Zack KanterZack Kanter

I’m an entrepreneur currently living in Boulder, CO (I’ve previously lived in Buenos Aires, Washington State, Las Vegas, and New Jersey). Here, I write about all sorts of topics that interest me: business and lifestyle automation, entrepreneurship, and personal development. Want to contact me? You can email me at zackkanter@gmail.com.

All articles by Zack Kanter

 

Down to Earth: SpaceX and the Return of Limitless Ambition

I have been thinking about the SpaceX launch since I watched it last night – and, of course, the subsequent landing – feeling inspired and excited in a way that I cannot ever recall feeling before. The last launch I watched was back in June, when the Falcon 9 was due to deliver a much-needed payload with resupplies to the International Space Station. I was shocked when the rocket exploded shortly after launch. It was a heartbreaking sight – seldom do we witness a failure so spectacular, so public. And as the video feed started, this time live from SpaceX
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What I’ve Learned About Love

I think we all are looking for one true love, a partner in crime, someone to share our secret world. Love is complicated, though, and it is hard to know what to look for in another person. When I was younger, I came up with a list of ‘non-negotiables’ – ten attributes that I wanted to find in a person like ‘moral,’ ‘communicative,’ and ‘lifelong learner.’ At the end of a relationship, I would reflect on my list and change it based on what worked and what didn’t. I found myself frustrated that my list of qualities didn’t seem to be a
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People Will Spend the Majority of Waking Time in Virtual Reality by 2020 (and, how to predict the future)

I find it interesting that predictions about the near-term future tend to be very conservative – most people envision the future looking like a mildly-enhanced version of the present. It is easy to imagine that most of the major societal transformations have either already taken place or will occur in the distant future, but this is far from the truth. The world is changing faster today than ever before, and a number of technologies emerging over the next few years – namely, autonomous cars and the subject of this post, virtual reality – will render the world nearly unrecognizable from
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How Uber’s Autonomous Cars Will Destroy 10 Million Jobs and Reshape the Economy by 2025

I have spent quite a bit of time lately thinking about autonomous cars, and I wanted to summarize my current thoughts and predictions. Most people – experts included – seem to think that the transition to driverless vehicles will come slowly over the coming few decades, and that large hurdles exist for widespread adoption. I believe that this is significant underestimation. Autonomous cars will be commonplace by 2025 and have a near monopoly by 2030, and the sweeping change they bring will eclipse every other innovation our society has experienced. They will cause unprecedented job loss and a fundamental restructuring
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Projects, Process, and the Deep Cleanse

I heard a story once about a mechanic. Calloused and worn, his tired hands were stained deep with grease and grime that told the story of his hard work. Though the water would run black when he rinsed his hands, the gritty industrial cleaner in his shop bathroom removed just the surface dirt and made little difference to their appearance. He took vacation once per year and it was always the same. His parents had left him and his sister a small cottage by the sea – it was a single room, the kitchen not more than a lone burner
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Are you stressed?

Take a bath. If you don’t have a bath, take a shower. My brother says to never make a big decision before you take a shower. You may not be on the verge of making a decision, but water has a magical way of clearing your head. When you’re toweled off, take a look at what you are doing when you are away from your stressor. Stress drains you emotionally. It drains your soul, in a way. Are you doing things that are filling you back up? Or are you doing things that deplete you further?
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When I Grow Up

I have been thinking a lot about a conversation I had with a friend recently – moreover, though, how I can’t help but feel that I have had this same conversation with dozens of people, and that I often wonder how many times a day this same conversation takes place. It takes many forms, but, at its core, the message is always the same. ‘I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.’ And though this dilemma carries with it a connotation of youth, I find that many of the people trapped within it are, ironically, not
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How to Name Your Startup

It is no secret at this point that I love being an entrepreneur, and it’s a profession that I would recommend to virtually anyone. At the first mention of job-related trouble, the de facto advice I’ll dispense is to quit your job: burn the bridge behind you and don’t look back. I’ve given away more copies of The 4-Hour Workweek than I can count. I am often asked, “what is the hardest part of starting a business?” Like most things in life, the process of starting a business seems impossibly complex until you actually begin to undertake it – what appears from afar
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The Lost Generation, Explained (finding purpose in an uncertain future)

I’ve heard that, in the minutes before a natural disaster, farm animals often exhibit a general and uneasy restlessness – long before any detectable indicator appears on the horizon, they mill about and complain noisily, not exactly able to identify the impetus for their discontent – but fearing the impending storm nonetheless.
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Creating a Vacuum (or, when to move on)

Careers and relationships are curiously similar, I think, and as a pair are quite unique in how we approach them. We dive headfirst into these commitments with only partial information – information which, more often than not, turns out to be inaccurate. I don’t mean to imply that job openings and potential romantic partners are intentionally misrepresented (though, I’ll admit, they sometimes are). I mean to say that they are simply two aspects of life that must be understood experientially – initial descriptions and appearances suffice only to lure you in, and you’ll only truly understand them by experiencing them
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Twentysomething

Sometimes I stroll into the grocery store and a big, goofy grin spreads over my face. Look at me, buying my own groceries. It’s not that I particularly love grocery shopping, exactly. Despite being 26 years old, I just still get a kick out of being an adult. I distinctly remember homecoming weekend, sophomore year of college, sitting around with a group of alumni recounting their glory days. They spoke of how much they missed college, how things were never the same after they graduated, and how the four years they spent in school were the best years of their
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Jealousy, Relationships, and the Voices In Your Head

The brain is a wondrous instrument – it builds detailed mental models of how our world functions, storing a dizzying array of information based on historical observations that we’ve made. The purpose of these models, or schemas, is to provide us with a framework for decision making prior to committing to a given course of action. It allows us to play out a scenario within the comfort of our own minds – it’s a sort of forecasting system, a Dopplar radar for social functions, that is designed to add a degree of predictability to our world. When you’re invited to
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How to Make Bad Decisions

There’s a point, I think, where some people stop changing – they reach a certain level of personal growth, a plateau of sorts, and they just freeze. There must be a muscle deep within your soul, responsible for curiosity, for improvement, for disruption, and, one day, it just starts to atrophy.
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Facing Reality

Flick, flick. Nothing. The power was out in my apartment. In the middle of June. Awesome. I walked out the door and down the hall, finally coming across a neighbor on the floor below me. “Hey man, is your power out too?” I asked. The neighbor shook his head no and that’s when my mind began to put the pieces together. The piled up mail on the counter. The voicemails on my phone that I hadn’t checked in days. I walked back into the apartment, took a deep breath, and fanned out the mail like a deck of cards. I saw
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Investing in Loss

My forearms are burning. I open and close my hands a few times, observing the frustrating sensation of having them respond at about half the speed that I’m requesting of them. Over my left shoulder is a spectacular view of Pike’s Peak, far below me a group of climbers – some onlookers, some stealing a moment of shelter in the shade – but the view that’s really capturing my attention is the rock formation six inches in front of my face. My right hand – and by hand, I mean some portion of a few of my fingers – is
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Building Blocks to a Happy Life

I’m a great worker. I haven’t always been that way, but a combination of better-defined goals and a genuine love for my job has made it relatively easy for me to sit down and crank out a solid six hours of productive work per day. But six weeks ago, I examined my day-to-day life and I realized that this was the only constant that I could point out – the only action that was reliably repeated day in and day out. I believe that most highly successful people have routines. Moreover, I think that routines are a way of defining yourself
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Life’s Biggest Secret

The remarkable thing about life is that you are the master of your mind, the undisputed main character in an epic journey through this world. Command your mind or your body and it will obey. You can use this power to shape your future as you see fit; your legs will walk to the gym even if you’re lethargic, your vocal chords will produce sound even if you’re nervous to speak up. But, for all of the incredible features that come standard on the Human Body, autopilot is not one of them. In the absence of instructions, your mind and
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10 Killer Negotiating Tactics (or, how I got $125,000 for nothing)

I once was contacted by a multibillion dollar, publicly traded German company that wanted to use one of our trademarks for their new line of products. I asked them how much they were willing to offer in exchange for a licensing agreement. In their response below, you’ll see them inform me that company policy prohibits them from compensating me for it, but they’d be happy to cover reasonable legal fees. Translation: they wanted to use my trademark and they were offering me absolutely nothing in return. It was a starting point.
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The Importance of Being Interesting

I was sitting in my apartment the other day listening to opera and reflecting on the importance of being interesting. I can see how that statement might come off as pretentious. Let me clarify – I wasn’t just sitting around, listening to opera on iTunes, and casually pondering egotistical insights. There was actually a live opera performance happening in my living room.
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Drunk Pregnant Women, the Paleo Diet, and Why I Hate Studies

I feel that this post is the most important one I’ve ever written, and I hope you read it. Below I lay out a framework for making important lifestyle choices. There’s been much ado in the news recently regarding a Danish study about drinking during pregnancy. Before you rush to organize your local mother/fetus pub crawl, let’s talk a little bit about the purpose of studies and why you should often ignore them.
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Knowing Yourself (and, some exciting news)

Despite a decent night’s sleep and an IV bag of iced coffee, I found myself feeling awful today as I sat down to try to get some work done. My mind was foggy and I simply had no energy to get myself going. For the past day or so, I’d been craving particularly bad food and at the moment, a cheesesteak, sour cream and onion chips, and a gallon of Arizona iced tea was sounding pretty good. Against my better judgement, I left the office in search of some food. As I stomped through the streets of downtown Chicago in
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Some Thoughts on Trust and Relationships (and when both go bad)

I see a constant stream of Facebook status updates about people hating work and desperately craving the short vacation that the weekend brings. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about trust and how it affects your personal and professional lives – two things that often beg escaping. A few months ago, I decided to outsource some administrative tasks for my business – tasks that I’ve been doing for years. It was an enormous relief at first – the cost was low and the contractor was highly rated and highly recommended. But over the past few months, I’ve noticed a series of
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Bored, Stuck, or Feeling Adventurous? 50 Randoms Things To Do

If you find yourself staring at a wall or otherwise fending off boredom, it helps to have a list of activities to reference. I’ve given you a head start below with 50 random activities and challenges to expand your mind, meet new people, and possibly alienate your friends. Some are easy, like go karaoking (#25). Others are a bit harder and more time intensive, like buying and operating a hot dog cart (#18). All are fun. Report back on your progress (with photos, please). My List of 50 Potential Things To Do If I’m Bored
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A Kitchen Trick That Will Change Your Life

This photo series absolutely blew my mind, so I decided to dedicate an entire post to sharing them (found this on Pinterest somewhere).
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Want To Live A Happy, Healthy Life? Fire Your Boss

People tell me time and time again that they want to quit their job, but entrepreneurship is just too risky. Here’s a few facts I’ve collected that show you that staying in the cubicle farm is more detrimental than you may think. 1. Your boss is slowly killing you. According to a study of 3,000 Swedish workers, workers who rated their managers most incompetent had a nearly 25% higher risk of developing serious heart problems (the gluttons for punishment who stayed four years or longer increased that risk to 39%). I personally believe that bosses should be subject to the
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How To Make $7 Million: Ignore Your Critics

If you follow any sort of tech news, I’m sure you’ve heard about Pebble – the runaway Kickstarter success story that has sold over $7 million worth of watches virtually overnight. The project was launched by a 25 year old guy and a couple friends. As with many success stories, they turned to Kickstarter as a last resort after being turned down by a number of (regretful) venture capitalists. I was reading a New York Times article today and it quoted one of their critics, Robert Fabricant – the VP of some big-time development firm – “casting doubt” on their success: “Mr. Fabricant,
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The Procrastinator’s To-Do List

I’ve devised a special test that can quickly distinguish a procrastinator from the general population – don’t worry, you won’t feel a thing. But, I am sorry to say, your test has come back positive. People who get things done – or, ‘organized freaks,’ as I call them – don’t read articles about procrastination. The subject simply doesn’t apply to them. In fact, these people don’t read self-help blogs at all. They’re too busy out doing stuff like color coding their calendar or drawing a map of the contents of their luggage (seriously). As a procrastinator, the likelihood that you
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How to Stockpile Cash (a short, no-BS guide for debt-free living)

How much should I spend on rent? On food? What the #$% is a 401(k)? Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy an eccentric imagination and a great legal team to significantly improve your odds of not getting arrested for pursuing it. Read on as I demystify the ridiculously complicated world of personal finance and get you on a path to stockpiling cash. Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor, and my lawyers don’t have my forwarding address in Argentina, anyways. Also, I wrote this post on my iPhone while traveling on a 35 hour bus ride to see
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Where Have All The Leaders Gone? (an appeal to the next President)

I’ve been following the presidential election from afar with a growing sense of frustration. I’m an American expat living in Buenos Aires – I don’t watch the news and we don’t spend much time talking politics, but I do spend a fair amount of time reading about the various candidates. I’m dismayed by the constant, petty arguing, the lack of respect, and the absence of logic, but most of all, I am discouraged by the lack of leadership.
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Why Your Kid Hates School

I’ll preface this by saying I have some fairly strong opinions on the education system in the US. To be blunt, the traditional US eduction system is, by and large, a complete waste of time for an intelligent student. It teaches young people bad habits, sets unreasonable expectations, and differs in most fundamental aspects from the reality of the adult world.
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Building a Better Night’s Sleep

I’ve been told that I look like I’m about to exit the Matrix when I’m getting ready for bed. I consume a variety of pills, install devices on my body, insist on complete darkness and shiver in the bone-chilling cold. You might be thinking, “how is it possible that you’ve ever had a girlfriend?” or, “this guy is awesome!” (in which case, I’m wondering, how is it possible that you’ve ever had a girl/boyfriend?). Let’s face it – by the time the relationship progresses to a sleepover, it’s probably too late for them to make a smooth exit. They’re going to
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How to Apply Business Principles for a Better Personal Life

We’ve all heard stories about the workaholic corporate-type with no personal life, or the driven entrepreneur with a singular focus on business. But in reality, there’s a lot we can learn from the business world – ideas, practices, and philosophies that can be applied to lead an easier, more fulfilling, and more productive life. I have a few favorites that I’ve raided from my entrepreneurial war chest and implemented successfully in my day-to-day routine. Follow along as we transform boring corporate jargon into Zen-like awesomeness.
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Are you happy? (My year in review)

For me, New Years Eve was never so much about resolutions as it was about drinking champagne. Sure, on December 31st I can’t help but think back nostalgically on the year that has passed, but I have always felt that the holiday was too public a time to really reflect. Besides, champagne has a way of…uh, narrowing your focus down to the moment at hand, rather than looking at the big picture.
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How I Make Money, Part II: 5 Steps to Creating a Product

In my first post of this series, I wrote about some common myths that stop would-be entrepreneurs. This post outlines how to make a list of potential product ideas, determine which one is best, and get the ball rolling on finding a supplier. Since you’re reading a blog post about starting your own business, we’ve already established that you aren’t satisfied with hate your job because: your boss is an idiot you don’t get paid enough you work too many hours you’re underappreciated you’re bored all of the above I’m going to give you a crash course in idea generation
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8 Simple Philosophies That Changed My Life

We’re all faced with complex challenges – even exciting new opportunities often come wrapped in a frustratingly delicate package. When you know what is important to you on a basic level, you can quickly distill complicated problems down to a digestible and navigable decision. Simple solutions are often the most elegant and there are a few philosophies that have guided me through some particularly difficult situations – and ultimately led me to follow my dreams to Argentina. Here are the eight guidelines that keep my life exciting, meaningful, and most importantly, unusual. Zack’s 8 Simple Philosophies for a Happy, Healthy Life
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The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Learn

I’ve never really been one to follow the masses or participate in the rigid march of conformity. I sold candy on the black market in 5th grade, started an auto parts company when I was 16, skipped my senior year of high school, and was on a one-way flight to Vegas during my college graduation. At age 23, I was making plenty of money and was only working a few hours a day. It was every guy’s dream – living in Sin City, improving my Call of Duty skills with previously undiscovered dedication, and embracing a general lack of responsibility that
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10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Life Today

Changing or improving your life doesn’t have to be a long, frustrating, drawn-out process. I’m always in search of the smallest changes that yield the biggest returns, and below is my collection of quick tips that can make your life easier, more fulfilling, or just less of a pain in the ass. Try one or two of these and tell me how great they worked. Zack’s Not-So-Secret List of Simple Ways to Increase Happiness, Productivity, or General Awesomeness
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How I Make Money, Part I: Top 3 Myths That Stop Would-Be Entrepreneurs

“So, are you here to work or to study?” I get this question almost every day and it’s really a tough one to answer. It’s been 60 days since I got any real, tangible work accomplished, but January’s revenue is almost double what it was last January. I can’t say I’m proud of my obsolescence – I love being productive – but the results speak for themselves. As you may already know, I’m in Argentina indefinitely and I’m taking Spanish classes to improve my somewhat limited communication skills. I skipped class the other day to catch up on work – the
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Running errands in Buenos Aires

In my last post, I mentioned that I need a blender because buying groceries has been a disaster. I’ll start by saying that the trend of putting your business into Google Maps hasn’t quite reached the tipping point yet in Argentina, so I have to rely on a combination of word-of-mouth referrals and wandering around aimlessly. Although my Spanish has improved since the blender blunder, the latter is actually quite a bit more productive at the moment. Verbal communication is still difficult, as I haven’t been able to hear out of my right ear since I fell asleep on the beach
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Buying a blender in Argentina (or, how I learned the word ‘regalo’)

“Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.” – Dave Barry You don’t fully appreciate the ability to communicate until you transplant yourself into a foreign country. I’ve been here for 3 weeks now and I can say that moving here has been the equivalent of becoming an absolute moron overnight. This story chronicles my quest to buy a blender.
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