5 Things I Learned When I Fried My iPhone

Seattle — it occasionally rains here.
Matthew Inman nailed it
Long story short, I fried my iPhone — there was a small incident involving a nice Seattle day, an open sunroof and a freak rainstorm.

(I live in Seattle. It occasionally rains here.)

The phone kinda works. Somehow, the screen part of the touchscreen got fried. The touch part still works.

Technically, I can receive calls (the slider works) but can’t make them or send/receive texts. Forget looking up directions, checking mail, using apps.

My iPhone 5 is on order (one more week!), so I decided I’d tough it out. It’s been a helluva week.

  1. “Um. Do you know where Blanchard is?” Stopping and asking someone for directions? That’s so 90s. But, apparently I’ve lost all ability to follow old-school directions — you know, the kind you looked up on MapQuest and printed out?

    Solution: Well, you’re pulling over and asking the nice stranger.

  2. Spatial & temporal amnesia. I go to a lot of meetings these days. Forget figuring how to get to 2nd & Blanchard, how do you even know you’re supposed to be at 2nd & Blanchard?! Oh, and you can’t call anyone.

    Solution: I found this beautiful little app, Sunrise.im — total lifesaver.

  3. (Actually) Addicted to email. If I have a free second, I’ll check email. (You know, just in case.) Or, “let me just fire off this quick note.”

    A couple weeks ago, I was at an event with a board member — I spent most of it firing off emails. He called me out afterwards, gently but sternly, for being rude. He was right.

    Solution: I didn’t realize how bad it was — I found myself struggling with a few spare minutes. The first step? Admitting you have a problem.

  4. How many pings we get. My phone has been on — I feel it buzz every time. Maybe because I can’t answer them, I notice more how often it buzzes. Normally, each one of them would’ve been an interruption.

    My half-broken iPhone
    My half-broken iPhone
    And those little red badges — all those missed calls, unread texts, unread emails? That’s a whole ‘nother kind of cognitive pressure.

Being a proud nerd, I ran the numbers — DiskAid, Graph Your Inbox & some Python. In the past few days, I—

  • Received 1,042 emails.
  • Have 248 unheard voicemails and missed calls.
  • Still need to read 100+ texts.

But, you know the deepest, darkest thing I learned about myself during my week with no iPhone — no on-the-fly email, no realtime directions, no iCal?

  1. I liked it. Being fully present, focused & available with another human being is absolutely magical.

    I’ve always been a data geek — I’ve always liked numbers & data and people have always been a little confusing to me. I’ve been working on it this year. But without my phone, I found myself engaging fully … and in the magic.

    While the pace of my life continues to accelerate, this week was a nice reminder that disconnecting can bring back some humanity to life.

    Solution: Be present, available. Turning off the ringer isn’t good enough — you might still check who it is (“just in case”). Try leaving your phone behind entirely and see if you feel a difference.

In the end, I conceded defeat. A replacement iPhone just arrived and, as of today, I’ll be back online. So, if you haven’t heard from me in a week — well, I’m sorry, I’ll call you back now.

NOTE 12/22: This post is actually from November. Ironically, after I got my iPhone back, I got pulled back into the whirlwind so quickly I never had a chance to finish it.

10 Amazing People — My Reply To Yesterday’s School Shootings

Like everyone I know, yesterday was filled with sadness, horror. 27 dead, 20 children.

The only article I read (of dozens) that meant anything to me was Fuck Everything. The Onion nailed it: Why bother? Words can’t describe the tragedy. Why even try?

I’m not going to lobby for gun control or defend gun rights. I don’t want to argue morality or mental disease. There are plenty of people doing those things already.

Late last night, I saw a tweet from my friend Jessica Jackley, one of Kiva’s co-founders:

I remember meeting her years ago and realizing, midway through lunch, that I was going to have to invent a new category of people for her: courageously kind. It’s a different kind of kindness — one that requires strength, one that requires courage, one that knows kindness is often taken advantage of but is kind anyways.

And that’s what I want to talk about instead. Yes, there is evil in the world. Yes, there is death — unfair, untimely death. There is apathy, there is greed, there is awfulness. But, there is also goodness in this world. Real goodness.

Yesterday, someone tried to steal that from us.

Well, fuck that. I refuse. There is goodness, I know this. There is kindness, I know this too. There is courage, genuineness, raw messy inner human beauty — all of this I know.

I know this because, over the past five years of building Vittana, I’ve had the genuine honor (pleasure!) of getting to know some of the most amazing people in the world. I don’t think of them as amazing — they’re just my friends. But, they are amazing.

On a day where some guy tried to steal our goodness from us, I’d like you to meet some of them.

Why? Maybe they’ll do for you what they did for me — remind me that there is real goodness in this world.

  • Jessica Jackley — She inspired the definition of courageously kind. Her TED talk was one of the most courageous talks I have ever seen — you can literally see the love and soul she put into building Kiva. Enough said.
  • Jose Antonio Vargas — He’s one of the bravest men I know. A Pullitzer Prize-winning journalist, he outed himself as an undocumented immigrant last year so he could fight for immigrants’ rights.
  • Jim Fruchterman — I love Jim. He’s one of the dorkiest, happiest, smartest people I know. A rocket scientist turned social entrepreneur, he invented OCR good enough to read all printed text in 1982 and then built reading machines for the blind with it. Oh, and he’s also a certified genius.
  • Rand Fishkin — I want to be Rand when I grow up. Like all founders, he’s gone through heaven and hell, but he’s talked about everything openly — the good, the bad, the awful. He lives and breathes TAGFEE. He’s one of the most genuine, open, courageous tech founders you’ll ever meet.
  • Charles Best — Spend 15 minutes with Charles and you’ll walk away happier, grounded, energized. A teacher in the Bronx, he founded DonorsChoose in 2000 to help his fellow teachers afford school supplies. And because he didn’t know that many donors back then, he secretly funded the first dozen projects… on a teacher’s salary.
  • Alexis Ohanian — He might have founded reddit, hipmunk and breadpig, he might be writing a book that’ll rock your world or be going to the White House Christmas party, and he might also only be 29… but you’d never know that by talking to him — he’s one of the nicest, most genuine, humble guys you’ll ever meet.
  • Eric Stowe — Eric founded Splash in 2006, working to get kids around the world access to clean water. They’re serving 250,000+ kids a day — it’s truly incredible to see them scale.
  • Nancy Lublin — Nancy runs DoSomething.org. In less than 12 hours, they found a way to help the victims of yesterday’s shooting.

    Text HOPE to 38383 to send a prayer to the families affected by yesterday’s shooting. They will be hand-delivered on Monday.

  • Kristina Anderson — Here’s the thing: Yesterday was the second-worst school shooting in American history. Virginia Tech was the worst.

    Kristina is a survivor of Virginia Tech. She was shot multiple times, survived, made it through physical therapy, and has now dedicated her life to fighting for safe schools.

  • A music teacher, a custodian, a principal — A music teacher who saved 15 kids by hiding them in a closet; a custodian <a href="running in the halls, yelling “Guys! Get down! Hide!”; a principal who gave her life trying to save her students.

What more can I say? They’re our heroes and angels today.

Who do you know that reminds you there’s still goodness in this world? In the middle of everything else, take a moment to reflect on the goodness, courage and humanity that still exists all around us.

My 2012 Annual Letter for Vittana

Thanks to you, Vittana grew 4X, expanded in Africa, reached 8,000 students in 12 countries & had our first $1 million month!

Even this past week has been incredible!

  • We fully deployed our $500,0000 Vittana/MCE Education Opportunity Fund in the Philippines, helping more than 1,340 youth escape poverty.
  • We announced Vinod Khosla and Rich Barton, two of technology’s biggest names, joined as lead donors on Vittana’s League of Extraordinary Tech Superheroes”.
  • My blog post, “Why I Walked Away from $1 Million”, became a viral hit: 1,000+ likes & tweets, Huffington Post, Nick Kristof, Vinod Khosla, Tim O’Reilly & others.
  • To cap it all off, last Thursday we celebrated with Seattle (nearly 1,000 people!) at the GeekWire Gala, raising $32,000+ to fight youth poverty!
  • And just yesterday, Google’s employees raised $102,541 $120,000+ (one day!) for Vittana’s fight against youth poverty!

Hard-Fought Growth

Vittana's impact against youth poverty through 2013As each of you know, creating a meaningful, scalable organization is hard. We’ve had a year of profound growth, for both Vittana and me.

We’ve discovered who we are as an organization (and man, as I turn 30 next month), who we want to be when we grow up — one that blends business’ top minds and philanthropy’s strongest hearts, one that will someday create trillion-dollar change.

Everything we’ve already achieved is because of you: your time, your faith, your thought partnership, your financial support. Thank you. Many of you stepped forward when we needed you most. Thank you for being part of our Vittana family: youth, staff, champions, donors.

You Can Make An Enormous Difference

How will you make an impact this year? Inspire your holiday giving with hope and help. A major gift to Vittana could be one of the most powerful ways to make a difference this year.

Looking forward to 2013, we face a unique problem. After years of sustained exponential growth, we have more lenders and more youth than the infrastructure to bring them together.

We need to raise $500,000 this month for Vittana to meet our next goal. This alone will unlock more than $5 million in loans for youth in 2013 — more than 6,800 youth. With your help, we can help 33,000 youth escape poverty next year.

Please make a donation today. You can use our 1-click page. If you’d like to have a bigger conversation, I’d love to follow up personally.

Janice Macalisang — a Vittana student in the PhilippinesI’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite students, Janice, a girl who dreamed of being a teacher.

Her story broke my heart, both what she’s had to endure but also how little money she needed to empower herself.

Thank you for being part of the Vittana family. Thank you for being part of a movement to end youth poverty — Vittana wouldn’t be possible without you.

Thank you, truly. Yours,


Kushal Chakrabarti
Founder & CEO, Vittana

The 10% Rule — How Hard Work & Compound Interest Are Related

Grasshopper: “What’s the secret?”

Master: “The secret is that there is no secret — you just have to work harder than everyone else.”

In college, I had an incredible mentor, Lior Pachter, who taught me how to think about interesting problems: always redefine the rules; voraciously consume data, then just go play; cherish, pursue moments of discomfort. It was breathtaking.

But, the #1 thing I learned from Lior? The 10% rule.

Meet the 10% Rule

It’s actually very simple.

If you do 10% more hard work every day, how far ahead are you at the end of the year? Hint: It’s not 10%.

If you do 10% more work every day, you’re not ahead by just 1.1x after one year — you’re actually ahead by 1.1365 = 1,283,305,580,313,390x. That’s a big, big number.

1,283,305,580,313,390 vs. 1 — the 10% rule
1,283,305,580,313,390 vs. 1 — The 10% Rule

In short, hard work compounds on itself. It’s the magic of compound interest. Just like money builds off money, hard work builds off hard work.

That extra feature you launched, email you sent, insight you had today? It builds off yesterday’s extra feature, email, insight.

Now, obviously, it doesn’t quite work perfectly. In your sleep-deprived stupor, say you start confusing Os for 0s and break the production system — you just wiped out your past month’s gains. But the idea still essentially holds.


The 10% rule is also the secret to why startups can beat the big guys.

Normal, clear-thinking people (i.e. not you, me — we’re entrepreneurs at heart) look at the numbers and bet on Google, Microsoft, Facebook. So how did Google beat Yahoo in the first place? Why did Mark Zuckerberg pay $1 billion for Instagram?

Because if you’re out busting your ass for own startup, writing code 16 hours a day, using your dog as a four-paw focus group, dreaming (literally) about product/market fit every night, the 10% rule kicks in.

And every seasoned founder, CEO knows that: it’s tough to beat talent + passion (hard work). In a year, you’ve got enough product equity to beat the 9-to-5 lifers by an order of magnitude. If you can survive long enough to catch up, they’re done for.

I’ve been clocking 100-hour weeks for awhile. I’m not special — every founder has done the same. Startups are a race against time and hard work + the 10% rule is your time-warping, 1.21-gigawatt DeLorean to win.

Time-warping, 1.21-gigawatt DeLoreans don't have to look pretty though — Back to the Future
Time-warping, 1.21-gigawatt DeLoreans don’t have to look pretty — Back to the Future