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Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up

Discussion in 'Jason Stoddard' started by jason stoddard, Jan 23, 2014.
  1. bagwell359
    Right. Lamp cord for speakers in 1974, monster cord for speakers in 1977, AQ, Cardas, and all sorts of stuff at greater and greater prices to follow. Given the ego and money in the high end, there are plenty of flies to catch.

    That little dab will do ya of THD (or whatever it was) got me to match equipment much more carefully as a result, since I wasn't about to toss THD into my system on purpose (kind of killed tubed amps but not hybrid pre-amps for me).

    I went from '02 until '18 never spending over the minimum on a cable or believing in differences once past O2 free cable and solid connections were an issue - until that silver plated digital coax stuff showed that it was quite different - even on blind testing...? I have another digital cable that's 75/2 ohms, and yeah that's clearly different but not better too. Not planning on changing my Canare speaker wire or Belden balanced. OTOH thinking about building a DIY silver plate headphone cable. I just got done rebuilding a 1990's Denon tuner, and some of those Silmic II caps sure sound a lot better.

    Just goes to show that some stuff really sounds different and some doesn't. If I had a pair of Scintilla's I could expose lots of differences.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
    CAPT Deadpool likes this.
  2. Ableza
    In my house, lamp cord in 2019
  3. bagwell359
    I know your opinion which I come pretty close to sharing with occasional odd findings against it. But if you have an easy load in your speakers/headphone from the POV of the amp, good steady voltage incoming, then looking into *high end* solutions above and beyond are not liable to locate much.
  4. artur9
    I have had good success with Beebox. Cubox, not so much. I mostly repurpose obsolete Apple hardware.

    ditto because ...
    My Fulla 2 knob broke recently as well. A few emails to schiit, an RMA and now it's back. Time to try it out!
  5. bosiemoncrieff
    Is the March announcement Fulla Multibit?
  6. jimmers
    I think that comes the day after March
  7. numbercube
    You are not used to very good gear. Any narrow tower speaker with small woofers automatically disqualifies as very good because of the high distortion in the bass. A better speaker with big woofers and compression drivers can be build for under 2k.
    I really don't mean 5-digits-expensive gear. It's sort of like U.S. college where you have to spend a certain of amount of money in order to be able to study, but the most expensive ones do not make you smarter.
  8. yonson
    The problem with arguments like this is that it's all subjective, there are some exceptional narrow tower speakers with small bass drivers available, however they are not inexpensive...
    MWSVette, Rensek and RCBinTN like this.
  9. numbercube
    My argument is "objective". There are hundreds of distortion measurements of small expensive woofers and cheap big woofers in magazines like Voicecoil, HobbyHifi, Klang&Ton or HifiSelbstbau.
    Remember: the maximum possible Sound pressure level is Lp = 20*log(0,37*f²*Sd*xmax) (for bassreflex)

    And my I quote Jason from Chapter 9, 2016:
  10. Jason Stoddard
    2019 Chapter 1:
    Zeroth Things Zeroth

    Yes, I know, the title is a bit of a head-scratcher.

    “Zeroth things zeroth? What does that mean? Are you implying I’m a zero? Are you trying to be way too clever for your own good?”

    Please bear with me. With luck, by the end of the chapter it’ll make some sense. With luck. I’m far from perfect, and I’m a bit of a rusty writer (I really need to get back to the bi-weekly schedule here, and maybe even start up the fiction writing again).

    So, to help define zeroth things zeroth, let’s start with an expression many of you might already know: first things first.

    First things first means, simply, that you should tackle the more important stuff before doing things that don’t matter as much.

    Here’s what Merriam-Webster has as a definition for first things first:

    —used to say that one should do the things that are most important before doing other things

    And here’s what Merriam-Webster uses as examples for first things first:

    I know you're eager to start shopping for a car, but first things first—you need to find out how much you can afford to spend.

    You must set priorities and learn how to put first things first.

    Now you’re probably sitting back with your arms crossed, saying. “Well, duh. Not super hard-hitting stuff there. I already knew that. Heck, my mom/dad/annoying uncle/Siri/Cortana/uplifted turtle told me ‘first things first’ about ten billion times. It’s old and tiresome and I don’t want to hear it anymore.”

    Ding ding ding ding! Now you’re starting to get it.

    “No, I’m not,” you say. “I told you I know what ‘first things first’ means, and I’m tired of hearing it. You have yet to explain what the hell is up with your ‘zeroth things zeroth’ line. Is this just a cute line you scribbled in a dream journal at 4AM, then forgot what the hell it meant, or is this some gawdawful thing that Alexa is going to be hawking to me for only $9.99 on Prime Books soon?”

    Okay. To begin understanding zeroth things zeroth, consider this:
    • Zeroth is when you make a list that starts with 1), then remember something so critical you add a 0) step above all the rest.
    • Zeroth is the fun stuff you really want to do, even when you should really be studying for that grade or finishing the presentation you need to clinch that promotion.
    • Zeroth forces you to pay attention; sometimes you can’t focus on anything else.
    • Zeroth comes before first, even if you don’t want it to.
    • Zeroth is something you can do again and again…
    So, “zeroth things zeroth” means, to me:

    Before doing what you HAVE to do, consider what you LOVE to do.

    Or, maybe we can make it even simpler:

    Before doing, remember why you’re doing.

    Business Metrics Are First Things First

    “Aha!” some are exclaiming. “This is business chapter!”

    Well, ish. It’s less of a “business chapter” and more of a “personal chapter that may intersect with business and life” kind of thing.

    This chapter isn’t meant to be navel-gazing and inward-looking. I really hope this chapter will be helpful to any person who’s thinking about starting a company, or has a company looking to grow. Hell, I hope it helps every individual do better at whatever they really love—or break off and start doing their own zeroth thing. It doesn’t matter if you’re in business, working for someone, or still in school.

    Because I really, really think it’s important to get a handle on stuff that’s below the surface, beyond the rote first things first mantra.

    Why write about this now:
    1. My own realization, a few posts back, that business metrics don’t always tell the whole story—you can have a good year by typical metrics, and yet slog though it in an exhausted and demotivated state.
    2. A question by a recent reader of Schiit Happened, asking (paraphrasing), “Aren’t all businesses just about making money, when you get right down to it?”
    Those two things made me realize something that had been bothering me all last year: that, in focusing on all the things everyone thought were important (first things first), we’d slipped on the zeroth level—and that slip was absolutely critical to our happiness…your satisfaction…and long-term success.

    Let me explain. Last year, we focused on all the things you need to concentrate on if you want to grow efficiently. Things like:
    • Better vendors
    • Better ways to make products
    • Enhanced test procedures
    • Better test equipment
    • Improved production control
    • Consolidated product lines
    • Enhanced current products
    Or, in other words, ZzzzzzZZzzzzzzzzZZZzZzzz….

    And yeah, we also did a whole lot of fun engineering stuff (stuff I thought was zeroth), but:
    • It was extremely base-level, speculative, or both
    • Sometimes it created more questions than it answered
    • None of that fun engineering stuff made it into a product
    And, because we were so focused on first things first, we also spent a ton of time worrying about a whole lot of process-oriented stuff: how the new products would fit in the line, when it would be best to introduce them, how best to have a clean launch, how we would staff to meet demand, etc, etc.

    Oh, the irony: all that hand-wringing over process gained us exactly nothing—our products were still late, despite having very few products to focus on, and there was the normal amount of disruption we always have when introducing a new product.

    Sure, in the end, all of that focus on first things first resulted in exactly what you’d expect: we delivered a good year.

    By typical metrics.
    By the perspective of the professional manager.
    Through the viewpoint from the outside looking in.

    But we didn’t have a lot of fun doing it.

    But Back to the Money Thing

    So, to answer my reader’s question, “aren’t all companies just about the money?” the answer is simple: no. And they shouldn’t be. Money is a first things first thing. It’s not zeroth.

    “Well, I dunno about that,” somebody says. “Most companies certainly act like it’s all about the money.”

    And yes, I hear you. If you’re talking about public companies run by a professional management class, it is absolutely all about the money—or, to be more specific, creating value for shareholders. If you’re talking about a fast-growth startup fat with venture cash and hellbent on a timely exit, it’s all about the money as well. If you’re a company that exists only to exploit a certain unnatural business niche, then yeah, better make as much money as you can before the market-makers shift the goalposts.

    But for everyone else, making money shouldn’t be the only reason the company is in business.

    Hell, it shouldn’t even be a primary reason, in my opinion. It shouldn’t be foundational.

    Now, that’s not to say that companies don’t have to make money. Companies do have to turn a profit. Profit is necessary to provide revenue for growth. Profit is necessary to create a reserve in case of tough times.

    But if you focus on profit too much, it distorts the whole business. How can you make it bigger? How can you squeeze more out of every product? How can you drive down ancillary costs? And why should it stop at profit? What can you do with the reserves you have? Shouldn’t those be working, earning interest, or even re-invested in higher-rate vehicles?

    Suddenly you have a company run by CPAs…a company that’s forgotten why it came to exist in the first place. A company having no fun.

    And a company that isn’t having fun isn’t doing cool, interesting stuff.

    And that’s no fun for the customers, either…

    Aside: interesting to see this is where Apple has found itself, in the post-Steve Jobs wasteland. It has the highest margins in the industry. It has enough cash to buy some small countries. And yet now a Microsoft Surface Pro feels a lot more like the Apple of the past, in terms of interesting design and taking risks. And yet now they have an impasse between MacOS and iOS that seems almost impossible to cross. And yet now they’re ignoring a huge market for their Watch by tying it to the iPhone. And yet now they’ve pulled out their biggest CPA gun—higher prices—but revenue is faltering. Soooooooo…when raising prices doesn’t work, what’s the endgame?

    So no, a company shouldn’t be just about the money. Concentrating on money misses the most important part of a company: the zeroth level.

    “Okay, all that’s cool and all, but I still don’t know what this ‘zeroth things zeroth’ is, or how it can help me. Come on, throw me a bone.”

    Gotcha. I can be long-winded; please accept my apologies. Let me see if I can keep this ultra-simple:
    • Zeroth stuff is what you truly love to do.
    • Putting zeroth things zeroth means you have fun, and that shows in everything you do.
    “But I thought this was about companies,” you say. “Now you’re talking about people.”

    Well, when companies can happen without people, then maybe I’ll worry about the distinction. But, as far as I know, there are no companies comprised entirely of artificial intelligences, and no companies with, say, dogs and geese as sole shareholders and employees.

    “But what I really like to do is zone out and watch YouTube videos of Poppy,” you say. “If I don’t do anything but that, I’m not going to work/make money/eat/marry and reproduce!”

    Well, yeah, duh. Did I ever say that you should only do zeroth stuff? Of course not. There’s balance in everything. Maybe after your latest Poppy conspiracy video, you need to move on to your job. And, let’s face it—if you can’t manage basic life-balance stuff, you probably shouldn’t be starting a company.

    “So…I think I get it. Zeroth is about what you’d rather **** off and do, rather than the stuff you should be doing.”

    Weeeellll…close. A true zeroth thing isn’t just a whim, like binging the latest season of The Orville or going to Sur La Table to get a bunch of fancy baking stuff to try your hand at some of the horrifying fruitcakes from the Great British Baking Show. A true zeroth thing is a compulsion—something you love doing so much you have to come back to it, again and again. Something you’d be comfortable doing for a very, very long time—maybe even your entire life.

    Let me give you an example.

    My zeroth thing is, probably more than anything, exploring new ideas and working out the challenges that come with them.

    (Or, as my wife might say, a bit more snarkily: breaking schiit and putting it back together again. I arguably started my career in electronics by taking apart my dad’s portable reel-to-reel dictation machine when I was, like, 4. I couldn’t put it back together. That didn’t go so well. It’s arguably not that much different today, except I usually start with my own stuff, and I’m a bit better at improving it.)

    This zeroth leads me down a whole lot of paths: creating new electronics topologies, and working them out (hell, I’m still discovering things about Continuity, even a couple years after I started playing with it), creating new marketing blather for Schiit, ranging from this blog to 50-hour Photoshop ads depicting improbable scenarios, and even writing fiction—creating worlds from thin air and working out their details is something I’ll never get bored with, though I’m not publishing anything these days.

    But the way this zeroth thing is reflected most in Schiit is where it intersects with Mike’s own zeroth thing: he loves to disrupt, to go against the grain, to shake things up. Put those two together, and you get a company with a zeroth things zeroth something like this:

    Let’s have fun exploring new things and shaking up the status quo—or, hell, let’s have an absolute blast and do a bunch of things that nobody thinks can be done!

    And that’s why 2018 was kinda boring—there wasn’t a whole lot of shaking of status quos, new things, or things that nobody thinks can be done. It was a good, solid year. An Apple 2018 year.


    And, that’s why, sometime in late summer, my attitude started to change. I looked at our ads…and realized we were playing off a statement from one editor, said a long time ago. The joke was over. Time to move to something completely surreal. So we got new ads—ads that have a bunch of people nodding appreciatively, and commenting about how they are nothing like anything else out there. I looked at what we were doing at shows…and decided to go to RMAF with no agenda, no meetings, no corporate shirts, no nothing, and just see what happened. And it was more fun than it’s been in a long time. I looked at the product line, and wondered what we’d do if we gave ourselves the permission to experiment with stuff that might not, well, exactly fit with what you expect from us, and we greenlit a lot of things that you might find kinda surprising…but things that will be fun, that will shake up our status quo, that will shake up other status quos, and will deliver a bunch of things nobody thinks can be done.

    In short, we went back to zeroth.

    “Well, you’re all well and good, you’re gonna do 8 purple modis and a 12-band electronic crossover and a Bluetooth HD doorbell-toaster or whatever, that’s cool, don’t care. You promised business wisdom. How do I use this ‘zeroth’ thing to my advantage?”

    Fair question. Let’s look at that.

    Defining Your Zeroth Things

    What is your zeroth? Let’s start with what it isn’t:
    1. It isn’t a whim or passing fancy, it’s something you always like to do.
    2. It’s not a single concrete thing, like starting a new car company.
    3. It’s not a goal, like making a million dollars.
    So what is a zeroth thing?
    1. A zeroth thing is, simply, what you love to do.
    2. Zeroth things are the fun stuff.
    3. You can do your zeroth things forever.
    Want some examples? I already gave you mine and Mike’s. Others might be physical—we have one guy at Schiit who’s hiked the Pacific Coast Trail and hikes as much as he can. This is one of his zeroth things. Or it may be more intellectual, like our Masters-in-Philosophy guy who really wants to reconcile various modes of thought that go over my head. Or it could be more prosaic, like a designer who used to work at Centric who literally wanted to design everything he touched—everything was a design challenge, every previous answer had to be challenged, in order to reach an internal idea of perfection.

    And here’s the thing. When Cameron is back from a hike, he’s happy and energetic, the best person he can be. When Tyler figures out some convoluted philosophical argument, he’s thrilled, and every part of his life is better. When JB got to design one more part of his life, he was calm, satisfied, complete.

    And this is why you put zeroth things zeroth. Because it improves every part of you.

    “Well, that’s great,” you say. “Maybe I can think of a zeroth thing or two. Now how do I use them to my advantage and start a business and make a billion dollars?”

    Whoa there. Hold a sec. Maybe you won’t end up starting a business or making a billion dollars. I never said that. I’m not big as a dispenser of Sole and Utter Truth, or, for that matter, Universal Wisdom. This whole chapter is my attempt to distill the differences between a rational, stepwise approach to things that ends up in discontent, and a more balanced approach that keeps you happy and motivated, and, with some effort and luck, may make things better on other fronts as well. If it works for you, cool. If it doesn’t, move on and find your own personal Tony Robbins.

    “Okay, okay, I get it. So how do you use zeroth things zeroth to your advantage? In your opinion, of course, and with no guarantees implied.”

    Gotcha. In that case, here’s how I see it:

    Where a zeroth thing intersects with value, that’s an opportunity.

    “Huh? What?” you say.

    Okay. More examples. I learn best by examples, so perhaps it will work for you. The absolute worst class I ever took at UCLA was a physics class where the professor simply went through the theory, with no practical examples. Of course, it didn’t help that I was infatuated with an orange-haired girl who didn’t go to UCLA and didn’t play by the rules, and was also working swing shift making microfiche at a forgettable company to make a few bucks.

    Aside: the girl I definitely treated as a zeroth thing at the time, skipping classes and taking shortcuts in labs in order to spend more time with her. This is a perfect example of something you put before all the things you’re supposed to do.

    Aside to the aside: neither of them (the girl or the job) ended up being a zeroth thing, though the former I really, really believed could have been. In the end, both passed from the list of my obsessions. A true zeroth thing has more staying power.

    Ah hell. Back to the examples.

    Let’s start with a few examples of where your zeroththings may not intersect with value:
    1. So you love nothing more than sitting back and watching TV. Unfortunately, most people don’t find this an unusual thing, nor are they likely to pay for you to do it.
    2. So you’re really big on making beaded chain necklaces, but the stuff you design looks like everyone else’s stuff. Unfortunately, most people won’t pay first-world wages for your stuff.
    3. So you are fascinated by anatomy of the human brain and want nothing more than the plunge hands-deep in one as a brain surgeon. Unfortunately, you have a severe tremor in both hands that won’t ever stop.
    You get it. Something too common, something too pedestrian, something impossible…these things aren’t going to be your opportunities.

    Now, that isn’t to say you won’t have any opportunities. You may just need to look at another zeroth thing. There’s no law that says you only have to have one. Hell, you may just need to look at it in a different way. Let’s take the shaky-handed brain surgeon. If that fascination is with the human brain, rather than just cutting it up, he or she might have a great time in research.

    Want some positive examples? How about:
    1. It could be as simple as taking a love of baking and starting a bakery. Or it could be even simpler, and baking for your family is enough. Or it could be more complex—leading you to come up with recipes nobody has ever seen before, to develop techniques that earn you a 7-figure income via blog and YouTube. It could end up with you being so successful that you hold a multinational chain of bakeries. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be big and scary. At least not at first.
    2. Or, maybe you love writing…to the point of compulsion. It doesn’t matter what else you have to do, you’ll sit down and write, because you have to. To keep writing, you pitch the idea of writing a “founding story” or “company novel” to people and businesses you really believe in. You get to write about stuff you love, and learn more about stuff you’re interested in, and the company gets to have a unique way to tell its story to the world. In this, you may find a living. You might even start a trend that gets picked up by some of the hottest publishing houses. Or you go the conventional route and have books published, or do a blog, or…again, you get it…there are multiple ways to do what you love and do well.
    3. Or, let’s go way out there: so, you really really really want to be the guy who’s mentioned first in a future Star Trek episode where they talk about amazing humans of the past, and they always throw in Edison and Galileo and a couple of names from an imagined future that hasn’t happened yet, so you leverage your way up to having enough money to do really crazy stuff like private space flight and electric cars and solar roofs and brain-machine interfaces…and, despite sometimes seeming like a wackjob at times, you might actually have a chance of getting there.
    And yeah, I know, #3 is only kinda a bit of a lark, but you get the picture—he’s definitely the portrait of someone who’s put zeroth things zeroth, and has a real chance of making big, real changes in the future. Compare him to other billionaires whose most grand plan is to make more, or to give some of their money away—and compare his typical facial expression to theirs.

    Here’s the thing, guys: I can’t really tell you what your zeroth things are. But I’m sure you know what they are.

    They’re the things you love without reserve.

    The things that make you happy beyond words.

    And, if you find the intersection between a zeroth thing and value—and not be sucked into the plodding drudgery of first things first, and allow yourself to do zeroth things zeroth, you might just find yourself somewhere incredible…

    …in a place where you’re the best you can be—and where you’re truly content to stay.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
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    bengo, riffrafff, ScOgLiO and 44 others like this.
  11. Ableza
    Love it. Take that, business consultants everywhere. :)
  12. soundman414
    I truly admire companies and leaders that are driven by passion and a love for a craft... We need more companies like that in the world.
  13. yonson
    Great chapter and name for a teaching many mentors have preached over the years!
  14. 45longcolt
    And here I always thought Zeroth was one of H. P. Lovecraft's lesser godz...
    Or was it one of those critters Godzilla mopped up Tokyo with...
    Seriously, great chapter Jason, full of deep wisdom we should all have; you are hereby promoted to Revered Philosopher.
  15. KoshNaranek
    The four reasons why a man does work
    1. Love
    2. Duty
    3. Greed
    4. Fear
    TomSix, RCBinTN, ScubaMan2017 and 6 others like this.

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