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International Generalist #8: getting out of bed, top podcast episodes of 2023 so far, and future of the newsletter.

Your bi-weekly dose of actionable insights to make you just a tiny bit more effective.

Dominik Nitsch
10 min read

Welcome to the 8th edition of International Generalist. Today, we’ll look at ways to get out of bed faster, my top podcast episodes of 2023 so far, a cool Y Combinator cheat sheet, and an outlook on the future of International Generalist.

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Let’s dive in.

Photo by David Mao via Unsplas

[1] Ways to get out of bed faster in the morning

“Could you write something about getting out of bed faster in the morning? I always spend so much time in bed.” - recent question from a friend.

Great question, actually! And something that’s not always easy for me either. But there are a few tricks that one can use.

Charge your phone outside of your bedroom

This was item #1 on my Not-To-Do List for 2023. So far, I’ve done this for ~85% of the time and it works really damn well. Charging your phone in a different room will do two things for you:

  1. You will be less tempted to dabble away on your phone first thing in the morning, which increases stress and easily can eat up 20+ minutes.
  2. Once you’ve gotten up to get your phone, it’s much easier to stay up and not go back to bed.

Just doing this will already have significant impact.

Get light exposure asap (light alarm + sunlight)

Next, get a light alarm. I use a Philips Hue lighting system that gradually fades in from 06:55 to 07:15 and simulates the sunrise. When my other alarm goes off, I’m usually already slightly awake and it’s difficult to go back to sleep if there are daylight-type conditions in your room.

Plus, I can’t even turn off the light because I’d need my phone for that.

Which isn’t in the room. 😉

Once you get up, get real sunlight in your eyes. I usually stand on the balcony for a few minutes, but opening the curtains and windows can do the trick too.

Improve your sleep quality

Whole books have been written on sleep quality. If you’re going to read one, read “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker.

Sleeping well helps with getting up - after all, a well-rested body doesn’t just want to lie in bed.

A few things that work well for me:

  • Sleep consistency: go to bed and wake up around the same time every day.
  • Darkness: get blackout curtains and maybe even a sleep mask.
  • No screens before bed: works really well, super hard to do. Try your best to not be on your phone last thing before you go to sleep, though.
  • Temperature: we sleep much better in cold environments. Opening your windows for 10 minutes before going to bed works well, at least in winter, spring and fall.
  • No caffeine after 3pm: I aim to not consume any caffeine at least 8h before going to bed.

Go to bed earlier

Once sleep quality is adjusted, sleep quantity is the next best lever. If you’re tired in the morning and can’t get out of bed, it’s the ultimate sign that your body hasn’t gotten enough sleep.

Sleep quality was the bigger lever for me, but going to bed 30 minutes earlier (or - if that’s impossible - waking up later!) can be super helpful.

It’s better to sleep a bit longer than to be groggy all day.

Schedule time in bed after waking

Staying in bed after waking up can easily lead to feeling guilty, because you really should be getting up.

Feeling guilty is a really shitty way to start the day.

As is rushing out of bed the minute you wake up.

That’s why I plan 15 minutes in bed - so if I have to get up at 07:30, I set my alarm to 07:15 so I can chill in bed guilt-free. Works surprisingly well.

Have something worth getting up for

All this advice is useless however if you don’t have something worth getting up for. If you hate your job, then none of these tricks will get you out of bed.

Remember that feeling as a kid when you woke up on your birthday? You couldn’t wait to leave the bed, to see if there were any presents already, to have some birthday cake.

Aim to re-create that feeling. It’s incredibly difficult, but it should be the aspiration.

[2] Top podcast episodes of 2023 so far

Now that we’re all wide awake and out of bed, let’s shift gears and look at podcasts. Here are some of my favorite podcast episodes from 2023:

Acquired Podcast: The NFL

I love Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal tell the history of businesses. Just two dudes getting overly excited about good businesses - listening is like hanging out with your cool startup friends and nerding out a bit.

In this episode, they tell the history of the NFL: how it became the insanely profitable league that it is today, what makes it unique as a sports league, and how tight the competition was before the AFL-NFL merger.

What I didn’t know: A few US presidents have signed exceptions for antitrust issues against the NFL (which basically has a monopoly on pro football), partially due to the fact that they love watching games, but mostly because they thought Americans wouldn’t know what to do on Sundays otherwise.

“Panem et circenses” didn’t lead to political stability in the Roman empire only. The concept still works today.

Lenny’s Podcast with Patrick Campbell (ProfitWell)

Even after listening, I have little idea of what ProfitWell actually does. But it doesn’t matter, because the lessons Patrick Campbell shares on this podcast episode are applicable to many startups.

Probably the most actionable, value-packed podcast I’ve listened to in a long time. I took a ton of notes - a few of them were:

  1. Professionals ship things: the best teams put stuff out there instead of just planning. To ship best, first define what really good performance looks like in terms of output. Then, set expectations and review regularly.
  2. ICP/Personae + Customer Development: 1 in 5 startups has defined their Ideal Customer Profile and their Personae. 1 in 10 startups regularly spends time on customer development. So if you want to be among the top 10% of startups, defining your ICP + Personae and spending time regularly on customer development is an easy win.
  3. Problem → Cause → Solution: a framework for solving problems. You can’t solve World Hunger (which is the problem), but you can solve one of its causes (e.g. lack of irrigation infrastructure in developing countries). Do this until you’ve eventually solved the problem.
  4. Reversing churning customers: in their cancellation process, ProfitWell asks two questions: why are you leaving, and what did you like about the product? The second question reverses the customer’s train of thought by invoking nostalgia about the product, and might get them to rethink whether they actually want to cancel. Plus, it gives you customer insights (see #3). You can also use this in sales: one of my sales guys asks at the end of every product demo what the customer liked about the product. We’ve now implemented this as standard practice.
  5. Heuristics for Pricing: you have three monetary levers: acquisition, monetization, retention. Acquisition and retention are usually optimized, but pricing (= monetization) remains an afterthought. So once a quarter, do something about your pricing (assuming your product develops). Put together a committee that meets and reviews regularly. On top of this, about once per year, you should increase your price. That seems often, but the idea is that your product should’ve gotten so much better within that year that the increase is warranted.

Tim Ferriss Show #652 with Explorer Wade Davis

This was entertaining. Wade Davis has seen it all: from living Zombies in Haiti to remote tribes in Africa. In this episode, he talks about his experiences, his writing process, and general ideas on life. A few nuggets that I liked:

  • “How can you not be optimistic? I mean, that’s the purpose of life itself.”
  • “I’ve always believed that nothing is beneath you. Nothing is a waste of time unless you make it so. A cab driver can have as much to teach you as a professor at university if you’re open to the possibility.”
  • “Every culture is a unique answer to a fundamental question: what does it mean to be human and alive? And when the peoples of the world answer that, they do so in the 7,000 different voices of humanity. And all those answers kind of collectively become our human repertoire.”

Listening to this episode was equally fun, inspiring, and mind-boggling.

Diary of a CEO #230: Steven Bartlett and Simon Sinek about Loneliness, Love, Dating

Simon Sinek is a renowned speaker. What many don’t know is that he’s also an introvert. His description in the podcast was great: “as an extrovert, you start your day with zero coins, and every time you talk to a person, you add a coin. As an introvert, you start your day with five coins, and every time you talk to a person, you give away a coin - until you don’t have any more.”

This explanation helped me - scoring a solid 10/10 on the extraversion scale - understand introverts much better.

Sinek also coins the expression of “sitting in the mud together”. Many people including myself tend to give (unsolicited) advice when others are struggling. But sometimes, they just need someone to “sit in the mud” with them.

[3] Y Combinator Cheat Sheet for Startups

Y Combinator has become synonymous with successful startups, even though many of them fail.

They also see a crazy high volume of startups: a total of >4000 companies has already gone through YC.

Packed with this experience, they recently published a “pocket guide of essential YC advice” for entrepreneurs. Following that advice will already go a long way to building a successful company.

Here’s the sheet:

[4] An outlook on the future of International Generalist, and an ask from you.

Welcome to International Generalist, Dominik's new newsletter!
“When you can’t stop thinking about doing something, at some point, you need to exorcise the demons - by just doing it.” We all know this feeling: the one thing that you always wanted to do, always tried to do, but never quite stuck with - and yet, you cannot kill it. It doesn’t go away.

In my first post on Substack (linked above), I wrote the following passage:

I also value people who adhere to what they commit to. Knowing that life might very well throw a wrench into this plan, I will only commit to writing 9 editions for now. I’ll re-evaluate afterwards - and hopefully continue writing.

Today, you’re reading that 9th post (I considered the welcome post edition zero).

Time to evaluate. And celebrate!

Writing this newsletter has been a bright spot of my week - every week. It’s by far the activity that gets me in the flow the most, it forces me to think through complex concepts, take notes of the things I’ve learned, and to ship regularly (remember, professionals ship things).

Hopefully, I’ve been able to create some value for you, dear reader, too.

So will I continue writing?


Expect the bi-weekly editions to continue. As previously, I’ll sometimes chip in a long-form post as well. That won’t change.

Just like building a business, getting insights from your customers is important. Which is why I’d like to understand what you like and dislike about International Generalist, what works and what doesn’t, how you feel about it, what type of insights you’re most excited about.

I’ve put together a survey that covers the most basic questions. I’d also like to take 30 minutes to speak to a few readers (ideally not from my personal network) to dive deeper.

Please fill out the survey here:

Thank you for being part of this. It means a lot to me.

Action item recap:

  1. Charge your phone outside your bedroom
  2. Get light exposure asap after waking
  3. Improve sleep quality + quantity
  4. Schedule time to chill in bed in the morning
  5. Have something worth getting up for in your life
  6. Add the podcasts that sound interesting to you to your playlist
  7. Do things that don’t scale (and more from the YC Cheat Sheet)
  8. Fill out my survey

That’s it for this edition of International Generalist. Thanks for tuning in and reading!

If you enjoyed this, please ask yourself: which one person that you know would most benefit from reading this newsletter? The number one way to support me is to share this with others aspiring to become more effective in their personal and professional lives.

Who’s behind International Generalist?

I’m Dominik, and every day, I try to figure out how to become a tiny bit more effective. Then, I share some of the lessons learned here.

When I’m not writing, I build the international business for Sdui - the Leading European SchoolOS -, play Lacrosse, lift weights and enjoy draft beers.

Here’s how else I can help you:

See you in two weeks!

Much love


PS: Here’s something funny.


Dominik Nitsch

Proud generalist: Entrepreneur, Athlete, & Writer.

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