Author's Posts

It’s easy to be unhappy: to complain, be negative, feel self-pity. So easy in fact, it can creep in without warning. It can seep in, unnoticed like a leaky pipe can damage a house drip by drip.

I don’t know if there’s any way to prevent it, but seeking to mitigate unhappiness is a good place to start. You begin by working on discovering the drip before the damage is too vast.

The good news is that while happiness is much harder to attain, we need to remember that the only things that are ever worth doing are difficult to start and to maintain.

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I’ve come to accept that the greater number of people required to give their go ahead on a project, the more mediocre it gets. And not just in a linear fashion but exponentially worse. That’s because each person who approves makes the project more acceptable to themselves and the next person in the approval cue:

 “I don’t like the colour yellow and I know she doesn’t like purple so stick with what we have now.”

No one in the sequence ever aims to make the project better for the end user. Just, share an opinion and pass on the project to the next person in the queue.

What to seek instead

There are two things to find instead of approval. The first is guidance. It’s about making it better by helping you reframe and rethink. Consent and advice may sound like two sides of the same coin, but they couldn’t be more different. One is about handing over control to the next person, they other is about honest ownership. The best advice often comes from someone with no stakes in the project.


The second thing to seek out instead of approvals, especially if guidance is not available, is forgiveness. Ship your project and if the reasoning is well-founded, it will be a lot easier to justify postmortem.

What blocks us from either option isn’t a lack of resources or time. It’s fear. We are afraid that whatever the outcome is, it rests on our shoulders. Whether you seek a mentor or choose to take permission, the project’s success and failure are yours.

That’s where the real difference lies – neither option is about handing over the project. 

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How many mistakes and shortfalls a user will tolerate varies widely on your business and the clients themselves.

Large enterprise software has a higher margin of error because once the customer is invested it’s hard to leave and move on.

The same goes for products that leverage networks – like Facebook. Because all my contacts are there, it’s hard to pack up and leave.

Not impossible of course, but difficult.

Compare that to the small local food delivery app with limited network effects. On small delivery error can cost you a customer for life. Same goes for a commodity product like detergent.

The trick then is knowing what you’re aiming for and optimizing for that. If you want to leverage a network, seek to build it before anything else. If you’re a commodity, your priority is to reduce error.

WARNING: it’s easier today to overthrow enterprise software and commodities than ever. So your margin of error might not be as significant as you think.

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From time to time, the commuter train I take to get to work is delayed and gets pretty crowded, making it hard to write.

That was the case when I wrote this. So I shared this post:

Continue reading Mass transit

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On January 1st, I decided to start journaling. I missed a few days here and there but I write most nights.

Going over the first three months worth of entries, I noticed just how lucky I was. I have an incredible life. To paraphrase Gary Vaynerchuk, you might be able to equal me on happiness, but you can’t be happier than me.

I would recommend journaling to everyone. It’s an amazing way to deal with stress and sleep better by helping you take note of how trivial and made up life’s challenges are and learn to be grateful for what you have.

It takes me 5 minutes a day on average. By far one of the best investments in myself.

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Being unprepared can both be frightening and liberating. It’s scary because there are no rules and no guides. When you’ve been conditioned (by school and work) to achieve targets and listen to directives, the lack thereof is unsettling.

How will we know if we’re right or wrong? How will we know if we’re off track? How will we know if it’s worth doing?

What’s interesting though is, that’s why being unprepared can be liberating. It allows us to do work that that isn’t stifled or limited. It gives the opportunity to be noticed. When you’re unprepared, you aren’t seeking to please or do what’s always been done.

Of course, what you choose to do might not work. So how will we know if we’re right or wrong? How will we know if we’re off track? How will we know if it’s worth doing?

Those are the wrong questions.

So how do we know when to prepare or not? What’s worth trying is having a thesis that guides your actions. Prepare some behaviors that could help you achieve a goal, but approach each task unprepared.

(This post was completely unprepared, but it still helps me achieve what I’m looking for – notice more things.)

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If starting a project is the hardest part, restarting is not far behind. When a project first starts, success is largely dependent on if it can gain momentum and inertia.

In theory, an object (and a project) that achieves inertia will never stop because there is no friction to slow it down. In reality, however, there is always resistance. There’s always a wall, a force (a meeting, a boss, a teacher, a critic) that will cause a project to stop and derail.

So it’s dangerous to assume that once you get going things will go smoothly. It’s that type of thinking that will cause you to be less resilient when friction derails the whole thing.

Better accept up front that your project will go through waves of inertia and friction. So when you do hit a wall, it won’t entirely derail you. It will just take all the energy in the world to get it rolling again.

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Seth Godin often says that the only business or freelancer that stands the chance is the one who is remarkable.

Q: How do you know if you’re remarkable?
A: When you choose not to hide behind contract terms or unanswered emails; when you decide not to ignore the client once they’ve paid, or act like the buck stops with you.

When you’re exceptional, you don’t hesitate to be part of the community, to put yourself out there, to publish your thoughts, to be the frontman. It doesn’t mean there won’t be criticism or naysayers (quite the opposite in fact), but it does mean you won’t be deterred.

When you choose to hide no longer, it means you’ve decided to be remarkable.

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Starting is tough. A plane burns most of its fuel when taking off. Similarly, a car uses more gas in the city than in the highway because of all the stop-and-go from stop signs and red lights.

Getting the ball rolling is harder than to keep it running. That’s why starting a new project is difficult. Just as hard is picking up a paused project. I’ve started writing on weekdays again and Monday morning is much harder than Friday morning.

Starting is key. Most shy away from the pain of beginning something new, so the first big differentiator is to start.

The second key differentiator is to keep the inertia going when roadblocks happen.

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Selling is the process of converting a prospects world view to yours. If you sell digital marketing, your goal is for your prospect to accept they need digital marketing. If you sell printer paper, your goal is for your prospects to agree that they need printer paper. If you sell image recognition and person detection, your goal is for your prospect to recognize that they need image recognition and person detection.

There are two ways to achieve this. Continue reading The consultant’s sale

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