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

 

Remote Work: Just a paycheck?!

Brian de Haaff wrote an interesting article about remote work myths that I want to come back to again sometime. But a quick notes on things I thought were interesting.

  1. The title of the article is “Would you take an 8 percent pay cut to work from home?” and most of the comments are an answer to this question rather than to the actual content of the piece. (Marketers and content producers take note!) As a side note – my answer since I wouldn’t have accepted my current position if it had required relocation must be yes, since that would effectively have been a 100% pay cut. Right?
  2. Most of the answers seemed to break into two categories – people defending the value of remote work (and, presumably, their paycheck), and people who don’t work from home suggesting that eliminating their time-consuming commute would provide more than 8% of value.
  3. I hadn’t heard that IBM was going back on their remote work policy by bringing everyone in to some random location – a move or quit mandate. Possibly a way to lay people off without laying people off? Or did they find that too many people were taking advantage of the “just a paycheck” mentality?
  4. That “just a paycheck” perception of remote work was a new one to me, and the most interesting part of the actual article. Because someone would actually submit an application that said, I really want to work for you so that I can collect a paycheck from you while working on my side-hustle?!? Are you freaking kidding me?

 

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…

 

 

Location Independence and Other Words

I’m slowly learning the vocabulary of people who don’t go into an office every day. Remote Worker. Digital Nomad. Digital Expat. Van Life. Slow Travel. WWOOFER. And then there is my new favorite, Location Independence. There’s a whole verbal world in here that I was formerly oblivious to.

A Remote Worker is simply someone who doesn’t work from the office. “I work remote” can mean that you work from home just up the street, or in a rented shared workspace because you want the comradery of an office, but the people you work with aren’t close by. You can do this a few days a week, or a few days a month. It just means that you don’t see your co-workers every single day, but it doesn’t imply that you travel.

A Digital Nomad on the other hand, is someone who takes advantage of the remote work situation to move around. There are a couple of different ways to approach this, and it depends a little on the work that you do. Some people travel constantly for work anyway – photographers, travel bloggers, riggers, outdoor education instructors – and so it makes sense to cut ties to a home base and just travel full time. The #vanlife community would fall into this group, spending a week here, and a week there. Maybe it’s someone who is on an extended road trip, but managing to find time to do a bit of freelance work, or managing an online business as they go. So far, my favorite bloggers in this space are Tamara & Chris, who have been traveling in their mini-van, Red Delicious, since 2013. I love all the travel and lifestyle tips on their site, and their positive, enthusiastic but never saccharine or sugar-coated perspective on what that lifestyle involves.

If the stress of constant travel becomes a bit too much, you might instead choose to engage in “slow travel”. Slow travel involves choosing a spot, and deciding to stay put for at least a few months – maybe a year. The first slow travelers I’ve come across were Jacob and Esther who spend a year in each city they live in, exploring the best the location has to offer, and not letting themselves become complacent, because if you only have 365 days to explore a place, you can’t rest on your laurels.  You have to get out there and do it. These guys are a great resource for adventure trips.

Nora Dunn is more spontaneous in her style of travel, though I think she also falls under the label of slow traveler. Nora is also a travel/lifestyle writer, former financial planner and future shaman (probably), but makes her way around the world depending on what opportunities arise. She’s a wealth of information on things like how to find accommodations for free – via house-sitting, care-taking gigs, or by WWOOFING. Even Google isn’t sure if this acronym stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or Willing Workers On Organic Farms, but the idea is that you trade a bit of labor in exchange for a place to stay. There are Organic Farms all over the world you can work at.

Then, there is the Digital Expat, who takes advantage of being free to live wherever she wants to in order to settle down in some other country. I recently browsed a forum where someone said he wanted to be a Digital Nomad, but he didn’t really like travel all that much. He just wanted to get out of his country. That guy was promptly labeled a Digital Expat and booted from the Nomad forum.

The thing that all these people have in common, in my mind at least, is that they are location independent. Thanks to the digital age, there are many paths to being free of location tyranny. Video conferencing, screen sharing, email, chat, and the good old telephone, has made communication easy enough, ubiquitous enough, that you can still be in touch with a team of people regardless of where you work. But, then what you do with that freedom? There are so many options!

Planning Time

Can you believe that there are only 4 weekends in February? Only 4 chances to get out for a long something without worrying about squeezing it around a long work day as well. Four more weekends in March, though perhaps the high country skiing this season will extend into April and May. June, even, in the high places if we’re lucky.

Rick was the one that got me thinking about this when he mentioned the promise of spring desert blooms given all the rain we’ve been receiving. If it spilled into the desert, the wildflowers this year could be amazing. And for a retired couple, desert wildflowers mark the end of the ski season and the beginning of spring travel. He wasn’t optimistic that he would even really ‘get in shape’ this season with the late start and road/weather closures. Could it really be that the ski season, barely started, is already nearing its close?

Years slide by to a gentle beat that fades into the background, like the sound of your own heart. Can a sense of urgency span several years? How do you fit everything into such a short life, crowding personal ambition in around professional responsibilities?

Back in college, Mike first introduced me to the idea of “Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail.” That was following a climbing road trip that many of us were unprepared for. We hadn’t read the guide books, didn’t know what we wanted to climb. Spent a lot of those precious days wandering aimlessly instead of firing off items from a tick list. Those who had prepared were weighed down by those of us who were clueless.

And now, all these years after that lesson that should have seared itself into my mind, I am once again waiting to see. Watching the weather, instead of making things happen and taking advantage of the gear that I’ve spent hard earned money on to get out regardless of conditions, regardless of weather.

And plans can change. Tom has stories of climbers so intent on their climbing objectives that when the weather refused to cooperate, they were unable to flex to something that would have been a better use of their time. They simply moped about the refuges staring out at threatening skies and gnashing their teeth in frustration.

Mid-year resolution: There is a balance in all things, and planning is no exception. Refusing to furl the sail and seek shelter when a storm is blowing in is as foolish not charting a course and allowing the wind to blow you where she will. Begin.

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.

More Vacation Please

 

Yesterday, a friend suggested that with all of these winter rains sweeping across the country, the desert blooms in the spring might be exceptional this year. Of course “it depends”, but it’s promising. According to him, Death Valley and Joshua Tree are both over-run with wildflower viewers at this point so you have to find a more out-of-the-way desert. Desert wildflowers have become a “thing”.

That much-missed precipitation and snow has fallen locally as snow. Perhaps this is finally my chance for that long ski tour that I’ve been meaning to get to for more than a decade now. It would be easy to take a whole week, but could possibly be crammed into less time.

A Glacier National Park visit has been on my hit list for a long time. I thought I was going to go last year, but then circumstances foiled those plans. When we cancelled those plans, we swore that this year would be the year. At least a week.

My closest group of college friends almost got together this winter for a reunion in Colorado. That’s a few days’ journey just to get there, plus time to hang out. Call it a week.

And I’d like to visit my parents, and VIP’s family out east. And I have a long list of want-to-dos over on the east side of the Sierra, most of which require substantially more fitness than I have now. So, exercise needs to be on the to-do list as well as the event itself.

Backpacking trips too… too many to count.

I have a lot of vacation by American standards, but clearly I need more.