. But very quickly, I started to gain some traction from the free projects that I put out. And I decided to write for Public Lab, the brand that I was building instead of the personal newsletter. I know there's a lot of conversation around whether you should write under your own name or write under a brand. I don't know, I made a decision that Kevon sharing newsletter sounds quite boring. Maybe because building in public was under my umbrella at that point I was like, a newsletter about building in public sounds a lot more interesting. So then I started to move my writing there. But I think the key point for me is, I was quite clear what I need to publish every week. Like tweets, there's no excuses, like I have to show up. Otherwise you don't have an active presence, like you just need tweets going out. So very quickly I was able to figure out the system to schedule and to interact with people.
For my newsletter, I didn't force myself to write weekly. A lot of people would say, you have to write weekly, you have to be top of mind in people's head. That was too hard for me, like when I was writing weekly. I find that, I was just forcing words out of my mouth and it didn't feel authentic. So I started just writing twice a month and then I had a lot of good ideas to share, which I really care about. So these days you would see my newsletter, sometimes weekly, sometimes every two weeks. I realized the cadence really didn't matter, like people want to hear from you will hear from you. So that was my kind of way of cultivating this.
David Elikwu: I know that for a lot of people that are interested in. This idea of sharing, you almost everyone is an expert on something, at least an expert in the life they've already lived and the journey that they've already had. There's probably a surprising amount of other people that have had similar journeys or would be interested in similar things. And so there is probably something that a lot of people could share. But I think one thing that holds a lot of people back is, just putting themselves out there, being the face of something. Is that something that you've ever been nervous about or struggled with in terms of thinking about how much you share? Because I think you mentioned before that talking about yourself is easy in that you already have the content, you already know your life, you already know the, the things that you've learned. But have you ever thought about the extent to which you put yourself out there and there's an extent of it that can be seen as being vulnerable, and I know different people have different thoughts on the extent to which you should make yourself vulnerable in the things that you share, but I think very often, at least, okay, I'll use the example of my own writing.
I have definitely found a really interesting balance that, okay. Some of the most personal things that I've written are the hardest things for me to write simply just because of, you might have emotions that are connected to those things. You are opening yourself up and baring yourself to the world, and so it's not something you always want to do. But strangely enough, some of those times, even when it might be innocuous, it might not be, you know, I'm writing this piece to be some hard-hitting emotional, that's not the point at all. I'm just mentioning something from my life. But very often when I do that, I get the most responses back of people being like, oh my gosh, I've had this exact same situation. This really resonated with me because of such and such a thing. So how do you find that balance of the extent to which you want to share and the extent to which that then becomes useful for other people?
Kevon Cheung: Yeah, I have so much to say about this. I have like three, four points in my mind right now, but I probably wouldn't remember all of them. So I'm just gonna speak whatever I remember. It is true that I am pretty vulnerable, I'm pretty open and my students or people in the audience would ask me like, Kevon, how do you become so open? I don't know, I think it is how you grow up, the environment, the people around you and possibly just not caring about what people think so much. In my cohort, I do use this example that when I was 13, okay, going back to my teenager years, I was playing football. I'm a huge football fan, Manchester United, and then there's a voice from the sideline. It's like, Hey, if you're so slow, you shouldn't play football. I heard that and I never touched football ever again, never played, another time. I think a lot of us let other voices affect our decisions. They decide for us, they control our life. But maybe because of this incident or related incident around my teenage year, I started to build up this confidence that, just be who you are and if they don't like who you are, they're not gonna come close to you. But the benefit of that is that the people who love who you are will be so excited near you.
So I really don't know how to get people to be more open. But in my scope of building in public, I do see that a lot of people are just having a lot of internal fear. It's not really that they're not open about stuff, it's just they're always thinking what if, what if, what if there's critics? What if I share all my revenue and someone would copy my idea or steal all my customers? It's all the what if. So, one way to tackle it is that, you just basically expect the critics to be here. You put up a tweet, you're like, ahhh, people are gonna say mean things about this. So that's how I show up. And then 90% of the time, if you're around amazing people, like if you have David in your circle, these things don't happen. So I think over time you're like, oh, the what ifs are not that important. So you just get better at that.
But the other thing is I'm not very competitive. I think people are afraid to be open because they're super competitive. Like, these are my ideas, I'm just gonna launch this course and make five figures. Other people cannot do the same. I have this mindset that, hey, once I share my numbers, huh, you know that there's people interested in the building public cohort. If you wanna run one, that's fine, because you will attract your people. I will attract my people. We can all do this together. That's how I think about business and life right now.
David Elikwu: One thing that I want to ask, and this is maybe slightly personal to an extent, but I'm curious about how you find the balance between, once you start putting yourself out there, you are effectively creating a representation of yourself, right? Digitally. And so people will come to you expecting that person. And this is not just online, it's also offline. It's pretty much as we go throughout life it's the how people see you versus how you see yourself or your internal self. But I think particularly once you take the step of putting yourself out there a lot more publicly, then people start to get a much clearer picture of, I mean, it might not necessarily be the real you, but at least the you that you present. And those two might be very close to each other. How you are in real life and how you are online.
But what I'm curious about is how do you deal with not, I think you can go two ways. There's a concept of like Flanderization and I've, I wrote about it in a recent newsletter, not super recent, but it was sometime last year, and I was talking about, I used Jordan Peterson as an example, and there's plenty of other examples where someone starts off in one place and they share a lot of things and there are certain bits of what they share that resonate with people. And the more they curate what they share based on the things that resonate, you can become almost a cartoonified version, the most extreme version of all the same things that you originally shared. It's like in some sense you haven't moved a long distance from where you started, but because you are only curating or you are incentivized by your audience to show more and more of that side of thing or, or talk about that kind of thing. Then that moves you away from where you started and you can kind of start to become a different person. So that's one side of it and maybe you have some thoughts on that.
The other side of it that I also find personally for myself is the flip side where there are times where you might feel more vulnerable or you might feel, let's say, you know, at times I've struggled with like anxiety or other things. Because there is a perception of you as someone who is competent or as someone who can do a certain thing, then it almost doubles the anxiety or the internal feeling where what is the extent to which you have to perform based on how you're expected to perform versus being allowed to be vulnerable, allowed to say, actually, hey, I can't do something. I'm being able to admit that either you are wrong about something or you can't do something. How do you find that balance? So I think there's two extents that I've just explained. One is living up to the expectations that you set for yourself and then on the other side it is, you live up almost too much to the expectations to the extent that it starts to change who you are or who you present yourself as because you are engineering what you share for audience capture.
Kevon Cheung: Let's answer the first one about, you are being led by the audience to a place where you might not original set up to be. This is a tough one, when I look at the guests on your show, like Josh Spector, Paul and then who else? Thomas. When I look at these guys or girls, I don't see that they are being shaped by their audience. There's a reason why they become such a great voice online. It's because they still have their stand. Like I am who I am in certain part of life or business or personality. And even though I serve people, but I'm not gonna change that. I think this is important because I made a lot of those choices as well. For example, writing threads on Twitter is the ultimate growth driver. We all know that because, people just love to retweet those threads. But to me, I'm like, do I really want to become one of them? Do I really want to talk about the top 10 tools to empower my business? No. maybe one or two tweets, but I don't want to be putting out threads like over and over again. And then the other one is memes. Probably, you have seen some memes guy who are growing so fast. And at some point I asked myself, do I want to start doing memes? And in my book, find Joy in chaos, I actually talk about this, like, these are the choices that you make. And I said, well, memes are fun, but I don't want to be a funny guy, I want to be a knowledgeable person. So no, memes are not for me. So I think as you grow, as you listen to the feedback from your audience, you need to be clear what is the feedback to create things, to serve them. And what are the things that you need to like hold your grounds? Take your stand. And again, looking at all your guests, they take their stand. So that's part one. I forgot about part two.
David Elikwu: So, part two is then having to live up to the expectations or the bar that you set. So, giving one example, I remember towards the start of when I first started writing my newsletter, so it started with, I just sent an email to a few friends and I still hadn't figured exactly this newsletter was gonna be about. If you go back and look at my first 10 newsletter, every single one them is about something completely different. But I'm sharing what I'm learning, I'm sharing from a place of interest, but I do remember, so it started growing and suddenly you have a few hundred people that are subscribed and people are actually opening it, people are reading it every time you send it and people are starting to respond and people are starting to be interested in the thing that you share. And then I remember this is also during the pandemic, so there's some times where you know, your mental health isn't as good and you're going through a lot of other stuff.
But there were times where I don't necessarily feel like writing or I feel a particular way, but because this audience is now expecting a particular thing, you have to almost perform that and you feel as though you don't get to be as vulnerable as you could be, or take the breaks that maybe you would want. And so there's an interesting balance there, even as I was just saying that I thought of another Seth Godin quote where he says, he talk about, actually, Steven Presfield and Seth Godin both talk about the idea of turning pro. And Seth Godin talks about this idea that you have to decide to stop being an amateur and you have to start being a professional. And one of the things that he says is that, being a professional means you don't always get to be authentic. Sometimes you have to perform and sometimes, you don't want a teacher or a doctor, you don't want to know when they're having a bad day and they are falling behind on their rant and they're almost on the brink of divorce. You don't want to know that your doctor is going through all of that when you are about to have surgery, right? What you want in that moment is their full professional self, and you just want them to show up as, as the doctor that you expecting and be the best version of themself. But I think that there's also a flip side of that.
Where you see tons of creators that burn out and you see loads of people that, because there's this expectation, I'm gonna publish weekly, I'm gonna do this thing. There's so many people that will send you emails. I remember during this time I was talking about, I stopped sending emails for maybe a few weeks and people will email you and say, where's this thing? Where are the emails that I'm expecting? What's going on? Are you okay? All of this stuff, people I've never met. And so I think there's that interesting balance. So this is the question to you, like to what extent do you have to be a professional about what it is that you do and what it is that you publish? And to what extent can you allow yourself to still have that sense of flexibility and vulnerability?
Kevon Cheung: The first thing I wanna say is I guess I'm quite lucky. I was never a professional. Like I was not a professional lawyer in a corporate. I've never been in corporate. So in that world, I guess from watching movies or hearing from friends is that you do have to show up like professional. You have to fake it right all the time. But because I never have experience in that, that helped me a little bit. But I think when you think about this creator journey, this space, we are not doing surgeries, we are not handling court cases, we are teaching people. So I don't think it's at the same level as like a doctor or lawyer, or investment banker. And that means you have a lot more space to be yourself.
I think a lot of people are afraid to be vulnerable. Maybe because have the corporate experience, but also because, they don't understand how attracting people works. For example, if you're trying so hard to be professional, you attract a lot of people, like your threads might go like thousands of likes. A lot of people would come in and say, I want your thing, I want your A thing. And maybe they would even buy it. But I think these people would not stick around for too long. Like they would probably behave you like 20 bucks and they never talk about you. They never refer you to other people, but in a different sense, when you're being vulnerable, when you're being open. Hey guys, I really have a tough time in the last three weeks, that's why I couldn't write the newsletter. But it depends if it's free or paid. Like if it's paid, maybe you can do something to make it up. If it's free, then you just kind of explain and people would be okay. When you do that, I see something magics happening in my community, which is, I got so close with the few people who actually understand my situation. And these are the people who become your customers, but not just that they would advocate for your thing. They would go out and say, Kevon is a, is a go-to person for this. You should read his book, you should take his course. I think this is the thing that people don't see. They always want more people to come into their world. They always want the big numbers, but to me, I think I was growing pretty steadily in the last two years because I was just like staying really small and cozy and tight.
But speaking of vulnerability, I keep telling my students this, like my niche, my topic is building in public. I shouldn't be vulnerable in saying that. Hey guys, I feel like a loser in building in public, I actually don't know how to teach it. I don't want to say that because that's destroying my credibility in what I talk. But when I talk about, Hey guys, I didn't really know how to manage my time. Now that I'm a new dad, or I don't know how to handle my company finances, I don't know how sponsorship works. These are the things outside of your niche. And I think if you can be vulnerable and open in those spaces, it has two benefits. It draws people closer to you to have conversations, but you're still the expert in what you're supposed to be the expert in. So yeah, I hope these few pointers help the people who are listening to this.
David Elikwu: Yeah. I love that. I think there's two really interesting parts that you brought up. One is, even as you're speaking it, a really tangible experience that I had came to mind. So we both run courses, on a course that I was running, I think this is a few cohorts ago. It was, I don't remember, it might have been last year or the year before, but I was in the middle of teaching this course cohort and at one point my dad was in a car accident, and this was, it was the day before his birthday. I think I'd just seen him the day before. It was just a completely, it just threw me off completely. I was like, oh my gosh. Obviously I had to go spend some time with my family and I had to cancel the next session that we had. But then going beyond that, there's also this feeling of, do I cancel the whole thing or do I have to put myself on the hook? And can cancel one session, but maybe I have to come back and maybe I have to do the rest. And this goes back to this idea of, being a professional, not necessarily in terms of your job, but putting yourself on the hook to do the thing that you said you were going to do. And having a balance between making the space for your personal life and doing the things that you have to do, but then also then having to show up for what you've sold to people, right? You've taken thousands of pounds from people, there's also the expectation of what you have to deliver and what people now expect.
And I think you touched on this idea that, one solution to that is staying small. You could stay small forever and only have an audience of five people, and you will never disappoint them because they will always understand. But once you have like thousands of people or a much bigger audience that you are curating for or selling to, people have already bought something or people are already expecting something, then it can be harder to pivot.
And then I think the other side of it, which is also interesting and connected in a way. You mentioned the word credibility, and I find this a really interesting word from a lot of different angles. And one of them I was thinking about this morning, I was thinking about the fact that a year ago, so right now when people talk about the future of technology, they're talking about AI. AI is the future of tech, everyone wants to get into AI. Loads of people overnight are starting AI newsletters, AI businesses, all of this stuff, their whole brand, their whole personality is about AI. A year ago, some of these same people were telling me that, cartoon monkeys were the future. And NFTs and all of this was the future of technology and the whole brand, everything was about that. And that is the other interesting aspect of it. How do you think about this idea of building and maintaining credibility when on one hand there is nothing necessarily wrong with starting a new project or getting interested in something new and wanting to become an expert in the next new thing, right. There's people that one day, a new tool comes out. They're an expert in Roam research, which is a tool, they're an expert in Notion, which is a tool, they're an expert in whatever it is that something you could use, something you could use to create a business in some sense.
But I think the issue is, and I was saying this, I was tweeting like this earlier. If you actually had conviction about crypto or NFTs, this is the perfect time to have your laser eyes and to have your NFT picture. This is the perfect time to be doing all of those things. But I don't see anyone doing that, and so this is what makes me start thinking like, is it that you are bullish about this thing or is it mimetic? And is it the idea that, okay, because people are interested in it, so I will do this thing. So how do you escape from that and how do you find, this is a multi-part question, but how do you find something that you can be interested in, that you can be credible about because you care enough about that thing, you are willing to stick with it when it's difficult and you're not just doing it because it is easy or convenient or popular at the time. But then on the flip side, if you're doing something that no one cares about, then it doesn't matter if you're credible about that thing because no one cares about it, and you are never gonna be successful in a sense. So how do you find that balance or how do you think about that? Particularly because you teach a course for people that want to make things and people that want to share things. So I'm interested to know what you say to them or how you help them to think about those things.
Kevon Cheung: Yeah, this is the toughest question in business. Like on one hand it's about what's in here. On the other hand, it's about what people want. I don't think there's, there's a secret formula to find that. But as you can tell from this conversation, I think, the first question we all need to ask ourselves is like, is this what you really want?
When I decided to focus on building in public, the key reason is because it is my life principle. So I can totally see myself like talking about this for 20 years if people are interested, right? So I satisfy my own desire to do that. This is very important because when you talk about the monkeys, N FT, AI, I'm sure out of the hundred people who are talking about it now, 99 of them are not serious about them. They're just doing it for the rush or for traffic. So that's part of it, like there's no fast track. People just need to reflect and be honest with themselves. But the other side is, that is the entrepreneur of you. Like how smart can you be to get traction to your work? I like that our conversation has been like, you don't find your niche. You kind of write and express and then do projects, and then when people come to you, you have traction and you have a niche because people acknowledge that. So, this comes from experience.
I focus on parenting, four years ago when I wasn't a parent, that was stupid. But building in public, I was very strategic. I spotted that the market wants it and no one was doing it. So the gap was what I was going after. To summarize this, two things that we need to keep watching, which is, keep asking yourself honest question and don't, don't, don't go for shiny objects. You can tell I'm a pretty, my student call me the Zen master. I don't do things because I have a rush to do it. I just kind of sit there and let it sit for like two weeks. If I'm still interested, then I do it. So I'm kind of slow in that perspective. But then the other question is like, what is the smallest thing you can build to get traction? Because with traction you have confidence, you have your niche, that's when you keep going at it. But yeah, anyway, tough question.
David Elikwu: No worries. So in your professional life now as a creator, I think there's two things that you need to balance, and I'd love to know how you find balancing those two things. So one is your, I guess your curiosity or your creativity. This is what you consume, where you spend your time online, where you mentioned being part of J Klaus's program and so how do you curate what you consume in a meaningful way that allows you to then output, but then also how do you structure your output? How do you structure your days and how do you structure your time? Because I think there's a follow up part of that question, which is, you have another kid on the way, congrats again. But how does having a family now, you mentioned when you first started doing your YouTube videos about being a parent, you weren't a parent, you weren't even married, but now you are, you're married, you have a family, you are gonna have two kids very soon. How does that shape how you approach your, your work and also how you think about the future and how you think about what you're trying to build?
Kevon Cheung: Thanks for saying the last part because at first I was having some difficulty coming up with my answer, but once you talk about, like my family, it was very clear to me how I should respond to this. Like, I think, it is very challenging for people who have many, many interests because it's just distraction. Even when I get known for something, you really need to like put in the hours and keep talking about it, be focused. So I was lucky that I'm quite focused, but let's take my family as a topic. You know that I have an interest in talking about family stuff because of the YouTube channel. So it has always been a question to me that should we start another business? Should we start another YouTube channel talking about how we raised our two girls? That would be really interesting. But then I ask myself like, do I really have the time to manage two? Probably not. Do I really wanna keep having my daughter's face on the internet? I don't mind, but I don't want to use them as the objects of the content or the products. If I really were to do it, I would totally not blend into what I have and start a separate project and just keep it like two different tracks. Because the thing is that the audience are probably very different.
So I think a lot of creators, when they think about like, oh, personal interests and stay focused. The hard thing is I think they're trying to show everything in the same channel. Like, oh, I love football, so I want to talk about football on Twitter. I love my family. Let me talk about family on Twitter. I love building in public. Let me talk about that. But it doesn't work like that. I think people get overwhelmed. People think you're losing your focus and they don't get as much value, then they bounce. So to me, one way to tackle this is probably just have very, very clear idea of what to share, where, like for me, Twitter is entrepreneurship, business, building in public. Occasionally, I tell my students, you're allowed to share three topics of your personal life repeatedly. So for me, it's family. For someone, maybe it's boxing, for someone, might be running, for someone might be healthy food. Once you have that three, you can bring it up once in a while, but don't talk about other random things in your life.
So that's the rule. And then I use Instagram, I don't really talk about work there. I just find it really weird. So Instagram is like, just my dad's life and occasionally I'll take a photo of us on podcasts and I'll share it, but not really to drive, audience or customer. I think having that clarity of like, which track for what people helps you kind of stay focused while having multiple interests.
Yeah. And shall we talk about managing life as a new dad? I think it is tough. Like when you look at all these people growing fast on the internet, you start asking yourself questions like, oh, did I miss out because I have a family? Why can't I grow as fast as them? Why my output level is not as high as them? But the other thing is when you have time constrained, you really be more mindful of how you spend your time. So I don't work on like, random projects. Everything is like, hmm, I think this is connected well to what I have now. So I'm gonna test it out, get some traction, and then launch it. Each pieces in the puzzle is like carefully placed on it. That's how I think about running a business as a new parent. But in terms of like structuring my days or my weeks, it comes with practice. Like it has been two years. So, when kids are napping, you should really treasure that hour or hour and a half time. You don't want to go into writing mode because it's kind of short. So it's good for doing your weekly planning or maybe writing tweets or maybe outlining your newsletter so you get good at, like, categorize these tasks. But I think at the end of the day, it's also about sacrifices. A lot of my local friends, they still go out, even as a parent, they still maybe spend two week nights outside. My wife and I don't. We chose our family as the party, so every two or three weeks we go out once. So now my time is really on my work and my family, so I sacrificed the other things. Even my personal exercise. I think that's a choice that we all have to make. If you have a young family, you cannot have it all. But yeah, that helps tremendously because I don't have distractions.
David Elikwu: Awesome. I love that. So let's talk about your book. There's two parts of this as well because the precursor to writing the book was, I think maybe building the community that you had. I don't know if you sat about creating a community intentionally, but you have built one through the work that you share online and you've built this community of people. And so when you have this, this idea, this thing that you want to share, you've already been sharing. And so now you have a book that you are sharing with your close community and then also with a wider community of everyone else that this book could be useful for. So I'd love to know, what was the process of, where did the book idea come from, and then what was the process of, I guess writing it and then sharing it?
Kevon Cheung: Yeah, let's talk about credibility, because the whole reason to write the book is to boost my credibility. I'll be honest with you and I know that it's so easy for people to write e-books. Like you can write it yourself, you can hire someone to write it for you, it doesn't matter. But a lot of people have it, but I think, well, I don't have it here with me. If you have a paper back, it is different, even though it's not that hard to do a paper back. But, you know, it tells people that you are more serious than the e-book author, because you're, you don't mind leaving something substantial in people's life and you cannot reverse it. So it is about credibility, but the other thing is, I was already answering a lot of the same questions over and over again in the community. In the community, I mean like mostly Twitter or a newsletter or private conversations.
So I think a lot of people they don't understand about writing a book, which is writing a book is actually just structuring what you're already answering on a day-to-day basis. Well at least for me, from my perspective, it is not so much to write something totally new and hope that it would explode your growth, it doesn't work like that for me. But if you already answer these people day to day, when you have a book, it's so easy to just go to all the old and new people and say, well, I can answer your question now, but if you want more, you can basically just take in this like framework where I get help from like 60 people to write it. So it should probably have your answers. If people are thinking of writing a book when they're listening to this, I hope that they might take a step back and start just helping the community first, because it will make your book so easy to write and so easy to launch.
David Elikwu: Okay, that makes a lot of sense. So how do you find the community, if you haven't started yet, if you are, let's say someone is at a place where, there's one position where you've already been writing online for a while, or you've already been sharing stuff online for a while, and so there's already a bunch of people that are waiting to hear what you have to say, or there are already people that are asking you the questions that you can answer, and so you can structure your answers in that way. How about if you, if you have not yet started that process, do you think you should still just put that aside? How do you just start, you probably talk about this in your, your course Building in public. How do you start from the beginning where right now I'm not sharing anything at all. What does someone do? How do you start making some online friends? How do you start building a small community around an idea that you care about?
Kevon Cheung: So for that, I have to bring you back to my day one, not day one, maybe week four, as I was writing those eight articles, because when I started out, I wasn't talking about building in public. I wasn't known as an expert in that. So how did I become that? The project that really made me one of the Building public guys was my Building Public Definitive Guide, which is free, 10,000 words for free. Everyone can read it, but as I said, I cannot just like come up with the idea and start writing the book, that would be, not the smart way to do it. Before that, I was actually on indiehackers.com well, not to my surprise, there's a group called Building in Public. So basically David, I was sitting in there every single day. I was reading every post taking notes, but not just that because I'm taking notes, I'm learning about the topic, I'm going back to the new posts and helping people out based on my latest knowledge. So of course, I don't write it in a way that I'm the expert. You guys should learn from me. I write it in a way that I have some experience learning this topic or from my previous failures, and I write it as a way to share with people a new perspective. So over time, as you help people out, people are like, who is this Kevon guy who's like replying to my foreign post And if you do it enough, and if you have a way to kind of connect them to a place like Twitter, uh, I was lucky because these people are also on Twitter. So when I reply to them, I can connect with them on Twitter, right? So it creates a loop. And guess what? When I've decided, hey, I have enough knowledge now let me just build the building public guide in public. These people who got help from me, They would be the first group of people who jump in to help me read the first few chapters, help me retweet it when I launch. So, yeah, all in all is okay if you have no one in your early circle.
The secret is just find the community and just pluck yourself in and don't really try to promote anything because you should have nothing to promote at that point. But just keep learning, keep helping and let people recognize you that way and then start your first project by giving it back to them. I believe in giving it back to them for free if it's absolutely early days for you.
David Elikwu: I love that. Where did the title of the book come from? Because I think that is also for people that don't know, if you think about a book that is about, let's say, building in public or growing on Twitter, Finding Joy in Chaos might not be the first title that you think of. So what shaped the creation of that title?
Kevon Cheung: Thanks for pointing out my weakness, I'm just not very good at these things, like product naming. Not very good. I have a Google sheet where I lock down different book names and use them as a reference, as a structure, and then I was like brainstorming different names. I think at the end I picked this name because it paints the right picture of what I'm trying to say. Like Twitter is really chaotic and I'm here to help you find joy and well somehow I kind of regret the title, but you can see that, the title represent my style. Like, it's not trying too hard, it's not too business. It's a little peaceful here and there. That's just who I am. So I guess in a way, when people pick up this book and take a photo with it, that is my brand. That is who Kevon is, and it is real. Even though I might not be searchable on Amazon because of the random title, but it was one of my first project. I think it was my second or third paid product, so I still have a lot of learning to do, so I'm like, okay, it's fine. Let's just keep moving forward.
David Elikwu: Okay. Awesome. I think one of the last questions I might ask is, what's been the hardest part of this journey for you? As far back as you want to go, what has been the point has been the most difficult either in figuring out what to do next or how to navigate the next thing.
Because I think very often we can look at our lives, I think you even referenced this earlier, right? That in retrospect it seems like a linear path. All of these things seem like they make sense. Ahhh, I just did this and this and this, and that's how we all tell our stories. Because in retrospect, of course, why wouldn't I have done things this way? Why wouldn't things have gone that way? But actually very often in the moment, it might not feel like the next step is clear or how to overcome the next obstacle is clear. So what have been some of the obstacles that you have come across and how, if you have already overcome them, how did that go? And if you haven't yet overcome them, how are you planning to?
Kevon Cheung: I think every creator has a super challenge in their journey, which is how to make money? I was online for 26 months now, and the first six months, $0, it was on purpose because I believe credibility is more important than, 500 bucks or a thousand bucks. But even so in my first year, like 2021, that was my first full year. I made 10K, revenue. I think to a lot of people that's quite good because given I have no niche, I have no network, I have no friends in this space, I'm starting fresh. But again, from a business building perspective, it was like, it was kind of lovable if you tell entrepreneurs about this number.
So I think one of the biggest challenge is actually knowing how to make revenue. Because I was reflecting back to my first year. A lot of times I was just sitting here writing my book, trying to design my course, trying to run my course, and I wasn't really going out there and saying, Hey guys, I have this thing you can buy. And I realize it doesn't work like that. You cannot just like sit here and wait for people to come into your door. As an entrepreneur, you need to just actively present yourself in every corner of the streets. And some people would buy, some people would not. It doesn't matter. But you don't want to be hard selling, you need to talk about yourself.
So, funny story, like on Notion, I have this database called Revenue Now Strategy. So the first year I wasn't aware of any of this, but now second year and now actually third year, I think I got better in terms of like, oh, okay, I need to make some revenue this month. What kind of strategy can I use? Oh, I can take one of my digital product and give it like a half price to a selected group of people. Wow, I didn't know that, it's just like one email and you can make some revenue. A couple months ago I saw a friend, Mike Cardona, posted about, I'm looking for sponsors for my newsletter. 100 bucks or 150, but I have two slots. Anyone interested? And then like, people went in, bam, bam, bam. And then I tried it, the same thing. I got like seven slots filled out right away. So I was like, oh my God, it's just knowing what assets you have and finding the right place to put it out there and slip in that message is not like, it's not stealing, it's not hard selling, it's really just creating values. I think this is really the hardest thing, like up till today I'm still learning a lot, but now I have the database so that I can look at it and be like, okay, let's run something.
David Elikwu: I love that. That's awesome. Wow. yeah, it's a really good point. Okay. Maybe this is the last question. I've changed it from what I was gonna ask before. Going back to what you were talking about with your, your family, which is growing, about to grow even more right now, and just what you were talking about in terms of the amount of money you need to make revenue, all of those things. How has that changed how you approach your need to monetize the work that you do? And I think there's, there's two parts of this that I'm thinking of. One is for the sustainability of your family, wanting to make enough to provide for your family, all of that.
But the other part I'm interested in is there an extent to which, you talked about sacrifices earlier. Is there an extent to which it might stop you from experimenting with as many new things as you would like? Or as many things? Because I think before, if you didn't have kids, let's say I'm hypothesizing so you can correct me if I'm wrong, but it could be that you might have an idea, there might be something you want to pursue, you have no idea if it could make money, but you could still try it and you could still take your time and figure it out. Whereas now, maybe if you're in a position where you have two kids, you have a family, maybe you don't have as much room to just figure things out anymore. Or at least there is an impetus to at least have made enough a certain amount of money already. And so is there an extent to which you might be pushed to focus on. So actually going back to Seth Gordon references. I don't want to talk about him, the whole podcast, but
Kevon Cheung: Three times.
David Elikwu: I know, but it just came to my mind. He talks about this idea of being a hack, but not in the way that most people think of it. He talks about the origins of the word hack coming from like Hackney horses and all of that stuff. But the point being, you have a lot of, let's say singers actually going back to the reference you made, or a lot of performers where the band ends up becoming, instead of creating new work, they are just doing covers of their old work, right? Because they're just performing the same songs again and again and again. Because they know those are the songs people are gonna love. As a result, they don't get to explore and create new work, new work that might be different, new work that people might not love as much because they're creating the stuff that people like. And so there an extent to which the parallel of that for someone that now has kids, may be that you don't necessarily get to create new work and be as explorative as you would like because you have to create the covers that you already know, people that you already know people will like and you already know people will pay for.
Kevon Cheung: Wow. Another tough question. Definitely, I mean, the pressure is there. You know, obviously I started this with a full-time commitment, like on day one, I'm already full-time on this because I've saved up. So I have some runway. But first year was quite chill because I was just telling myself like, you're in a new space, you're doing a new thing. And I really believe in this space, like it has a long way to go. Like even my real life friends and my mom, she would be like, wow, this Excel girl from the magazine making so much. And then I'll be like, yeah, I'm doing something similar. So I believe in this. So first year was chill in a sense that I have space to play around. So actually 10K revenue for me was, was a big yes. Like it was already a good year.
But I tweeted about this like getting into second year, oh my God, the pressure is up. Because you don't have room to slack anymore, you cannot say you're exploring like, second year you really should, you don't have a big progression. So second year I got to 47 in revenue. It was another signal to tell me that, okay, Kevon, you're making good progress. Let's just keep going, you can hit six figure. But I think when you have a family, when you get into your second year, third year, I think, you no longer have room to play around. As in, you cannot suddenly say, I have interest in this NFT project, so I want to allocate like 10 hours a week to do that. I think some people can, like, some people are really good at just multitasking or delegating or just managing things. In my case, I cannot, like, I need to just focus on one thing. So with those like constraints and pressure, I think it actually helped me because since year two, like all the decision I make, it has to contribute to the growth.
The reason why I'm not writing another book right now is that, a book is actually not revenue generating. I think for most people, it's more like awareness, credibility, lead generation, right? A business card on steroid. So for me, a lot of people go like, Kevon, you should write a second book. You should write a book on building in public. But then in me, I'm like, hmm, I'm questioning myself. What's the benefit of writing a second book? Can I achieve it in other ways? Can I build like a small freebie in like a week other than writing a book for 10 months?
So I started challenge myself with this tough questions. And I think in a way it helped me to stay focused. So for example of course, my goal this year is to get a six figure. But then I need to start thinking like, cohort is something that I'm already doing. It's most of my revenue. I'm quite public about that. How can I find something that is relevant to that but can scale up my revenue? So to me, it's the coaching because I already help my students one-on-one. Some people need more help, that is like a natural next step for them. So I don't know how to explain that. But with constraints and pressure, you're forced to come up with like better decisions. But in a way I think it's actually a good thing.
David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time.