David A. Morin is the founder of the mental health website SocialSelf. SocialSelf’s mission is to provide science-based information to help people improve their social skills, enjoy socializing, and develop meaningful relationships. Our content is created by therapists, counselors, and other experts on interpersonal psychology.
The company was founded in Sweden in 2013 under the name SocialPro. In March 2022 it moved to the US operating as SocialSelf LLC. It is now headquartered in New York City, NY.
As of January 2022, SocialSelf had one million monthly website visitors.
David, originally from Sweden, was nominated Young Entrepreneur of the Year in his home state at age 24. He has lived in New York City since 2017.
Where did the idea for SocialSelf come from?
When I was in my early 20’s I was obsessed with self-improvement. At that time, there were no trustworthy, scientifically based websites where you could learn social psychology. There were only highly opinionated blogs from self-proclaimed gurus. I had the idea of looking up hard-to-access scientific findings and turning them into something highly actionable anyone could read and enjoy doing. This is how SocialSelf was born.
Today, we have 120 000 people going through our trainings and our findings have been featured in magazines such as TIME magazine, the Hill, and Business Insider.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up at 9 and start work at 10 am. As SocialSelf is a virtual company, I and all my colleagues work from home (And we did even before the pandemic). At 12 pm I have my first meal, usually a high-protein smoothie with lots of mixed greens. At 2 pm, I go to the gym and do strength training or cardio. On my way to the gym, I usually feel stressed and annoyed. On my way home from the gym, I feel relaxed and as if the day had just started. I try to get off work at around 7 pm but often it drags on to 9 pm or 10 pm. As I love work and probably was born with a naturally high dopamine baseline, it takes more willpower for me to not work than to work.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’ve learned the hard way that the first thing to do when you have an idea is to ask people about it and get their honest feedback rather than sitting at home trying to perfect it. One time, I had an idea for an employee Christmas gift package to promote to companies in my hometown in Sweden. My friend and I were able to scrape together 700 company email addresses and we did a promotion that we thought would be a slam dunk: Locally produced goods from our hometown, including artisan tea and cookies.
We pressed “Send” and waited for orders to start coming in. We waited for a week. 0 orders. I eventually contacted one company and asked “Why do you think no one bought anything”. They responded, “What employee would want cookies for Christmas?”. That’s when I realized that you should get feedback from people as a first step, not as the last step.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I love how TikTok and social media in general de-stigmatize mental health issues such as social anxiety or ADD. One generation ago, talking to a therapist was taboo. Today, it’s assumed that everyone’s been seeing a therapist at least once in their lives. This makes it easier for us to communicate with our readers about these issues, too. Today, most people are OK with taking a course on how to overcome their social anxiety. 10 years ago, they might have thought it was too weird or embarrassing.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Wait two hours after you’ve woken up before your first coffee. You become less desensitized to caffeine and more alert during the rest of the day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t try to be smarter than everyone else at first. Do what smart people do and then improve upon it when you understand the intricate workings of a particular field.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I think automation over time will make the world a better place, and we shouldn’t aim for creating jobs but for transitioning to an economy where you don’t necessarily have to work. Trying to stop automation in the name of preserving jobs is like trying to stop progress.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Constantly talk to your customers and ask them broad questions, such as “What is your biggest challenge right now” to help them come up with your new directions. Try to disprove your hypotheses rather than prove them.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Optimize what already works and spend fewer resources on what doesn’t work. It’s easier to improve a big income stream by two percent than a small income stream by twenty percent.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My second company went bankrupt. It was a hard blow and I felt like a failure for quite some time after. Rather than following people’s advice on getting a normal job, I started my third company, even though I had lots of self-doubts.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A chrome plugin that allows you to see the estimated average lifespan of every product you buy on Amazon and a more durable alternative that will be more sustainable and save you money in the long term.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My blender. It’s made it so much easier to consume lots of mixed greens and other healthy foods. Just throw healthy stuff in there. If it doesn’t taste good, add Truvia.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We love using Airtable for planning our articles and Instagram posts. But the piece of software I use the most is Notepad. I’ve tried replacing it with all sorts of planning software, such as Trello, Asana, and Notion. But by the end of the day, it’s so incredibly convenient.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
At a certain point, general management books can only take you so far, and it’s better to get a hyperniched book for what your current focus in. I’ve read a great book on focus group practice and one on marketing and PR lately. For general advice, my favorite book is The Lean Startup.
What is your favorite quote?
“The friend is the cork that prevents the thought from sinking to the bottom”. – Friedrich Nietzsche. It’s an ambivalent quote.
- Speak to your market early on. Do not sit at home perfecting your idea.
- When you’re stuck in work and grow increasingly frustrated, go to the gym instead or go running.
- Optimize what already works and spend fewer resources on what doesn’t work.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.