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3 Steps to Winning in the App Store and Life

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I met JC about 15 months ago in San Diego. Since then he’s done amazing work in the app store with some super 3D games among others. Very grateful that I managed to persuade him to share his story here :) ~ Elaine

JC Haswell was a long time wantrepreneur who finally founded Sizzle Entertainment back in 2010. Since then he’s published over 150 apps on the Apple App Store with over 6 million downloads to date. In his spare time he enjoys playing competitive sports and video games, like soccer, golf, and League of Legends. He also loves chocolate.

Here are the 3 steps you need to win in the App Store and life.

1) Try Stuff
2) Learn
3) Repeat

That’s it. You can stop reading now and just do 1-3 and you will be far above the average developer/human. Let’s dig in a bit though…

1) Try Stuff (AKA “Execute!!!”)

Average people think too much and don’t take action. They theorize about which actions/decisions/ideas might be the best. Successful people realize theories have very little value. They spend the least amount of time possible thinking/theorizing about what they should do and move on to actually doing it.

When I first began building apps, I wanted to learn everything. I started teaching myself to code. I bought 10+ Game Design and Game Production books. I subscribed to tons of blogs. Then I read a great quote from Tim Ferris: Practice just in time learning, not just in case learning.

It hit me hard. I realized my whole life was an example of “just in case” learning. I was an avid reader of business and management books. I’d often get lost on wikipedia learning about some exotic animal/disease/location. But I wasn’t applying the vast majority of the knowledge.

So, I’ve worked hard to change my mindset to the JTS (“Just Try Sh*t”) philosophy. JTS, and then figure out what worked, what didn’t work, and why.

2) Learn

As just discussed, average people try to learn everything first, then take action. The next problem is that when they finally get around to taking action, they don’t put enough effort into tracking the process, their actions, and the results. They don’t take time to analyze what they’ve done and then use that information to course correct going forward.

Successful people track their actions, the results from those actions, and are able to draw meaningful conclusions (“Action A was good”, “Action B sucked”, etc). They learn the most during and after taking action, not before.

3) Repeat

At first glance, this may appear to be an ’empty’ step, maybe it looks like a ‘fluff’ step to make the title “3 steps…” instead of “2 Steps..” I cannot stress this enough: THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP BY FAR! See, I put it in all caps to emphasize it.

Perseverance is one of those behaviors that is mentioned often and appreciated on paper, but incredibly underrated in practice.

Everyone knows that entrepreneurship is difficult. Or at least everyone knows that other people say it’s difficult. But it’s incredibly hard to understand just how hard it is until you’re actually in it. Before I took the dive to start my own company, when I heard that entrepreneurship is “hard”, I thought, well of course it’s hard. It’s probably hard like 3-a-day preseason soccer practices where you’re constantly physically exhausted and in pain. Or maybe it’s hard like climbing a mountain, where the further you go, the steeper, rockier, and more oxygen-deficiant the path becomes. But I still thought of it as an exhilarating type of hard. A type of struggle that you enjoy, appreciate, and know that when it’s over you’ll be a happier and better person.

In my experience, this has been a rather…inaccurate…assumption.

Instead of climbing a mountain where there is real visible progress, where you have the knowledge that–barring absolute disaster–you’ll make it to the peak eventually…My experience has been more like slowly wading knee deep in the muck in a dark swamp. No visibility, a clear goal in mind but no idea which is the best direction to take to get there, no idea if I’ll get out, hearing ominous sounds of large animals just out of view, wondering whether anything I’m doing is actually working, and constantly feeling like I don’t belong, like my competitors are smarter, faster, and stronger.

So, for me, the only answer has been perseverance. I don’t always have the most productive days. I don’t always make the best decisions. But I am absolutely and completely committed to keep moving forward, even when I don’t know if I’m heading in the right direction.

It took me about 9 months to finally get my first app launched in early 2011 (it should have taken a few weeks). The app completely bombed, costing over $8,000 and making about $200. I looked at my strategy and realized it sucked. But then I looked at my execution…and realized it sucked too. So I made some adjustments and tried again.

My next app took another 9 months to launch, going live late 2011. This time I had a new strategy and only spent $300 to build it. But it was a failure too, at first. Then after trying several updates, it finally gained some traction, producing about $75/day on average since then (over $45,000 to-date).

I then began refining the strategy of that app and produced 3 more apps that year, all of which have also produced significant profit.

Then in early 2013 I decided to “scale my business”…and failed again, burning over $50,000 because of bad investments and bad management. I would have wasted less, but for too long I ignored my own advice in this post about paying close attention to the results.

Now I’m in the midst of another strategic shift. It’s frightening. I may screw up again. I don’t feel prepared to do what I’m planning on doing. I want to go back to school and learn more. I want to read books and go to conferences. I feel inadequate. I am stressed out. But I’m going to give it a shot anyway, because I know I’ll learn more by just trying, with the side benefit of having a chance of success. And also because I don’t want to start a job search just yet :).

1) Try Stuff
2) Learn
3) Repeat

Note: Above I refer to “average” people and “successful” people. I consider myself the former more often than the latter, but am working on that.

I love these insights from JC. Do you follow the 3 step system? Have you published apps that have failed, learned form your mistakes and moved on? Do you feel the same apprehension when you try different things? Let me know in the comments. ~ Elaine

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Elaine Heney is an online entrepreneur, triple #1 best selling author and international keynote speaker. Elaine is an Amazon FBA ecommerce advisor, investor, Hollywood movie producer, online business consultant and CEO of Chocolate Lab Cashflow. Elaine has also published over 300 mobile apps across Amazon, Apple & Google, and enjoyed over 20 million app downloads and over 50 #1 apps worldwide.

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Adrienne H. February 27, 2014, 10:35 pm

    Thank you so much, JC, for sharing your experience. When you wrote that you are “constantly feeling like I don’t belong, like my competitors are smarter, faster, and stronger.” I thought you had stolen my journal! I have made the same mistakes financially in my own app business and feel a lot of embarrassment, shame and frustration. I excel in “JTS” but am TERRIBLE at analyzing my results. This is truly the nail in my coffin. I feel inspired reading your post because I’ve got 75% of the formula down. Now I just need to learn how to track and analyze my progress so I can rinse and repeat again and again. Any advice on what to track and how you do it?

  • James S. February 28, 2014, 7:25 pm

    Those words rang so true old friend!! “They spend the least amount of time possible thinking/theorizing about what they should do and move on to actually doing it.” One of my goals for this year. Thanks JC!! ~Go Canes!

  • Elaine Heney February 28, 2014, 8:47 pm

    Thanks again JC for the super post. We’ll catchup again soon :)

  • Jamila S. March 2, 2014, 3:25 am

    Hey All,
    I Love JC’s story. I am about to make my first game app, I am terrified beyond comprehension but I am more determined to see this process through because I want to be my own boss. At the end of the day I do not want to have the regret of not trying or the “what if”. Keep up the awesome job Elaine!

  • James March 3, 2014, 1:37 am

    I don’t get it, I was under the impression that his ninja revinja game was doing very well, and even moreso now that he is selling licenses.

    Previous stories have explained that JC is doing very well for himself, and whilst I agree with his points to persevere and just try things, the ending doesn’t really show like he’s willing to continue until he succeeds, adding that he doesn’t want to look for a job “just yet”, key word being “Just Yet”. And gives the impression that he’s worried he could be back to square 1 if this doesn’t pan out! What could you possibly be doing that could jeopardize what you’ve accomplished and include the possibility of having to work a 9-5 job in future.

    It’s good to try things, but not always great to make gambles with what’s working well now with the chance of failure to the point of being back to square 1. I wouldn’t even equate failure or going back to work, I’m going to fail lots but I’ll make it work regardless in the end (going back to a job search is not even an option with what I’ve accomplished, I wouldn’t make such a decision that could get me back into that position).

    But working from home myself, I wouldn’t make any choice that could have me back to where I started in future, which I assume is by funnelling a lot of the money you have with no backup into something you believe should work (“Chance Of Success”).

    Sorry, it’s just the impression I get from the ending of your article. Perhaps I’m wrong?

    Great points though!

    P.S. I love your ninja revinja game 😉 I hold the 2nd best score in gamecenter for it, below the person who scored ridiculously high… lol … Usually play at night just before bed, helps me relax a little and to tire enough to sleep! So thanks for that :) !

  • Emeka Onuzuruike March 24, 2014, 2:33 pm

    I love the whole appreneur stuff but when I consider taking the action, lots of odss are up against me here in Nigeria, Africa. One nutty one is the fact that paypal is not open to Nigerians.
    Right now I am considering purchasing a MacBook because I like to test out codes myself before outsourcing to a competent developer.

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