064 | Taking Risks For Success | Value Of Determination & Hard Work | How Important Is Luck | Kevin Horek

Our guest for today is Kevin Horek. Kevin is a published author and best known for his work published on Zurb Foundation 5 which is responsive web frameworks.

His Radio/TV/Podcast, “Building The Future”, was started to get over his fear of public speaking and he continued to push himself out of his comfort zone by guest blogging for various websites.

Welcome, Kevin. 

Thanks for having me on the show. 

Great, awesome. So now let’s get to know you better. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, your experience? 

Sure, so I was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, still, currently, call that home. Um, basically, I kind of fell into the whole web thing pretty early on in the 90s. I was lucky because all the males and my family basically my dad, my uncle, like, they just go on and on, kind of in the tech space. And so my dad used to bring home a little Mac every weekend and I used to play with that. And when I was 12 in school, we were learning HTML and building little websites and stuff. And so it’s kind of learning that in the evenings and weekends, I taught myself a bunch of stuff building kind of fan or band fan sites you should say. And then my dad came to me one day and he said, the local tech college basically has a course on all the stuff you’re playing within the evenings, weekends, we should go to the info night. And so we went, I left high school a month early to go there and ended up working at the university, then going back to university, got hired by one of my teachers at his software company. And then over the years of kind of work at marketing companies, software companies, other agencies startups, wrote a tech book, as you mentioned along the way. And, yeah, a couple of years ago, I started a radio and TV show, largely to get over my fear of public speaking. So that’s kind of a quick overview. I don’t know if you want to dive in on any of that. But.

 

Yeah, we will, we will for sure. So it seems like you had a very adventurous life. You know, you got into something that you love doing, which is you know, probably Working with computers. So tell us those early days you know how like, what do you just drawn on your own to the Mac PC that you got to play with over the weekends? Or was there any other impetus for that?

I think for me originally, this really kind of dates me but like playing there was a black and white version of Stratego on that Mac. I don’t know if people probably remember it, but I used to play that a ton. I remember that and then we eventually ended up getting a 386 after that at home and just kind of monkeying with that and then I think the fascination with HTML early on was being able to just like creating something out of nothing, right? And then you start people start using it and your, your site gets kind of some traffic and popular and you start talking to other people and the whole thing just kind of interesting, right? So I don’t know. 

 

That’s awesome. That’s great. So it seems like, you know, how can you put it? You are a lucky guy is that correct said Well, do you consider yourself a lucky guy for being sort of, you know, get for getting familiar with these things that you like to do in your life?

 Yeah. Oh, for sure. I think most people struggle trying to figure out what they want to do career-wise and, and so yeah, to figure it out or kind of fall into it. I think as I like to put it best, super lucky, right? But I also think, too, that I kind of created my own luck a little bit. Like I’ve asked for a lot of the stuff that this happened to me. I’ve, you know, kind of hustled it right and I’ve kept at it. I’ve stayed current I usually spend early parts of The Year trying to try to learn new things not that I wouldn’t try to learn new things throughout the year, but I really try to, like focus heavily on a few new skills that will last me maybe the whole year. So I’m definitely lucky, but I’m, you know, kind of constantly added hustling and learning and, and still trying to push myself out of my own comfort zone. 

 

Yeah, that’s, that’s so cool. Like, you know, luck favors those who help themselves or something to that effect. So what will you say to people you know, who are frustrated and who are struggling right now? And they just sort of blame it on luck and say, you know, I guess I’m not lucky. I’ll give up. What do you have to say to them? 

I think the biggest thing and it sounds really dumb, and I say it all the time just starts whatever that means. As simple as it is. It’s like if you are uncomfortable with something or you want to do something, maybe like the first step. That small is, if you’re looking to say maybe launch a new business, for example, it’s like putting up a landing page. You don’t even have to have a logo on it, just put a come pick a name, put up like a one page website, maybe if just the company name a logo, if you have one, and your phone number and your email, right, just start and then start promoting that on social media and just say, and tell your friends and family about it. And then next day is like, Okay, well, if you don’t have a logo, get a logo created. Then once you have a logo created, get like business cards created and then maybe go to a networking event or like, you don’t have to just quit your job and dive right in. You can do these small incremental things that slowly build up to something. I think I wish I would have done that a lot sooner. Like I’m 36 just so you have some context, but I wish I didn’t figure that out in my early 30s. I wish I figured that out in my early 20s, to be honest with you. 

 

Well, there’s always a good time for everything but I completely agree with you. You know, just getting started is the key taking action. The key as you put it, you know, it’s, it’s simple, you don’t have to shoot for perfection. At least get started and bootstrap your way to success. That’s what we’re all about here. Alright, so now tell us all this interesting story about you learning HTML first and launching a website a fan website for your favorite music band, I guess?

Yeah, um, it was interesting because it was for Nirvana back and then kind of the 90s and basically, a lot of it was just trying to connect with other people online. Just trying to get different live recordings. It was like back in the day, it sounds so bad like you could basically go on YouTube and get any live recording of a band. But back then it was hard, right? And you either had to send away for it in the mail or you had to remember sending different files through ICQ back in the day, like whole albums right, just to get it and so for me, it was kind of I love music I you know grew up kind of playing drums and guitar and I still play a little bit here and there but for me it was just being able to just create something and then connect with people and actually, it was while they hit parade or the magazine I don’t even know if they’re still around to be honest with you, like wrote about the site I was building and a handful of others at the time. And you know, so just kind of getting some recognition for something that you were building right was really fascinating to me and then having people all over the world. Just visit it and connect with you was really quite cool for me anyway. 

 

That’s awesome. So you combine your two passions, like music and HTML and programming, like did you? Do you think that your passion for music had something to do with your success and sort of how you stuck with programming and continue to build traction for your website? 

For sure. I think it’s interesting how many people either are musician become a musician, still a musician in kind of webspace. I also, and it might sound dumb, but I’ve also kind of tried to do a lot of like, do it myself kind of stuff. Even with the show. It’s just really me. And just kind of hustling that right and, and so for me, it was listening to some of those guys that used to just get in a band of the van with their buddies and tour the country. I kind of see it almost the same way. It’s like, well, you kind of just for me, it was just learned by kind of trial and error and I see it the same as like getting in a van and just playing night after night until you kind of make it or you give up. Right? And I think that’s kind of how I sum up my whole career. I’ve spent a ton of time just playing with things learning by trial and error and not really fate or afraid to fail, right which failures always comes across. So much. Negative in online and whatnot and I, jeez, I can’t even remember how many times I failed in the last month like yeah doesn’t even matter anymore. It’s just it happens so frequently and what I mean by that is like it could be you send a bunch of emails to people about whatever and you hear back from none of them or like to me that’s is that a failure? Sure I call that a failure but I don’t see that’s bad. You just keep going you try something you try a different angle. Just kind of keep at it like anybody that’s ever achieved what they wanted to achieve in anything, just decided to go for it and trial and error their way to it least that’s n my experience with the people I’ve talked to. 

 

Yeah, yeah, no, I completely agree. Like, you know, there’s a famous story about Edison when he was trying to invent the light bulb, and I think it took him like 10,000 attempts and basically, I said, Now he knows how not to build the light bulb, you know, in 10,000 ways. So we get a point failure is the way to success because only then. You can learn and improve yourself. Otherwise, if you get continuously hundred percent success, you know, you are either a genius or you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. 

Sure. Well, and I also think too is in like that email example I gave, nobody knows that I sent a hundred emails and nobody replied to me, for example, like unless you tell people nobody really knows, right? Like, I don’t know why we don’t do stuff because of this, like an unknown failure that may happen or may not happen, but nobody even knows about it. Right?

 

Yeah, yeah, exactly. But even I mean, even if people know about it, the thing is, I think people don’t talk a lot about their failures. And I think that should change because it, you know, builds this image of successful people as if they are successful all the time. But whenever I talk to successful people, you know, they have the same story that they have more failures than successes. Yeah, only thing is, you know, we learn I’m here about successes, you know, practically all the time and never about the failures.

Totally. No, I think the thing is the sooner you learn that, the better off you will be and I think it sounds really stupid and I keep telling people about it just because I think it’s a really good kind of brutal example of it is I read Gene Simmons is me Inc. book, forget about his, like, even views on society or relationships or any of that. And you he just wrote a book about business and I’m thinking, Gene Simmons, everybody knows who he was in Kiss, obviously, they’ve merchandised, more things that need to be merchandise. And he’s worth like $300 million or more, right? So I thought, okay, I want to read this book, right. And because of the brutally honest, he talks about his successes and his failures. And, you know, somebody who’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been in this huge rock and roll band. And he’s brutally honest about business and he talks about while he launched a magazine that failed. So like when a guy like that, that has a huge amount of wealth is the super famous and whether you like them or not, I’m not even really a big Kiss fan to be 100% honest with you. But like, just the business side of it. It’s like looking at somebody like that still fails and openly talks about that. So like, of course, I’m going to fail, right? Because I don’t have that kind of money. And I don’t have that kind of popularity. So if somebody like that fails, well, everybody else is going to fail. Right? That’s how I kind of saw that was the first kind of eye-opening thing for me anyway. 

 

Yeah, exactly. You know, if you read biographies of all these famous people, if they’re being honest there you can find tons of examples of 

Like the ‘Shoe dog’ of that the Nike guy. His name escapes me like that book ‘Shoe Dog’. Looks unbelievable. Same kind of thing, right? Like Nike almost went broke a million times. Right? 

 

Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. All right. Great. So we talked a lot of hard luck and how you can alter your luck in your favor by you know, taking action, massive action, and not being afraid of failure. Now, let’s go to your university days. And I know that you know, you attended UCLA, and it actually had a tremendous amount of effect on you and your career. So can you tell us a little bit about that? 

Sure. So the thing that was interesting about that experience was there was a handful of people that were not born in America, myself included, and they either lived down there or were down there for the summer or whatever. And basically, we were it was the corporate design class and we had an assignment every week. And we were in a like a lecture hall. So like, there were no computers. I don’t think there was a computer for the teacher like it was just a lecture hall and you’d have to print off your designs and you have to put it on the board. And everybody had like 10 minutes to look at all everybody’s designs, whatever the topic was, sometimes it was like when stuff sometimes is print stuff, some of those logo work. Sometimes it was kind of all the above and I. You had to get went around the room and everybody had to say, like, what they liked and didn’t like and why, which I think is the most important part. It’s like why? And like a lot of stuff, like, I’ll give you a couple of really good simple examples that kind of sum up the classes, like, think is something as simple as the colors red, white and blue. I think in North America, most people are like, Oh, that’s America. But if you go to other parts of the world parts of Europe, they’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s France, right?’ So something as simple as like that. Or another good example is you have people in a boat going down the canal, some people would say, oh, they’re on holiday. Other people say those are refugees. You’re like, it’s quite different. Right. And so having the perspectives from people with different Heritage and backgrounds and from different parts of the world really opened my eyes to understanding it’s like, well, it sounds bad is like a white male. Sometimes you build for like a white male, right? And it’s like, well If I’m doing something for nurses and I’m not a nurse, well, then maybe I shouldn’t even really like the design, or maybe I shouldn’t even really understand the design. But if nurses like it, and they understand it, and it’s usable for them, that to me is like a really successful project, even though I might not like it. Because while I, if I’m not the target market, then, you know, I, in some cases, maybe I shouldn’t like it. And I think people forget about that. Sometimes. It’s like, you can’t please everyone. And you need to look at things from the perspective of whoever you’re building stuff for. Right? And if you’re obviously if you’re building something for everyone, then it’s a lot trickier. But if you’re building something for a specific group of people, you really need to focus on that group of people and their needs and what their understanding is, right and sometimes even their technical ability, right? Y

 

Yeah. Well, you touched upon a very important point, I think, which is empathy, right, like, you know, be empathetic. Do your users, your customers, your clients, and just understanding different cultures and you know, forcing yourself to immerse yourself in different cultures, trying the cuisines, you know, maybe even learning few languages and visiting and traveling opens up your mindset and you can empathize with more people and be more successful, especially if you’re, you know, in the business of providing some service or building a product for your clients. So, that was the thing very good point. 

The thing that I find interesting about the whole thing is nowadays, the entire, well, your entire customer base is basically global. Unless you’re building something specifically for a specific niche in a specific geographical region. Why wouldn’t you want to try to figure out how to make something that every person on the planet or every type of person in a certain industry can use to make their life better. But so many people seem to think too small. And like the best example is like, you talk to some people and they’re like, well, I’m going to sell coffee to downtown Vancouver. And I’m going to make a billion dollars. It’s like, it’s not even like possible, but it’s like know, you want to sell coffee to everyone on the planet, or every downtown on the planet, you know what I mean. Like, it’s just the way people need to think about these things. And like, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t try to understand where other people are coming from or their background or what appeals to them or what colors they need, or what colors means certain things to them. Because, you know, red in some countries means a lot different than in other countries, right? Are the colors red, white and blue? So just getting people to think about inclusion and what other people are. Doing and thinking and how they’re going to interact with what you’re building.

 

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Very well said. Now let’s move on to some tactical stuff. So you know, I know you are a master networker. And you also said that LinkedIn has gotten you 95% of what you have gotten in your career. So can you tell us a little bit about that? 

Sure. So I’m the guy that randomly adds people. I’ve had people just laugh in my face about it. It doesn’t bug me at all. I started it a number of years ago. Um, the thing that I didn’t realize when I really started, I thought my thought was, okay, well, I’m born and raised in Edmonton. It’s about a million, give or take a little bit more if you include the surrounding areas. So not really like a huge place, but not really small either. And I thought, well, if I can connect with anyone a Google or Facebook or Apple online, why wouldn’t I try? So I just started adding these people and lot, add you back. Some don’t add you back. Eventually though, what I really found is you get connected with some of these people and you actually have real relationships with them. I’m actually going to a conference next weekend in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and I met Bob the founder on LinkedIn and we just got chatting and it was right before I launched the show. And I said, ‘Hey, I’m doing the show. Do you want to be a guest? And he was like, Sure. Do you want to come down and do some interviews at my conference in a few months and it just kind of snowballs right? It’s like never bad to I think you and I even met on LinkedIn to be 100% honest with you. That’s right. That’s right. And so for me, it was just, you when you put yourself out there and you start knowing people, things just start kind of coming to you eventually. It can take years. It could take months. It depends but for me anyway like I have all over my LinkedIn profile that I knew that web responsive framework that you mentioned earlier, and a publishing company out of the UK was actually looking for somebody to write a book on that framework. They actually reached out to the company that wrote the book, they were like, wow, we don’t have time to do that. Blah, blah, blah. So they found me on LinkedIn. And I basically got a book deal just because I had on my LinkedIn profile that I use their framework for a number of versions on a bunch of projects, and that a startup I worked at so, you know, and I’d migrated version, so I knew it pretty well. Right. And I knew actually some of the developers and the project manager on the framework. So basically, just this automatic community around something just from being on LinkedIn and talking about it openly what I putting your skills on there, basically. 

 

Yeah, for sure. So it almost sounds like you know you have multiple passions, you know, of honestly, you are passionate about your work and programming and building websites and design. And you’re adding a new talent, which is very important in my opinion, which is marketing. So, can you tell us how that transition is going? How are you liking this transition? And what is so important about marketing? 

Well, I think I’m actually pretty terrible at it to be a hundred percent honest with you, I’m making me uncomfortable. Um, but again, I think that’s kind of the joy in it, I get like maybe some weird enjoyment out of things that make me uncomfortable. And so just it’s kind of like this challenge that you awkwardly kind of struggle through, right? And then, but if nobody knows about your product or service or what you’re trying to do, you know, chances are it’s going to go nowhere, right? And so you kind of have to market yourself and what you’re doing and try to make yourself some sort of subject matter expert in certain things. And so, for me, I just want my content on as many channels as possible. And so I don’t really necessarily have a favorite one. It’s just, for example with the show, it’s like well, some people are like how, why would you want to air on traditional kind of FM and station it’s like because that’s where people consume content. So if those go away tomorrow, then I’ll move to the new thing. And if something new comes Well, I’ll move to that too. Like I just never understood why people have this like tunnel vision of like, we need to stay in this lane and only do this one thing. It’s like, No, no, you should try to post and beyond as many things as possible and maybe that’s like a selfish thing. But I just, if I’m going to do something, I want the most amount of people to see it because let’s be honest, you know, doing a show it, it takes you a lot of time and effort, right? And for sure. So why wouldn’t you want the most amount of people to see it? It’s kind of my thought behind the whole thing. 

 

For sure, no, but that’s the whole thing about, you know, learning a skill because marketing as we know it too, you know, at the end of the day is to get more visibility and create more exposure for your name and company. But there are a lot of details in getting that done properly. So, I think people do suffer from a limited scope, because, you know, they have only so much time in the day and they want to focus on certain things. But to your point, there’s so much opportunity available today that even with a little bit of extra effort, I think you can get much more exposure. You can use automation in your processes and things of that nature to scale up your operation very easily, right.

Totally and I think I try to automate as much as possible. Like I have a calendar booking tool for interviews. I try to schedule all my social media posts days out, or at least some kind of morning of. I overtime your trial and error certain things like I trial and error, a bunch of stuff that I don’t post anymore to certain things because it just doesn’t really convert. Right? Or I also try I know that my posting times to social media are best between like Tuesday and Thursday, it or like Saturday night at like 830. So eventually you figure it out, but then you probably have another guest or yourself, you’d be like, well, Tuesday to Thursday doesn’t work for me and Saturday mornings, my best time I like it really depends on your audience and a lot of its trial and error and I just and it’s always changing, right? So you kind of just needs to keep at it and see what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. And if a tool works, keep using if a channel works, keep using it if a tool or channel doesn’t work, stop using it. 

 

Yeah, no, that’s a very good point. So, you know, both of us are technical. And so you know things. Automation comes a little bit easier for us. But even if people are non-technical, they can always go hire VA virtual assistants who can help take off a lot of these mundane things off your plate, and you can expand your time availability and resources that way. Now, let’s talk about some of your podcast building the future. So what is it about? So I basically interview founders, CEOs, investors, advisors, anybody that’s kind of doing something interesting or chasing their passion. I’ve kind of expanded it a little bit. I’ve had people like that are writing kind of business books or self-help books or motivational books. I’ve had some enemies on the show, I’ve had some actors and actresses, that kind of thing. I just think that so many of the people that are brutally willing to talk about the highs and lows of chasing your dreams and your passions, because I think there are so many similarities. Sure, like your past going to be different than my path. And it should be because we’re not the same person, we don’t have the same background, we don’t live in the same geographic location. So you can’t follow somebody else’s path. But if you can take if somebody lists 30 things and you can try one or two of those things, and maybe one of those works for you, or maybe none of them but you like to keep trying things that work for you that you hear other that work for other people. Maybe that’ll inspire somebody to finally just go for it one day, right. Like I think that’s the big thing and, and it’s also a really good networking tool for me, right, like it’s kind of a LinkedIn 2.0 it’s nice to be to send an email the investor in say, hey, you should really check these guys out because you’re you guys invest in this space and you know, they’re they could be doing so they’re doing something really cool, right? Like, it’s, it’s very cool in that sense. So for me, it’s nice to have these open conversation so I can learn and hopefully promote things that I think are really cool and that the innovation that others are doing and then hopefully, you know, kind of connect them or connect myself to others as well. 

 

Yeah, no, I find it fascinating, you know, just talking to people and sort of going through the experience. And as you said, you know, you can always pick up a few nuggets here and there. And I think that it has been such a transformational thing to pick up those nuggets from people who have accomplished much more. So definitely I resonate with that comment there. 

But I also think though that you shouldn’t change your whole life, just because you read somebody’s top 10 lists that they do every morning, like, the best example is, I am not a morning person, and I will never be a morning person. So there’s if I read somebody that’s like, you should wake up at 5:30 every morning and then work out and then do this and do this. It’s like, that will never be me. Like, I read the I’ve tried to find stuff. It’s like, I’m a night person. So sometimes I can be tired all day, nine o’clock rolls around, I’m wide awake, I rather work from like, 9 pm to like, 2 am than try to wake up early and just like readjust. So like, I don’t think you got to figure out what works for you and keep trying things to like, improve upon that. But don’t try to like one at everything just because you read that if something works for somebody else that that’s kind of my thoughts on that. 

 

Exactly. No, I completely agree. Like, and then, you know, one thing I noticed is when people become famous every sentence they say, becomes a quote and you know, something that you should follow. So a very good example was Elizabeth Holmes, she started our company for a blood test. And, you know, she failed, basically, she was sort of cheating her way to get a lot of investment, so her company was worth about $9 billion. But, you know, when she was at the height of her career, every line she said was taken as part of, you know, words of wisdom that you should implement in your life. And when she was exposed, and people, you know, knew that she was not doing the right thing. Now, you know, people who are following the advice they become, you know, they look like fools. So, don’t take everything on face value, just evaluate everything and try to adapt it to your personality, your life and do your due diligence before, you know you start following people blindly. Right?

Totally. Yep, I hundred percent agree. 

 

Okay, great. Well, thank you so much. Having such an interesting conversation. I’m sure everyone in the audience got a lot of value out of it. Now before I let you go, can you tell us a little bit about your company? How can people reach out and what kind of services you provide? 

Sure. So if they want to check out the radio show and TV show, you can go to building the future show calm. Um, if you want to check me out on Twitter, it’s just Kevin Horek. And that’s basically where you can find me and if you just search my first and last name, I’m kind of on all over the place. So connect with me wherever and feel free to reach out to me if you add me on LinkedIn, my you know, there’s the phone number and email right in the heading so you can just connect with me there. But I do really appreciate you having me on the show. And hopefully, this was really good for people out there. 

 

Definitely for sure. Thank you so much for being with us today. 

Thank you. 

 

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