Steven Sashen is easily frustrated — usually by the same things that frustrate others. What makes Steven unusual is that he uses his background in cognitive psychology to know specifically why something is frustrating, and more importantly, how to create a product that leapfrogs over that obstacle. His product/solutions range from a specialized word processor for film and TV writers that allows them to be more creative and efficient, to a series of meditation techniques that produce dramatic shifts in consciousness in just minutes.
What are you working on right now?
Most recently, I have my attention focused on how to run, walk and move more naturally, comfortably and enjoyably. Two years ago, after becoming a Masters track and field athlete at age 46, I became intrigued by barefoot running. We’ve got millions of years of history of running without shoes. I wondered if our technological innovations — shoes — were really improvements. In fact, many runners report that going barefoot has made running fun, easy and pain-free, even healing old injuries. Within a month of taking off my $100 running shoes, two long-standing injuries of mine were gone … and I even started developing arches in my feet because I was using those muscles for the first time.
The only obstacle to being barefoot is that sometimes it’s neither safe nor appropriate. So, I developed Invisible Shoes “barefoot” sandals. A modern take on a 5,000 year old design. Invisible Shoes are for anyone who likes the feeling of being barefoot for running, walking, hiking, climbing, boating, beach going or just feeling free, but also wants some stylish protection from things you could step on (or in!). Invisible Shoes are custom-made for you and by you with a simple-to-make kit, or by InvisibleShoe.com if you don’t want to take on a fun project.
3 Trends that excite you?
Clearly, I’m following the barefoot running trend that was inspired by Chris McDougall’s best-seller, “Born to Run.”
Similarly, there’s a trend for more natural movement in exercise, with various “bootcamp” and bodyweight-based workouts becoming more popular.
Also, there’s an upsurge in interest in “exercise footwear,” and even though Invisible Shoes are as minimalist as you can get, they actually encourage you to use more muscles — and burn more calories — than other products in this niche.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My only “secret” is that when something captivates me, I have to bring it into being just to get it out of my head! I hate the idea that someone else will discover the same solution I’ve come up with and try to find a way to avoid a future where I’m complaining to my wife, “Remember when I thought that up?”
Other than that, I know I get my best work done late at night, after a day of procrastinating. So, I don’t give myself a hard time when I’m playing another game of Solitaire … I just wait until midnight when I know I’ll have two to three good hours in me.
What is one mistake you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
I tend to not find bigger, better, smarter people to partner with, hire or sell to fast enough. I know that once I’ve gotten an idea out of my head and into the market, I lose interest and focus, and that’s the time I need to make my company attractive to a better management team or to an MA partner.
What is one book and one tool (i.e., piece of software) that helps you bring ideas to life?
Read “Fooled by Randomness” by Nasim Taleb. And “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert. Both of those will help you get over the idea that you have control over whether your next project will be a success. There’s no need to “think positively” or “be confident.” If you know that it’s a crap shoot, where you give it your best and hope for the rest, then there’s a freedom that makes taking action easier. And when you realize that your imagined future happiness is probably not accurate, it allows you to focus on projects that are compelling now, not for some hoped-for payoff.
Regarding software … WORDPRESS! You can get a business started online in under a week using WordPress, and the myriad plugins that have been written for it. With InvisibleShoe.com, we went from concept to first sale in six days.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Create good content — stuff you would normally want to sell — and give it away. The more value you put into the market for free, the more goodwill you create. And goodwill has a tendency to pay off in ways you can’t imagine.
How do you find great employees and/or bosses? How do you hire effectively?
I’m not sure there’s an answer for that. Human beings love the idea of controlling the future. Unfortunately, we’re not very good at it. We want to know which stock will go up, which vacation will be the most fun and which new hire will be the perfect addition to our company. So, if we can’t control the uncontrollable and know the unknowable, the best option is to set milestones and hurdles for the new hire to clear during a trial period. Take little things — like how someone reacts if they break an agreement and you point that out — as big clues.
If you don’t believe your thoughts about what will make you happy in the future, then how do you decide to do anything?
That actually implies we’re the ones making deliberate decisions. Cognitive psychology research suggests that much of what we imagine to be deliberation is actually a post-hoc rationalization. That is, some part of our unconscious makes a decision (for reasons we can’t fathom, often), and then we make up a conscious story to justify what we’re already starting to act on.
Given that, I don’t make decisions as much as I follow what I notice has compelled me. If it’s not interesting, I’m not interested.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.