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Random Notes and Recent Thoughts #2

I’m suffering from a horrible cold virus. My third or fourth in as many weeks (I’ve lost count). My thinking, during such times, is both hazy and exausting. Therefore, please accept some of these brief and imperfect ideas that warrant more expounding than I have the energy for right now.

  • We all write our own eulogies. We write them with the way we live in each moment. By our acts of kindness or the things we do that delight others. Those things that make an impression on those closest to us. For, if we were to pass tomorrow, it is these things they will stand in front of others to share and remember.

  • Those that claim to have no choice always do. What they don’t have is a choice they want. And those that are doing something they don’t want because they feel they have no choice have, in fact, chosen.

  • There is no such thing as good debt. No matter how many financial advisors will tell you otherwise. I wish I had learned this before the age of 35. For instance, believing that a mortgage that was less than the value of the home was an investment — "good debt". Or, that a student loan is somehow good debt because it sets you up for the possibility of higher pay or a better career (when the first 10-20 years of said job is spent paying back that debt). Does no one do the math and figure out the only ones making money from this equation are the people that write the paychecks and the people who service the debt? I think if the past several years have revealed anything it is this fundemental fact and the lies that prop it up.

  • On every task list should exist the following: One thing that makes your life better. One thing that makes the life of someone else better.

  • The more complex your tool, the more likely it is to fail you in some way eventually. And, said failure likelihood will scale in parallel to the added complexity. And, because one’s expectations for said tool also scale in the same parallel, the disappointment from the failure is compounded.

  • People who love what they do for a living don’t ever dream of retirement — early or otherwise. Why wait to start the life you want when you can build it now? And, those that call bullshit on this are either a) happy and don’t want others to be so they can feel even more superior or b) as unhappy as the rest and looking for people to share in their sorrow. The truth is that you build the life you wish to have by the choices you make and, if you build a life that makes you happy, you can do it until you die.

  • This guy gets up and does the work he loves every morning. So, your excuses are invalid.

Items Of Interest #10

I really like the looks of the new Doxie Flip scanner. My friend Mike Rohde posted a great review and video of it in action. That said, I’ve been using TurboScan for iPhone for a couple of years now to use the camera for essentially the same thing for a couple of years now. It’s not the prettiest app out there but it works really well and gets the job done.

With the recent end of the Enough Podcast, it was really nice of Robert Wall of Untitled Minimalism to put together an archive and torrent of all 225 episodes and make it publicly available. I’m seeding it as are many others. Grab it and listen to any you have missed

Designer and consultant Josh Gross exploring a really interesting idea he’s calling One Hour: "I’m making myself available for consulting one hour at a time, starting at $1. Each time someone purchases an hour, the price goes up $1."

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, the pseudonym under which J.K. Rowling wrote the book, is one of the finest whodunits I have ever read. I was engaged and locked in pretty much as soon as I started it. She has an amazing ability to sketch characters quickly and such confidence in her subject matter that you might swear she has written a hundred of these before. In fact, I would argue that the writing here is stronger than many of her Harry Potter books. Highly recommended.

Speaking of books, I’m really excited for Kevin Kelly’s Catalog of Possibilities: Cool Tools. As a fellow fan of the late, great, Whole Earth Catalog and a long time reader of his Cool Tools site, I can’t imagine not having such a valuable resource in my arsenal.

C.J. Chilvers reminds us of the many reasons why paper still matters. My favorite: "The benefits of holding your work in your hand is a pleasure digital workers are too often deprived of."

Mike Vardy reminds us of how much we can get done in only 7 minutes. Try sitting and doing absolutely nothing for even 5 minutes and see how long it feels when you are not regularly accustomed to doing so. I think we would all do a bit better if we had a better sense of the passage of time and the ways we can choose to fill it.

Finally, I really, really, enjoyed this piece by Jack Cheng on living for a time in a yurt and the insight it gives on the many lives we live.

Items Of Interest #9

Lots Of Great Videos Edition

Further linkage and commentary of things that have crossed my path that are worth sharing. This one is a whole bunch of videos that I thought were worth the time…

The Invisible Bicycle Helmet | Fredrik Gertten from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.
My friend Desarae pointed me to this really well done video or two design students from Sweden, Anna and Terese, who have created an invisible bike helmet. I won’t spoil how it works but I really think this could be a game changer in it’s space.

The Encounter Collection from Process Creative on Vimeo.
My friends Michael Schechter, by way of our mutual friend Brett Kelly, pointed me to this video narrative of a father passing down words of wisdom to his young son. If you have been following here for any length of time you should understand why this appeals deeply to me.

Salomon Running TV – Season 3 Trailer from The African Attachment on Vimeo.
My friend Brian Van Peski points us to the trailer for Salomon Running TV — Season 3. As he said, “Love running or just great filmmaking? Check out Solomon’s trail running series on YouTube and find yourself some inspiration to get into the woods.”. Indeed.

Justin Boyd: Sound and Time from Walley Films on Vimeo.
And, I absolutely loved this video of Justin Boyd, educator and artist, about how he channeled a childhood sensitivity to sound into a passion for creating with it. A reminder that there is music all around us. If only we stopped long enough to listen to it.
I hope you enjoy them all.

Items of Interest #8

Lots of stuff on my radar screen worth sharing…

If you have not seen the video of Mike Monterio’s barnburner of a speech How Designers Destroyed the World yet, you owe it to yourself to watch it. It is, perhaps, one of the most inspiring speeches about the power of design (and all creative work, really) to fundamentally change the world — and the responsibility that comes with this fact. Seriously, stop reading this and click that link right now.

Then, watch this video of Malala Yousafzai on the Daily show, the sixteen year old who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her fight to bring education to girls in Pakistan, give one of the most compelling argument for non-violence I’ve ever heard. So beautiful and wise coming from such a young person. Had me in tears.

Now that you have the inspiration you need, put some perspective on taking action at Live Consciously. Put in your birthdate and it will tell you how many months you have left to live your dreams (as well as to 50, 55, and 60 years old). There is also an option to receive this as an email reminder you can then get delivered into your inbox monthly. Life ends. Don’t wait to begin it.

I’ve really been enjoying reading with my little girl lately. The school she attends has a high focus on reading and, even in kindergarden, reading a book from the school library each night is part of her homework. Last night, we started reading Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman and Skottie Young. She enjoyed it so much she requested reading more of it this morning before heading off into her day. I’m enjoying it so much I gladly obliged. Smart, funny, and heartfelt. A fine addition to Neil’s growing canon.

I get lots of pitches in my inbox that are nice but, for one reason or another, don’t quite fit anywhere. Like…

These nice looking Leather Crochet Touchscreen Gloves by Mujjo.

… and Musio, a nice looking minimalist music player for iPhone.

That’s all for now. To the cloud!

Items Of Interest #7

More meanderings and things ventured from the last several days….

I really appreciated waking up this morning to Randy Murray’s wonderful take on the higher calling of art. It helped speak directly to something I’ve been trying to put some though into lately. I especially liked this:

Earning a living is a necessity for most of us, but only that, a necessity. Art is not a promise of fame or fortune. Art is a way to express oneself.

Or, as I like to put it: Surviving can keep you from living.

Tikker is a decidedly new take on a watch. Not only does it tell you the time but it also counts down the life you have left, from years to seconds, and helps keep you aware of making each moment count. The product page was a bit unclear as to how it figures out how much time we have left (and, obviously, it can’t know for sure). So, I did some digging and here is what I found:

The wearer simply fills out a questionnaire, deducts his/her current age from the results, and TIKKER is ready to start the countdown.

My guess it is some calculation of age, weight, diet, vices, etc. It is an interesting idea for sure.

Lots of really great stuff coming out of the recent XOXO Fest a few weeks back. I’m really kicking myself for not making the effort to go and plan to rectify that next year. My only consolation is some of the great thoughts, ideas, and takeaways people are sharing that did attend. Glenn Fleishman’s take, In a Time of Hugs and Kisses, was a nicely compelling and informative spin on what it was like to attend. Pinboard.in founder Maciej Ceglowski posted the notes and slides of his talk, Thoreau 2.0. Which as a huge Thoreau fan both exposed some of the seeming contradictions between the author’s views and his lifestyle and how the way he actually lived might be better for us. And Frank Chimero’s The Inferno Of Independence just may be the best piece on the state of the internet today that I have read all year.

Lots of my friends are updating a releasing lots of cool stuff lately. My friend Brett Kelly recently released the latest version of his excellent Evernote Essentials which is currently half price but wont be for much longer. My friend Brad Dowdy and his partner have officially launched the Kickstarter for their new pen/pencil/notebook case venture, Nock Co.. My friend Nick Wynja recently released his Pinboard based Read-It-Later service, Paperback… It’s nice to be in such creative company.

Of course, I released the audiobook version of my Apple Consulting Guide and launched The Unrecorded Podcast last week so I have been busy trying to keep up in the shipping department too.

That covers it for now. Have a great week.

Random Notes and Recent Thoughts #1

In a further effort to get me back to posting here more here is the first in another regular series — Random Notes and Thoughts. Some of these I may loop back around to in the future with a longer dedicated post but I need to park them for now.

  • I’ve actually been working and writing a lot since I got back from vacation. Just not here. I wrote a thousand words about the camera in the new iPhone 5S over at Minimal Mac. I wrote a forward for my friend Julio’s upcoming book. I have recorded about half of the audiobook version of my Apple Consulting Guide which I hope to complete the recording of this week. Plus a flood of client work. So yeah, I’ve been busy.

  • I’ve also been working on a lot of personal and professional development stuff. I’ve been thinking a lot about my current consulting rate, current service offerings that have become burdens or not cost effective, and potential new services I could/should be offering. I’ve been reading Value-Based Fees by Alan Weiss but I’m not quite sure if it has the answers that apply to me and what I do. Which leads to a more interesting question which is, perhaps I should be doing different things.

  • I think it is really good, especially if you work for yourself, to take a step back every once in awhile and evaluate your business top to bottom and ask the hard questions… Am I charging enough for the value I provide? Am I providing the right value to the right people? Am I in the right business in the first place? Is Starbucks hiring and do they still provide healthcare to their employees? These are all valid and worthy questions.

  • But, the fact also is that I’ve let all of that get in the way of the commitment I have made to myself (and you) here and this makes me feel bad.

  • Be happy with the things you can do. Don’t focus on the things you can’t.

  • The fanciness of your process only reveals your resistance to the dirtiness of the work. Only the work is The Work. Everything else is an excuse.

  • I don’t believe I will ever get used to not wearing a wrist watch. Mainly because when I need to know the time I never remember there is a device in my pocket that can tell me.

  • I don’t quite know what it is "the kids" are listening to these days and, on the odd occasion I hear it, I just can’t understand why anyone would listen to such crap. I always imagined I would grow up to be the "old guy"’who was "down" with "the kids". I now ready to be content with being just old and not having a clue what or why the kids listen to what they do these days.

  • I think that Blossom), played by Mayim Bialik in the 1980s hit TV show of the same name, would be an appropriate fashion role model for my daughter. This also makes me far more comfortable with allowing her to dress herself.

  • Replace every hour you will never get back with two you wish would never end.

  • Most days, I’m not sure I will ever be as satisfied by most technology as I am with a good pen and nice paper. Nor will it inspire the same feelings of possibility, expressiveness, and creativity.

  • I become enamored with ideas. This site proves that.

The Fair

Today is the first day of The Great Minnesota Get Together — The Minnesota State Fair. What is commonly known here as simply, “The Fair”. It is the largest state fair in the United States.

There are many, many, things to love about the Minnesota State Fair. But the one thing I love the most is how it unites us all. If I were to walk up to any of the 3.4 million people in the Twin Cities Metro Area and ask them what their state fair traditions are, every single one would have an answer. Everyone would have a story to tell about the fair, how this thing or that thing became the thing they always do, or about some offbeat thing they have found there that no one else seems to know. They might tell you the day they always go or where they always park, or the exact order they always plan their day, or the things they always have to see or eat. No matter, everyone has at least one state fair tradition and most people several.

I, of course, have my own. I always have to eat a Scotch Egg for breakfast at the stand near the livestock barns. I always have to get a malted milkshake at the Dairy Building. I always try to get a bucket of Sweet Martha’s Cookies which always overflow the top such that one can not put the lid on unless you eat a couple of dozen which are always best washed down with several glasses of milk from the “All The Milk You Can Drink For $1.00” truck (it used to be .50 cents).

Around this time of year, I often think to myself where else in America (or the world) one could find such a thing? An entire city or region or state united by the shared experience of something so fun, uplifting, and meaningful. Something so full of tradition that often spans generations and crosses culture, race, and gender. Our state fair is a great state fair made greatest by the love of all who frequent it.

I suspect it is rare and increasingly more so. Hence I (and many other Minnesotans) am always just a bit more thankful and proud to live here this time of year. And we are, rightfully, just a bit more proud of ourselves too. Because we can pass a stranger and know that no matter our differences there is something we likely share — we love The Fair.

I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.

It’s All Your Fault

You know those people who always seem to blame their misfortune on everyone but themselves? I know that I know them. It’s always his fault or her fault or their fault or the world’s fault. It’s even just plain bad luck or things just never seeming to go their way. It’s always someone or something else’s fault. It’s never their own. As if everything bad that happens in their life is part of some well orchestrated grand conspiracy.

And even if this is not who we generally are, we all have these singular moments. Moments where we are quick to point fingers and assign blame. Moments when, if something does not go as well as expected, it is not our fault — it’s theirs.

My first thought when I encounter such people or situations is this: Why would anyone give all of their power away so easily?

Power?

Yes. Power.

You see, if you are of the mind that everything bad that happens is someone else’s fault, or if you think that life just kind of happens to you as you are living it, then you are assigning a tremendous amount of power to them and assume no power to be able to change it yourself. If your choices and actions are always a reaction to the things that they do, then you have no agency to take action or make the independent choices that drive your life. And, I can’t imagine a life more sad than one where you believe that bad things just happen to you for no good reason. Where others are mean or things don’t go your way and you have no ability to make it stop.

But, if you see things differently and assume the responsibility for the things that happen in your life, then you also command the power to change them. Once you stop believing that them or they or the man or life are to blame, and start to look within for reasons instead, you can start about the work of making the changes needed to turn the tide.

The position of power is the ability to accept responsibility for one’s fortune — good or bad. Because only in this position does one have the power and opportunity to change or sutain it.

Realply

Tonight, I had an experience that I’m sure is common. Someone wrote me an email. I read it but did not take the time right then to reply. Later, I was out and about and happened to run into the sender. Before I even said hello, I gave him the answer I would have sent him in reply to his email. Thus, the matter is settled and now I can safely archive it without replying.

I related this to my friends on App.net and mentioned that there should be a name for this (as I’m sure it happens often). Johannes Valouch was the first to return what I feel is the best suggestion : Realply.

Therefore, consider it coined.

So, if your boss asks you if you replied to your co-workers email and, what happened was you did so in person, you can let them know that you took care of it with a realply.

Or, if someone sends you an email and you know the matter would be better discussed in person, you can say, "Hey, let me realply to that."

We could be onto something here.

The Only Everything

None of this is permanent. Not the things you own. Not the ground you walk on. Not this rock we live on or the space it travels. It will all die. So will you.

You’ve got about a hundred years, give or take. Some have more years than others.

This short period you occupy is driven by events and choices. An event happens and, in that moment, you make a choice. Some choices are easy. Others are hard. Some choices we learn from. Others we don’t. Some we must live with for years. Others are fleeting. Yet all constitute what we call our life.

Even as children it is choices that teach us and guide us. We know that some choices get us in trouble and others get us rewards. This is how we learn what is right and what is wrong. What is dangerous and what is safe. What makes us sad and what makes up happy.

You might make the same bad choices over and over again. It is your choice to do so or to change it. You might make nothing but smart choices and that is very, very, rare. Most of us fail forward. Learning from the poor choices and the smart ones so that we might make more of the later than the former as we grow.

You choose how to use each second. If you choose to use them doing something you hate or putting up with the shit people lay on you, you are wasting precious time. It is a choice. You are choosing to do so. Plain and simple.

One hundred years is nothing in the grand scheme of things but it is all you’ve got. It is the only everything you will ever know. Make the best choices you can.