Get Up! Get Up!

Getting Up Early in Death Valley
Sunrise in Death Valley

Hello! It’s August! June blew by, and July was right on her heels, and I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of August before he hurries off too.

New months mean that I start a new section in my journal – the one I don’t share with anyone, and it’s always exciting to look ahead and dream in private about what I might accomplish with all the newness of a fresh month.

I celebrate new months, and new years of course. I celebrate revolutions around the sun, not necessarily with a big birthday bash, but at least a little to myself. I also celebrate the anniversary of getting a second chance after my big accident, the anniversary of getting married – my best and luckiest decision.

Isn’t it weird that I don’t celebrate every single new day?

One of my favorite John Muir quotes is one that you don’t hear very often. The mountains aren’t calling in this one, and nothing is attached to everything else. I’m not even sure it’s a real quote. Google can’t find it. T shared it with me one day, and I was so enamored that I wrote it down.

“Get up! Get up! Today is the first day of creation! It all begins anew!”

I’m not sure if I care if it’s a real John Muir quote. After all, today is the first day of creation! It all begins anew!

100 Words

160530-badger-spring-IMG_1056-41-editx600

I’m not sure what a 100 Grateful Words really looks like when its typed out onto a page, but I was inspired by the 100 Naked Words … is it called a publication?… on Medium, and I thought I’d give it a try. That’s part of the beauty of the internet, isn’t it? I’m so grateful to have such an easy way to connect with  interesting and creative people from all walks of life and to be inspired by the things that they write, draw, paint, photograph, do and think. Thanks especially to 100 Naked Words for this inspiration. I hope I’ll be able to keep it up.

Design and Life Lessons

A Medium page about design and life lessons by Marc Hemeon has been open in my tabs now for days. I’m clearly attached, and don’t want to completely lose track of it. Of the 70ish suggestions made in the list, here are my favorites.

  • Sketch with big markers — focus on the big idea and concept. Don’t get bogged down in the details.
  • Show more than images in your portfolio — explain your thinking and ideas behind your work by including copy with your images.
  • Icons with text are easier to understand — new apps should use text labels to help users understand navigation and features. You can drop the text labels when you hit 10 million users 😉
  • Design in black and white and add color later — if the design doesn’t work in black and white then adding color won’t help. Get the work right in black and white first.
  • Try it in German — too many times, when an app or design is internationalized the UI will break. Having more affordance and flexibility in your layouts will account for longer words when switching to other languages.
  • Say people, not users — “Users” sounds impersonal and clinical, try saying “People” or “Customers” instead, especially when sharing your design work with stakeholders.
  • Punch above your weight class — try what scares you, write that article or share that video tutorial or take that speaking opportunity. Try the uncomfortable.
  • Done is better than perfect — as designers we can have a tendency to overwork a design. Most of the time the design work we do will be iterated against later.
  • Cocoapotrace — Marc’s personal favorite live trace tool. Yes the site is a weird geocities site. But the software works great (and it’s free).
  • Saying NO is a strength — too many times we say yes when we really should say no. People respect no.
  • Spend time like money — guard your time, it’s your most precious resource.
  • Comparison kills — if you want to feel crappy about yourself then start comparing yourself to other people. You’re on your own journey and path.
  • Stop saying “Um”, “I think”, “I feel” and “So” — all of these phrases weaken your statement and make you sound less confident. Removing these words from your speech is difficult but very rewarding.
  • Contribute more, take less — whatever setting you find yourself in try to be the person giving the most to others, share your insights, your connections and your heart. You receive far more when you give.
  • Yes & — the classic tool of improv comedy. Saying “Yes and” will help you keep ideas flowing.
  • Market rate = the average of your 3 friends — use this formula if you have no idea what to charge on your hourly rate or what kind of salary to ask for.
  • Say thank you, how else can I help?
  • One big thing each day — focus on one task per day and get this task done. In fact, our friend Daniel Burka and his brother created an app to help with this called One Big Thing

 

Ladies & Gentlemen, Glen Allsop, FTW

If you wanted to build a profitable company in a month with only a $100 budget, could you do it? Glen can, and he did. He did it publicly, stating the goal in advance, and pulled in $450 for his $100 investment, without using his existing reputation or contacts to make the sales.

You really ought to read his whole writeup in order because it’s quite a suspenseful story, and I don’t want to give too much of it away here.

My takeaways:

  1. Find the Gaps.
  2. Pivoting on ideas is OK, but
  3. Be Persistent – ruthlessly, relentlessly persistent. Don’t give up.
  4. Play the numbers game.
  5. Provide value to build relationships.
  6. Hustle. Just ask.
  7. Take Action.

In fact, the guy is brilliant, but if he could do it in just 28 days…

 

 

Jaded

I live in a beautiful place.

Every year, people travel from all over the country, and around the globe to come visit my little corner of the world. Right now, there is this amazing event going on that gets press coverage every year, and attracts so much visitation that they have to close off one lane of the road to provide supplementary parking for everyone that comes.

Photographers line up shoulder to shoulder with their expensive camera equipment. Multi-thousand dollar lenses attached to multi-thousand dollar camera bodies perched atop multi-hundred dollar (maybe more?) tripods to capture the image. That one image from that one place (actually a couple of discrete places) that everyone captures every year.

I remember the thrill of the first time I witnessed the event. VIP and I were driving along, came around the corner and our jaws fell open. We pulled into the nearest (empty) parking space – no traffic control, lane closures back then – and proceeded to gawk. Truly phenomenal.

Is it the same now that you have to queue up hours and hours in advance to get a clean line of sight?

I suppose it’s different, but equally wonderful. It’s transformed from a natural experience into a social one. You plan weeks, maybe months in advance, bring your camp chairs to the popular spots and coolers and swap stories with the people around you. Is this your first time? How was it yesterday? Last year? What size lens are you using? What settings?

I haven’t been down to see it in years.

Learning To See

There is learning to read, and then learning to read. People don’t understand that although they learned to read when they were young, people who practice reading carefully are just better at it than people who don’t.

When I was in graduate school, I remember a fellow student shaking his head in wonder at how much information and understanding one of our professors got out of reading a paper. “I want to be able to do that!” he told me. And that’s a degree in the sciences. For my VIP with his degree in the humanities found the difference striking as well. Even as a graduate student teaching undergraduates, he was shocked at how poorly his students could read, until a friend pointed out that learning to read – reading well – was something that he’d learned in graduate school.

There are a lot of reasons that people pick up a camera. There are a lot of reasons that I’ve picked up a camera, but one of the things that I would really like to learn from the practice is learning to see.

I’m surrounded by outstanding natural beauty where I live, and landscape photographers flock to the area to take their shot of the iconic scenery, from iconic locations, within arm’s reach of another photographer taking basically the same shot. I don’t mean to minimize that experience in any way because there are many reasons to stand in a singularly beautiful spot, looking out over amazing views. And yet I find the ability of certain photographers to see beautiful and amazing things in a small town in the mid-west, or an urban jungle, or the everyday objects that mostly are too common to pay attention to mesmerizing. If only I could learn to see things the way that they do.

More so than the technical expertise of getting a vision to come through a camera lens, this is what I want to learn from photography.

160320-rancheria-flowers-santiago-IMG_9167-47-editx600

My friend, SR, is the one who noticed this patch of grass. She doesn’t have a fancy camera, and ultimately isn’t all that interested in f-stops or focal lengths, but her talent for noticing beautiful things consistently amazes me. As my colleague and grad school said of that professor – “I want to be able to do that.”

Now, how do I get there?

The War of Art

I recently finished listening to The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield. It was recommended on one of the Tim Ferriss podcasts that I’ve been enjoying so much lately.

The War Of ArtIt struck me as a Dude’s book. But I loved it for that.

The first section is about taking all the miscellaneous stuff that keeps you from pursuing a creative ambition and giving it a capital letter and a shadowy cloak so that you have something to do battle against. In fact, I don’t know if Pressfield capitalized Resistance, since I listened to it as an audiobook, but it would shock me if he didn’t.

Resistance is subtle and sneaky. It sabotages your creative output by telling you what you can’t do, and giving you a thousand excuses for putting off that project until tomorrow, or the next day/month/year. And the really treacherous part – is that some of those reasons are reasonable and true. The moment your wife goes into labor really ISN’T the time to sit down and begin your next novel. Nor are the sleepless days after when you need to enjoy your new baby. Nor the toddler years when the kids get so active that it’s almost a full time job just to chase them down. Nor the elementary school years…

Pressfield also described his encounters with Resistance surrounding writing The War of Art. Resistance whispered that he was a novelist, not a non-fiction writer. Enjoy success by sticking to what you know. Also, who was he to tell people what to do? As if he had all the answers. This last one struck me particularly hard. Hadn’t I just said that to myself about an idea for an article?

For me, Resistance has a prissy little side-kick too. Perfectionism. I imagine her alternately as a pinch-faced girl with a very long and pointed nose to look down on things, or as a fussy parrot that constantly repeats, “You know, that’s not very good.”

I have a friend, who created something new each day and posted it to a blog. It might have been a single photograph, or a new meal, or a painting, depending on the day and the amount of time available. That was before I met her, but one of the things that I admire about her now is her ability to fearlessly put things out into the world. I want that.

So.

Engarde, Resistance. I’ll take you and your squeaky little parrot too.