- Instapaper 4: Deciding to Read
- Scared Shitless
- Nerdiest Interview Ever: MPU Workflows Part II
- Video: John Roderick on String Art Owls, Copper Pipe, and Bono's Boss
- "Back to Work" - Merlin's New Thing with Dan Benjamin at 5by5.tv
- No One Needs Permission to Be Awesome
- Resolved: Stop Blaming the Pancake
- A Sandwich, A Wallet, and Elizabeth Taylor's Cousin
- Video: "Broken Meetings (and how you'll fix them)"
- “Distraction,” Simplicity, and Running Toward Shitstorms
- My Faith in Nerds: Stronger Than Any Gelatinous Cube
- Watching the Corners: On Future-Proofing Your Passion
- Video: Merlin's Time & Attention Talk (Improvised Rutgers Edition)
INTRODUCING INSTAPAPER 4.0 FOR IPAD AND IPHONE The lede here is that my pal, Marco, has just released the stellar new 4.0 version of his Instapaper suite. This is fantastic news, and-as if you needed one more of Marco's beta testers to say so-I do sincerely hope you'll mark the occasion (and support his hard work) by purchasing the Instapaper iOS app(s). I promise you'll be treating yourself to a massive update to an already excellent product. Now, it's fortunate and appropriate that you'll be hearing this advice at length from a lot of people this week. Because, if it's not already obvious, Marco's little app (and its associated services) enjoys a rabid fanbase of sundry paragraph cultists who are as eager as I am to spread the word; and, yes, we do want you to join the Reading Nerd cult. But, I also want to mark the occasion by adding a few thoughts on exactly what Instapaper has done, and continues to do, for me. (As you may already know, I'm a big Marco fan.) Thing is, I want to tell you how Marco has made a magical machine for people who have _decided_ to read. ------------------------- LONG-TIME FAN For years, Instapaper has been one of the best made, most used, and most beloved apps in my iOS ecosystem. It's always lived on my iPhone's home page, and, as you can surmise, that's because I use Instapaper a lot. Like, _a lot_ a lot. Specifically, I use Instapaper a lot because it helps me do four things extremely well. Four things that work together to make my life a little better. In that typically annoying mixed order I can't seem to stop doing, here goes. 2. DECIDING WHEN TO READ _Second_, and most obviously, I use Instapaper maybe five to ten times a day to catch up on my reading. Which is great. This is what Instapaper is actually _for_, right? You read stuff. Long articles, smaller features, short books, big piles of documentation, and really just anything that I would like to read…later. More saliently, these are things that I have _decided_ to read. This decision part's important, but more on that in a couple minutes. But, how does all this "stuff" I've decided to read _get in_ to Instapaper? 1. DECIDING WHAT TO READ See, this is the really important _first_ part. Because as much as I use Instapaper for all manner of reading, its use as an ephemeral destination for mostly ephemeral content wouldn't be nearly so useful if I didn't have so many ways to collect all that stuff. So, that flexibility in collecting material is where I end up using some form of Instapaper dozens of times each day. Examples? I have a bookmarklet for adding items to Instapaper in 4 browsers on 7 devices. I have (and use the hell out of) the "Send to Instapaper" services that are built in to everything from Google Reader to Reeder to Flipboard to Instacast to Tweetbot to Zite to you name it. I can automate in or out of Instapaper with If This Then That, I can email items directly to Instapaper-hell, I can even just copy a URL from iOS Safari, and paste it directly into the motherscratching Instapaper app. Suffice it to say, there are _many_ ways to get "stuff" into Instapaper. E.g.: But, that banner dump only tells part of the story. Yes, a big part of this is about ubiquity and ease-of-use. But, the practical result is that all those little entrees to Instapaper are available to me everywhere I might need them, and they each represent a single little click that silently adds an item of "stuff" to my Instapaper pile. Each button is one more simple opportunity for me to _decide_ to read. 3. DECIDING WHERE TO READ Now, the third part of this magic is less immediately obvious, not least because the reading experience of the Instapaper iOS apps is, for my own purposes, _perfect_. But, there's more. Because, all that support for getting stuff _into_ Instapaper is mirrored by an endless number of ways to get stuff back out. To, in fact, _read_. That thing I _decided_ to read is now EVERYWHERE. However I ended up _deciding_ to read something, seconds after that *CLICK*, the real magic starts happening, and-through whatever inscrutable black art and transmogrification is happening inside the fearsome celestial engine Marco has made-that _decision_ to read is expressed in the most elegant of results and in a startlingly broad variety of convenient places. It's readable on a website; it's readable on an iPhone, and 2 iPads; it's readable on a Kindle 3; it's readable on the crazy number of apps and services that display Instapaper items. _And_, it's even preserved for posterity in my private Pinboard archive. So, for practical purposes, this stuff that I've _decided_ to read can now go whooshing through a network of customized tubes, and gently land practically anywhere that well-formed bits may reside. 4. JUST…DECIDING TO READ I know most of you _know_ these things. I know you're familiar with the many "Features and Benefits" of Instapaper. And, I even know that most of you reading this are probably already using Instapaper-perhaps even to read this very article. So, the point here is not simply that Instapaper is flexible, idiot-proof, and sanity-savingly redundant. Although it is all those things and many more. The point is that my life always gets better when I _decide_ to read things-and then actually read those things I _decided_ to read. This is not a trivial point. We're all busy, and we're all bombarded with 10,000 potential calls on our attention every day. Some days, we handle that better than others. Some days, we don't handle it all. All I know, is that, throughout my life, _deciding_ to read has made that life better. It made my life better at 7 with _Henry Huggins_. It made my life better at 16 with _Slaughterhouse-Five_. It made my life better at 20 with _Absalom, Absalom!_. And, it made my life way better at 25 with _A Confederacy of Dunces_ (cf.). And, now, for the past few years-following over a decade during which I read way more
hreftags than actual prose paragraphs-my life has gotten better, in part, due to Instapaper. I've finally gotten my hands around this "too much stuff" issue, at least insofar as it relates to words of theoretical interest. Now, I know _where it goes_. It goes into Instapaper. Because, now? Yeah. Twenty-some years after a college career sucking down over 1,000 pages a week, I am _finally_ returning to reading a lot more. Because, I am _deciding_ to read a lot more. Instapaper means there's no excuse for _not_ reading a lot more. Period. How about you? WHAT ARE YOU DECIDING? When you're in line at the ATM or the professional sporting event, what do you do? If you're like a lot of people, you hit your mobile device like a pigeon on a goddamned pellet. Then, you _decide_ what happens. You can decide to throw birds at pigs. You can decide to check in on which strangers are pretending to like you today. You may even decide to see what you would look like if you were really fat. Thing is, you could also _decide_ to read. Just for a couple minutes. Maybe more. Maybe less. Who knows. It's your decision. A NUDGE TOWARDS "BETTER" But, if you have followed the circuitous skeins of yarn comprising this little sweater you've been reading, it comes down to this: If you've _decided_ that you want to read, Marco's app will really help you. He's removed any phony barriers you've built about "not having time" or "not having it with you" or "not knowing where to put it." There are no excuses, apart from the superficial animated ones you've constructed out of cartoon birds. As for me? In the last week alone, I decided to read _a lot_ of things in Instapaper. A small sampling: I decided to read about an American family's educational experiment in Russia. I decided to read about what Heidegger means by _Being-in-the-World_. I decided to read about why toasters are so bad. I decided to read about responsive web design. I decided to read about why Charlie Kaufman wrote _Being John Malkovich_. I decided to read about how Open Data could make San Francisco Public Transportation better. I decided to read about how John Siracusa remembers Steve Jobs. I _decided_, and then I read. I read, and _I read_. ------------------------- So, thanks, Marco. You've made my life better by making it easier to decide to read. Then, you made it _way_ easier to do the actual reading. And, to you-the kind readers-of-prose-paragraphs who were inexplicably patient enough to _decide_ to read this long article-please consider supporting Marco's work. Please get an account at Instapaper and, if you have an iOS dingus, please do buy the Instapaper app. In addition to having exquisite taste in app icons and a lovely speaking voice, Marco's just a very good human. And, good humans more than deserve our support. ------------------------- Buy INSTAPAPER 4.0 by Marco Arment.
”INSTAPAPER 4: DECIDING TO READ” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on October 17, 2011. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
1. Nothing wrecks your living room decor quite like a giant, rented hospital bed. The one my Dad laid in for a couple months in the fall of 1974 was an alarmingly stiff and sturdy affair, the frame of which was forged of impossibly heavy iron, with half a dozen jaggy coats of putty-flesh latex paint doing a shit job of concealing the dings and dents kissed by dozens of clutches of burly rental guys trying to navigate unaccommodating residential doors. Jammed cattywampus between a teddy-bear brown sectional, an antiqued rococo credenza, and what had until recently been my Fathers favorite armchair, the hospital bed left little room for easy socializing, let alone aesthetic speculation. This was a living room where a very ill person would mostly die soon. The hospital beds defining feature was the theoretical ease with which the human trunk slumped in its top half could be raised or lowered by turning a shitty little crank at the foot of its lower half. Like the bed itself, the shitty little crank was ugly and obtrusive and hard to live with. Mom and I tripped over the crank a lot. The theoretically useful but ultimately shitty little crank made the hospital bed look like those old-timey cars wed see in the bad silent movies they showed down at Shakeys Pizza. Mom and Dad _despised_ the saltines-and-ketchup style of pizza served at Shakeys. To them, LaRosas over on Cheviot had way better pizza plus a pretty good jukebox. But, I _really_ liked Shakeys. They gave away cool styrofoam boater hats with a red paper band that said, "Shakeys Pizza Parlor." Which I thought looked smashing. So, they used to take me to Shakeys. In practice, the hospital beds shitty little crank functioned mostly as a recalcitrant and pinch-inducing mechanism for eroding my fathers dignity. Dad would lay in the hospital bed that filled our living room while my Mom slowly cranked. Hed try to make jokes. (Dad had always been the funniest person any of his friends knew.) The hospital bed creaked. Mom cranked. Dads tired upper half would haltingly rise and bob with reluctant help from the beds upper half. Mom sweated at the crank. Dad laid there and watched. Dad couldnt help. He watched. He was in the hospital bed. Mom did all the cranking. Dad watched. He watched while his wife turned a shitty little iron crank, trying impotently to make her best friend just a tiny bit more comfortable as his body worked to finally finish eating itself. But, he couldnt help out. I think he wanted to help out. But, he couldnt help out. She couldnt really help my Dad. My Dad couldnt really help her. But they sure tried. She cranked and cranked. I was seven. I didnt know how to help anyone. 2. The last time I saw my Dad, he was in a different hospital bed. That one was a much more functional and aesthetically appropriate unit neatly fitted into an overlit semi-private room in the highly-regarded Jewish Hospital located on E. Galbraith Road. We werent Jewish. We were just sick. Frankly, I forget what the crank on the second hospital bed looked like, but I seem to recall that it worked just fine. This was maybe a week before my Dad died. From what I can gather, he and my Mom had wanted to time things so that I could be with him as long and as late as possible--but not so late that Id have to see him in the kind of condition I have to assume he was in during the full week he was too ill for his boy to visit him. Pretty bad condition, Im guessing. In the almost forty years since Dads last week in any hospital bed, my Mom and I havent talked much about it. If there are things to say about that week, Im not sure even forty years is long enough to prep for them. I know Im still not ready. I should ask my Mom if shes ready. She was forty then. Just under half her life ago. What I do know is my Mom lived by that second hospital bed most every minute of Dads last week. Just like shed been by the first hospital bed in her living room for the months before. Only now _she_ was the one sleeping on the wrong bed. There are limits to the physical comforts you can offer a woman whos determined to stay by her husbands second hospital bed until its time. But she _was_ there that whole time. Up to the last time my sweet Dad ever said anything to anyone. As he laid in that second hospital bed, Im told that the last thing my Dad said to anyone was something he said to my Mom. He told my Mom:
Take care of The Big Guy.That was me. I was "The Big Guy." My Dad always called me "Big Guy," and I always loved when he said that. It made me feel strong. It made me feel tall. It made me know that my Dad and I were best pals. I still love knowing I was my Dads best pal. 3. I dont specifically remember the day our particular clutch of burly rental guys came out to remove the first hospital bed from our living room. I do remember thinking it was weird how quickly the space filled with huge floral arrangements, covered dishes and casseroles, and a pack of outdoorsy men with giant red hands who were new to sobbing inconsolably in front of each other. But, that hospital bed had been heavy. Really heavy. And even though the beds wheels had been thoughtfully nested in plastic casters, the raw tonnage of the iron motherfucker left permanent dents in our ugly, broccoli-green carpeting. Six breadplate-sized dents that were still there a year and a half later on the day my Mom and I moved out. We didnt need a house that big for just the two of us. Plus, the living room wasnt much fun to hang out in any more. Way too big. Way too big. 4. I dont currently have a hospital bed. I have a modest but very comfortable regular bed in a regular bedroom where I sleep with my regular wife. Shes my favorite part of the bed. To my knowledge, our modest but very comfortable bed is not fitted with a shitty little crank. Which is nice for everyone. And, every single morning at almost exactly 6:00 AM Pacific Time, my three-year-old daughter wakes up, jumps out of her crank-free, regular, big-girl bed, tears out of her regular bedroom, and--even before she gets her hot milk or takes off her pull-up or tells us to turn on _Toy Story 2_--she dashes into our regular bedroom, runs up to our regular non-hospital bed, and screams, "DAD-DY! DAD-DY! DAD-DY!" until I wake up and say, "Gmornin, Sweet Bug! Did you have nice sleeps?" Sometimes she tells me whether or not she had nice sleeps. Often as not lately, she tells me to make her hot milk and turn on _Toy Story 2_. Both of which Im totally fine with. Thing is, she screams "DAD-DY!" like the most impossibly great thing in the world has just happened. Every single morning. Right by my bed. Without a crank in sight. And, you know what? Something impossibly great _has_ happened. Because an annoying, rambling, disagreeable little man like me gets to have this alarm clock in piggy-patterned footie jammies run up to a regular, crank-less, healthy-Dad, non-hospital bed and make him feel like hes _The Greatest Thing in the Universe_. Just like I think shes The Greatest Thing in the Universe. Just like I thought _my_ Dad was The Greatest Thing in the Universe. And, although Im confident that I will _always_ think my daughter is The Greatest Thing in the Universe, Im also all too aware that this feeling will not always be reciprocated in quite that same way or with quite that same enthusiasm that we both enjoy right now. She wont always run to my bed in footie jammies. Ill only get that particularly noisy and personalized wake-up call for a little while. And, I only get a shot at it once a day. At almost exactly 6:00 AM Pacific Time. Then one day? I wont get it any more. It will be gone. 5. Many mornings over the past six months or so, at almost exactly 6:00 AM Pacific Time, I was not in my regular bed. I was not even at home. I was sitting in another building, typing bullshit that I hoped would please my book editor. Who, by the way, is _awesome_. And, if I noticed what time it was, Id always wonder whether my daughter had run into our bedroom yet. Id wonder whether she had seen my side of the bed empty again. And, when I thought about my empty spot on the bed and how disappointed shed be to scream "DAD-DY! DAD-DY! DAD-DY!" then see Im not even there, Id die a little. Id die a little, because as I thought about her, Id think about _my_ Dad. And as I thought about my Dad, Id start thinking about hospital beds with cranks--then on to dents, and covered dishes, and rooms full of sobbing outdoorsy guys, and so on. But, by then it might be 6:10 am Pacific Time. And I didnt have time to think about my family. Not now, right? No, I had to keep working. I had to stay in that other building and keep typing bullshit that I hoped would please my editor. Who is awesome. So, Id type and type. Id crank and crank. Id try and try. Id want _very much_ to go home, make hot milk, and watch _Toy Story 2_. So much, Id want this. 6. Anyhow, this has been my on-and-off job for the past two years. I type. And, I try to type things that will help and comfort people, but mostly I try to type things that will please my editor. Who is awesome. Sometimes I do my job at 6:00 AM Pacific Time. Sometimes I do my job at 5:30 PM or 11:30 AM or really any time in between. Sometimes I do my job while my family goes to birthday parties and holiday dinners and a couple vacations and I dont even know how many (non-Shakeys) pizza nights--all without me. _Without Dad._ In fact, a depressing amount of the time--really up until this week--I would do my job until I hadnt the slightest idea what time it was or what bullshit I was typing or what my crank was ever meant to be attached to in the first place. But, even when my shitty little crank was not attached to anything, I did keep cranking. Because, Dads do their job. Its what they _do_. They crank. They crank and crank and crank and crank. Sometimes the cranking made something special that will be really useful to people who badly need the comfort and help. But, a staggering amount of the time, my cranking has produced joyless and unemotional bullshit that couldnt comfort, help, or _please_ anyone. Especially my editor. Who is awesome. Theres no point in doing anything if it doesnt eventually please my editor. Who is awesome. This has _constantly_ hung over my head. For two fucking years. But, this has been my job. Its a job I often did late. Its a job I often did poorly. And, its a job where I often didnt pull my load or live up to even my own expectations and standards. Which is far from my editors fault. Shes been awesome. 7. Anyhow, Ive tried to do my job. But, Ive often failed. Ive sometimes failed to make things that will help and comfort people. And, God knows Ive failed to please my editor. And, worst of all, more often than my heart can bear at 2:34 pm Pacific Time on Friday April 22nd, I know Ive failed to be home for several of my daily shot at "DAD-DY! DAD-DY! DAD-DY!" Its now become unavoidably clear to me that Ive been doing each of these things poorly. The job, the making, the pleasing, and, yeah, the being at home. And I cant live with that for another day. So, Ive chosen which one has to go. At least in the way its worked to date. Which is to say _not_ working. Ill let you guess which. Because, _that_? That choosing? Thats what my book needs to be about. Not about pleasing people. Not about cranking on bullshit. Not about abandoning your priorities to write about priorities. My book needs to be about choosing a hard thing and then living with it. Because its _your thing_. But, that parts gone missing for just a little too long now. Certainly not missing from my handsome and very practical rhetoric--its been missing from my actual life and _living_. In a quest to make something that has increasingly not felt like my own, Ive unintentionally ignored my own counsel to never let your hard work fuck up the good things. Including those regular people. Including, ironically, the real work. Including any good thing the crank is supposed to be attached to. So, Im done fucking that up. Im done cranking. And, Im ready to make a change. Im not sure precisely what that change will look like, but, at the risk of invoking Godwins Law, I have a pretty good idea that this particular performance of "Edelweiss" youre enjoying right now may immediately be followed by a dramatic chase, a hopeful escape attempt, and only if Im extremely lucky, maybe an eventual stride over the Alps. As Ill explain in a minute, it most likely means I dont have My Book Contract any more. Who knows? Well have to see. 8. All I know is tonights Friday. And, thats Daddy-Daughter Night. And, my book agent says my editor (who is awesome) will probably cancel My Book Contract if I dont send her _something_ that pleases her…today. Now. By tonight. Theoretically, I guess...uh..._this_. See: my agent very helpfully suggested I send my editor a chapter full of "email stuff." My editor _really_ likes "email stuff." And, it was theorized by my agent that sending this "email stuff" might please my book editor just enough that she might not cancel My Book Contract. For now. Well. If youve made it this far, you, like my editor (who is awesome), will have realized that this is not a chapter of "email stuff." Its a very long, wooly, histrionic, _messy_ and uncomfortable story about hospital beds, piggy jammies, and styrofoam hats. I seriously doubt it will please my editor. Who is awesome. So, no, I really hope she doesnt cancel My Book Contract. But, it does occur to me that said contract is the last and only thing my publisher has to intimidate me into doing things I dont want to do. Things I think will harm my book, my integrity, and my life. Once that threat is made good, the game ends. They can sue me and yell and stuff. Which would suck, but at least no one would be demanding my book have fucking pussy willows on the cover. Which, as I sit here, feels more and more unbearable to me. In any case, I dont control anything that anyone does. It took a long time for me to really get that. Its such a funny thing. Threats--like hurricanes and rectal exams--are only scary until they arrive. Once theyre over, theyre just the basis for funny stories. But, you do nearly always survive them. And, if you didnt survive? It wasnt because of a lack of fear. Like I say, the universe doesnt particularly care whether youre scared. Oh, well. I like my editor. Shes awesome. I hope she doesnt cancel My Book Contract. I hope we keep working together. But if it goes away today, tomorrow or further on? Well. As a favorite novelist of mine used to say: "_So it goes._" Ill figure this out tomorrow. Or Monday. Or later. Tonight is Daddy-Daughter Night. And, no fucking way am I missing two in a row. 9. Now, as far as My Goddamned Book? Truthfully? Wanna hear the _really_ complicated part? This is not me quitting the book. No fucking way. This is me doubling down on the book--on _my_ book. I will finish _my_ book very soon. Not because of (or in spite of) any contract, and not because of (or in spite of) any editor, and certainly not because of (or in spite of) any tacit demand for empty cranking. I will finish _my_ book because _I_ want to finish it. Because it is very, very important to _me_ to finish it. But, again, lets be clear-- what I finish will be _my book_. And, it will be done _my way_. And, yes--you Back to Work fans knew this one was coming--my book will have _my_ cover that _I_ choose. It will not have fucking pussy willows or desert islands or third-rate kerning. It will be, to quote my editor (who is awesome), "_messy_." My book will help and comfort the people that _I_ want to reach. And, yes, much like my editor, my book will be _awesome_. I truly hope _my_ book pleases her. 10. So, there you have it. An article thats clearly not a chapter of "email stuff." Me? Im off to prep for "Daddy-Daughter Night." And, tomorrow morning, unlike last Saturday morning and countless other days before it, at the crack of 6:00 am Pacific Time, I will be available in my regular crankless bed to ask my daughter whether she had nice sleeps. And I will tell her and my regular wife that I think theyre the Greatest Things in the Universe. And, maybe after I make hot milk and watch Woody worry about cowboy camp, I may even think to myself about how proud my funny Dad would be of his pal, The Big Guy. For doing what needed to be done. To be someone specials Dad for as often and as long as he can. Just like he did. Even when it gets hard. Even when it gets really hard.
-- 30 --------------------------- _Thanks for listening, nerds. Youll hear more when I hear more._
”CRANKING” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on April 22, 2011. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
MERLIN MANN - "SCARED SHITLESS: HOW I (MOSTLY) LEARNED TO LOVE BEING AFRAID OF PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING" DOWNLOAD MP4 VIDEO OF "SCARED SHITLESS" This is the video of a talk I did last month at Webstock in Wellington, New Zealand. Its pretty different from a lot of stuff Ive done. Its about being scared. ------------------------- As I mentioned on Back to Work, Webstock is—what? Well. Webstock is unique. Truly. If you get the chance, you should go. Really. I could not and WOULD NOT have done _this talk_ in _this way_ had I had not been so inspired (and, frankly, so terrified) by the awesomeness of the other speakers, by the quality of their talks, and by the astounding graciousness and empathy of the audience that this particular event attracts. Tash and Mike and their crackerjack team have made something really special here. Im honored that they even invited me, and Im insanely grateful for the care and hospitality that they showed to the speakers _and_ to the attendees at every step of the way. Seriously. Thank you. ------------------------- So, yeah. I did something really weird at Webstock. Weird for me and, honestly, just plain weird for "a talk." Im not sure if it succeeded. But, I did the best I could to make myself (along with some _really_ heroic friends and fellow speakers) into a legitimate guinea pig for a concept that means the world to me: YOU _CAN_ BE SCARED AND STILL DO IT ANYWAY. REGARDLESS OF WHATEVER _IT_ IS. And, you can. No. Really. You. _YOU_ can do this. You can run toward the shitstorm, let it _cover you_ with shit, but, still never let it stop you from running. Because, like Crazy Bob says:
”SCARED SHITLESS” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on March 28, 2011. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
MPU 046: Workflows with Merlin Mann II « Mac Power Users * Download MP3 * Huffduff It -------------------------
I have the life that I have because Ive made a lot of weird decisions, and theyve worked out well.------------------------- Not gonna lie to you. Im a _huge_ nerd. Surprised? Yep. I can recite big chunks of _The Big Lebowski_ from memory. I can argue for an hour on the merits of Dick York over Dick Sargent. And, I can—and frequently do—catch myself thinking Catwoman, Batgirl, Princess Leia, and Emma Peel should have a light-hearted pillow fight that ends with an hour of genial french-kissing. Pretty much like you, probably. I dunno, maybe your version includes Kitty Pryde. Po-tay-to/Po-taht-o, right? Perhaps most saliently, by virtue of having spent a solid 2,399 days as a Fake Productivity Guru, I have been provided with an unquestionably Janusian monkeys paw of a gift; I now know a _lot_ about workflows. Nerdy, nerdy workflows. I can tell you a few things that almost always work, I can tell you a handful of things that almost never work, and—best or worst of all—I can tell you thousands of things that _might_ work. Sometimes. Maybe. Kinda. For some people. For now. And, at the risk of gay-marrying my arrogance to my hypocrisy, I can tell you that I also know enough about the unholy diarrhea of potential options for Theoretical Productivity to share two big patterns: * Getting your workflow right _matters_. * Getting your workflow right to the exclusion of the actual work is a fools game. But. Managing to get the most useful and most elegant and least _fiddly_ mix of 1 and 2 right is super-hard. Especially for nerds. Especially for me. ------------------------- So, as I type this today, I believe there can be no greater testament to these claims—or, at least, no greater place to test the veracity of these claims for yourself—than in this TWO AND A HALF HOUR-long interview for Mac Power Users. It is _reeeeeeeeally_ nerdy. Almost intolerably nerdy. Just…overwhelmingly nerdy. But, man, is it ever _really_ good, and really fat with the most insanely granular details of How I Work. Lo, even these 928.5 days after officially retiring from productivity pr0n, my desire to not "vend stroke material for your joyless addiction to puns about procrastination and systems for generating more taxonomically satisfying meta-work" is tempered by a (widely under-reported) practical streak. Yes: I continue to despise empty advice about rearranging deck chairs on _The Titanic_. But, yes: I do also still very much enjoy talking about how all the tips and tricks _can_ or _cant_ work in the context of work you care about. That _matters_. It really does. ------------------------- So. Here goes. A one hundred and forty six minute-long, Joyce-ian amble through the Big Stuff and the Little Stuff. David and Katie were _very_ patient. How I name text files. Why I break iOS apps. Why I love the letter "x." Why I wont row out to islands any more. How a 115,000 word book manuscript is "like a house full of confederate money." How "The Cloud" broke in New Zealand. How I use MultiMarkdown, Scrivener, TextExpander, OmniFocus, TextMate, Notational Velocity, Dropbox, and an explosive combination of Elements, Notesy, Nebulous, Simplenote, CF Outliner, iThoughts, Instacast, Good Reader, and wow wow _wow_. How I try not to fiddle—how I sometimes succeed and often dont. But, how I _try_. Anyhow. There you go. A perfectly nerdy bookend to last years first Magnum Opus MPU interview on these same topics, Mac Power Users Episode 46 is just insanely nerdy. And, what have you. I hope you like it. I hope its useful. I hope you dont use it to replace real work. And, as ever, I really hope Batgirl starts having more sexy pillow fights. _Enjoy_. And, God save you. ------------------------- MPU 046: Workflows with Merlin Mann II « Mac Power Users * Download MP3 * Huffduff It
”NERDIEST INTERVIEW EVER: MPU WORKFLOWS PART II” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on March 27, 2011. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
So, yeah. Ill be speaking at Webstock pretty soon. Which is _insanely_ intimidating. I think I may have my topic.
”FEAR” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on February 05, 2011. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
jump to video] Long story (not very) short? One night in 2003--after _killing it_ in front of audience of about 30 lucky people in Oakland--The Long Winters needed a place to crash, and my wife and I were happy to oblige. So, they drove their Big Stinky Blue Van over the bridge, slept on our floor, and by breakfast the next morning, itd become clear to me that Id provided lodging to a man who was not only _very_ likely a member of my karass--he was also one of the smartest bullshit artists Id ever met. Almost eight years later, although I dont see him nearly as much as Id like, I still count the guy as one of my best pals ever. Thats John Roderick. And, I think you need to know about him. John doesnt read this site--hes more of a Twitter person--so I dont risk feeding his astounding excess of dignity by saying hes one of the most gifted writers and _bon vivants_ of our generation. Hes just the best. In large part because hes congenitally incapable of suffering bullshit. This was never more apparent than the Saturday morning in 2007 when we sat in my back yard and talked about a lot of stuff. Playing guitar, advertising on the web, the evil work of promoters, and why _everyone_ is always trying to shortchange _everyone_ on copper pipe. That talking became a four-part interview I ran on the late and occasionally lamented _The Merlin Show_, and, to this day, its one of my favorite things Ive been lucky enough to post to the web. So, yknow how _Im_ definitely "not for everyone?" Well, John is _really_ "not for everyone." Hes opinionated and arrogant and undiplomatic and unironically loves Judas Priest--meaning everyone will find at least one thing not to like about him. Despite being hairy and enjoying laying on your bed, John is not exactly a teddy bear. But, Johns also right a lot. And, he _never_ sands off the edges of his personality or opinions to make you theoretically "like" him. Which, it will come as no surprise to you, is a big reason I love the guy more than a free prime rib dinner. So, why the jizzfest about that awful jerk, John Roderick? Because, as I noted the other day on the Twitter, in our first episode of _Back to Work_ I misattributed a line that should have been credited to John. Which in itself is unimportant, except inasmuch as finding that link to correct the error got me watching our 50-some minutes of chatting again. I also received some at-responses and emails that reminded me how much people enjoyed our chat. But, really it made me realize how much that rambling morning in my back yard _still_ resonates so much with stuff I care a lot about. Independence. Agency. Directness. And, never apologizing for wanting to get paid. Also, guitars and talkative hippies. So, anyway. John. I edited all four parts of the video into one big (streamable/downloadable) movie that should make it way easier to watch at a sitting. Should that interest you. Which it may not. Which, as ever, is totally fine, and kind of the point. But. If you like Dan and my new show (and, seriously—God bless you magnificent bastards who helped briefly make B2W the most popular podcast in the world [gulp]), I think youll really like this interview a lot too. I hope so, anyway. Thus, submitted for your disapproval, permit me to present my four-year-old visit with the acerbic, opinionated, and reportedly unlikeable bullshit artist whom I respect and adore more than just about anybody. Meet Hotrod. * Vimeo Page * Direct Download Link (589 mb, requires login)
”VIDEO: JOHN RODERICK ON STRING ART OWLS, COPPER PIPE, AND BONOS BOSS” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on January 21, 2011. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
[UPDATE 2011-01-18 @ 16:07:40: Were up!] 5BY5 LIVE Before Christ was a corporal, Dan Benjamin was already a bit of a hero to me. Since the early aughts-long before his insanely great 5by5.tv podcast network-Dan's Hivelogic Enkoder was saving us millions of spam messages. His thoughtful tutorials on OS X (including unmissable advice on doing sane installs of MySQL and Rails, among others) are among the best on the web. His CSS has been widely stolen and reused without acknowledgment by thieves as diverse as other people and me. And his polymath posts on everything from Buddhism to The Paleo Diet to how to record a "Double-ender" have shown a charming combination of curiosity and empathy that, amongst numerous other reasons, clearly makes Dan a better human than me. A propos of nothing, Dan's also the guy who conducted one of (mp3) the three best interviews with me in which it's been my good fortune to participate.1 Today, I'm honored to say that Dan and I are starting a thing together. If it suits you, drop by 5by5.tv/live in about 35 minutes-at Noon Eastern/9am Pacific-to find out what we're up to. I think it might be good. I'll just say I'm as excited about this as I've been about any new project I've started in the past year or so. Anyway. You can judge for yourself. Whether you can tolerate me or otherwise, definitely do _not_ miss the work Dan's doing at 5by5. Because it really is outstanding and very polished stuff. As for our thing? My own goal, to paraphrase a bit from that interview with Dan, is to help you get excited, get better-and then?-_BACK TO WORK_. More soon. Thanks.
------------------------- * FAVORITE INTERVIEWS. Just for the sake of completion, my all-time favorite interview was conducted by Colin Marshall for _The Marketplace of Ideas_ (mp3); Dan's "The Pipeline" eppy with me was a close second; and David and Katie's recent nerderrific interview on my Mac workflow (mp3) on Mac Power Users has turned out to be a lot of peoples' favorite thing I've done in years (love _LOVE_ David's stuff). ↩------------------------- AND...WERE UP BACK TO WORK | EP.#1: ALLIGATOR IN THE BATHROOM DOWNLOAD MP3 OF "BACK TO WORK, EP. 1"
In the inaugural episode of Back to Work, Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discuss why they’re doing this show, getting back to work instead of buying berets, the lizard brain, and compare the Shadow of the Mouse to San Francisco, and eventually get to some practical tips for removing friction.Its a start. Sexy Audio RSS Feed Sexy Subscription via iTunes Episode Links * Welcome to BrettTerpstra.com, home of Brett Terpstra and his nerdery * carlhuda/janus - GitHub * practically efficient — technology, workflows, life * MacSparky - Blog * The Brooks Review * And now it’s all this * Dan Rodney's List of Mac OS X Keyboard Shortcuts & Keystrokes * 43f Podcast: John Gruber & Merlin Mann's Blogging Panel at SxSW | 43 Folders * waffle software · ThisService * One Thing Well * html2text: THE ASCIINATOR (aka html2txt) * The Conversation #27: Missionless Statements - 5by5
”"BACK TO WORK" - MERLINS NEW THING WITH DAN BENJAMIN AT 5BY5.TV” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on January 18, 2011. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford Commencement Address
No one wants to die, even people who want to go to Heaven dont want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be. Because death is very likely the single best invention of life. Its lifes change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new. […] Your time is limited, so dont waste it living someone elses life. Dont be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other peoples thinking. Dont let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.None of us should ever have to face death to accept the inflexible and, too-often, _novel_ sense of scarcity that it introduces. In fact, itd be great if we could each skip needing outside permission to be awesome by not waiting until the universe starts tapping its watch. A simple start would involve each of us learning to care just a little more about a handful of things that simply _arent allowed_ to leave with us--whether today, tomorrow, or whenever. Because, I really believe a lot of nice things would start to happen if we also stopped waiting to care. A whole lot of nice things. If that sounds like fancy incense for hippies and children, perhaps in a way that seems frankly un-doable for someone as practical and important and immortal as yourself, then _go face death_. Go get cancer. Or, go get crushed by a horse Or, go get hit by a van. Or, go get separated from everything you ever loved forever. Then, wonder no longer whether caring about the modest bit of time you have here is only for fancy people and the terminally-ill. Because, the sooner you care, the better youll make. The better youll do. And the better youll _live_. Please dont wait. The universe wont.
”NO ONE NEEDS PERMISSION TO BE AWESOME” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on January 17, 2011. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
In a classic bit from an early _Seinfeld_, Jerry and Elaine are at the airport, trying to pick up the rental car that Jerry had reserved. As usual, things go poorly and get awkward fast: _SEINFELD_ - "RESERVATIONS"
JERRY: I dont understand...I made a reservation. Do you have my reservation? AGENT: Yes, we do. Unfortunately, we ran out of cars. JERRY: But, the reservation keeps the car _HERE_. Thats why you _have_ the reservation. AGENT: I _KNOW_ why we have reservations. JERRY: I dont think you do. If you did, Id have a car. See, you know how to _take_ the reservation--you just dont know how to _HOLD_ the reservation. And, thats really the most important part of the reservation..._THE HOLDING_. Anybody can just TAKE them. [grabs chaotically at air]And, how weirdly similar is that to our conflicted relationship with _New Years resolutions_? In _Seinfeldspeak_?
See, you know how to _MAKE_ the resolution, you just dont know how to _KEEP_ the resolution. And, thats really the most important part of the resolution..._the keeping_. Anybody can just MAKE them!Oversimplified? Probably. But, ask yourself. Why _this_? And, why _now_? Or, why _again_? WELCOME TO RESOLVERS ANONYMOUS: IM MERLIN M. A few years ago, I shared a handful of stories on the failures that have led to my own cynicism about the usefulness of life-inverting resolutions. Because, yeah, Ive historically been a _big_ resolver. Heres what I said when I first suggested favoring "Fresh Starts and Modest Changes" over reinventions: DOWNLOAD MP3 OF "FRESH STARTS & MODEST CHANGES" Five years on, I think I probably feel even more strongly about this. Partly because Ive watched and read and heard the cyclical lamentations of folks who decided to use superficial totems (like new calendars) as an _ad hoc_ coach and prime mover. And, partly because, in my capacity as a makebelieve productivity expert, I continue to see how self-defeating it is to pretend that past can ever be less than prologue--that we can each ignore yesterdays weather if we really wish hard enough for a sun-drenched day at the beach. It simply doesnt work. Companies that think theyll be Google for buying bagels. Writers who think theyll get published if they order a new pen. Obese people who think theyll become marathon runners if they pick up some new running shoes. And, regular old people with good hearts who continue to confuse new lives with new clothes. Has this worked before? Can you look back on a proud legacy of successful New Years resolutions that would suggest youre making serious progress by repeatedly making a list about fundamental life changes while slamming prosecco and wearing a pointy paper hat? My bet is that most people who are seeing the kind of change and growth and improvement that sticks tend to avoid these sorts of dramatic, geometric attempts to leap blindly toward the mountain of perfection. Ill go further and say that the repeated compulsion to resolve and resolve and resolve is actually a terrific marker that youre not really ready to change _anything_ in a grownup and sustainable way. You probably just want another magic wand. Otherwise youd already be doing the things youve resolved to do. Youd already be living those changes. And, youd already be seeing _actual_ improvements rather than repeatedly making lists of all the ways you hope your annual hajj to the self-improvement genie will fix you. Then, of course, we make things way worse by blaming everything on our pancakes. REGARDING "THE FIRST PANCAKE PROBLEM" Anyone whos ever made Americas favorite round and flat breakfast food is familiar with the phenomenon of _The First Pancake_. No matter how good a cook you are, and no matter how hard you try, the first pancake of the batch _always_ sucks. It comes out burnt or undercooked or weirdly shaped or just oddly inedible and aesthetically displeasing. Just ask your kids. At least compared to your normal pancake--and definitely compared to the far superior second and subsequent pancakes that make the cut and get promoted to the pile destined for the breakfast table--the first ones always a disaster. Ill leave it to the physicists and foodies in the gallery to develop a unified field theory on exactly why our pancake problem crops up with such unerring dependability. But I will share an orthogonal theory: you will be a _way_ happier and more successful cook if you just accept that your first pancake is and always will be a universally flukey mess. But, that shouldnt mean you never make another pancake. SO LOUD. THEN, _SO_ QUIET. I offer all of this because today is January 7th, gang. And, for the past week, all over the web, legions of well-intentioned and seemingly strong-willed humans have been declaring their resolved intention to make this a year of more and better metaphorical pancakes. And, like clockwork--usually around today or maybe tomorrow--a huge cohort of those cooks will begin to abandon their resolve and go back to thinking _all_ their pancakes have to suck. Just because that first one failed. And, as is the case every year, online and off, there wont be nearly as many breathless updates to properly bookend how poorly our annual ritual of aspirational change has fared. Which is instructive. Not because new years resolutions are a universally bad idea. And, not because Change is Bad. And, not because we should be embarrassed about occasionally falling short of our own (frequently unreasonable) aspirations. I suspect we tout the resolution, but whisper the failure because we blame the cook. Or, worse, fingers point toward the pancake. Instead of just admitting that the resolution itself was simply unrealistic or fundamentally foreign. And, thats a shame. REMEMBER, THERES NO "I" IN "UNREASONABLE" Granted, Im merely re-repeating a point Ive struggled to make (to both others _and_ myself) for years now. But, it will bear repeating every January in perpetuity. Resist the urge to pin the fate of things you really care about to anything thats not truly _yourself_. The "yourself" who has a real life with complicated demands. The "yourself" whos going to face a hard slog trying to fold a new life out of a fresh calendar. Calendars are just paper and staples. They cant make you care. And they cant help you spin around like Diana Prince, and instantly turn into Wonder Woman. Especially, if youre not _already_ a hot and magical Amazon princess. First, be reasonable. Dont set yourself up for failure by demanding things that youve never come close to achieving before. I realize this is antithetical to most self-improvement bullshit, but thats exactly the point. If you were already a viking, you wouldnt need to build a big boat. Start with where you are right now. Not with where you wish youd been. Also, accept that the first pancake will _always_ suck. Hell, if youve never picked up a spatula before, be cool with the fact that your _first hundred_ pancakes might suck. This is, as Ive said, _huge_. Failure is the sound of beginning to suck a little less. And, finally, also be clear about the sanity of the motivations underlying your expectations--step back to observe whats truly broken, derive a picture of incremental success that seems do-able, and _really resolve_ to do whatever you can realistically _do_ to actually get better. Rather than "something something I suddenly become all different." At this point, you have logistical options for both execution _and_ troubleshooting: * Make a modest plan that you can envision actually doing without upending your real life; * Build more sturdy scaffolding for sticking with whatever plan youve chosen; * Make a practice of learning to not mind the duds--including those messed-up first pancakes; * Or--seriously?--just accept that you never really cared that much about making breakfast in the first place. Care is not optional. Otherwise, really, youd never need to _resolve_ to do ANYTHING. Youd already just be cooking a lot. Instead of being all mad and depressed about not cooking. But, please. All I really ask of you. _Dont blame the pancake_. Its not really the pancakes fault. Like me, the pancake just wants you to be happy. This and every other new year. -------------------------
”RESOLVED: STOP BLAMING THE PANCAKE” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on January 07, 2011. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
_Being a Parable for the Edification of Independents Seeking Independence_ THE PARABLE THE OSTENSIBLE CUSTOMER enters a deli and saunters up to the counter. The deli is tended by its rakishly handsome owner, THE SANDWICH GUY. "Hi," says The Sandwich Guy. "What looks good to you today?" "Slow down," says The Ostensible Customer, as THE LUNCH RUSH starts trickling in. "_Lots_ of delis want my business, so, first I need to really understand what you can do for me." "Well," says The Sandwich Guy, "I guess I can try to do what I do for everybody here and make you a customized version of any of the 15 awesome sandwiches you see on my menu. Whatre you hungry for?" "Easy, easy, Ricky Roma! Before I make any decisions here Im going to need to know a lot more about my options. Why are you so obsessed with what I want?" "Okay, sorry," says The Sandwich Guy, uneasily eyeing the growing queue of The Lunch Rush now piling up behind The Ostensible Customer. "What else can I do to help here?" "Thats better," says The Ostensible Customer. "Lets start by sitting down for a couple hours and going over all the ingredients you have back there." The Sandwich Guy laughs congenially and hands The Ostensible Customer a menu. "Friend, I can make you whatever you want, but, if it helps, the 15 sandwiches listed here show all the ingredients--right there between the name and the price..." "Whoa, whoa, whoa! _The price_?!? Already youre reaching for my wallet? Jeez, I barely just arrived." The Lunch Rush is getting restless and grumbling audibly. "Well. You know. I do _sell sandwiches_ for a living," says The Sandwich Guy. "Did you have a certain budget in mind for your lunch?" "Oh, God, no. Im nowhere near that point yet. I still need to learn _a lot_ more about how you work, and so, obviously, I have no idea what I want to pay. Obviously." "Okay," says The Sandwich Guy, "but...I cant do much for you here without knowing either what you want to eat or how much money you want to spend. You get that, right?" The Ostensible Customer is miffed. "Listen, here. What I get, so-called Sandwich Guy, is that youre not going to rush me into some tricky lifetime sandwich commitment until I understand precisely who Im working with. And, so far, I _do not_ like what I see. Still. I intend to find out more. So, meet me in Canada tomorrow to talk about this for an hour." The Lunch Rush begins waving their wallets as they lob their completed order forms at The Sandwich Guys face. "Sorry," says The Sandwich Guy. "I cant do that. How about I just make you a Reuben. Its really good, its our most popular sandwich, and it only costs eight bucks." "WHAT! EIGHT _DOLLARS_! Dollars with a _d_? Thats _way_ too much!" "I thought you didnt have a budget," says The Sandwich Guy. "Well, I dont. And, besides, I dont really _need_ a sandwich at all. Now, kindly fly to Canada." "Thats not going to happen, sir." "Also," says The Ostensible Customer, "if I _do_ decide to get a sandwich from you--and its looking increasingly less likely that I will--Ill ABSOLUTELY expect your deeply discounted price to reflect the fact that Im not particularly hungry right now." The Lunch Rush begins lighting torches and chanting a guttural chant, not unlike the haunting overtone singing of Tuvan herdsmen. "Look," sighs The Sandwich Guy, "it sounds like you need a little more time. Heres a free Coke and a complimentary bowl of pickles. Please have a seat, take all the time you need, then just come on up whenever youre ready to order, okay?" "‘READY?!?’ TO...‘ORDER?!?’ Are you out of your _mind_?" "Mmmm...apparently." Presently, The Ostensible Customer turns beet-red. "This is _an outrage_! I cant even imagine how you stay in business when you treat your customers like this." The Lunch Rush grows silent as The Sandwich Guy slowly leans over the counter and smiles--his nose one slice of corned beef from The Ostensible Customers nose. "Sir. First off: you arent my customer _yet_. Right now, youre just some dude holding a bowl of free pickles." "Buh?" fumbled The Ostensible Customer. "And, second, the way I stay in business is by making great sandwiches and having as few conversations like the one were having as possible," The Sandwich Guy coos. "Because, the truth is, my _real_ customers are actually all those nice people standing behind you. Theyre the people who buy my sandwiches with real money over and over again. I really like them, and so I give them almost all of my attention." The Sandwich Guy waves at The Lunch Rush. The Lunch Rush waves back. The Ostensible Customer looks stunned. "Sir," says The Sandwich Guy "enjoy your Coke and your pickles with my compliments. But, please step aside. Because right now, theres a whole bunch of hungry people trying to buy sandwiches that wont require me flying to Canada. _Next, please!_" The Lunch Rush roars approval. The Ostensible Customer is still stunned. Which is unfortunate. Because, several men from the back of the line spontaneously rush forward to drag The Ostensible Customer, screaming and grasping, onto the busy sidewalk outside, where they proceed to devour his flesh like those street urchins who eat Elizabeth Taylors cousin in _Suddenly, Last Summer_. Meanwhile, The Sandwich Guy goes back to making sandwiches. And, The Lunch Rush goes back to eating them. THE MORAL(S)? * The Sandwich Guy cant do much for you until youre hungry enough to really want a sandwich. * Once youre hungry enough, you still have to pay money for the sandwich. This wont _not_ come up. * Few people become "a good customer" without understanding both 1 and 2. * Few companies become "a smart business" without understanding 1, 2, and 3. * Basing his business on an understanding of 1, 2, 3, 4, _and_ 5 doesnt make The Sandwich Guy a dick; it makes him _a smart business_. * If you vacation with Elizabeth Taylor? Seriously. Avoid provoking the cannibalistic rent boys. THE HOPE Me? I just very much hope it takes you far less than 15 years to see and accept these sorts of things. Both as a customer _and_ as a business. Guys, avoid working for anyone whos not hungry enough to compensate you for your sandwich. It literally doesnt pay. THE RESERVE READING * Bloodhounding Budgets - Cognition: The blog of web design & development firm Happy Cog
Tell them nicely that your price is a sucky $200K. The key here is to do so candidly, like you’re sitting on their side of the table and have to approve the budget with them. Admit that you’re way over the mark, and essentially apologize for it. I’ve said, “If you want to tell us to get lost, we understand”.* Basement.org: Negotiation And Speculation: The Risk Of Selling Low
All those variables can change except your worth. That can’t change. It’s an undeniable fact beyond subjectivity and beyond the reality-bending rhetoric of your client-to-be. You are worth what you are worth and unless you’re feeling charitable something else has to give.* Project Budgets and Secrets (thedesigncubicle.com)
Within the first few minutes of contact — in my effort to be as open and detailed on how I work as possible — the client counteracted by lying about not having a budget to clearly having a budget.* Mule Design Studio’s Blog: Presenting Design Like You Get Paid For It
Unspoken expectations unmet lead to seething unspoken frustration which ultimately bursts forth in an ugly mess when you’ve run out of budget.* Don’t Be Afraid of the S-Word :: Tips :: The 99 Percent
Remember that client who said that we were “pretty expensive” for them? A qualifying question in the first phone call could have saved us many hours of working on this deal. If you decide that the deal is unqualified, you just save it under another bucket: the unqualified deals bucket.
”A SANDWICH, A WALLET, AND ELIZABETH TAYLORS COUSIN” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on November 04, 2010. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
A couple weeks ago, my pals at Twitter were kind enough to invite me in to visit with their (rapidly growing) team. The topic was _meetings_, so I used it as an opportunity to publicly premiere a talk Ive been presenting to private clients over the past few months. I hope youll enjoy, BROKEN MEETINGS (AND HOW YOULL FIX THEM). SLIDES: Supplementary links and commentary forthcoming, but I wanted to go ahead and post the talk as quickly as the video was available. Special thanks to Michelle, Jeremy, and the crackerjack Twitter crew for a swell afternoon. I _really_ like this talk and sincerely hope you will find it useful in helping to un-break _your own_ meetings. -------------------------
”VIDEO: "BROKEN MEETINGS (AND HOW YOULL FIX THEM)"” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on October 06, 2010. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience. --Albert Einstein, "On the Method of Theoretical Physics" (1934)CONTEXT: Last week, I pinched off one of my typically woolly emails in response to an acquaintance whom I admire. He's a swell guy who makes things I love, and hed written, in part, to express concern that my recent Swift impersonation had been directed explicitly at something hed made. Which, of course, it hadn't--but which, as Ill try to discuss here, strikes me as irrelevant. To paraphrase Bogie, I played it for him, so now I suppose I might as well play it for you. (n.b.: Excerpted, redacted, munged, and _heavily_ expanded from my original email)
There are at least a couple things that mean a lot to me that Im still just not very good at. * Make nuanced points in whatever way they need to be made; even if that ends up seeming "un-nuanced" * Never explain yourself. I want to break both these self-imposed rules privately with you here. [Editor's Note: _Um_.] Because, I hope to nuance the shit out of some fairly _un_-nuanced points. And, to do that, Ill also (reluctantly) need to explain myself. But, here goes. First [regarding my goofing on "distraction-free writing environments"] I think there are some GIANT distinctions at play here that a lot of folks may not find nearly as obvious as I do: * TOOL MASTERY VS. PRODUCTIVITY PR0N - Finding and learning the right tools for your work vs solely dicking around with the options for those tools is just _so_ important, but also _so_ different. And, admittedly, it's almost impossible to contrast those differences in terms of hard & fast rules that could be true for all people in all situations. But, that doesn't make the difference any less qualitatively special or real. Similarly… * SELF-HELP VS. "SELF"-"HELP" - Solving the problem that caused the problem that caused the problem that caused the symptom we eventually noticed. Huge. Arguably, peerless. * Viz.: How many of us ignore the actual _cause_ of our problem in favor of just reading dozens of blog posts about how to "turbocharge" its most superficial symptoms? Sick. * FOCUS & PLAY - Yes, focusing on important work is, as Ford used to say, Job 1. But, that focus benefits when we maintain the durable and unapologetic sense of play that affords true creativity and fosters an emergence of context and connection that's usually killed by stress. BUT. * Again, what conceivable "rule" could ever serve to immutably declare that "THIS goofing-off is critical for hippocampal plasticity" vs. "THAT goofing-off is just dumb, distracting bullshit?" * _Impossible_. Because drawing those kinds of distinctions is one of our most important day-to-day responsibilities. Decisions are hard, and there's no app or alarm gadget that can change that. * Although, they certainly can help mask the depth of the underlying problem that made them seem so--what's the parlance?--"indispensable". * Think: Elmo Band-Aids for that unsightly pancreatic tumor. * REDUCING DISTRACTION THROUGH _CARE_ (RATHER THAN BRACES, ARMATURES, AND PUPPET STRINGS). Removing interruptions and _external_ distractions that harm your work or life? Great. Counting on your distraction-removal tool to supplement your non-existent motivation to do work that will never get done anyway? Pathetic. * Frankly, this is a big reason Im so galled when anyone touts their tool/product/service as being the poor, misunderstood artist's new miracle medicine--rather than just admitting theyve made a slightly different spoon. * Because, let's be honest: although most of us have plenty of perfectly serviceable spoons, everybody knows collecting cutlery is way more fun than _using_ it to swallow yucky medicine. * USING A SYSTEM VS. BECOMING A SYSTEM. Having a system or process for getting work done vs. making the iteration of that system or process a replacement for the work. This is just…wow…big. But, maybe most importantly to me… * EMBRACING THE IMPOSSIBLES. Getting past these or any other intellectual koans by simply accepting life's innumerable and unresolvable paradoxes, hypocrisies, and impossibilities as God-given gifts of creative constraint. Rather than, say, a mimeographed page of long division problems that must be solved for a whole number, _n_. * I just can't ever get away from this one. For me, it's what everything inevitably comes back to. * The very definition of our jobs is to solve the right problem at the right level for the right reason--based on a combination of the best info we have for now and a clear-eyed dedication to never pushing an unnecessary rock up an avoidable hill. * YET, we keep force-feeding the monster that tells us to fiddle and fart and blame the Big Cruel World whenever we face work that might threaten our fragile personal mythology. * "Sigh. I wish I could finally start writing My Novel….Ooooooh, if only I had a slightly nicer pen…and Zeus loved me more…." All that stuff? That there's a complex set of ideas to talk about for many complex reasons--not least of which being how many people either despise or (try to) deny the unavoidable impact of ol number six. But, here's the thing: as much as saying so pisses anybody off, I think the topics were NOT talking about whenever we disappear into Talmudic scholarship about "full-screen mode" or "minimalist desks" or whatever constitutes a "zen habit"--those shunned topics are precisely the things that I believe are most mind-blowingly critical to our real-world happiness as humans. In fact, I believe that to such a degree that helping provide a voice for those unpopular topics that can be heard over the din is now (what passes for) my career. I really believe these deeper ideas are worth socializing on any number of levels and in many media. Even when it's inconvenient and slightly disrespectful of someone's business model. So, that's what I try to do. I talk about these things. Seldom by careful design. Often poorly. But, always because they each mean an awful lot to me. […] But, no matter how I end up saying whatever the hell I say, I believe in saying it not simply to be liked or followed or revered as a "nice guy" who pushes out shit-tons of _whatever_ to "help people." Because, believe me, friend, a great many of those apparently "nice guys" swarming around the web "helping people" these days are ass-fucking their audience for nickels and calling it a complimentary colonoscopy. And, while I absolutely think that in itself is empirically WRONG, I also think it's just as important to SAY that it's wrong. Sometimes, True Things need to be said. Which in this instance amounts to saying, a) selling people a prettier way to kinda almost but not really write is not, in the canonical sense, "nice"--but, far worse, b) leaving your starry-eyed customers with the nauseatingly misguided impression that their "distraction" originates from anyplace but their own busted-ass brain is REALLY not "helping." Not on any level. It is, literally, _harmful_. "Helping" a junkie become more efficient at keeping his syringe loaded is hardly "nice." It's the opposite of nice. And, it's the opposite of helpful. These are my True Things. And, to me, saying your True Things also means not watering down the message you care about in order to render it incapable of even conceivably hurting someone's feelings--or of even conceivably losing you even one teeny-tiny slice of that precious "market share." Well, that's the price, and Im fine paying it--best money Ive ever spent. But, it also means trusting your audience by letting each of them decide to add water only as _they_ choose to--by never corrupting the actual concentrate in a way that might make it less useful to the smartest or most eager 5% of people whod like to try using it undiluted. Because, at that point, youre not only abandoning the coolest people you have the honor of serving--you risk becoming a charlatan. And, that's precisely what you become when you start to iteratively inbreed the kind of fucktard audience for whom daily buffets of weak swill and beige assurance are life's most gratifying reward. Sure. Those poor bastards may never end up _using_ any of that watery information to do anything more ambitious than turbocharging their most regrettable symptoms. But, who's the last person in the universe who's going to grab them by the ears and tell them to get back to work? Exactly--that same "nice guy" whose livelihood now depends on keeping infantalized strangers addicted to his "help." Holy shit--no way could I ever live with that. It's so wrong, it's not even right.And, then, I jizzed on at length about how much I admire the recipient's work. Which I do. ------------------------- GOOD WORK DOESN'T NEED A COOKIE I may admire your work, too. Especially if you care a lot about that work and don't overly sweat peoples opinions of it. Most definitely including my own. For these purposes, it doesn't really matter whether were friends and, honestly, it doesn't even matter whether I love, use, or agree with everything you do, say, or make in a given day. It doesn't matter because good work doesn't need _me_ to love it. Like tornadoes and cold sores, good work happens with total disregard to whether Im "into it." But, conversely, let's stipulate that the points-of-view undergirding our opinions--again, including mine--will and should survive either agreement or _lack of agreement_ with equivalently effortless ease. Because, like _really_ good work, a _really_ good point-of-view doesn't require another person's benediction. GUESS WELL HAVE TO DISAGREE TO AGREE Now, to be only vaguely clearer here, Im not posting this circuitous ego dump in the service of altering your opinion of either me, my friend, his work, or practically anything else for that matter. But, I would love it if we could all be more okay with the fact that real life means that we do each have a different, sometimes incongruous, and often totally incompatible point-of-view. Yes. _Even you_ have a point-of-view that SOMEONE despises. Ready to change it now? Jesus, I sure hope not. Then, to be only slightly more clear, Im also not advocating for that fakey brand of web-based _kum ba ya_ that gets trotted out alternately as "tolerance" or "inclusion" or some styrofoam miniature of "civility." Im absolutely not _against_ all of those things when authentically practiced, but Im also really skeptical of the well-branded peacemakers who are forever appointing themselves the Internet's "Now-Now-Let's-All-Pretend-Were-Just-Saying-the-Same-Useless-Thing-Here" den mothers. Because were NOT all saying the same things. Not at all. And, it infantalizes some important conversations when we tacitly demand that any instance of honest disagreement be immediately horseshat into a photo opp where some thought leader gets to hoist everyone's hands in the air like he's fucking Jimmy Carter. Nope. Not saying that. WHO WILL YOU _REALLY_ RELY ON? What I AM saying is that _alllllll_ this seemingly unrelated stuff is absolutely related--that the pattern of not relying on other people for anything you really care about is arguably the great-grandaddy of every useful productivity, creativity, or self-help pattern. Where's this matter? Pretty much everywhere you have any sort of stake: * Don't rely on other people to remove your totally fake "distractions." * Don't rely on other people to pat your beret, re-tie your cravat, and make you a nice cocoa whenever that mean man on the internet points out that your "distractions" are totally fake. (Which they are) * Don't rely on other people to tell you when or whether you have enough information. * Don't rely on other people to define your job. * Don't rely on other people to "design your lifestyle." * Don't rely on other people to decide when your opinions are acceptable. * Don't rely on other people to tell you when youre allowed to be awesome. * Don't rely on other people to make you _care_. * Don't even rely on other people to tell you what you should or shouldn't rely on. Yes. I went there. Because that's the point. These hypocrisies, paradoxes, and ambiguities that people get so wound up about--that many of us are constantly (impotently) trying to resolve--_cannot be resolved._ Because, yeah: all of these harrowingly unsolvable problems are immune to new notebooks and less-distracting applications and shinier systems and "nicer" self-"help" and pretty much anything else that is not, specifically, _you_ walking straight into the angriest and least convenient shitstorm you can find and getting your ass kicked until the storm gets bored with kicking it. Then, you find an even angrier storm. Then, another. And, so on. "GET THE FUCK OFF OF MY OBSTACLE, PRIVATE PYLE!" Doing that annoying hard stuff is how you grow, get better, and learn what _real_ help looks like. Even if that's not the answer you wanted to hear. You get better by getting your ass out of your RSS reader and fucking making things until they suck less. Not by buying apps. You don't whine about distractions, or derail yourself over needing a nicer pencil sharpener, or aggravate your chronic creative diabetes by starting another desperate waddle to the self-help buffet. No. _You work_. And, for what it's worth, just like you can't get to the moon by eating cheese, youll also never leave boot camp with your original scrote intact by telling your drill sergeant to try using more honey than vinegar. No. That sergeant's _job_ is to make you miserable. It's his _job_ to break down your callow conceits about what's supposed to be easy and fair. It's his _job_ to emotionally pummel you into giving up and becoming a Marine. You? Youre not there to give the sergeant notes; youre there to sleep two hours a night, then not mind getting beaten for 20 hours until a decent Marine starts to fall out. Who knows? He may even surprise you by introducing a surprisingly effective "distraction-free learning environment." "TEE ELL DEE AHR, PROFESSOR BRAINIAC." Like most humans, I like things I can understand. Like most readers, I love specificity. Like most thinkers, I love clarity. Like most students, I love relevance and practicality. And, like most busy people, believe it or not, I actually do really like it when someone gets straight to the point. But, here's the problem. If my 2-year-old daughter asks me about time travel, and I blithely announce, "E=mc2", I will have said something that is entirely specific, clear, relevant, practical, and/or straight-to-the-point. For _somebody_. But, not so much for my daughter. And, to be honest, not even to any useful degree for me. Shed probably either laugh derisively at me (which she's great at), or shed pause and ask, "_Whuh dat?_" (which she's even better at). Thing is, her understanding that jumble of characters less than me--and my understanding it WAY less than Professor Al--has zero impact on the profundity, truth, beauty, or impact of the man's theory. Sure. You could quite accurately fault me for being a smartass and a poseur, and you could even berate my toddler for her unaccountably shallow understanding of _Modern Physics_. But, in any case, you can't really blame either Albert or his theory. YOURE TURBOCHARGING _NOTHING_ Specifically, Albert can't begin to tell us what he _really_ knows if we don't understand math. So, let's say this theory youve been hearing about really interests you. And, let's also pretend, just for the sake of the analogy, that you haven't completed _Calculus III_ (212) or _Quantum Mechanics_ (403) or even something as elementary as, say, _Advanced Astrophysics II_ (537). I know _you_ have. Obviously. But, let's pretend. Where do you start? Well, you could read some tips about learning math. You could find a list of 500 indispensable resources for indispensable math resources. You could buy a new "distraction-free math environment." Heck, there's actually nothing to stop you from just declaring yourself a "math expert." Congratulations, Professor. THING IS: _YOU STILL DON'T KNOW MATH_. Which means you still can't _really_ understand the theory--no more than a pathetic Liberal Arts refugee like me or a dullard Physics ignoramus like my kid can _really_ grok relativity. Difference is, you will have blown a lot of time hoping that actual expertise follows non-existent effort—while my daughter and I get to remain total novices without charge. Only, we don't get all mad at the theory as a result; a staggering number of fake math experts _do_. I mean, be honest--after all that recreational non-work and make-believe dedication almost trying to kinda learn math sorta--you might actually get frustrated at how brazenly Al defies your fondness for shortcuts by continuing to rely on so many terms and proofs and blah-blah-blah that you still just don't understand. So annoying. You may simply decide that Albert Einstein's a huge dick for never saying things that can be completely understood solely by scanning a headline. _EPIC EINSTEIN FAIL_, amirite? YOU NEVER REALLY KNOW WHAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW UNTIL YOU KNOW IT But, Al just told the truth. Problem is, Al's truth not only _requires_ fancy things in order to be truly understood--the more of those fancy things you take away from his truth, the less true it gets. And, by the time it's been diluted to the point where youre comfortable that you understand it? Youd be understanding the wrong thing. Even I can understand that. But, not one bit of _any of this_ is Al's fault. Al doesn't get to control who uses, abuses, gets, or doesn't get what he said or why it matters. Especially since he's been dead for over fifty years. All I know is, regardless of who has ears to hear it on a given day, it would be to Al's credit never to mangle something important in order to get it into terms everybody's ready to handle without actually trying. And God bless him for never agreeing that your "distractions" to learning math are _his_ problem. So, yeah, if you only need to hand in a crappy 5-page paper, you could certainly _Cliff's Notes_ your way through Borges, Eliot, or Joyce in an afternoon, and feel like you haven't missed a thing. Trouble is, if you _did care_ even a little, it's impossible to even say how much youre missing since you can't be bothered to soldier through the source text. The text itself is the entire point. Even the wonderfully cogent and readable layman's explanations Einstein himself provided don't _really_ get to the nut, the application, and the implications of his _real_ theory. THAT all takes _real_ math. THAT "SINGLE DATUM OF EXPERIENCE" _MATTERS_ Sometimes, complex or difficult things stop being true when you try to make them too simple. Sometimes, you have to actually get laid to understand why people think sex is such a thing. Sometimes, you need to learn some Greek if you _really_ want to understand _The Gospel of John_. And, yeah, sometimes, youre going to have to just work unbelievably hard at whatever you claim to care about before anyone can begin to help you get any better--or less "distracted"--at it. The part I really know is what _doesn't_ work. Reading _Penthouse Forum_ won't help you CLEP out of _Vaginal Intercourse 101_. Watching a Rankin-Bass cartoon about the Easter Bunny will teach you very little about the intricacies of transubstantiation. And, if you can't be troubled to care so much about your work that you reflexively _force_ distractions away, dicking around with yet another writing application will merely aggravate the problem. Ironic, huh? These quantum mechanics of personal productivity are rife with such frustrating "paradoxes." THESE ARE TRUE THINGS. Achieving expertise and doing creative work is all horribly complicated and difficult and paradoxical and frustrating and recursive and James Joyce-y--and any guide, blog, binary, guru, or "nice guy" that tries to suggest otherwise is probably giving you a complimentary colonoscopy. Do the math. Want a new syllabus? Sure: Run straight into your shitstorm, my friends. Reject the impulse to think about work, rather than finishing it. And, open your heart to the remote possibility that any mythology of personal failure that involves messiahs periodically arriving to make everything "easy" for you might not _really_ be helping your work _or_ your mental health _or_ your long-standing addiction to using tools solely to ship new excuses. Learn _your_ real math, and any slide rule will suffice. Try, make, and do until you quit noticing the tools, and if you still think you need new tools, go try, make, and do more. If you can pull off this deceptively simple and millennia-old pattern, youll eventually find that--god by dying god--any partial truth that's supported your treasured excuses for not working will be replaced by a no-faith-required knowledge that youre really, actually, _finally_ getting better at something you care about. Which is just _sublimely_ un-distracting. ------------------------- Dedication This article is dedicated to my friend, GREG KNAUSS. No, he's not the app guy-he's just a good man who does good work, who accidentally/unintentionally helped me write this rant. He also happens to be a fella who could teach anyone a thing or two about writing with distractions. _Thanks, Greg_.
ESC, ESC, ESC![…] Okay. So anyhow, there's a really long-winded, overly generous, and extremely pompous way of trying to say I don't know how to do what I do except how I do it. But, I do genuinely feel awful when innocent people feel they have been publicly humiliated or berated simply because Im some dick who hates people. Which has to be my favorite irony of all. When I was a kid, I thought my Mom was "mean" not to let me play in traffic on busy Galbraith Road. Today, Im not simply grateful that she had the strength and resolve to be so "mean"--I actually can't imagine how sad it would be to not have people in your life who care enough about your long-term welfare to tell you to stop fucking around in traffic. To where you eventually might start even seeking 12x-daily safety hacks from some of the very same drivers whose recklessness may eventually kill you. Wow. […] Admitting when life is complicated or things aren't shiny and happy all the time strikes me as a wonderfully sane and adult way to conduct one's life. That there are so many folks offended by even the existence of this anarchic idea is not a problem I can solve. No more than I can wish useless email away or pray hard enough that it never rains on anyone's leaky roof. All out of scope.
”“DISTRACTION,” SIMPLICITY, AND RUNNING TOWARD SHITSTORMS” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on October 05, 2010. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
DCONSTRUCT 2010: MERLIN MANN - "KERNING, ORGASMS & THOSE GODDAMNED JAPANESE TOOTHPICKS" (NSFW) ME - Kerning, Orgasms And Those Goddamned Japanese Toothpicks on Huffduffer Download the audio | Huffduff it ------------------------- Lets be honest. I dont go...mmmm..._places_ very often. I sit in this chair. I go to the Safeway with my daughter. Sometimes, I take the train downtown to get a haircut. I check the mail. But, by and large, like most nerds, Im without question, a bit of a shut-in. Which makes it more than a little ironic that my first trip off the North American continent brought me all the way to Brighton, Englands wonderful dConstruct Conference. Which wonderful conference placed me inside a very royal complex, alone on a very large stage, 90 seconds after being informed Id better be entertaining, because Id be conducting my oration on the same spot where, a scant 36 years earlier, ABBA had become international stars by singing an up-tempo number about giving up. So, yknow. _No pressure_. _Commanded_ to this location by two of my web heroes, I was told I could speak about whatever I wanted. So, wow, to quote the ladies of ABBA, _how could I ever refuse?_ Thus, I stood on that stage for over 35 minutes, rambling to 800 talented, creative people about Dungeons & Dragons, japanese toothpicks, torrenting Photoshop, as well as what I used to find myself doing after a long evening of shooting mutants in Stargate.1 But, mostly? Yes. Mostly, I stood on a stage thousands of miles from the chair from which I barely move, and I told a lot of really smart people that they were _nerds_. I also told them they should get out more. I swear: it made sense at the time. SOME SERIOUS TALENT My talk about the challenges and opportunities of being a giant nerd seemed well received. Honestly, Im _very_ happy with how it turned out. But--oh, brother--was I ever up against some heavy hitters. Serious Lou Gehrig shit. Ill leave it to other, more eloquent folks to tell you what a wonderful day this was. But I _will_ very much suggest you learn this for yourself by listening to the audio of the _fantastic_ talks. Because every one of them is a corker. Additionally, like I said, Tom Coates put on one of the loveliest slide decks its ever been my pleasure to see (56MB PDF). Great speakers, great hosts, _wonderful_ attendees (who arent above buying a yank a pint [thanks, everybody]). AND, THANKS, DCONSTRUCT I have to admit, Im kind of _over_ conferences as a thing, which makes it even more crazy when I go to one, and it blows me out of the water with the care and quality of the event, the speakers, and the attendees. dConstruct was absolutely one of those blown-out-of-the-water events. (photo: happy.apple) As I learned over and over again--yes, like me--these folks are nerds. But, brother are they ever talented nerds who care and care. Which I just love _so_ much. Ill take a nerdy bunch of fontdorks and cellists over a splashy mega-conference full of VC pitches and skanks pushing free Red Bull anytime. _Anytime_. dConstruct was simply a top-notch operation from end-to-end, and Im insanely grateful that I was invited to participate. Thanks, Clearleft. And, you, the reader? If you get the chance next time, _go_. Heck, I might even leave this chair and go there, myself. Maybe. I suppose when Dr. Whos over, I could just let these 20-sided dice decide for me. Lemme see...whats my Armor Class and Hit Points...? ------------------------- LISTEN FOR YOURSELF2 DCONSTRUCT PODCAST
* MARTY NEUMEIER - The Designful Company The Designful Company on Huffduffer Download the audio | Huffduff it * BRENDAN DAWES - Boil, Simmer, Reduce Boil, Simmer, Reduce on Huffduffer Download the audio | Huffduff it * DAVID MCCANDLESS - Information Is Beautiful Information Is Beautiful on Huffduffer Download the audio | Huffduff it * SAMANTHA WARREN - The Power And Beauty Of Typography The Power and Beauty of Typography on Huffduffer Download the audio | Huffduff it * JOHN GRUBER - The Auteur Theory Of Design The Auteur Theory Of Design on Huffduffer Download the audio | Huffduff it * HANNAH DONOVAN - Jam Session: What Improvisation Can Teach Us About Design Jam Session: What Improvisation Can Teach Us About Design on Huffduffer Download the audio | Huffduff it * JAMES BRIDLE - The Value Of Ruins The Value Of Ruins on Huffduffer Download the audio | Huffduff it * TOM COATES - Everything The Network Touches Everything The Network Touches on Huffduffer Download the audio | Huffduff it * Kerning, Orgasms And Those Goddamned Japanese Toothpicks ME - Kerning, Orgasms And Those Goddamned Japanese Toothpicks on Huffduffer Download the audio | Huffduff it
------------------------- * Hint: _Number Three_. ↩ * Code for these was stolen wholesale from the dConstruct site. Jeremy, et al - dont hesitate to tell me if thats a problem.Srsly. ↩
”MY FAITH IN NERDS: STRONGER THAN ANY GELATINOUS CUBE” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on September 10, 2010. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
On May 16, 2010, at 10:02 AM, "Xx" wrote:This poor kid emailed me to ask a really simple question. And I went and saddled him with the worlds most circuitously long-winded answer. Surprise, surprise. ------------------------- Hey, Xx, Thanks for the note, man. No Im sorry its not up as audio AFAIK. FWIW, its a talk Im asked to do more often lately so I wouldnt be surprised if it turns up sooner or later. Since you were kind enough to ask, the talk—which comes out super different each time I do it— consists of a discursive mishmash of advice I wish Id had the ears to hear in the year or five after graduating from college: primarily, that we never end up anywhere near where wed expected, and that most of us would have been a lot happier a lot faster if wed realized that we were often obsessing over the wrong things—starting with how much the world should care about our major. ("Liberal Arts," with a concentration in [ugh] "Cultural Studies," thanks.) The talk started as a way to encourage students to learn enough about what they care about that any temporary derails and side roads wouldnt scare their horses too badly. But, today, I see it as something a lot bigger thats demonstrably useful to anyone who hopes to survive, evolve, and thrive in this insane world. A handful of bits Im (obviously) still synthesizing into something notionally cohesive: ------------------------- MY KINGDOM FOR SOME _CONTEXT_! For myself, I wish Id known the value of developing early expertise in interesting new skills around emerging technologies (rather than just iteratively pseudo-honing the 202-level skills I thought I "understood"). Alongside that, I wish Id learned to embrace the non-douchier aspects of building awesome human relationships (as against "networking" in the service of landing some straight job that, as with most hungry young people, locked me into a carpeted prison of monkey work at the worst time possible). Also how I wish Id paid more attention to events, contexts, relationships, and change that were happening outside my immediate world —rather than becoming, say, the undisputed master of fretting about status, salary, and whether I was "a success" who had "arrived". HINT: I was not a "success," and I had not, by any stretch, "arrived." To my mind, "success" in the real world is much more the equivalent of achieving a new personal best; its not about whether you won the "Springtime in Springfield SunnyD®/Q105™ 5k FunRun for Entitilitus," and got a little ribbon with a gold crest on it. Truly, pretty much anyone who feels theyve "arrived" _anyplace_ is about to learn a) how much more they could be doing outside the narrowness of an often superficial ambition and b) the surprising number of things they had to give away through the opportunity costs and trade-offs that lead up to _every_ theoretical milestone. Its a real goddamned thistle, and its more than a little depressing. ------------------------- DO YOU STILL _REALLY_ WANT TO BE A FIREMAN? [_N.B.: I really hope youre taking bathroom breaks here, Xx_] Related, I think this is about how being an adult is not only unbelievably complicated in ways that you cant begin to imagine—that its frequently defined by impossible decisions and non-stop layers of "hypocrisy"—but that theres an invisible but entirely real risk to doggedly chasing the theoretically laudable notion of "following your dream." Especially if its a dream you first had while sleeping on Star Wars sheets in a racecar bed. Not because its a bad idea to want things or to have ambitions. Quite the opposite. More because, for a lot of us, the "dreams" of youth turn out to be half-finished blueprints for wax wings. And not particularly flattering ones at that. By starting adult life with an autistically explicit "goal" thats never been tested against any kind of real-world experience or reality-in-context, we can paradoxically miss a thousand more useful, lucrative, or organic opportunities that just…what?…_pop up_. Often these are one-time chances to do amazing and even unique things—opportunities that many of us continue to reject out of hand because its "not what we do." It took me a full decade to learn to embrace the unfamiliar gifts that kismet loves to deliver on our busiest and most stressful days, and which gifts might (maybe/maybe not) even end up bringing the real-life, non-racecar-bed, _now_ me a big step closer to something thats 1000 times more interesting than a hollow, ten-year-old caricature of "what I wanna be when I grow up." ------------------------- FINDING YOUR "OLD BUTCHER" Also related, it strikes me that the indisputable wealth of information and options that are provided by the web often comes with a harrowing hidden tradeoff. While we can certainly learn a lot on our own and become (what feels like) an instant expert on any topic in an afternoon, we usually do so in the absence of a mentor and outside the context of _applying_ expertise to solve actual problems. In my opinion, a cadet should have to survive more than a few Kobayashi Maru scenarios before he gets to declare himself, "Captain." Call it a guru, a wizard, an old butcher, or what have you, the mad echo chamber of a young mind often benefits from the dampening influence of an experienced grownup who can help you understand things that raw data, wikipedia entries, and lists of tips and tricks cant and wont ever do. We benefit from a hand on the back and a gentle voice, reminding us: * "Try not to obsess over implementation until you really understand the problem," or * "Worry more about relationships than org charts or follower counts," or * "Dont quit looking after youve found that first data point," or—my favorite— * "Spend less time fantasizing about success and way more time making really cool mistakes." Conversely, though, I think this means that everything we _think_ we know, as well as all the fancy advice that gets thrown around—absolutely including the material youre reading now—is the product of what one person knows and what another person has the ears to hear. For us. For now. For who really knows what. But it is a transaction that takes place in a very specific time and within the bounds of a set of "known" "facts." So, fair warning, doing your own due diligence never hurts. ------------------------- WHATS _ALMOST_ NOT IMPOSSIBLE? [_N.B.: I swear to God this ends at some point, Xx_] One big pattern for "future-proofing" your passion? Keep your eyes open and your heart even "_opener_." And, be more than simply tolerant of the notion of change—sure, take it as read that nothing is ever fixed in place for more than a little while. But, to the extent that your sanity can bear it, _always_ keep an eye on the corners, the edges, and especially learn to watch for those infinitesimally tiny figures starting to shuffle around near the horizon. Because a lot of the things that seem ridiculously small and inconsequential right now will eventually cast a shadow that people will be chasing for decades. Its just that were never sure which tiny figure that will turn out to be. So, yeah. It really is true that no one but you cares about your major. But, trust me: _everybody_ is interested in the person who repeatedly notices the things that are about to stop being impossible. Be the curious one who soaks in all that "irrelevant" stuff. And, even as you stay heads-down on the "now" projects that keep the lights on, remember that the guy who _invented_ those lights made hundreds of "failed" lightbulbs before fundamentally upending the way we think about time, family, industry, and the role of technology in how we live and work. But, yes, first he "failed" a lot _a lot_ at something which more than a few of his contemporaries thought was pointless in the first place. Ask: Whats out there right now thats about to stop being impossible? Where will it happen first? Who will (most loudly and erroneously) declare its total bullshit? Who will mostly get it right—but possibly too early? Who will figure out what it means to our grandkids? Who will figure out how to put it in everyones front pocket for a quarter? Yknow who? Ill tell you who: _practically anybody BUT that guy in the racecar bed who wants to talk about his major_. ------------------------- IMPORTANT: MERLINS ADVICE IS ONLY FUTURE-PROOF TO 10 METERS A few years back, most watch manufacturers decided to come clean and stop categorically declaring that their timepieces were "waterproof." Instead, today, the more credible vendors admit their product is merely "water-resistant"—and, even then, theyll only guarantee the underwater functionality at so many meters, and for so long, and under thus and such conditions. Truthfully, the same applies here. Nothing can actually "future-proof" anything. Anyone who claims to know the future is either a madman, a charlatan, or, often as not, both. Thing is, regardless of the passions (or goals or values or priorities or whatever) that we hope to protect or defend, wed all do well to remember that it is still ultimately _OUR_ passion thats at stake. That means were the only one responsible for seeing that its functional components survive and adapt in a world in which each one of us has just north of zero control. If we embrace the fact that no one can or should ever care about the health of our passions as much as we do, the practical decisions that help ensure Our Good Thing stays alive can become as "simple" as a handful of proven patterns—work hard, stay awake, fail well, hang with smart people, shed bullshit, say "maybe," focus on action, and always _always_ commit yourself to a bracing daily mixture of all the courage, honesty, and information you need to do something awesome—discover whatever itll take to keep your nose on the side of the ocean where the fresh air lives. This is _huge_. Anything else? Yeah. Drink lots of water, play with your kid every chance you get, and quit Facebook today. No, really, do it. Thanks again for the note, Xx, and sorry for the novella. Ill ping you if the audio ever turns up. Til then, forget your major, and break a leg! yr internet pal, /mYou mentioned you gave a talk at Rutgers about future proofing your passion. Is this available as a podcast? Id love to listen!
”WATCHING THE CORNERS: ON FUTURE-PROOFING YOUR PASSION” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on May 17, 2010. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"
Video: MERLIN MANN - "TIME & ATTENTION TALK (IMPROVISED)" Audio (mp3): "MERLIN MANN - RUTGERS TIME & ATTENTION TALK" This is a talk I did at Rutgers earlier this month. I kinda like it, but for a weird reason. Something something, perfect storm of technology Ragnarok, and yadda yadda, I had to start the talk 20 minutes late with no slides. _Nothing_. So, I riffed. And, I ended up talking about a lot of the _new_ stuff you can expect to see in the _Inbox Zero_ book—work culture, managing expectations, the 3 deadly qualities of email, and one surprising reason emails not as much fun as _Project Runway_. Some people liked it. I think. I liked it. I hope you do, too. Heres the slides I would have shown. ;-) Dr. Donald Schaffner, for bringing me in for this visit. I had a great time and met some fantastic, passionate people. Much appreciated.
HEY—KNOW ANYBODY WHO SHOULD HEAR THIS TALK? HMMM? I'll bet. Lucky you, you can hire me to deliver this or any of my other talks to the time- and attention-addled people _you_ work with as well. Current topics include email, meetings, social media, and future-proofing your passion. Drop a note if you have an upcoming event where you think we two might be a good ﬁt.------------------------- UPDATE 2010-04-27_13-50-00 Apologies—my friends at Rutgers (inexplicably) have placed this video under lock and key. Fortunately, I have a lock-picker called Firefox. Samizdat video available soon... UPDATE 2010-04-27_14-42-24 Yay, fixed! Many thanks to my hero, Jesse Schibilia.
”VIDEO: MERLINS TIME & ATTENTION TALK (IMPROVISED RUTGERS EDITION)” was written by Merlin Mann for 43Folders.com and was originally posted on April 27, 2010. Except as noted, its ©2010 Merlin Mann and licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. "Why a footer?"