8 minutes

#2: Selling the first mobile app I ever built to Jocko

The Idea

In the summer of 2020, a few months into the COVID pandemic, my wife and I headed west on a road trip to the Grand Canyon for July 4th. 

During the drive, we stumbled across Jocko Podcast 226. For those who aren’t familiar with Jocko Willink, Jocko is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL officer and co-author of several #1 New York Times bestselling leadership books. Tim Ferris aptly gives him the title of “the scariest navy SEAL I’ve ever met”.

Jocko Podcast 226 is a discussion between Jocko and his colleague Dave Berke about their newly released book titled "The Code. The Evaluation. The Protocols. Striving to become an Eminently Qualified Human". The book provides a framework for daily evaluations, heavily influenced by the US Marine Corp Fitness Report which defines the standards of the Eminently Qualified Marine. The primary theme is set your bars in life high, at a nearly impossible level, and just in striving to achieve them you will become better.

As Jocko and Dave discuss the details of their book, the inevitable idea floats across my head: "it'd be cool if there was an app for this." 

Like most people, this isn't the first time I'd had this type of thought. I'd bet most people can think of a time when an idea for an app entered their mind. And like many people, I acted on those ideas far less often than my gut felt was right. 

Then, 16 minutes into the podcast and my daydream about this app, Jocko dives into a one minute long tangent seemingly directed straight at me for this very moment:

“If you’ve got something in your head. If you’ve got some idea in your head. Some thought. Some dream. Some thing that you want to create and you don’t execute on that, that is a mortal sin.” (Watch the video, no text can ever convey this message as Jocko does) 

Jocko’s tangent echoed in my head for the rest of our vacation. 

Prioritize and Execute

Once I got home from the vacation, it was time to make things happen. At this point in my life, I had never created a mobile app. I hadn’t even done a "Hello World" project for a mobile app. I had started teaching myself to code at night a little over a year before, building a SaaS platform with my college roommate and software wizard Jordan Beacham.

So, I knew enough to be dangerous, but also knew there was no shortage of new tools and skills to learn if I wanted to create this app. I made the decision that I was going to make the app, and I gave myself one month to create the initial version.

My plan was to build the entire app so that it would be ready to test when I’d attempt to connect with Jocko’s team. If I emailed them with a "hey I've got an idea will you let me build it", I knew my chances to get this app out to the world would be close to zero. Especially considering I had no history building mobile apps. 

I grinded away at it for the next month, spending countless hours watching tutorials (shoutout Mosh Hamadani’s Code With Mosh), building the app, and designing the app in a way I thought best represented the Jocko brand. 

Screenshots from the initial build of the app

Fast forward through many late nights and early mornings to August 18th, 2020. I’m ready to fire off my email to Jocko’s team. I will mention at this point, technically I didn’t have the app ready for live testing, but I was far enough along that if they did respond quickly I could get the remaining parts knocked out in a matter of hours. 

Considering I didn’t know anyone in their world, I did what anyone would do, guess what their emails were and try them all. 

Six hours later, I received an email back from their team! Holy smokes I couldn't believe it. I threw together a video of me walking through the app, and sent them the link to test the app through Apple’s TestFlight app. 

After sending the video, Jocko’s team was impressed enough to explore the opportunity further. I immediately pulled in my friend Jordan to help me bring this project to the finish line. Together, we sold the app and worked closely with some awesome guys from Jocko’s team to take the app through testing and eventually to launch. 

The app can be found on the App Store here and on Google Play here.

Reflecting on some lessons learned

#1: Set lofty goals

When I reflect on this project, I’m reminded of the value of setting lofty goals. We often hesitate to define goals, because defining a goal also means defining conditions for failure. The more lofty the goal, the higher probability for failure. 

The one month timeline provided me with the focus required to navigate the problems and find solutions in the most effective manner I could summon. 

#2: The effort has to be enough

While I was obviously thrilled by the idea of being able to create an app that supported the mission Jocko is leading, I was also well aware of the extremely slim chances I had of being successful in getting this app published. This was a reality I accepted before I started working on the project. I built the app with the mindset that if it never got to see the light of day, if no one other than my wife and I saw it, it was still worth the effort. I would still be better for having pushed myself to learn the new skills than if I hadn’t. 

If my drive to complete this project had a foundation built on money or the requirement the app be eventually published, I’m confident this app would have never been published. I proved to myself I was capable of learning something new and driving myself forward, and that was enough for me. 

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