Coffee, Crossfit, codeBOX: Introducing Thomas Patrick Levy
Rounding out this first week in October, I’m really excited to introduce you to Thomas Patrick Levy.
Thomas is a writer (you can find some of his work on his website ThomasPatrickLevy.com) as well as a web developer, a crossfitter, and a coffee enthusiast.
If you’re into poetry – come on, everyone loves poetry – you should get yourself a copy of of I Don’t Mind If You’re Feeling Alone, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and finish reading this interview while you wait for everything to ship.
Now, let’s talk about online entrepreneurship, shall we?
Thomas Patrick Levy and codeBOX
Thomas will tell you the startup story behind codeBOX in the interview below, and it’s well worth the read.
Here’s what you need to know:
codeBOX is the perfect match people who are serious about building a great website because they want to launch a professional business.
Even if you’re a solo entrepreneur, you should check them out.
Yes, you can DIY most stuff.
You should definitely educate yourself on the basics of website development.
But if you’re planning to launch an authoritative online company, especially one that offers online training, doing everything yourself probably isn’t smart.
Just because you can build something on your own doesn’t mean you should.
codeBOX’s learning management system, LifterLMS, is one of the easiest to get started with according to Kim Shivler, who you met in yesterday’s Introducing post.
They’re also one of the few – if not the only – company which offers the service of configuring their LMS plugin for you.
That means that if you’re planning to do things mostly yourself, codeBOX will support you in little ways.
And if you’d rather outsource the whole project to get things done quickly and professionally, they’ll do that, too.
If you’re playing with the idea of building online courses, you can download the LifterLMS plugin (WordPress) for free and build your course.
Once you’ve tried it for free, you can decide to buy the extensions or pro version later.
But you probably will. It’s awesome.
An Interview with the Incredible Thomas Patrick Levy
Tell us about codeBOX. What’s the company all about, and what do you do there?
I founded codeBOX back in 2013 with a friend who is no longer with the company. We were both working at a Los Angeles tech startup…and hating our respective jobs.
Startups are really hip, but my experience is that ping pong, beer, and X-Box in the office only helps a founder feel better about leading a talented team on a journey that requires too many late nights in the office. You know, it’s okay they’re all here at midnight on a Tuesday and expected back for SCRUM at 9 AM, because I bought them all pizza!
It was summertime, and when not working late, we’d CrossFit and then sit outside Robeks drinking giant veggie juice experiments, considering the world and our lives.
These conversations lead to us both quitting the startup and returning to the freelance grind.
By the following spring, we decided to join forces. He closed our first contract and had the deposit check made out to codeBOX, LLC…a company that did not exist, and certainly didn’t have a checking account.
Shortly after, we incorporated and opened that account because we needed that check. Since April 2013, we’ve been building, designing, maintaining, and deploying websites for our clients. While we sipped our juice experiments, we’d always consider transparency. Our vision, to this day, is to utilize the web to help small business owners realize their visions on the internet. Transparency is paramount to achieving this vision.
We strive to ward away the fears and concerns associated with owning and operating a web-based business. We not only consider ourselves members of our clients’ teams, but we are friends to each other.
Have you always been interested in coding? How did you get started?
I have always been a nerd, and in some ways programming is, perhaps, my destiny.
I didn’t realize I was a nerd until middle school when I joined the marching band. Shortly after joining, I met Paul, the trombonist, who taught me HTML in a college-ruled notebook in the back of eighth-grade Spanish class during free time when we were supposed to be getting a head start on that night’s homework.
I had a blog on Geocities and made it in with the popular kids — in a very small way — by selling my AOL profile inline styling skills as a service.
Does that count as always?
I sold my first website many years later. I got an English degree, and not the kind that required a literary thesis. Instead, I convinced the department chair – who once called me a “piss-ant” – that I would learn more composing a collection of original poetry than I would studying and theorizing about an existing one.
So should be no surprise that upon graduation I worked first as a short order cook.
I lied my way into selling my first web project to the owner of a repossession agency, and he was so impressed with my coding skills that he hired me to move cars around his warehouse.
After a few years freelancing, driving repo trucks at night, and working the warehouse during the day – all while battling a nearly crippling Everquest addiction – I wound up drinking juice and considering starting my own company where my primary responsibility would be programming.
In a way, I don’t actually care for programming as a career. It’s been a hobby, and what I enjoy most about are the logical puzzles. If it would satisfy my clients, I think I’d be happier half-learning a new framework or language every few months and never building or shipping anything of consequence. Instead, we toil on building real functional applications, which I must confess is actually very rewarding and exciting, even on the most difficult projects.
Recently, you volunteered at WordCamp Los Angeles wrangling speakers (including me) – how was that experience? Would you do it again?
I met Adam Silver – the lead organizer of WordCamp Los Angeles – last year at a mastermind in Mexico. We spent a week getting sunburned in resort pools, drinking mojitos, and eating fish tacos while talking business with some of the best minds in the commercial WordPress industry.
On the bus to the airport Adam said: “Are you coming to volunteer at WordCamp tomorrow?” and didn’t let me respond before saying: “I already got you the ticket, you can meet us at 8AM.”
Since then, I’ve done my best to volunteer at as many Camps as I can – I’ve made every SoCal camp this year. So, when Adam asked me to help organize this year, I told him yes – he let me answer this time.
As the Speaker Wrangler, I decided I would interview each of the 29 speakers and post a conversation on the WCLAX blog every weekday for the 29 weekdays prior to the event. I realized I was in over my head about a month before the event while staring at an impossible interview schedule. I had 725 questions to write, and very little energy. I thought “I have never interviewed anyone in my life,” which echoes back to my first professional website sale. Somehow we made it through.
I am a huge fan of participating in WordCamps. If you’re introverted – which I am – as a volunteer, organizer, or speaker everyone talks to you whether you like it or not. I have some awesome WordCamp friends who I see only at Camps. It’s weird and satisfying to see someone only every few months, give them a big hug, and then get to work handing out t-shirts and stickers.
Around 11am on the first day of Camp this year, I stopped on the edge of the sponsor area and realized that WCLAX didn’t need me. It was going to happen just fine regardless of my participation. I realized that the experience did more for me than I did for it and I had one of those little tingle situations behind my eyes. I still don’t know what to actually make.
I’ll see you at the next one for sure.
When you’re not at your computer, what are you most likely to be doing?
I abused my body, mostly with food and poor health habits, until I was about 25.
My codeBOX cofounder got me into CrossFit back in 2012 and it put me and – via butterfly affect -my family on an unexpected quest for health and, most recently, absurd strength.
Today, a lot of my free time is spent weightlifting and recovering from weightlifting. Recovering from includes, but is not limited to, eating, taking supplements, crushing a lacrosse ball into sore muscles, receiving mean massages, hiking, and watching other people do exercise competitively.
Weightlifting is a sport. They do it in the olympics.
It’s important to me that you don’t picture me simply doing bicep curls and grunting into a mirror. I take this very seriously. See my snatch face:
I have been a lifelong gamer – I am not kidding about having “recovered” from a crippling Everquest addiction. But as of the last few years, I game less and less. I’ve turned my gaming focuses towards Catan and Twilight Imperium. And let’s be honest, I stream (the digital equivalent of) a ton of Netflix.
What advice do you have for someone who might just be getting started in the world of online education and learning management systems?
First off, I have never personally launched an online course and I probably never will.
It feels a bit ironic that my company owns LifterLMS and I spend the majority of my work day developing and supporting the plugin.
That said, your course is better done than perfect. So many get caught up on the details that simply don’t matter. The theme, the LMS plugin or platform, the price, the delivery method, the automation funnel and sequences. Ignore all that for now.
1) Write and produce your content.
2) Ship your course.
3) Receive feedback and iterate
Finally, realize that all the internet marketers that promise you millions with their course building blueprint are, in a way, lying to you. The only thing that is certain is that they will make money.
If you’re going to create a course because you want millions, you’re doomed to fail, if only because your expectations are too high. I believe your teaching should come from passion to share, and if you have that, the money will come. Shrug off that promise of wealth and share knowledge generously.
And that does not, by any means, mean you should give your content away for free. Do not misunderstand me there.
Talk to me frankly about coffee
Kitty, I am so glad you asked, not enough people are talking frankly about coffee these days and I think it’s an important subject that we all need to be considering more regularly.
Starbucks is not good coffee.
For science, I have drunk millions of cups of coffee and I have objective data that proves that coffee, generally, does not taste good and that adding shots of vanilla corn syrup and heavy cream (or, whatever, almond milk) simply masks the flavor of burnt and over-roasted beans that no one enjoys.
You, too, can do this science.
Buy some beans from a roaster, brew a cup at home, put nothing in it, and then sit quietly on your couch. Hold the mug with both hands and take small sips. Consider how quiet everything is. Hold the cup close to your face and let the steam condense on your chin and nose. Smell the coffee. Be really quiet while you taste it.
It can change your life. Give real coffee a chance.
Thomas, I have one more question for you…
How are we not best friends?
Mega thanks to Thomas for answering my interview questions, writing one of his own questions, providing a plethora of excellent photos (and even a gif), and generally being an excellent human being.
By the way, we both started out as delinquent writers.
If you want more information about working with codeBOX:
- They’re not going to pay me anything for the referral, and
- You can get in touch with them here at gocodebox.com.