December 9, 2019
Nature Wants Art
What is culture if not art?
We think we live in a serious world. And no doubt there are plenty of things to be serious about.
But look around you. Clothing has become fashion. Writing has become poetry. Food has become Art. All things converge to going beyond function.
Nature then, wants art.
Products have labels with beautiful drawings we call logos.
Kids are drawing on tablets and singing to friends. At the bars people are dancing.
Don’t discount playfulness. Despite how you try you can’t hold back the blooming of art and expression beyond pure function.
But the world doesn’t ask you to participate. It keeps on moving. So you might as well enjoy it. Might as well sew in the tapestry.
Might as well identify meaning and share it.
Might as well graduate from seeing it all as simply function.
November 19, 2019
What is "Making it?"
There is no finish line.
Throughout your life, time moves at varying speeds. When it’s hectic it all moves fast. Like life is piling on complexity and you’re buried. You remember that there is spaciousness somewhere out there but time is unrelenting in its march forward.
So if you don’t catch up you can’t catch your breath, and things just keep piling on.
But as I said, there are no finish lines. Except maybe Death. And that might not be one either...
Instead of finish lines, there are rhythms.
So you never really cross anything off, you don't arrive anywhere.
You get a book deal? Well, that’s just the beginning.
Launch a product? That's just the start?
Sell a company? What's next?
To believe in finish lines is to chase a ghost.
It’s a firefly that lights up but goes dark right when you catch it.
Rhythms, though, are ever-present.
Cycles are always occurring. And if you can pay attention to them you can see your life as a journey. You can look at yourself from afar, and recognize where you're at. Not to get to a resolution, but to get to the next leg of the journey.
So you’re not finishing and starting so much as you’re transitioning.
You're letting go, you're understanding, you're growing. Just like age, the fixed numbers are made up.
Then life moves slower, and that's a good thing. You let go, and change happens all at once. You get more of what you want with less effort. This is the irony of cycles.
Not only can change come out of nowhere, but things can happen all at once. Years of slow growth, and a week of everything all at once. Just as you think you’re totally stuck, a new step-change occurs.
But often that takes action...
There is no such thing as time.
Think back, and remember something, maybe a day or a moment from high school.
Now, remember something that happened yesterday.
To your mind, and in that recall, is there any difference? Both appear in your mind equally fast, whether it’s 18 years ago or 8 days. So everything in the past is equidistant.
And the future, that’s the same.
Time is a process.
And, if we're lucky it's a process towards well-being.
What does it take to "Make It?"
As long as you're growing towards well-being, you're "Making it."
As Marcus Aurelius says,
“Well-Being is luck.”
Consider yourself lucky.
November 18, 2019
Monday Coffee (Nov 18)
Hey all – it's been awhile since I've done a ☕ Monday Coffee.
This is where we sort of catch up and I share a bit more about what's new with me.
Feel free to share whatever is on your mind in return. I want to share more about the everyday work I'm doing with founders and brands as well as some latest stuff with (DTS) so I'll see if I can weave that in here and in my A$A letters. Anything you want to share? Any questions on your mind? Shoot.
Last week I was at the No Code Conference put on by Webflow in SF. I've been working with the Makerpad Team and so this was a chance to get together in person
"What is the deal with "No Code"?"
"No Code" refers to the series of applications that allow non-technical people or non-programmers the ability to create websites and applications.
Programming computers has continued to get democratized, meaning that more and more people are able to do it with less technical skill – thanks to new abstractions from root level programming.
At every step, we're making it easier to program computers to work for us.
It went from punch cards, to the command line, to languages like HTML, to site builders (Squarespace, Wordpress) and now there is a giant flood of applications making it even easier to create, Webflow being one of them.
This is, I believe, a 10x-100x improvement and is going to lead to more opportunities for more people to build and launch products.
29.5, the Emotional Flu
I don't know what it is, but it seems like the transition for Men (women, do you feel this too?) from age 29 to 30 brings up a ton of change.
The more guys I talk to, the more I see this as a recurring pattern. Many guys will say this was the year that things fell apart, or changed, or where things really got started for them. There's even an interesting astrological thing about this if you're into that, called Saturn Return and probably some other mythological stories with this narrative.
All I know is I'm 29.5 and suddenly I'm getting really emotional and a lot feels like it's changing. I welcome all growth, and I'm curious to see what's around the bend. I've been writing less but I'm learning more, which is interesting because usually the two run in parallel. Hopefully I'll try and capture more of this in writing as I know many people might have similar feelings.
What are your thoughts about major transitions like this from one decade to the next?
Do you feel the same way about going from 2010's to 2020's ?
"How Do you Make a Brand that Stands Out?"
I'm writing more at my Brand/Community/Tech focused newsletter here:
In a recent post I wrote a big list of obvious (once you see it) edges that brands use to stand out.
Examples from that list:
Engage Overlooked Senses
- Pop Rocks
Beef up security
- Stainless Steel or an OtterBox Case
Make it Sensual
- Magnum Ice Cream
Revive an Old Format
- Vinyl Resurgence
Treat Customers like Owners
Treat customers like shit
Read 40+ Other Brand Edges.
Telegram Reading List
I'm still looking for the best place to allow readers to "subscribe" to the articles I'm reading around the web. That way if you're looking for something to read you can see everything I've been reading in the last week to pull from in case that's interesting to you.
Right now I'm using Telegram https://t.me/artxattention
You can subscribe to that list and you'll see notes every so often with links. Is there a better place to share a stream of links? Lmk.
Quote I'm Digging:
“Well-being is Good Luck”
- Marcus Aurelius
I've never thought about Luck that way but I find this quote to be incredibly deep.
My call times for 🍵#ArtistTherapy were fully booked up, and it's been great to meet so many of you all. I'll do another one or two of these before the New Year.
As a reminder, now is the best time to start to think about sending out cards, or planning.
Be well and be lucky,
November 11, 2019
Learn Now, Teach Later
If you pay attention, every pain and difficulty is material for helping someone else.
When you struggle as an artist, you face challenges that no doubt others face. It could be in work, relationships, or the eventual ups and downs of life.
But this makes you a helpful guide. You can speak to a specific feeling, and when you express it through your work it can connect deeper; through story, painting, film…
And the audience feels it and wonders how you encapsulated that fleeting feeling of being human.
But of course, that feeling they have is not just them. And the feeling you are having is not just you. It’s that of many others, here, there, across time, across borders.
An Artist pays attention so they can speak up. And they work on their craft so they can translate the feeling.
Learning now, to teach later.
November 4, 2019
Ask Yourself This Question When Things Change
You can think of your career as a series of chapters.
Each one, growing who you are. Each page with new lessons, new ideas, and new questions.
In the early chapters, you were just getting started. No doubt there was a struggle, especially in trying to find your place. Then, at some point, there were some highs. You found success. Most often this was an outward success that you only realized upon achieving was less significant than you thought it would be.
After all, there is still a lot ahead of you.
And that success was based on the ideas of somebody else.
But you keep moving…
Looking back, you see dots connect. You realize that every transition was important. That every season mattered. There was the time you were stuck, and the time you were firing on all cylinders, not sure how you would make your deadlines and commitments but somehow you made it through, and it sucked but it was a blast.
You miss it?
And then there’s the confusion, the long stretches of work not done. There are lots of false starts. Lots of fake commitments, when you start projects but don’t truly have the spark to get you through it. So you feel like you’re going nowhere. This is when I go on lots of walks or read lots of books. But not much is getting made.
If we’re lucky we float here from having some support. If we give in, we give in to our vices.
Until we can’t take it and then seasons of change are upon us again. Sometimes it’s all at once. We move cities, change jobs, and suddenly we’re different.
The past is in the rearview mirror, and we settle into something new. We’re here now. And the past is just a memory, no closer or farther away than any other point in our history or our future.
All of this is normal.
All of this is part of your learning where you’re at in your journey.
At each chapter, all we have to do is ask ourselves,
“What is that that I’m meant to learn next?”
That learning could take a year, a month, a week, 10 years…
Each leg of the journey has a purpose, and each transition is because we picked up what we needed from the last one.
Some people try and hold on. They don’t want the page to turn.
But life does not work that way.
You can hold on, but it’s only hurting yourself. You try and keep it together, but eventually, you’ll be forced to change.
So you might as well learn to sit back and allow things to happen and play out as they are meant to.
Know that you’ve been in a transitional season before and you’re going to be in it again.
Learn to recognize that although change hurts, it’s a good thing.
The goal of life is to go through many changes as possible, to get to as many new chapters and new pages as you can before the script runs out and we’re kicked out of our bodies back to somewhere else.
Things will change. Things have changed.
I’ll be in a different line of business.
I’ll have a different focus, my writing will change topics.
People will see me as something, and then I’ll be in flux and they won’t know what to say.
At parties, they’ll say “yeah, I don’t know quite what he’s up to now.”
And then later they will be sending me introductions of people I should meet because they think I have the skill to help them.
But even if things change, and you change, you’re still here.
When you’ve accepted your role in the plot you don’t leave. Your work still reflects who you are. And who you are, underneath, was set a long time ago.
It’s a long journey and I’m just trying to listen and watch the plot, same as you.
And at each chapter, ask; what my next role? Who am I to be?
What is it that I’m meant to learn, now?
And as long as you do that, you’ll be just fine.
November 1, 2019
The Best Brands are Like Fight Club
Authenticity and Trust are the bedrock of branding today.
But too many brands do what's expedient. Call it the pressure, to maximize profit at the expense of its people, customers or the environment.
The opportunity today is for artists and brand builders to be a source of hope and a cause for the future. And it's going to be about free speech. That's right, this is the most important issue of our time.
So spirit of any great brand today is raw, based on free speech and expression.
It’s a vibe that people gravitate to and think, “Oh, this is different.”
Not different because it's out of left field or odd, but different because they treat you like a human.
Different because they are comfortable expressing themselves and they welcome others who are interested in joining in on the conversation.
Different because they don't have a hidden agenda. There's truth at its core. Make no mistake, share your voice and you'll get pushback. Even if you're a kid. Can you say, Greta?
Because this era is about those who have something to say and those who are trying to keep them from saying it. Why are we so afraid of that? Oh sure, there's nuance, and some lines that can't be crossed. But today we've got no one to trust. We feel everyone has a second shoe to drop or a hidden agenda. Trust in institutions is declining, and our politicians, on all sides, seem to be only putting on a front. They say one thing and do another. And it's making us feel like we've got no one to believe in.
Today keeping your word is a type of revelation.
I'm talking about getting back to the old forms of Honor - where you mean what you say and you do right by people.
You make mistakes and you own it. No one is perfect and we're not asking you to be. But when you put on airs of a certain persona and then compromise that because of cash or cultural pressures, we simply lose faith.
So what can a brand be?
Artists, brands... they can be someone to believe in. Someone to trust, and someone to connect us together in a culture that’s divided.
And the best brands are hiding in plain sight.
Customers give each other the “nod" because they know. You see someone with a sticker, or a logo, or a book on the train...
It's like Fight Club.
This is early Apple. This is Porsche, and Patagonia.
These brands are built by artists who had something to say.
They were radical, and rejected by the status quo. Until the people believed in them and it became a tribe.
And they made change from the inside, through capitalism. Building influence and making a dent.
But at the beginning it was pure. It was Art Before it was Business.
And it was Grand Vision before it was a Business Plan.
And when the brand got off the ground the right people could feel it.
There's an energy about it. And only those who can pick up on the vibe were attracted.
The message spread...And suddenly the business has legs. But it didn’t cave, instead it it leveraged the growth to continue to build gravity for their mission.
That's for a greater empowerment of the team and for the customers.
This is the signal you put out to attract more of the tribe.
It creates infrastructure, which is then set up to support those within the organization or it's customers to have tools and support to also express themselves.
You buy the product and you customize it. You use the product and identify with it. You develop your own voice using the new tools.
Like Apple, which put a creator studio in everyone's pocket.
So each of us has the opportunity to start sewing the seeds of community and culture regardless of race, location, orientation or anything else that might be silenced.
We're interconnected globally now.
Politicians will try and divide us. They'll try and say that this or that country is bad and we're the good guys. But I'm no longer a citizen of any country. I'm a human. And the people reading this newsletter are in countries and cities and towns all across the world. And what your politics or religion are is OK with me as long as you're a contributor to the positive and supportive communities around you, this being one of them.
So we'll be hiding in plain sight, too.
The news will be all disaster and disconnection all of the time.
But beneath the fray will be people like us, connected through simple things like this newsletter.
We'll be talking through the cans and string, hiding out, sharing, connecting, supporting each other.
And it's up to us to be brave enough to connect, instead of give in to the distrust.
To give each other the digital “nod.”
It's up to Brands and Artists to speak truth to power, encouraging others to do the same.
And the secret that those in power don't want you to know is that there's enough of us out there to make a difference.
October 29, 2019
How I read and what I'm reading
I read books like I read blogs.
I’ve got about ~7 in the mix right now. Instead of surfing the web I jump around chapters.
I still alternate between physical and digital.
I keep books out in piles around my apartment – put in certain places as a reminder – setting the context that I’ll read them in. For example the Dali Lama book I keep by my bed but "The Mom Test" I keep on my work desk.
I fire up kindle when I'm out of the house, typically while I walk or ride transit, and I read through snippets of unfinished books.
I no longer highlight or underline in books, as A Mind For Numberstaught me that this was just me actually avoiding really absorbing what I was reading. Better to take notes, either in a margin or separately.
As for buying, I never hesitate for physical books. But if I plan to read it on Kindle, I read the trials, as this gives you the first few chapters and see if I should purchase the full text.
As for Digital – I exclusively use Pocketto save and organize what I read for later. Pocket's best feature is the audio option, so I listen to most of what I save from around the web.
Right now I share what I'm reading in a Telegram channel https://t.me/artxattention but I sort of wish there was somewhere better. Then again these channels are starting to take off relatively well. A CC reader reached out because he's got an app called Readup which I'm testing out, and could have a similar function.
For Shared Language and Shared Purpose, here are some blog posts I've read lately:
- Documenting and storing your own personal library of information, The PARA method
- Some Global tech perspectives from Ben Thompson The China Cultural Clash
- A nice bit on pretending to put your articles live, from Five Writing Tips
- Fluidity of Creator Roles, Welcome to the Big Flat Now
As always, if it feels right hit reply and share anything that comes to mind,
October 27, 2019
Personal Brand Heuristics
A brand isn't a destination. It's a continuing process that evolves over time. So you've never made it, and you're always nurturing it forward. Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you keep pushing to a new space for yourself.
Own Your Edge
What's your edge? This is what your unique advantage is, be it by skill or interest. How is it different to those in your network?
How can you lean into your edge, letting it be fully seen, working yourself into places where this edge is rewarded?
Most people want to hide.
Picture this: You’re sitting in a circle with a team that’s planning a big conference. Someone comes in the door and says, “Bad news, the keynote speaker just dropped out, I have no idea what we’re going to do.”
Everyone shrinks back, not wanting to be seen.
The tension of the moment is about responsibility.
Suddenly, someone speaks up:
“Alright, everyone else stick to the plan you already have for the event, I’ve got this. I’ll book us a speaker by next week.”
Think about the gravity shift of credibility that occurs after that for that person.
When you take responsibilty, you are helping remove it from someone elses shoulders, and it’s almost always the case that this person is up the chain from where you are in terms of power within an organization or community.
The only way to accrue new opportunities is to take on new responsibilities.
And almost everyone is always trying to give up responsibility and have someone else there to support and step up.
Responsibility + edge is a formula by which creates a whirlpool like gravity pull towards a person.
Everything is made up and malleable.
Those that express their edge and take responsibilty create the paradigms by which other people live and work.
It’s all about playing the long game.
It takes time to develop your edge. Mostly from lack of clarity of just what that is.
But if you stop looking, you’ll never be in a position to take new responsibility, and you’ll burn out or stay stagnant. This will happen slowly but the benefits compound, so time is your friend.
This commitment means staying in the game long enough to reap the rewards, and own your abilities.
It takes a ton of courage to own your edge. You have to be self aware. You have to lean into something that you fear, because you think to yourself… “What if people don’t like me? What if people think I don’t fit in? What if they kick me out and I get rejected?”
And this might be true for your existing circle, but in a global setting there are always others who will certainly be grateful that you owned responsibility and shared your unique edge.
The world is full of leaders, full of potential.
Organizations are great vehicles for creating the structure that maximizes this potential.
A Brand is built over time.
Learning your edge.
Having the courage to share it.
Seeing new responsibility.
Having courage to take it.
Playing the long game.
And doing it over and over and over again.