How Aaron Francis Turned a Layoff Into a Thriving Educational Empire | Aaron Francis, Co-founder of Try Hard Studios

In this episode of the Business of Laravel podcast, host Matt Stauffer interviews Aaron Francis, co-founder of Try Hard Studios, beloved Internet personality, Laravel developer, and all-around Internet nice guy. Aaron shares his journey from his days at a property tax company to his bold leap into entrepreneurship, sharing insights into his evolution every step of the way. He discusses moving beyond the "hustle era" to what he terms the "Try Hard era," emphasizing the importance of concerted effort and determination in achieving success. Tune in to learn about Aaron's background, his passion for creating educational content, and the exciting ventures he's currently pursuing in the world of Laravel development.


Matt Stauffer: Hello and welcome back to the Business of Laravel podcast where we are talking to people who are using Laravel to build their businesses and building their businesses in the Laravel world.

I'm your host, Matt Stauffer and today joining me is the internet's darling. I think that's a good way to describe it. My good friend Aaron Francis. So dear darling of the internet, can you tell us a little bit about who you are? And I mean, we're going to talk about what's your business now, but also we're going to talk about your business then. But let's start with who are you and what's your business now. What do you do today?

Aaron Francis: Sure. That's very generous of you. Thank you for having me. My name is Aaron Francis and Laravel developer, and database educator, I make a lot of videos, whether that's courses or YouTube or anything else. And now I am a co-founder of a video studio. So me and my friend Steve are out on our own and having a whole lot of fun. So I'm excited to be here.

Matt Stauffer: I love it. Having fun in public too, which is the best part about it. I'm like, that's a life that I want for my friend. I love this. So yeah, so you kind of have had a story of kind of coming to prominence that was a slow trickle up to like, Oh! Aaron's everywhere. But it's one of those where people say like,

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: this person showed up overnight, but they were doing the work. You know, people say that with artists a lot, right? Like this musician just popped up overnight and like, yeah, but they've been touring for 10 years, putting out albums, you know, you just didn't see it.

Aaron Francis: Yeah, exactly.

Matt Stauffer: And I feel like there's a lot of that. I've known you for quite a while and I would always be like, love that guy. Want to give him a job one day. Want to work with him somehow one day. And then I just like saw these little trickles and I'm like, Aaron's heaven has come up. And then over the last couple of years you just blew up. And so...

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: I know there's been so many steps to that journey that had been a little bit more public. You know, people seeing you start creating, you know, getting a job, making videos, and then creating videos there and then some other stuff that happened there and now creating your own company and all that kind of stuff.

But before then you were working in Laravel in business before any of that that anybody knows about. So I want us to get started there. Can we get started with what was before then? What were you doing? What was your role?

Aaron Francis: Yeah.

Matt Stauffer: And what did it look like using Laravel in that business? And also, were you involved in that decision at all? Kind of like tell us a little bit about it.

Aaron Francis: Yeah, totally. Yeah, I was, big time. So I guess in 20, goodness gracious, 17 or 18, something like that. I was working as a data analyst, like a marketing data analyst for a big security company called Varonis. It was great, work from home, do a lot of programming slash marketing. It was a nice mix of stuff.

And at that point, my sister-in-law was working at a local property tax company, which is about as interesting as it sounds, to be honest with you. It's a company here in Dallas, Texas, where I live that helps homeowners protest their property values so they can pay less in taxes, right? So we represent the homeowners going against the county to be like, no, you valued it too high. So it's a good business. My sister-in-law reached out to me and was like, hey, I know that you do something that is kind of like programming, don't really know what you do, but our company needs some help. And I was like great, I love doing side work, let's talk about it.

So I talked to these guys that own this company, it's like three best friends that are like two years older than me and they were running this company from literally Google Sheets and Zoho, the Zoho suite, which is like Zoho invoice and CRM

Matt Stauffer: Wow, serum and everything.

Aaron Francis: All of that stuff. And just side note, they were crushing it. They were making a ton of money out of Google Sheets and Zoho.

Matt Stauffer: Alright, it worked.

Aaron Francis: But the problem was, as I was informed, there were times of the year where they would be at the office until midnight, one, two in the morning, like just printing stuff out and just like entering stuff into the CRM.

Matt Stauffer: Oh lord.

Aaron Francis: Because that was it. They didn't like, they would literally answer the phone from somebody saying, hey, I wanna protest my property. And they would type it down and they wouldn't put it in the CRM because it would take too long. So they would just type it all down and then after the phone stopped ringing, they would go back and put everything in and then print out contracts and send, like they were doing PDF merges. So I got in there and was like, y 'all, this is wild!

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: What are you doing? It's one of those things that like, if there was an ability to discover businesses like this, like just easily, programmers could literally change the world, but these businesses are everywhere and they're so hard to get into because you gotta know a guy that knows a guy that knows a guy.

So I got in there and the first thing I did on contract was just like automate their Google Sheets stuff. I wrote a bunch of app scripts and it was really awesome and it would do a bunch of stuff. Then at one point one of the guys was like, hey, what if we hired you to be our first and only programmer? And I was like, well, you're like a local services firm. I'm a

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Yeah.

Aaron Francis: programmer, I don't know if you can afford my salary. And they were like, yeah, we can definitely afford it.

Matt Stauffer: You said they're doing well.

Aaron Francis: And that was my first taste to like, shoot, businesses, businesses outside of programming do well. So I went in and I helped stabilize kind of their current systems and then the goal was to get them off of Google Sheets.

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Aaron Francis: So I started as the only programmer and I started building a Laravel, like basically internal CRM. And that's what I did for the next five years. So I went from the only programmer to supervising a few programmers to finally at the end after the five years, I was in charge of everyone. The three owners didn't have any direct reports and I was the COO and had the whole company reporting to me. We built the most automated, powerful internal CRM for this property tax company.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: So when I started there were, you know, let's say X properties under representation. And when I left there were six X of those properties.

Matt Stauffer: Wow.

Aaron Francis: All because it was like the process was automated. So that was kind of where I got my business plus Laravel chops in the beginning.

Matt Stauffer: Wow. So first of all, what was your experience with Laravel leading into that? Was this like a trying Laravel out or were you like, no, I'd done stuff with it prior to that.

Aaron Francis: I had done stuff with it prior to that. I think I started Laravel with maybe five, somewhere around 2014 or 13 after I tried Yii, Y -I -I, Yii 2 for a while and then switched to Laravel shortly thereafter.

Matt Stauffer: Okay. Was there any question for you as you were trying to decide the tech stack? You're like, should I use .NET because I'm in businessy stuff? Should I use Symfony because, or was it just sort of like, no, it's obviously going to be Laravel because I know what I could do with Laravel.

Aaron Francis: Yeah, it was obviously gonna be Laravel. I mean, I grew up on PHP, literally, and so I've just loved PHP for forever. When I got, like when I started working with the property tax company, I knew it was gonna be, it's gonna be kind of the iceberg, right?

There was gonna be like 10 % on the front-end and then 90% was gonna be like making PDFs, emailing them to the county, scraping county websites, like everything was gonna be on the backend. And so I just picked up Laravel and got to work on Qued jobs basically. That was like 50% of the app was jobs that just keep trying.

Matt Stauffer: Nice. One of the things you said, these powerful back-end processes, and that's usually the place where someone says, I love Laravel, I love PHP, whatever, but when I get into heavy stuff, I've got to get into Rust or Python or whatever. Did you find yourself ever having to reach outside PHP?

Aaron Francis: No, not even a little bit. I mean, everything we were doing, I'm very proud of the work we did. It's all schlepping data around. That was it.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Yeah.

Aaron Francis: I mean, it wasn't like, I think the most process-intensive stuff that we ever did was like merging, building, and merging PDFs. You know, cause sometimes we would build these like evidence packets of like valuations and comps and pictures that people sent in and it ended up being like a 50-page PDF, but like, let's just do that on the server. We had one giant DigitalOcean box that just did everything. It was like, all right, we got more important stuff to worry about. We got phones to answer. So we just used what we knew.

Matt Stauffer: You didn't have 20 microservices and distributed queue on the...

Aaron Francis: No, no. It was like a, and it was, and it still is a massive DigitalOcean box. When things started slowing down, I just got the credit card out and hit upgrade. And it was like, okay, now it works again. I was like, come on.

Matt Stauffer: And the site was it was at a monolith. Yeah. my god, this is.

Aaron Francis: Yes, of course. Yeah. And it was like, it was heavy Vue JS on the front-end, but this was pre-inertia days. So it's like, you know, you spit out some blade that basically has like vue that takes over certain parts of the page, but it was like Vue two options API. It was the glory days, man. It was, it was early Tailwind, Vue Two, Laravel... We had, we had a lot of fun.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, yeah, I love that.

Matt Stauffer: I love that. So when you were hiring, did you hire locally or did you hire remotely?

Aaron Francis: So the first guy that I hired was actually a friend of mine who was local. And this is back when we were actually in an office.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: So he would come in, I think he would come in three days a week because he lived a little further north in Dallas. But then after that, we hired remote because when COVID hit, that was one of the good parts about what we had built. When COVID hit, we were able to do everything remotely.

And this includes like, you know, we would have, 15 seasonal workers that we hired for like three months that would come into our office and answer the phones from maybe February through May or something like that. So it wasn't just like, hey, we've got a couple of programmers and everybody's used to working remotely. It was, we've got literally these people off the streets, these people who are like, I want a job, but only for three months. And then I'm going to go do whatever it is I do.

Matt Stauffer: Go hiking or whatever, yeah.

Aaron Francs: So we've got all these non-technical people that we have to now manage remotely and having that internal CRM made that just totally possible.

Matt Stauffer: Wow. I had forgotten about the fact that those people, so you manage those people too, eventually. So you're building the tool for them to use, but then you're also hiring them, training them, so you really kind of understood the usability there, wow.

Aaron Francis: Yep. It was awesome. I ran the training. I ran, you know, we would hire these, these 15 people to answer phones and these 10 people, we would hire seasonal property tech agents as well. So we would have these training sessions where it's like 30, 25 brand new people just like walked in our front door and I've got to train them on this massive CRM that handles, you know, client intake...

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: form generation, emailing counties, scraping counties like handles all of that and I had to train them on everything and it was great because you're forced to face the reality that the thing you thought was clever is confusing and so then you like you're like F.

Matt Stauffer: Huh. Yeah. It's like the ultimate dog fooding. It's like you're not, it's not just you using it. You're training noobs to use it on a regular basis. Wow.

Aaron Francis: Yes, exactly noobs that don't super care about their job, but you care that they do a good job so you got to put everything on rails for sure?

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, I love that. So in managing and hiring programmers, I'm really curious because I get questions from people all the time who are like, hey, are you sure we should use Laravel for this app? I see JavaScript programmers everywhere. What is it like to hire Laravel programmers? And I have a certain experience from, like, but Tighten has a reputation, so it's easy for me to hire Laravel programmers. What was it like for you hiring Laravel programmers? Did you find it difficult?

Aaron Francis: Not really. The first guy that I hired was a C-sharp programmer who was looking to get out of that world. And so I was like,

Matt Stauffer: Okay.

Aaron Francis: Hey, I'll try you on a contract basis to do Laravel. And he picked it up almost immediately and he's been with the company since then. So, you know, for four years now, the first time I went looking for like proper Laravel developers, because, you know, Brian kind of just like fell in my lap. It's like, that's great. Then I had to go find somebody and I put out a...

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: I just put out a tweet and this is back when I had like, you know, 1100 followers. So it wasn't like I'm leveraging my network. I just put something on the internet and I think it was easy because I was like, Hey, we're using latest Laravel Vue Two Tailwind. Do you want to, and a small company that will pay you well, do you want to come work for us? And I got a lot of people that were like, yes, I would love to. And we ended up hiring...

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: the nicest person in the world. He's a Canadian Mormon. So there's no nicer person possible than a Mormon Canadian.

Matt Stauffer: Yep.

Aaron Francis: He's been with the company ever since also, and he's awesome. He lives in a silly little town called Medicine Hat, which is just like, nothing could be more Canadian than a town called Medicine Hat. And he's amazing.

Matt Stauffer: I'm sorry. You have a Mormon Canadian from Medicine Hat. Okay. God, he sounds delightful. Yeah.

Aaron Francis: And since then, we've hired a few more. I think we have, so we've got him in Canada, Brian in Austin, and one in Mexico City, and then we've hired a few contractors here and there.

Matt Stauffer: Nice.

Aaron Francis: And then there's one or two more since I left that are now full-time. So I think they have like a team of five programmers.

Matt Stauffer: Okay. Okay. What, as you were learning, as you're making the transition from being a programmer to being a sort of CTO to becoming like a COO, how did you learn?

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: Like, how did you figure it out? Is it completely just learning on the spot or where there podcasts and books and stuff that like helped you to make that transition?

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm. Yeah, a lot of it was learning on the spot. I've also been lucky to have several really good managers in my career going all the way back to when I was an accountant. I've had, you know, good bosses. I've also had bad ones, and so I know. But I also did a lot of reading. Yeah, I read a lot of books, printed out some stuff, read it. Then I think my greatest, like...

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: strength or accomplishment there was like treating people like humans and being empathetic and understanding that, you know, work is important, but other stuff is going on as well. And being firm, but kind. There were a lot of things that I feel like led up to me being a good manager. And so I really enjoyed it. I liked it a whole lot.

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Aaron Francis: It was a lot of, especially with some of the seasonal workers, a lot of just personal, interpersonal, emotional, it's less technical and more like, how do I get the best out of this person and make them feel like they should do a good job here? And that was fun, that was fun for me.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, I love that. I mean, we've talked about this before, but my job before programming was in ministry. And I was like, my job today is not that different compared to what you'd expect from, you know, that CEO of a tech company. Cause I'm like, I'm caring about people and making sure that they're heard and making good space for them.

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm. Yep. Would you say you're shepherding the flock, Matt? Is that what, would you say that? Perhaps one might say that, you would not. One might.

Matt Stauffer: I would not, but I understand the comparison. One might. Yeah, so yeah, no, I totally feel that. So I know you said lots of books and lots of stuff, but if I were a young up and coming person who said, hey, I'm a programmer, and I just started at this company, and I really aspire to be a leader in this company, but I have no leadership experience, is there one book for that particular person? They'd say, you know what, like it started with this one.

Aaron Francis: Gosh, I'm trying to remember some of the stuff I read. I feel like Radical Candor is on there. You know, I feel like some people might balk, but a lot of the 37 Signals early business stuff is really, really great. I find that they cut through a lot of the jargon and stuff and they're just like, hey, why don't...

Matt Stauffer: Mmm, not that bad. Yes. Why don't we just do this? Yeah.

Aaron Francis: Why don't you just be a human? I remember one specific thing out of their book is don't scar on the first cut. And it's like, if somebody does something wrong, don't implement a policy the first time, just be like, hey guy, don't wear shorts and flip-flops to work anymore. You don't need to go make a rule and like create the scar tissue on the first cut. And so some of that early stuff was really, really great.

Matt Stauffer: Yes. Yeah.

Aaron Francis: But yeah, there's a lot of, there's a lot of like more of the soft side of managing that I feel like is it, is it Brené Brown that, who does Radical Candor? Who is that? That's somebody else, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Matt Stauffer: That's not Brené Brown. Brené Brown is the empathy stuff. Yeah. We'll learn in just a second. Kim Malone Scott.

Aaron Francis: Okay, so do radical empathy and then other stuff by Brené Brown. But yeah, stuff like that was really helpful, I think, for me.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Yeah, I love that. There was a talk I gave a while back about empathy and Brené Brown's research about empathy was really core to it. It's one of those things where what I really appreciate is when you learn things like you were saying from good and bad managers or whatever and then you come across materials later. Sometimes you're gonna read a book or listen to a podcast and you're like, yeah, that's what I figured out on my own, but it's nice to have words for it.

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm. Yes.

Matt Stauffer: I felt very similarly about Brené Brown's work about Radical Candor. I was like, great, thank you for the language for this thing that I figured out the hard way. Now let me give this material to somebody else so they can figure out the easy way, hopefully.

Okay, so I wanna go so much further into that, but I also, there's so much more and we're already like halfway into our thing. So let's pause there. Is there any particular, actually one last thing, is there any particular technical challenge that you ran into or that you really just like, was your favorite thing that you had to solve that required the most creativity or innovation or I can't believe that's how we did it, that it's just like a fun story, is there anyone that really stands out for you?

Aaron Francis: Yeah, I think one of the most fun things I did there was we built basically, we, we basically rebuilt Google Sheets inside of our application and it allowed us. So speaking directly to Laravel, it allowed us to represent eloquent models in a spreadsheet view. And if you changed a cell in the spreadsheet, it could change one or many attributes on the model and we could run, like I had macros. So if somebody changed this thing, then like four other cells would populate.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: And that was, that was just like unbelievably fun because one, it was, it was very hard, but two, it was very powerful and fulfilling for like the property tax agents who will go to a hearing with the County and they will work 150 properties in a sitting. And so they're just like, it can't be, I got to

Matt Stauffer: Wow!

Aaron Francis: click into a new screen and I got to go here. It's got to be like, here's all the data and you got to like, all right, here's the final value.

Matt Stauffer: Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. Yep.

Aaron Francis: Great. We agree on that. Let me type it in. Next one. Boom. Next one. Boom. And to have that synced, not only to our back-end but to the other agents who might be in a different hall, like a different room down the hall, and everybody can see what everybody's doing.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: So they know, it's crazy, so they know that the other, like, the guy down the hall is getting better cuts, and so I'm gonna slow down so that my...

Matt Stauffer: Let them get

Aaron Francis: so that I'm working with my appraiser, we don't burn through too many properties, because I'm watching this other guy and he's getting great cuts, so I wanna give him some properties. So stuff like that was just a freaking blast, and I wanna do a video series on it, because it's so interesting, and it's so hard, but it's a lot of fun.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've done something like that once and it's often made me think like there's something about, we always talk about, oh my God, they built their business on Google Sheets and now we're gonna give them a full, and it's like, yeah, but there's things you can do in Google Sheets in terms of speed and your average CRUD app.

Aaron Francis: Yes.

Matt Stauffer: it's gonna take so much longer, it's gonna be so many more steps, and we think it's an improvement, and in some ways, it's an improvement, but from a user interface perspective, it isn't always. So that's really cool to hear that you're like, no, that's not the best way.

Aaron Francis: No, no, and there are times when you want, there are times you want a single view of a property because you can do a lot more stuff on a webpage, right? And there are times when you want to represent 400 properties on a single spreadsheet. And it's like the ability to do both is very fun and interesting.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, it's really powerful. Yeah, well, I'm ready for that course when you put it out. I'm excited for it.

Aaron Francis: Okay.

Matt Stauffer: All right, so let's wrap up that time in your life. So I do want to spend a little bit of time in the transition from there just because the story of your life is so interesting, the things you've done, and then we'll land on your current venture and spend the last 20 minutes there. So what led you to leave there, and where'd you go from there?

Aaron Francis: Yeah, so I was there for, you know, five years or so and started to feel like I kind of want to be more in the tech world. Like I am fully in the local services world doing tech and I kind of wanted to enter into the space more. So at that time I saw, Ben Ornstein tweet about Tuple, a pair programming app and say like, Hey, we're looking for a marketer who's also a developer, you wanna come work with us? And I was like, that's interesting. I'd followed his journey for a while. So I reached out to him and he was like, hey, this is an experimental role. And I was like, that's great, because I've never really been a marketer. And so, yeah.

Matt Stauffer: Experimenting, yeah.

Aaron Francis: So we tried it for like six or nine months and it was fun, but I think it came down to like, they need a marketer to buy ads and do stuff like that. And that's just not me.

Matt Stauffer: That's not what you want to do, yeah.

Aaron Francis: And so from there, I went to a database company called PlanetScale, which is where I was up until two, three months ago when they laid off half the company, myself included. Yeah, so that's kind of how we got to where we are today.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, quick transition. And one of the things that happened for those who don't know, because I definitely need this to be understood, is Aaron came to internet prominence. Not just like being like, hey, this is a developer, but like this is a guy where someone says Aaron put something out and everybody runs to it. Around that time period of that, kind of those two jobs, I feel like you kind of made that switch and you're like not only am I creating very creative and innovative things here but I'm also sharing about a lot of stuff on Twitter and I'm creating these YouTube videos and you really built a following at PlanetScale to the point where I've seen people on the regular comment on your YouTube saying things like I followed you here from PlanetScale. I never even use PlanetScale But I liked you so much from those videos that now I follow you to whatever you do and I don't use Laravel but I'm following your Laravel videos because I like you so much.

Aaron Francis: Uh-huh. It's crazy.

Matt Stauffer: How much of that was an intentional thing and how much of that was just like, well, I made these videos for work and that's where people found me. Like were you building like a whole, I don't wanna say media empire, but like were you being super intentional to create your own videos, your own Twitter stuff or is it more like, hey, this is what I'm doing for work and I'm gonna share it and people just like what I'm doing for work.

Aaron Francis: Yeah, I think it was pretty strategic. I think one of my personality strengths is strategy. And so I knew going into PlanetScale, this is a good platform for me. This is going to boost my personal brand and expand me a little bit outside of Laravel into broader...

Matt Stauffer: Personal brand, yeah.

Aaron Francis: developer world because it's databases, everybody needs a database. And so with that comes, or I felt that with that came a lot of responsibility to be like, to do my duty and to be pure and noble towards PlanetScale. And so like everything, everything that I did, I tried first to think about how can I help PlanetScale. It's really nice that it also helps me.

That put me in kind of a tricky spot, because at times I thought about, well, what if I were to leave? Like, what are the good opportunities? You know, I definitely talked to Taylor about coming to work at Laravel, and I thought, I've really, not weaseled, but like, what's the positive term for weaseled? I've really weaseled my way into becoming the face of PlanetScale. And I would feel bad just being like, hey, thanks for all the fish, I'm out.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: And then they laid me off. And so it's like, okay, great. That's awesome.

Matt Stauffer: Well, there you go.

Aaron Francis: So it really did work out super well for me because I felt a writer wrong. I felt a moral responsibility to like, continue to give this company my all, because I put myself in a key man position. Then when I got laid off, it was great because that's like everyone...

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: that knows that I got laid off, knows that I didn't leave the company high and dry. Right? It feels a little bit, and this is all personal, it feels a little bit to me like if I were to become the face of PlanetScale and then say, see ya, that feels like, aw bummer.

Matt Stauffer: You'd feel some guilt and some, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Aaron Francis: Yeah, that's like, ew, that was kinda icky of him. But to become the face of PlanetScale and then through no fault of my own get laid off, it's like it can't get any better than that.

Matt Stauffer: Well, see, and then not only is the ick gone, but now you have like the empathy. Everyone's like, oh my God, Aaron put so much work in for PlanetScale and you did. And then everyone's like, how can I help you? And you're like, I guess this is a perfect platform for whatever I do next.

Aaron Francis: Yep, exactly, exactly.

Matt Stauffer: Love it. Love it for you. One of the things that I talk about a lot on the internet, and I don't know if you and I have gotten a chat about this, is the idea that like, it's most important for us to find ways to do good that happens to benefit us versus benefitting ourselves in a way that happens to do good. And it's such a narrow distinction, but it changes our attitude and our response in difficult moments. It changes kind of the core tenor of what we're doing when we're saying, I want to teach everybody and wow, that's really cool that when I teach, I gain a whole bunch of followers. I, and you said, I want to be pure and noble in my, you know, my intentions towards PlanetScale. And I mean, that's a company. We don't tend to use the words pure or noble when we talk about our relationship with a giant capitalist organization, right? But in the end, you're like, they're paying me to do this and I want to have integrity in the way I interact with their thing, and great it benefits my career.

Aaron Francis: Correct.

Matt Stauffer: And I think that's a really fun way to think about it. And I mean, like you and I have occupied similar spaces of trying to be like good people on the internet who lead people towards good and who amplify other people who are doing good things. Do you feel, and this is a weird question, it just popped in my brain...

Aaron Francis: I love it, hit me.

Matt Stauffer: but do you feel any kind of obligation or calling or anything like that towards your impact? Do you ever feel guilt? And I hope you don't, but I do. I do. And so do you ever feel guilt for making money off of these things? Do you feel a calling towards doing good, you know, especially coming out of some of our backgrounds, you know, kind of like one of the things that, and I'll give a little bit of context. One of the things I found a lot of developers struggle with is anytime they have to market or advertise something they're doing, they feel awful. They're like, I just want to do good work and I feel so bad selling it and marketing it.

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: Are there things in as you're starting a business and you know, making money off of this that you feel that you're having to wrestle with any kind of guilt for? Or do you feel like because you've been doing it in what feels like a pure and noble way, you're able to keep it balanced?

Aaron Francis: Yeah, that is interesting. I don't feel any guilt about it at all.

Matt Stauffer: I love that.

Aaron Francis: Not even a little bit. And I think there are a few reasons. So we, you and I share the same religious background upbringing.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: I continue in the tradition and I think doing good work is the right thing to do. Like, I don't you know, historically, I don't owe PlanetSkill anything, but I still think doing good work is the right thing to do. And so a lot of it comes, like a lot of the drive comes from that, that like my, I am called and compelled to do my best even if nobody cares about it or nobody notices it, right?

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: I think on the capitalist side, the flip side is, I grew up watching my dad do his best and do better than everyone else, but not play the game.

Matt Stauffer: Hmm.

Aaron Francis: And he lost his job a bunch of times. He was a DBA, so like his same world. And he just like got laid off a bunch of times. And so that kind of colored my experience of like, you can do the absolute best thing and you can do the pure, right, and noble thing.

But if you don't talk about it and you don't tell people, like, look at what I'm doing...

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: people aren't gonna know. And there's some part of me that's like it would be better if you didn't have to do that. I mean, maybe. In a platonic ideal world that's made up, it would be great if everything was a meritocracy. And like, you can...

Matt Stauffer: Sure. Yeah.

Aaron Francis: I think you can be of two minds. You can want that to be true, but you also have to understand that it's not true. It's just not true.

Matt Stauffer: Right, yeah. We live in the world that we live in.

Aaron Francis: So you can spend your entire life just raging against the machine and being like, I don't have to market, my work will speak for itself. And that's fine, you can do that. Or you can say like, the world works in such a way that if I'm not making myself visible, nobody's going to see me. And I wish it were different, but it's not. So that's kind of how I feel. Work is good and pure and noble of its own accord. If you want to win the game, you have to play the game.

Matt Stauffer: Yes, and winning the game is not a selfish thing. Winning the game is not a bad thing. I think one thing that really helps is like, well, why do we have this inherent thing, at least a lot of Western culture and a lot of my upbringing, where wanting to be successful or wanting to make money is this bad thing? And I'm like...

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: Okay, how about I reframe this to be I would like to take care of my children. I would like to send them to college, I would like for them not to have food insecurity, right? I would like for them not to stress if we have to move our house because you know, all of a sudden work is not coming through anymore, you know, like those are noble things to do and those require money because of the world that we live in right? It's just like not being laid off all the time requires a level of success. It requires a level of indispensability at work, which requires people...

Aaron Francis: Yes.

Matt Stauffer: to know that you're doing that good work. And so it's just sort of like, yeah, I love hearing you say that because that was the guilt. I felt guilty whenever I tried to do a really good job and be seen for doing a good job, even in the midst of trying to do a good job in a pure and noble and caring way, because I'm like, I'm pursuing success. And to your point, it's like, we live in the world we live in. That's it.

Aaron Francis: We do. Yep. I mean, even like it's, it's, it's similar. Jack McDade tweeted something the other day about AI taking all the creative creativity out of the world. And my point of view on that is like, yes, net bad for society that AI is like taking all this creative stuff. I'm not, I can't change the world.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: I can't, I can't stop that train, but what I can do is look at that and be like, well, I'm going to continue to create human-generated stuff. And I think that's going to be a big win for me.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: I think that's the right thing to do. I also think it's a good like it benefits me to continue to be a human that you can know on the internet. And like the tension is what's good for society? I don't know, I can't really change that, but I can change my little world. And I think that's like, you have to kind of like narrow the locus of control and say, I can't change the universe or the world, but I can change my little world.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, and your little world may involve your family and your neighbors and..

Aaron Francis: It does.

Matt Stauffer: your ecosystem or whatever. So like, it's fun to be able to say that we can't change the world, but I also would say that you have made a big impact on the world around you where you have a severe influence on people who look up to Aaron Francis in part because he is kind and caring or whatever. And I think that that benefits...

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: the world that we're in because it makes more people see value in being kind and caring and they see more people to look up to who are kind and caring and stuff like that. So even in the space where we're talking about like, look, I can only control this, we can still do the good, pure, noble thing well in a kind and caring way and actually bring out about that influence, you know, more. Okay, back to business, I guess.

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: So you were laid off from PlanetScale

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: and it kind of gave you this free rein, and for those who don't know, you would often talk during time at PlanetScale about a certain cast of characters and the most memorable member of the cast of characters was Editor Steve. Editor Steve is this guy who you make these videos and Editor Steve just puts the razz on it.

Aaron Francis: Yep. Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: He makes it whatever. And now there's something going on there. So what was the process like when you and Editor Steve both discovered you were no longer the, you know, the face and also the, the whatever behind PlanetScale, where did you go from there the next day? You know, next, well, I think you went to a movie theater actually, but yeah.

Aaron Francis: I went to Dune Two the day of, but yeah.

Matt Stauffer: So it's, could you talk a little bit about like what that process was like?

Aaron Francis: Yeah, for sure. So yeah, Steve and I worked together at PlanetScale and we spent, you know, he is like, it's funny because I like to give monikers and nicknames to people, especially like on YouTube. So I was trying to broaden the scope of the channel to include other people as a way to be like, I'm not the key man,

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, yeah. It's not just me.

Aaron Francis: but you know, and whatever. So, Steve, the editor was like my partner in crime and we would talk on the phone all the time talking about ideas. We got along. We liked each other a whole lot. After we both got laid off, we called each other and were like, dude, so what's going to happen now?

Matt Stauffer: What are we gonna do? Yeah.

Aaron Francis: And it was interesting because a lot of people... I put out this tweet and, Steve put out a tweet that he was like, Hey, I got laid off too. And I quote tweeted him. And so like, we're kind of like doing this layoff thing together and companies started reaching out and were like, hey, we would love to hire you and Steve. Hey, we would love to bring Steve and you in together.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: And I was like, really? That's kind of awesome. So Steve and I took some joint interviews with companies. It was like, well, let's just start the process together.

Matt Stauffer: Together, yeah.

Aaron Francis: And through that, I think we both realized that we could go do it again. We could go play the same songs again at a different company or we could go out together and try to do it on our own. Cause I think between the two of us, there's some magic that is just not reproducible independently. I think I'm good on camera. I'm not, I'm not Steve. Like I cannot add the level of video quality production that Steve can. And so Steve has really good ideas. He's truly a producer. And so now he's producer Steve. And so everything we do, we work on together. I'm out front, but that doesn't mean I'm doing more of the work.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: So we kind of talked about it and we're like, Hey, we've got all these companies that want to hire us. Let's see if we can go out on our own and just do this as like consulting slash, you know, video for hire. And we actually had a few CEOs in the calls be like, Hey, I'm just going to be upfront with you. We can't afford to hire you, but I think y 'all should go out on your own and we'll be your first client. And we're like, really?

Matt Stauffer: Okay.

Aaron Francis: So it's kind of, it became very obvious the week after we got laid off and we took all these calls. It became very, very clear what we should do next.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. So was this your first time ever starting a business from scratch? I mean, I know you joined the three guys in the property tax thing,

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Matt Stauffer: But had you ever from LLC or from S Corp from the very beginning?

Aaron Francis: I had, you know, as we all do, a little holding LLC for random consulting and stuff. And there was a period in my early 20s where I was just full on freelancer, but never like,

Matt Stauffer: Okay.

Aaron Francis: I've never started a proper business like this.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, but you have at least have like you have put in the paperwork to start it and I'll say,

Aaron Francis: Yes. Uh-huh.

Matt Stauffer: Okay, so, because I wonder if that, you know, that might be one of the big moments, but still, was it scary? Yeah.

Aaron Francis: Yeah, it was scary. It was, it was, it was definitely scary. It was a, it was a weird mix of the best possible timing of my professional career and the worst possible timing in my family life. We've got four kids under three. Well, I guess two of them are three now. So we have four kids, three and under...

Matt Stauffer: Three and under, yeah.

Aaron Francis: My wife who works harder than I do doesn't get paid for it. And so like, I'm the sole breadwinner here and we're...

Matt Stauffer: Preach. Mm-hmm.

Aaron Francis: we're in a rent house because we bought a house that's big enough for our new four kids. And so like, we're paying these two housing costs and we gotta move. And it's like, everything is the worst possible timing, except there's never been a better time in my professional life to do this.

So it was definitely scary. I think, you know, we had, I think one month of severance or something like that. And so there was a little bit of buffer and we had, as a family saved up a bunch of money just from like side stuff and you know having more money than we spend and so like that helped a little bit but then getting into the business and getting some big contracts landed pretty quickly has really like put my mind at ease.

Matt Stauffer: I love to hear that. How much did you and your wife kind of toss back and forth this idea before you were able to sign off on it? Was it just an instant she's like, hey, you know what, I think this is a thing? Or did you all really have to go back and forth quite a bit on the risk of taking a job versus starting your own thing?

Aaron Francis: Yeah, we talked about it quite a bit. I mean, she's just the, I called her the day that I got laid, like the moment I got laid off, I called her and she was like, it's gonna be fine. We'll figure it out. Like, yeah, that's what you want. Like that's what you want in a teammate, man.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, she believes in you dude. You're freaking out, yeah.

Aaron Francis: You don't want somebody dogging you when you're down. And she was just fully supportive. And so when this idea started to like crystallize in my head, we talked about it a lot. And I think that the thing that like, the thing that tipped the scales was this is a very low risk test. Like it could totally crash and burn.

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Aaron Francis: And then what do I do? I go back to Twitter and say, hey, I tried to live the American dream and it didn't work out. Will you hire me?

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: And I get some percentage of the people that wanted to hire me the first time. I get some percentage of them back.

Matt Stauffer: Knock on your door again. Yeah, yeah.

Aaron Francis: It's not like I, you know, it's not like I went to some other company for three months and then quit. And now everybody's like, Ooh, what?

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, he pounced him. Yeah.

Aaron Francis: What happened there? It's like, no, I tried to make my dreams come true and it didn't work. Okay, why is that bad?

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, yeah, it's also not like you put millions of dollars down in a five-year lease with a restaurant, and now you're kind of, you know, burning through your personal savings and everything.

Aaron Francis: No!

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, that's good.

Aaron Francis: Yeah, I don't know who says it, but this is a one-way door versus a two-way door. And I could just walk back through the door. I could just turn around and be like, whoops, sorry y 'all, I would love a W2. And there's somebody, somebody in the world is gonna say, okay, I'll hire you.

Matt Stauffer: No. I hate that I keep quoting this man, but I love him so much that I have to do it. But when Adam Wathan first left Tighten, he published a book while he still worked at Tighten, and the book went so well that he just said, I would kick myself if I didn't take this opportunity to see what it's like to go on my own. If it fails...

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: either Tighten will take me back, probably not because I feel so bad for leaving them, whatever, or some other company will give me a job. He's like, I can get a job again, but I can't miss out on this opportunity to try this thing.

Aaron Francis: Yes. Correct.

Matt Stauffer: And so hearing you and him both say that same thing is so compelling. And I'm like, yeah, I already run a business. So it's not going to make me go run another business, but it does just make it, I don't know. Like, I feel like it makes it seem so much more doable to hear you talk about it. Like, I'm just like, well, what's the magic that made you all do it? And it's like, believing in yourself. You know, being willing to take a risk. Yeah.

Aaron Francis: Yes, that is exactly, exactly correct. Yeah, I looked at it and thought the exact same thing that Adam thought. I looked at it and thought, if I don't do this now, I'm definitely going to look back on it and regret that. And that's an amazing realization to have in the moment. You don't always,

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Yeah.

Aaron Francis: It's not always that clear, but to know in your head and your heart that if you don't do this thing, you're gonna wish you had, that makes it like, okay, we'll just do it scared. Like, yeah, it's still scary.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Aaron Francis: We'll just do it scared though, because this is, I don't wanna miss this.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. And I know you already talked about it, but there's a big magic of having a partner who just says, we're going to do this and we're going to make it work. And no matter what happens, like, I believe we can solve it. Cause then you're just like, what's the worst-case scenario? The worst-case scenario was something that felt like I couldn't handle it. But now I believe that we can handle whatever that worst-case scenario is because we together, can hit.

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: And it's just like, man, that's, that's an incredible, incredibly empowering partnership to have there.

Aaron Francis: Yes, yes, for us, the worst-case scenario is not personal or family bankruptcy. I would stop well before then. So the worst-case scenario is embarrassment. And to have somebody on your team being like, hey, you can do this, I believe in you.

Matt Stauffer: Right. Yeah.

Aaron Francis: I would hate to be embarrassed publicly. I would really hate to be embarrassed in front of my wife and be like, hey, it didn't work, I'm so sorry. But to have her be, from the beginning, be like, you can do this, I believe in you, just takes all of that pressure away to be like, this person is on my team and I'm not like, I'm not like hiding things, like, it's not working, I can't tell her because she's gonna dog me, no way. So yeah, it's unbelievably empowering to have somebody that's like, I got your back.

Matt Stauffer: That's brilliant, I love this. Once again, I guess we're supposed to get back to business things,

Aaron Francis: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Matt Stauffer: But this is the part I wanna talk about anyway. So you have this company, Try Hard Studios, and you all are creating videos and you're creating courses and stuff like that. That is the dream for a lot of us who like to create content just to be able to create stuff and help people all the time.

Aaron Francis: Yeah.

Matt Stauffer: This is the Business of Laravel podcast, right?

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: And so one of the things I want to talk about a little bit is in what ways Laravel is involved in your current life. So I'm guessing that at some point you built a course platform for delivering, which you didn't even mention, and other things like that.

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Matt Stauffer: Are you doing any coding at all these days other than in your videos?

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm. Yeah, so we built, me and everybody's friend, Jason Beggs, built Now, Steve, producer Steve is actually a developer as well. So he's building out a Nuxt...

Matt Stauffer: Really? Of course, he is. Love it.

Aaron Francis: Yeah, he's a Vue developer. So he's building out a Nuxt front-end and I'll build out the Laravel back-end for high-performance SQLite.

Matt Stauffer: Nice.

Aaron Francis: And I still do, I actually still contract with the property tax company, more in like an architect's kind of role,

Matt Stauffer: Really?

Aaron Francis: so I still have my hands in that code base a little bit. So yeah, that's a lot of, and my personal website's a tinker town for crazy Laravel ideas, and

Matt Stauffer: Yes.

Aaron Francis: So yeah, I still try to stay in it, because I don't wanna, one, I love it, but I don't wanna atrophy either. So yeah, I'm definitely still in it.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. One of the things I notice is that in the midst of SQLite plans and database stuff, you're still putting out, hey, here's what Laravel Octane is, and stuff like that. So you're still making those videos.

How do you see those videos playing a part of your overall strategy right now? Is it because you're like, hey, I want to make sure that I can make a Laravel course and keep a Laravel reputation? As you're making stuff that's not targeted at Laravel developers, what's your ongoing relationship with the Laravel community?

Aaron Francis: Yeah, I have a belief that the Laravel community in the next five years is going to double, maybe triple.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, same.

Aaron Francis: And I think there's gonna be a desire for a lot of like, what are all these components? Like what's going on here? And so that's like the ruthlessly strategic part of me thinks, okay, there's gonna be a huge influx of Laravel developers and to like carve out a corner of the Laravel YouTube ecosystem, it's gonna be pretty valuable.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: So I think that is like, that's the nuts and bolts of it. The other side of it is, I just, I like it.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: Like I like doing Laravel content. I know Laravel really well. And so it's a lot of fun for me to be able to just like kind of just like bebop, it's kind of more like jazz than it is, you know than it is something very rigid because I can turn on the camera and I just have this well of knowledge that I can pull from, it makes it so easy.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: But Steve and I have talked about this a lot, and for some reason, which I'm very grateful for, but I don't fully understand for some reason, people just want more content from me, specifically.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: So the more content that I can put out that is, of course, still up to the Try Hard standards, the more content that I can put out, the better. And so putting out Laravel content, for some reason, people that don't like Laravel still watch it. And so if I can just have more content out there, that's better. And so that's kind of the thought is like, this is, it's very strange because you'll hear a lot of people, especially SaaS people, be like, the personal brand doesn't matter if you can't crack SEO or whatever, you're never gonna make it and like, maybe true for, maybe true for, you know, a DocuSign SaaS, right?

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Aaron Francis: This is not that business. This business is extremely personality-driven. And so our top of the funnel is me. And so the more that I'm out there, the more that people are like, wait, what's he do? Oh, he's got, that's interesting. Let me find out. And so the more that people can see me, the better it is for our bottom line.

Matt Stauffer: I hear that. And it's very curious to me because a lot of people who are talking about kind of the longevity of a business, they're like, you want to take the influential front person out of the daily operation because eventually, you want to get to the point where they can step away.

But they're saying that very often because the company only exists because of that influential front person being able to be that. And you've made a successful company over five or 10 years and eventually, that person wants to be able to step away. And like you were saying with PlanetScale, you know, it's going to be a different degree with your own company.

But I could imagine 10 years down the road, you know, you get to a point where Try Hard Studios has a roster of people and it's not just that, my God, we love Aaron, and Steve's a great producer and editor, but oh my God, they put out so much good content across all these people. And then Aaron can be less and less of the videos, but you're on month two or three right now. Like that's not, that's not the story.

Aaron Francis: Exactly. Yeah.

Matt Stauffer: And that's what I wanted to end on the name of your studio comes from a conversation you've been having with the internet about this phase in your life that I think relates to the fact that it's not a bad thing for you to be the public face. Can you talk a little bit about Try Hard Studios, where that comes from and what that reflects, and how that's maybe a little different from what people often talk about the internet today?

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm. Yeah, absolutely. So the name is Try Hard Studios and it's called that because Maximum Effort Studios was already taken by Ryan Reynolds and I didn't want to get into that with him.

Matt Stauffer: Got it.

Aaron Francis: But I know, it really is like, I am at this phase of my life and have been for maybe three or four years where I kind of think that like these are... this is the era in which I'm going to try as hard as I possibly can. And that like, people hear that and they get hustle bro like twinges and like, what's about to happen?

Matt Stauffer: Right.

Aaron Francis: And the way that I like, the way that I kind of like look at that and differentiate that is this is my era of maximum effort because I think that I am currently on a wave and I don't want it to get, I don't want it to get over me, right? I don't want it to go past me. And so I'm doing my best to capitalize on this moment. And I think I, my point of view is that like, we are, I think we are extremely capable, but we have this fear of like being seen to try hard.

Matt Stauffer: Hmm.

Aaron Francis: Like it is, there's this fear of like, if I'm seen as someone who tries really hard, then I'm not like a natural talent, right? I'm not like, this is all so easy, I don't even think about it.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: And there might be people for whom everything is so easy that they don't have to think about it, but you look at somebody like Wes Boss or Adam Wathan, I guarantee you, they're trying pretty hard.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: It's just that it looks, like from the outside, it looks pretty natural and like everything they do turns to gold, but it's like,

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: Man, I bet they try super hard. And that's kind of how I feel is like, between me and Steve, we have this desire to put in more effort and to care about more things than maybe the average person would. And it's all these little things, you know, let's take the, like the context of a video. So we're making a video. There's like 10, 20 little things that don't matter that we're gonna go ahead and do. And then you watch the video and you're like,

Matt Stauffer: Mm -hmm.

Aaron Francis: I don't know, but it was really good. Like I can't put my finger on anything,

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Yeah.

Aaron Francis: But like it just feels right, doesn't it? And that's kinda like, my whole shtick is basically like, I don't wanna reach the end of my career, much less my life, and look back and think boy, you were just kinda scared to like, you're kind of scared to try or you're kind of scared to put yourself out there. And now that it's all over, you realize how little anyone else's opinion mattered and you're like, shoot, I wish I would have known that when I was 35 and not 65.

Matt Stauffer: Living out of fear, yeah.

Aaron Francis: So that's kind of like my guiding principle is I'm gonna try as hard as I can. I'm gonna put myself out there as much as I can and we're gonna see what happens. Cause I don't wanna reach the end and think, boy, your life could have been a lot different if you weren't so scared. And so that's like, that's heavy. I can't live with that.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. So I thought this was the last thing, but I have to do a follow-up on that.

Aaron Francis: Tell me.

Matt Stauffer: One of the things that I get asked a lot, and I'm confident that you do, because I've had friends who have been introduced to your content ask me the same question about you is, where do you make time for family? Where do you make time for personal care? Where do you, you know, they're like, if you're doing so many things...

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yep.

Matt Stauffer: If you're doing a course, and this and that and the other, like, are you just completely miserable at home and your spouse never sees you and your kids never see you? Or are you, is there a way to try really hard and really still have strong boundaries? So what does that look like for you?

Aaron Francis: Yeah, absolutely there is. So I'll tell you what I did this week because it's like, in the abstract, no, I'll tell you what I did this week. So it's a busy season. We're working on this course, right? We got the SQLite course and I gotta do a bunch of stuff. I now work outside of the house, so I do leave the house.

So every morning I get the older two kids up. We have two three-year-olds and two six-month-olds. I get the older kids up, You know, get them out of bed, change diapers, make breakfast, sit with them at breakfast, do all this stuff with the kids until about 8:30, 8:45, and then I leave the house. Come up here, work as hard as I can until five to six, depending on if the kids napped, because if they didn't nap, they're gonna go to bed early, right?

So between five and six, and then I leave, I go home. I go home and I'm dad. I do dinner. I do, let's go jump on the bed, let's wrestle, and then I put the older kids to bed, sing songs, put on pajamas, all that stuff. I don't miss that.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: I don't care what Steve wants, I don't care who is in my DMs, I just don't miss that. And so every single day, breakfast and dinner, I'm with the kids. Then there are times this week when I've come back to the office. It's seven o 'o'clock, the kids are down, and everybody's happy. I'll sit and eat dinner real quick. And then I come back to the office.

That is based on, or that is after having conversations with my wife saying like, hey, this is a really busy time for me. I would like to go back to the office some nights and keep working. Let's talk about that. And she's like, that sounds great. I've got a lot of stuff to do to get ready for the move or I wanna watch. What was she watching last night? I want to watch Mindy Project by myself and it's like great. Okay, let's talk about that.

So there are definitely ways to keep boundaries and I have I have non-negotiables. I'm home for dinner. I'm up at breakfast. Those are my non-negotiables the things that I lose I don't watch a lot of TV right now. I don't care about sports and so that helps so I'm not watching sports I don't play video games and I am happy. I think people hear that and they're like, I would hate to miss, you know, sports and video games. I'm like, that's fine. That's totally fine.

Matt Stauffer: Right. Yeah, turns out.

Aaron Francis: The thing that I want to do most in my life outside of, you know, be a good dad and a husband, the thing that I want to do most is have this success, successful business. And so I'm okay not watching TV and playing video games. And I don't feel like I'm missing out. I feel like I'm doing the thing that I've always dreamed of doing and it makes me happy.

So I am not, I am rarely prescriptive. I don't tell people what to do or I try not to. I am descriptive, telling people what I do and also encouraging people to consider. I want to encourage people to consider what they want out of their life and are there things that you don't care about that you can give up? Don't give up things you care about. Give up things you don't care about to get something you care about. It's like, that's the easiest trade-off in the world. So that's kind of how I have my boundaries. There are things I do not miss and that will never change.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, I love that. That's brilliant. And my answer is not exactly the same because I had done that at one point now because of my custody situation with my kids. It's sort of like when the kids are there, I'm usually, you know, minimize meetings, spend quality time with the kids...

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm.

Matt Stauffer: get some work done at the end of the night. And then when the kids aren't here, that's when I kind of like do the more of the hustle mode. But I'm working on a course right now and that's not a part of my nine to five. And so my kids know that after they go to bed, I work on the course for several hours.

Aaron Francis: Yep.

Matt Stauffer: And sometimes the next morning I'm a little tired and my son's like, yeah, you're working on the course. This morning I was very tired when I woke him up and he's like, you're working on the course? I'm like, yeah. And just like, honestly, for me, first of all, I'm still present for the kids. But second of all, it's kind of fun. And I know your kids may not be this age yet, but for the kids to see what that looks like and to see...

Aaron Francis: Mm-hmm. Yes. Mm -hmm.

Matt Stauffer: to see you work,to see boundaries, and to see the ways you prioritize them. And you know, like, it turns out they can survive a lot of that. They can understand a lot of that. And also, like you said, a supportive partner can be understanding and flexible and might sometimes want to watch her freaking TV show or his freaking TV show without you a little bit, you know?

Aaron Francis: She loves alone time work. We're we both love that. I think I'm willing. I am willing and it sounds like this is what you're describing. I'm willing to sacrifice a lot of my own comfort, enjoyment, pleasure, whatever. I am very unwilling to sacrifice on someone else's behalf. I am NOT willing to sacrifice My kids time with their dad. I don't want to make that choice for them.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Aaron Francis: I'm not willing to sacrifice my time with my wife without her, without us talking about it. But my own sleep, my own watching of, of, you know, movies, okay, that's fine.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, yeah, that's fine. Yeah.

Aaron Francis: So I think that's a big difference is like, are you sacrificing things on behalf of other people that they don't want sacrificed? Yeah.

Matt Stauffer: I love that. That's a great line. Yeah, that's a great line. I love that. God, I always say this to people, but I have two more hours of conversation in me, but we're already 10 minutes past when I'm trying to cut it. So obviously you're gonna come back to the podcast in many different reasons, but one of them is I wanna talk to you in two years. Hopefully this is still going and I wanna see how the Try Hard work and how Try Hard Studios, but also the Try Hard area. And I wanna know like.

Aaron Francis: I would love that.

Matt Stauffer: Is the try hard era slowing down the maximum effort area slowing down and have you found the ability to have other people you know be faces so that you're able to step back a little bit and do you still get to program is one of the big questions I want to ask you in two years, but you know, we're not there yet, but I'm very curious so. Because we are supposed to wrap right now I got to ask you one last thing which is, is there anything that you think would have been great for us to talk about today that we get didn't get a chance to cover that just relates to either any of the stories you told or just the general idea of talking to people who are either you using Laravel to build a business or building a business in the Laravel ecosystem?

Aaron Francis: I don't, nothing comes to mind except my favorite hobby horse of like if you're trying to grow your brand, whether that's personal or business, the number one thing you can do is put yourself out there more. I think beyond...

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Aaron Francis: I think beyond the fear of embarrassment, there's a lot of what you're looking for. The thing that you want is on the other side of being willing to be cringe.

Matt Stauffer: I love that.

Aaron Francis: And it's like, that is my advice for everyone.

Matt Stauffer: And I do want to say that if anybody is interested in learning more about that, go read Aaron's blog posts and his Twitter and follow him on all the spaces because these are things that you say on a regular basis.

Aaron Francis: Yes.

Matt Stauffer: And you've covered it in more depth there. So as much as I want to talk about it more now, go read everything he's ever done, and you will find more of those messages and more of that encouragement. Well, Aaron, you are the darling of the internet for a good reason. You are a delightful human being. I really appreciate you coming on here and I really appreciate the energy and the kindness and the care and the pureness and nobility that you're bringing to the whole world that I'm in. So thanks for hanging out today. I really appreciate you.

Aaron Francis: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Matt Stauffer: Okay, and to the rest of you, thank you for listening and we'll see you next time.

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