Best of 2020: My Top Books, Tools, and Moments of a Wild Year

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I know most people are ready to put 2020 behind us for good, but there were some bright spots in the midst of all the craziness.

With that in mind, here were some of mine I’d love to share.

best of 2020

My 6 Favorite Moments from The Side Hustle Show

1. When Nick Huber advised NOT to start a business around your passion.

Nick Huber“I avoid things that people are passionate about. Because if there’s a lot of people who are passionate about it, then there’s probably a high level of participation and the odds of success are probably a little bit lower.

“Those are the things that if other people are kind of having fun doing that, they’re maybe not going to make wise business decisions, they’re gonna undervalue their time. Those aren’t the kind of people that I want to compete with if I’m starting a business.

Nick Huber runs,, and was featured in an episode on how to start a local service business.

2. When Helen Pritchard explained how to make LinkedIn profiles “landing pages for your ideal client.”

Helen Pritchard“I make LinkedIn profiles about the ideal client and not about the person whose profile it is. So we use the personal profile, but we use it like a landing page as in it’s written for your ideal clients.

“It’s all about setting up your profile, your headline in your profile to talk to your ideal client and overcome their problems. Talk about that what’s going on in their world rather than just talking about yourself all the time.

“So that’s the first thing. Then it’s about being consistent in terms of requesting your ideal clients on there every single day. So build a new audience that way. No sending personalized connection requests, no sending direct messages saying thanks for connecting and this is what I do and all that kind of stuff. We don’t do any of that. We just ask them to connect. We engage with people publicly. So liking, sharing, commenting on people’s stuff.”

If you have a freelance or service-based business, I highly recommend checking out the full episode with Helen!

3. When Joshua Lisec shared how he gets high-value clients from YouTube.

Joshua Lisec“I have a multi-step process I’ve used over the last three years or so to get noticed at the top of search results for very competitive keywords.

“For example, I have one of the top videos for all things related to writing book proposals, which is how you get book deals, traditional book publishing deals, so people who want to become an author traditionally, find one of my videos.”

Joshua Lisec is a professional ghostwriter and broke down this entire strategy in How to Get Freelance Clients on YouTube.

4. When Dustin Heiner talked about getting laid off from his supposedly-safe government job.

Dustin Heiner“[My day job is] now my side job, even though 98% of my money comes from it. What do you put value in? I would always say I work for the county government. No longer did I ever say that. After that. I said, I am an investor in real estate rental properties.”

I thought this was a really powerful story touching on job security, your identity, and financial independence.

Dustin runs and joined me to share how he retired early with real estate.

5. When Don Wettrick gave 3 rules to raise creative kids

  1. “Producers are greater than just consumers.”
  2. “Passion begets passion.” (Encourage deeper learning in areas of interest.)
  3. “Allow them to fail and give honest feedback.”

Don Wettrick is an award-winning middle school and high school teacher and the CEO and co-founder of StartEdUp, which has a mission to empower students and teachers to apply innovation and entrepreneurship in the classroom.

Our chat on raising creative and entrepreneurial kids was one of my favorite episodes of the year.

6. When Stacy Gallego gave us permission to start poorly.

“Several years ago I was in a group of people and a missionary came to speak with us, and he was from the UK. And he said to this group, he said, finish the sentence for me: Anything worth doing is worth doing ________.

“And of course, we all said well, or ‘with excellence’, or, ‘well’. We all finished that sentence with what our culture says.

“Well, he said it’s actually the opposite. He said, anything worth doing is worth doing poorly, because we’re never good at everything we try in the beginning.”

Stacy has scaled back her day job in nursing thanks to the success of her profitable “flea market” flipping business.

My 5 Favorite Tools of 2020


I get 6000 minutes of AI audio transcription from Otter for $10 a month. It’s not a word-perfect transcript, but is good enough to be able to pick out soundbites or markup sections of audio to trim.

Thanks to Josh Elledge for the tip!

2. Canva

I used to do all sorts of graphic work in PowerPoint — Canva is way better. I’ve been using it for YouTube thumbnails and some other stuff this year.

3. TubeBuddy

What I love about TubeBuddy from a video creator standpoint is the ability to punch in a bunch of different keyword variations, and get a sense of their search volume and competitiveness.

The extension will give you a number score from 1 to 100 on how likely you are to rank a video for each given keyword, so I always type in several different options and pick the one with the highest number.

4. Padcaster Parrot Teleprompter

Inspired to create more YouTube content, I found this inexpensive iPhone teleprompter to be a great investment so far.

padcaster teleprompter

I use Dropbox to sync up my text file to the Parrot app, and use the included Bluetooth remote to control the speed of the scroll. It’s definitely improved my video production process.

Thanks to Jacques Hopkins for the tip!

5. Squadcast

No remote recording tool is without its issues, but Squadcast has been working well for me this year (and taking backups when the front-end fails!).

My 5 Favorite Books of 2020

1. How I Built This

I haven’t heard Guy Raz’s podcast, but I enjoyed the How I Built This book.

My highlights included:

“Customers don’t pay for passion. They pay for things they can use.”

“Failing is scary. Wasting your life is dangerous.”

“There is only one reliable way to engineer word of mouth: you have to make a really good product. Actually that’s not precisely true. It can’t just be really good. It has to be so good that someone has to recommend it.”

“In many ways, the scariest part of entrepreneurship is success. It’s reaching your destination, your objective. Because that’s when the work really starts. When you’ve got to decide: What now? What next?”

2. Start From Zero

What’s cool about Dane Maxwell’s Start from Zero framework is that it completely removes your skills, experience, passions from the business idea-generating equation, and instead puts all that on the customer or prospect to reveal their pains and problems to you.

Dane defines business as: A customer — using a mechanism — to get a result.

That means you need to figure out the results customers want, and then figure out the best mechanism to deliver that result. I like this because it starts with the customer and what they want, rather than an idea you come up and then try and sell.

Dane’s 5-question idea extraction framework:

  1. Over the course of the last year, what has been your most persistent and present problem?
  2. How do you currently go about solving that problem?
  3. What happens if you don’t solve that problem?
  4. What would your dream solution be? (Or) If you could wave a magic wand, how would you solve this problem?
  5. Would that be worth paying for, and if so, how much?

My other highlights:

The most important question to ask yourself: “Did I build any equity today?”

“Don’t be the expert, be the owner.”

3. The Wright Brothers

The Wright Brothers was a great read about methodically solving a problem many thought to be impossible, which I think carries a lot of parallels to starting a business.

Plus, it was a fascinating look into what life was like 120 years ago.

Fun fact: The Wright Brothers are famous for their innovations in aviation, but their whole airplane experimentation and operation was done as a side hustle to their bike shop in Dayton, Ohio!

I loved how they approached every problem methodically and with an iterative process, kind of an engineer’s or scientist’s mindset.

First they built a glider, then they improved on it, then they added a small motor and tried again. On top of that, they persevered through some pretty rough conditions on their annual adventures to Kitty Hawk, and a very public, near-fatal plane crash.

Thanks to Chad Carson for the recommendation!

4. Lifespan: Why We Age — and Why We Don’t Have To.

Lifespan is written by David Sinclair, a research scientist at Harvard Medical School. Unless you’re really interested in the microbiology, I’d probably look for a summary instead of plowing through the whole text.

The big idea I took away was that there seems to be tremendous benefit in activating “survival circuits” for cellular recovery. Could you stress your body and your cells a little bit, so they repair themselves, without putting them at long-term risk?

The jury seems to still be out (pending human clinical trials) on how to mimic this effect with supplements, but the author proposed a few ways to do this safely and naturally, including:

  • Intermittent fasting
  • Eating a plant-based diet
  • High intensity workouts / movement
  • Cold/heat exposure (we live our lives in the “thermo-neutral zone” … get out of your comfort level once in a while! But do it in a controlled or safe way, like the occasional cold shower or sauna session.)

5. Ready Player One

I’d heard only great things about Ready Player One, and it lived up to the hype, even though I’m not much of a gamer and missed some of the 80s pop-culture references.

I haven’t seen the movie yet but would be curious to see how it compares.

Thanks to Dave Chesson (and others) for the rec! And now I’ve got to check out Ready Player Two — there’s a sequel.

Other Books I Enjoyed This Year

That Will Never Work – The story of Netflix’s first few years.

Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber

The Ride of a Lifetime – Robert Iger’s career at Disney.

Your Turn

What were some of your favorite moments, tools, books, or resources from 2020?

Let me know in the comments below!

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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

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