My own reflections on this past year has revealed many voices that inspired me in some way shape or form. I think that far to often we read an insightful blog post, a thought provoking “tweet” on Twitter, or great comment in a forum thread, and don’t give it the proper due or take into account the lessons learned. These little transformations help to shape us.
That being said, here are some of the voices that inspired me in no particular order:
Jared Goralnick – I just love this guy. He is an incredibly giving person who lives life in a way other people only dream of. So many of the things I have read on his blog have made an impression on me. Most recently, his post on information overload helped to relieve me of the guilt of several unfinished books.
Clay Collins – Once again, a young man a really respect and admire. Someone who is living life according to his own rules and trying to inspire others to do the same.
Jane Quigley – I have to admit to a bit of an internet crush on Jane as part of a little mutual admiration society we seem to have fallen into. She has been incredibly supportive to me and my family through small but very meaningful deeds, actions and regular check-in’s. A truly compassionate person. Not to mention, whenever I want to know what is hot in the social networking space, I see what she is up to because she is always ahead of the game.
Merlin Mann – This should come as no surprise to regular readers here. That being said, this year his voice spoke to me even more so than before (and I know I am not alone). Mainly because, as one of the leading voices in the realm of personal productivity, he had the courage to stand up and call out the entire personal productivity movement that had descended into nothing but list posts and click through fodder. Most importantly, he inspired me to try to, especially with my own site, try to be just a little bit better.
John Gruber – Gosh, where do I even begin? First of all, no one writes about the Apple ecosystem with more honesty, depth and skill. You may not always agree with him but you have to respect him. Even when he decides to write about something like the movie E.T. it is like he jumped inside my id and expressed my ideas better than I could ever dream of. Also, I don’t think any of my web work would even exist without Markdown.
Rands – When I dream of what I wish this blog was like, in writing and content and style, my aspiration is Rands in Repose. There is not a single post that has not inspired me in some way or simply caused me to take a moment to think in a new and exciting way I had not done so before.
Brett Kelly – This year, Brett made the brave move of handing over the fairly popular Cranking Widgets blog to Andy Parkinson (see below). Brett has since been posting regularly to his own blog site and some mighty fine writing to be found with lots of other fun random content. Thanks to Brett for your example shows me how to admit when I am no longer giving something my full attention and move on without guilt and gracefully.
Andy Parkinson – Has taken the reigns of the Cranking Widgets blog, admirably filling the shoes of Brett Kelly. Andy, out of the gate, has shown an interest in taking the conversation of personal productivity to a new level. He has also been incredibly warm, open, and generous to me. It has been a pleasure getting to know him and I know he has great things in store for all of us in the coming year.
I know I am likely missing many I will later regret after I publish this post (this is what updates are for so perhaps you may want to check back again later)


At the end of the year, it is only natural to look back on the year that was in reflection of the hopes and goals one has for the year to come. For me, these reflections often begin to coalesce around a central word or theme. For me, this year, that theme is the idea of value.
Therefore, I would like to start this off by proposing a revolutionary idea. One that I am sure will take some explaining and, hopefully, spur some honest thought…
Money has no value.
I think if this year had any lesson to teach it is this one. I am not just talking about the current economic crisis, although that will help to support my proposition. Increasingly when I think about the things I value and the things that have true value in this world, money is not one of them. As an example, lets take a look at the problem our nation (and by extension our planet) finds itself in.
A big reason our economy is in the current shambles it is in is due to the seize up and collapse of a little something called the Commercial Paper Market. Here is how Wikipedia explains what this is:

“In the global money market, commercial paper is an unsecured promissory note with a fixed maturity of one to 270 days. Commercial Paper is a money-market security issued (sold) by large banks and corporations to get money to meet short term debt obligations (for example, payroll), and is only backed by an issuing bank or corporation’s promise to pay the face amount on the maturity date specified on the note. Since it is not backed by collateral, only firms with excellent credit ratings from a recognized rating agency will be able to sell their commercial paper at a reasonable price.”
Let me break this down for you. Our entire intra-business economy in this country is not based on money, it is based on promises and trust. It is based on the trading of that trust. Lose that trust and the market collapses. This is, albeit a simplistic explanation for the purposes of my example, largely why the whole system collapsed – the companies and banks playing this little game of Monopoly lost trust in each other. Trust has value. Money does not.
Here is another example. I know someone who lost a parent fairly recently. This parent left behind a large home that was well maintained and paid for and a large trust fund that would reasonably keep them financially comfortable for the rest of their lives. We are talking about a fair amount of money here. Lets just say that, even in this economy, that person could call themselves a millionaire and be more than correct.
I know this person well and know that they would give it all back for a single moment longer with their loved one. They would do this without hesitation or thought. Time has value. Money does not.
It is one of the reasons you will never see advertisements here or any of the online ventures I choose to be involved in. I have no real interest in money for it’s own sake. It does not motivate or drive me. It is effectively worthless to me other than as a means to an (often unfortunate) end.
Where I am going with all of this is to try to remember, as we reflect back on the year that was, what truly has value in our lives. I would posit that if your principle motivation for anything – your career, your blog, etc. – is money, you will often find the value of those activities lacking. Be not concerned with the money that you gained or lost. Instead, be concerned with the time you had, the experiences and people that filled it, and the lessons and trust you built by using it effectively. And then, resolve to increase the value of that time and trust in the year to come.

My Manifesto: Travel Light

Travel as light as possible. Carry only what you need to have.
I have always struggled with packing way too much. I have been getting better about it over the years. I try to be really conscious of how much stuff I carry around on a daily basis and, even on the smallest of levels, look at ways to reduce it. As an example, in my last post regarding my Circa system note flow, my main goal was to reduce the size of the notebook I carried with me. To me, even 40 less pages of paper matter. I do this with the keys on my keychain. Any key I don’t absolutely need on a daily basis gets taken off and hung up on a rack by the door at home. I don’t even have a fob on the keychain, it is just a ring.
That being said, the main area I have had the most struggle in has been when packing for travel. Perhaps it is because of this I am absolutely fascinated by articles, posts and resources that talk about how to pack lightly and travel well.
I have tried y hard at geting better at this over the years. I have slowly done better. Mainly because I often pack and then take a look at how much crap I am about to drag around the globe and then unpack a lot of it. I go through each item and seriously question it’s need. Even doing this I still felt like I could reduce a lot of weight and bag size if I just was savvy enough.
I recently became newly obsessed with light travel due to these two posts:
* How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (Plus: How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses)
* How does a geek plan for 3 weeks in 4 countries with a small bag & a laptop?
These really set a fire under me. I therefore decided to really give the methods laid out therein a serious go. I had a trip to Cancun coming up. I was going for 5 days and 4 nights and was determined to go as light as possible. Here is what I brought:
* 3 Button Down Short Sleeve Shirts. All are light, easily hand washable and quick drying.
* 2 Pairs of Travelsmith Anywhere Pants. Once again, light, cool, quick dry.
* 2 Pairs LL Bean Supplex Cargo Shorts. Light, quick dry, can also double as swim trunks.
* 2 Pairs Ex Officio Boxer Briefs. Light, quick dry.
* 1 Marmot Ion Windshirt. For rain and wind protection.
* 1 Pair Teva Hurricane II Sandals.
* 1 Kiva Keychain Duffle. If needed for a day bag or souvenirs.
I also packed a travel clothesline designed for pin free hanging as my plan was to hand wash things so that I could take less items with me. For instance, one pair of underwear would be drying overnight and I would still have a pair dry and ready to go.
The result? It worked out very, very well. So well, in fact, that I am loathe to travel any other way from now on. The feeling I now get at the thought of even one extra thing being added to my bag is not simply one of question but one of sheer dread. This is largely because I have seen how very possible it is to do without and the feeling of being able to pack for a week in what amounts to an normal overnight bag is an extremely freeing one.
I have a trip to San Francisco for Macworld coming up in January. My plan: Take away the shorts and sandals and add a light fleece and shoes (which I will be wearing) to the list above. Otherwise, I am not changing a thing.


AwayFind is a new web based service that allows one to set up professional email auto responses and signatures. On the surface, the purpose is to allow you to set appropriate expectations for those that send you email and allow those with an urgent need to get in touch with you right away. It is a very elegantly executed service that provides just the right balance between method and message. I can’t say enough good things about the web site itself. It is elegantly designed and a joy to use.

Now, AwayFind could be just another web service. They could just give you the basic free service and gladly take your subscription money when you are ready to upgrade to the pro level to get more features. But, it seems, founder Jared Goralnick is not interested in solely doing that. This is made apparent by the very front page of the AwayFind web site:

Awayfind is not just a web tool, it’s a blueprint for escaping email, with a handbook and a community to ensure your success.

What Jared really wants to do is to change the way you approach the idea of email. He provides that message, and the corresponding short lessons, at almost every opportunity on the site. As you navigate around, there are videos to watch, tutorials to guide you and a fantastic PDF handbook to download. All with one purpose in mind, to educate and encourage you to do the following:

  • Batch process your email once or twice a day.
  • Clear your Inbox by processing everything.
  • Turn off notifications.
  • Let people know your intention while providing a route to get time sensitive and urgent messages to you.

It soon becomes clear that AwayFind is first about education and, also, happens to have a service that, if you would like, can help you facilitate the goal in mind.

What I find most interesting is that, with this message front and center and the lessons provided, there is nothing that would prevent one from simply setting up an auto response on their own that provides the same opportunity. Heck, I have even written here before about doing this very thing myself at a previous employer. Having spoken with Jared, if that ends up being your takeaway from AwayFind, he will have achieved his main goal. It may seem a little altruistic on Jared’s part but that is because it is. His main goal is to set out to try to solve a problem that is a growing concern to us all. If it is a bit of LaMancha-esqu windmill battling then so be it. If one persons life if made a little bit easier, their time a bit more free, due to the lesson taught and, secondly, the service provided, he is fine with that.

There is a certain level of compassion I see in all of this. It is a unique and special thing. That alone will cause me to use AwayFind versus my own DIY solution. I urge you, gentle reader, to have a look and consider doing the same.

My Manifesto: Speak the truth.

The courage to speak your own truth will free others and allow them to do the same
The truth is hard. It can sometimes be hurtful to those we wish not to hurt. More often than not it exposes and highlights things we rather be left in dark corners. There are many who would rather not hear it and would seek to knock you down rather than have you speak it. Speaking truth, in the face of any consequence, takes courage beyond belief.
Sometimes even simple truths about ourselves are hard to face. Even more so when we admit them to others.
Yet we must. We must because it is the only way to be free. When we speak the truths who’s very revelation bind us in fear, not only do we free ourselves of the burden, we engage and encourage others to have the courage to come out of the shadows and say…
“Me too”.