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.
October 27, 2019
Today's Tea Leaves (October)
- transfigurations bubbling up from the zeitgeist -
Keeping your burn rate low
Smaller teams with dedication to an audience can make meaningful businesses if they show commitment to a market and that means staying in the game.
Slow burning startups like Notion and Super Human are taking shape more can be done with less.
Previously your career was about working your way up a ladder. That ladder was relatively steady, so it was about inching forward.
Now your career is now about having endurance through the volatility.
It's about seeing the gap in the defense and shooting it when the opportunity is right. And it's about being conservative in the interim.
Look up Ergodicity.
Low Code and Micro SAAS Growth
We're seeing a 10x reduction in cost and a 10x of speed to market for building MVP's and company infrastructure. I'm seeing this first hand as I'm doing work with Makerpad who's leading the way here.
Every company is going to be having internal conversations about automation and process efficiency.
And SAAS has fundamentally changed business infrastructure for everyone.
Two weeks ago I spoke with the Lambda Schooland was walked through their internal company infrastructure. The business has 150 employees and until recently, no developers.
The whole business is built on low code tools like Webflow and Airtable.
Last week I spoke with an Agency who dropped custom development for Webflow and spent the last 6 months shifting their customers over.
The business owner told me:
"Now it's all about Impact, Speed, Robustness, and Flare (Good Design). I turned a product around in 2 weeks for a customer, previously would have taken 2+ months"
"Living Websites" and "Multi-Player Mode:"
I've written in the past about "living websites" – the idea that the web went from static sites, to interactive sites (interacting with the brand), to "living" where you can interact with the brand and other customers.
Figma is eating the design world.
Figma is a browser (cloud) based design tool for mockups and prototypes. (ate Photoshop).
Figma launched in-document commenting for teams. (ate Invision)
Figma launched "Figma Community" which is like Dribbble except the designs you upload are open source (Ate Dribbble).
And now Figma has "Multi-Player Mode" which is essentially live, collaborative editing of design documents.
Collaborative creation is the future of social media, and creator tools.
- I just got back from the Blockstackconference in SF. Next month I'll be at the No Code Conference.
- My Talk at the Authors Who Lead Summit is available now free.
- I’m no longer using AirPods. They wore out and I don't want to get the second set.
- Ryan Hoover's new project "Stacks" is some of my favorite marketing I'm seeing right now. I'm really loving how he's approaching storytelling about this product and I think everyone has the opportunity to do something similar.
- SMS is slowly creeping into more comms with who I'm working with. I want to work with people I can text. There’s trust in texting because it means you share an imagined space together that is a sandbox to fill in. Texting feels like it's about on ongoing relationship.
October 18, 2019
Here’s a cheesy email to hit your inbox.
I really care about this newsletter community and all of the responses I get every week. Apologies if I take awhile to respond. I do read every one.
I also want to share a bit more over the next few weeks about what I’m up to and a bit more of my story. I feel like while I’ve written a lot to you (I think like 300+ posts over the last year or so) but I’ve also been sort of mysterious.
This isn’t strategic, mind you.
In fact, I’ve been hiding from sharing things I probably should just share. This isn’t a place to hold back. But maybe I’m so far on the other side of the “promote yourself online” camp that it’s also a problem?
I recently realized that you’re not giving people an opportunity when you don’t actually express yourself. After all, when someone asks “what do you do?” Often it’s to their benefit.
They want to know, so they know if you can help them out! Also sharing our story matters. Many of you have been sharing yours with me by email.
So I’ll share more personal story later.
But here’s a few things I’m up to...
- I’m now more in an advising role at Death to Stock and have shifted my role to that more akin to an investor. I’m also actively seeking other startups to advise. This year I’m hoping to write a second baby investment cheque (felt like using that spelling) in a company, and my long term vision is to continue to advise and invest in companies I feel like are doing amazing work, with me simply being there to support through time/energy/money, whatever.
- My obsession with the Crypto space is still basically in full swing, my ~3-5 year plan is to develop a deep knowledge and portfolio in the space. I love it, it’s exciting, and it’s so intellectually stimulating I have to keep boundaries on my time for when I read/develop my thinking there.
- I’ve got two different coaching programs that I’ve had amazing clients and results. The first is 1-1 coaching for creators/leaders who want to build a really strong ability for developing sustainable success in their work.
Here are some quotes from people I've spent time with:
- “With David's help I've been able to identify my sweet spot in my business”
- I've gone from being quietly protective of my work to creating and sharing in the open.”
- “when you wrote that first email inviting people into your Community program, I enrolled in that.
Then when you sent the email about adding in a group/coaching component to the Community program, I signed up for a call and then we got rolling from there… I could see that you lead from a place in which I am called to be.
If you are interested in coaching, I should have space open up in November.
Please hit reply or book a call with this link to discuss. Our first meeting is me just helping anyways and getting to know one another. It’s no pressure.
But since I love you and I want to help – Friday is now Free #ArtistTherapy.
On certain Friday’s I will open my calendar for what I’m calling #ArtistTherapy.
There are 6 spots over the next 3 weeks you can grab.
You can book time if you need help or are working through something, and there are a few per week.
I’ll be there to non-judgmentally help you raise the bar and figure out what’s best for you (I don’t give advice, I listen and provide the right space for you to solve things on your own). It’s sorta like the teach a person to fish type thing…
If you can invest in the 1-1 coaching, I highly recommend that though.
It’s 12 weeks of dedicated 1-1 time in a structured program. We go deep, and it’s a place for those looking for that type of commitment to growth.
If the 1-1 is out of your price range then you can book time on Friday for #ArtistTherapy.
Anyways, I'm not asking for favors. I know you're not either. Timing is an interesting thing. And when your'e ready the right people show up to help.
October 15, 2019
I’m quick to assist in other people’s journeys, it’s a natural inclination for me, I think since I was a kid.
When someone calls me with a problem or wants to vent, I’m happy to be a sounding board. And I pretty much always respond with some type of optimism for their situation. This could be a fault, but mostly it feels good so I don’t mind the blindspot this potentially could create.
But there is a second blindspot I’ve only just realized.
When you’re always the person who’s rooting for other people, who’s there to support and provide optimism…
It’s easy to miss that other people are happily interested in being that, for you.
It’s only just occurred to me that there may be other people out there who are actively happy to assist me in getting where I’d like to go.
How selfish, to not see this. I suppose it relates to your identity, if you see yourself as the helper, you don’t always realize that others can do the helping.
But this is a good realization to have.
How nice is it that you, too, have support.