Ship Something.

It has been six weeks since I last wrote this way. It almost feels new again. 

Before you go any further, I want you to know something about this post. This post doesn't really have anything to do with digital marketing at all. It has everything to do with shipping. 

 Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.

I am writing this because I want to ship something; ironically, I am writing this because I want to tell you what it feels like to not ship something.

Many weeks ago, I started something new. This newness has: taken up much of my mental space, brought me joy and has also given me a justification to not ship something on this blog. The conversation in my head says, "Well you are now shipping a lot of new things elsewhere, so that's great! Focus on those. The blog can wait." 

The most dangerous thing about not shipping something is that over time, that feeling of uneasiness that you have in the beginning starts to fade away. The urge dies. You become comfortable with this new norm.

We should never let time get the better of us. Time should never rob you of the chance to show the world something it hadn't seen before. The feeling of uneasiness that comes when you haven't done something in a while (In my case shipping something on this blog, in your case ... whatever you can equate), take it as a sign from within your gut saying ...  

Do something.

There are plenty of things that could hold you back, most of which are probably rooted in fear but understand that certain things are hard ... only if you make them so. In my case, writing this post has been difficult simply because I have forgotten a little bit about what it feels like to write. Seth Godin equates writing to speaking. Imagine not saying a word for six weeks.  

Despite how hard it has been to write this, the main idea driving this post is the same one that has driven and will continue to drive every post on this blog (please apply this to your own situation): 

By shipping something, you are sharing something that did not exist before. In doing so, you are creating new possibilites and opportunities for the world around you. 

Let this knowledge be the fuel for you to overcome the uneasiness, satisfy the urge, not get comfortable with your new norm ... and just ...

ship something.

How Can You be More Creative?

Pay attention.

As my hero Sherlock Holmes would say ... observe.

Do you recognize this font?

This was the original name given to what we now know as Helvetica. This font is actually all around us now and has been for many years. I recently learned about all of this after watching one of Gary Hustwit's documentaries suitably named, 'Helvetica.'

The documentary not only taught me a lot about the history of the famous font, but it also taught me about the 'curse' of being a designer. You can probably imagine what this curse is, it's basically that designers see design everywhere. Actually, I should say ... designers observe design everywhere. Everyone sees design everywhere.

Is this a 'curse' really? No. It's a gift. In fact, I would argue that in some way we all have this gift. Each of us is good at something. We are all artists. The simplest example could be what you do for a living; however, it could be something you've done in the past, a hobby, a sport ... something. If we can recognize that we are good at this thing, we can also recognize when others are good at it too.

More importantly though, we can recognize when others are bad at it.

This is when we can choose to do something good. This is when we can learn to be creative. When you recognize your art being done badly, think of how you would do it differently. Do this often. Every time you come across your art in some way, observe it, think about how you might change it, think about the process that went into it.

Next time you do your art, bring to memory all the recent art that you have observed and the ways in which you would do your art differently ... now is your chance.

Be creative

Lessons

Today is a very significant day in my life. Today marks the last day of my first job after being a university student. I've been with Christie for almost three years and soon I will begin a new chapter in the start-up realm at a company called Axonify.

 "Watch a sunrise, at least once a day." - Phil Dunphy

"Watch a sunrise, at least once a day." - Phil Dunphy

This will be one of my philosophical posts again because I wanted to write down some reflections on what I've really learned from my first job. I wanted to keep it simple, so in no particular order, here are my first lessons:

If you want to quickly understand a very large business, do the grunt work. The work that others may shy away from.

Evolutions are easier to deal with than revolutions, but revolutions are sometimes needed.

Empathy is everything. Ask your colleagues not just what they do but how they do it. This way you will truly understand what they mean when they say they are 'busy.'

When you walk the halls, do it with a smile. Someone may need to see one.

Ask your colleagues what they like to do for fun, you may just discover intraprenuers within your company.

Do everything you can to make the day enjoyable for the people who have to deal with you for 8 hours every day, 5 days a week. This is as easy as laughing once in a while.

Don't be afraid to draw your own map.

Understand where you add value and more importantly, where you don't.

"Strive for progress, not perfection..."

If someone new joins, go out of your way to make them feel welcome. You were that person once.

Do your own job in such a way that others around you are able to be better at their jobs.

Be real, be transparent and be honest at the end of the day, people will appreciate that.

Look forward to at least one thing every day.

You need a hackathon

I love the concept of hackathons

Mostly because the focus is on shipping.

I have never personally had the pleasure of being involved with a hackathon, but that got me thinking ... why can't I host my own ... for myself?

Here are the ingredients you will need to create your own hackathon:

 Make sure you have plenty of time to hack.

Make sure you have plenty of time to hack.

  • Ideas - collected and stored over time, you can pick a particular idea and focus the hackathon entirely on that or perhaps try tackle a few ideas. 
  • Food - don't hold out, this is your fuel. Collect your favourite snackies and get ready to devour them all. When your resources are depleted, your brain seeks sugar. It's science my friend. 
  • Time - pick a day ... or night. Commit to it. Plan it in advance so that you can mentally prepare for it.
  • Place - you need to be in a space where you can really focus. For many hackers, this is their workplace, for others it is a room in their house, for you it may be elsewhere. It needs to be a place where you can spend a significant amount of time without people looking at your awkwardly or trying to get you to leave because you haven't bought anything in six hours. 
  • Tools - Computer, pen, paper, raw materials, lego ... depends on what you're project is.

Although you could go at it alone, you don't have to. Maybe you have been beating around and idea with a friend and you just want to be able to get together and really focus on it. Maybe you and your significant other have been talking about a project to make your home more fun to live in. It's perfectly ok (even encouraged) to have a team to hack with.

The way I see it, there are two very simple goals in a hackathon:

  1. Have fun - or else you won't do it again. You can make sure you have fun by focusing on the idea that gets you the most inspired. 
  2. Ship something - even if it's something far, far less that what you expected, make sure you ship something that you didn't have before. 

You need a hackathon. 

Plan one and make it happen.

I don't need a menu

This is my standard Sunday brunch item:

 Breakfast Pizza from Timeless Cafe.

Breakfast Pizza from Timeless Cafe.

For the past four or five Sundays, my wife and I have been going to this wonderful cafe for brunch. It has become a lovely little routine we follow. This past Sunday, I went alone because my wife is away making the world a better place.

When I arrived, I was greeted by a new waitress and when she presented me with a menu ... I simply said, "I don't need a menu ... " Then I proceeded to give her my usual order.

Call me a regular, a loyal customer, a fan, the mayor on Foursquare ... any label you wish really, but you get the idea. I know this place and I love this place. Now let's take me and this specific restaurant out of the equation and look at the concept of someone who walks into a restaurant/cafe/bar and does not ask for a menu.

Here are some facts about this person:

  1. He or she has built this act into part of routine that he or she wakes up and looks forward to that day.
  2. To this person, the place (restaurant/cafe/bar) is more than an establishment, it's a place of rest. A place of peace. A place where you know exactly what you're going to get and you know you will like it, so it allows you to mentally relax and think of some other things. Entering this place is similar to the feeling of coming home after a long trip away.
  3. If asked, this person can talk someone's ear off about this place and can easily convince a group of people to go there.
  4. This person's love for this place will be exponentially enhanced if the employees of this establishment get to know this person on a first-name basis.
  5. If this person ever brings someone with him or her to this place, that new person should be treated with the same if not even greater admiration because this new person has entered a guarded sanctuary and must fall equally in love with it.

Knowing these facts, what can a restaurant/cafe/bar do to keep this relationship strong or attempt to make it even stronger? Here are some ideas, feel free to add your own in the comments:

  1. Get to know the person, ask them for a story, know something that you can ask them about each time you see them.
  2. Make sure that everyone on your staff knows who this person is and what they usually order. This should be easy because they probably come in at the same time on the same day.
  3. Treat them occasionally, give them something for free.
  4. Ask them to try something new that you think they may like. Take their feedback seriously.
  5. Ask them about how you could improve one thing you're doing.
  6. If they bring a friend (or more than one), definitely offer something on the house. You must impress the friends.

Relationship building is everything in the service industry (well, in every industry really), if you run a service business that offers a menu and you have a customer that doesn't ask for one ... it basically means this customer is offering you his or her hand in marriage ...

Take it.

The last 10%

Is by far the hardest.

Some people substitute 10% with 5%, 2%, 1% ... you get the idea.

I am certain there have been papers upon papers and blogs upon blogs written about this concept but I wanted to give it a shot. I don't write these philosophical posts all that often so forgive me but this is important.

 A cartoon by @gapingvoid

A cartoon by @gapingvoid

Here is the life-cycle of a project as I see it:

Stage 1 - Excitement
Brainstorming. Crazy ideas. Planning. Deadlines. A general sense of what we want the end product to look like. We know there is a lot of work to do ahead, but we choose to ignore that for the time being because we're caught up in the dream of a new idea coming to life. It's a great feeling. You tell your significant other when you get home, even though he or she may or may not care ... you are that excited.

Stage 2 - The groundwork
The excitement continues, you begin to start scratching the surface of what needs to be done. You start to make progress and this makes you happy. You are coming closer to the dream that you had in stage 1. You start to see glimpses at the sheer amount of work that lies ahead but you're still running off a high that started in stage 1 so you decide to let those glimpses fade for the time being.

Stage 3 - The grunt work
This is a real kick in the chicklets. There is a LOT going on and you are just in the middle of it all. Time is not slowing down. This is what you signed up for though and you know that, you know what the reward will feel like when you get through this because you already had a dream about the reward in stage 1. Days and nights are long. Meetings at this point are just a sheer waste of time because every minute you spend in a meeting is a minute not spent doing your work.

Stage 4 - The fires
You've got something! Something even small to show off. The grunt work all amounted to this moment. Now you start to share things around. Then come the revisions, the changes,  the fires. Some work is wasted, some work isn't. Every change hurts you a little bit though because you've worked so hard on this in stage 3. Despite this, you suck it up and make everything right, after all you are almost at the stage of realizing the dream. What's a little more work.

Stage 5 - The last 10%
You're tired. There are things you haven't accounted for. There are things you realize you should have approached differently if the world was perfect and you could turn back time. There's is still a little bit left to do but it's pissing you off because you've already done so much. This is the stage that matters the most though. This is where you need guts. This is where you need to look through the haze to find that dream you had in stage 1. It's almost there, you just have to push for it and make it happen.

I was inspired to write this post because of a tweet (and a few years of experiencing this sort of thing):

"Here's the dealio - in our personal and professional journeys, strive for progress not perfection." - Alan Quarry

This is what the last 10% is about. It's about progress. The fact of the matter is, when you ship that last 10%, you have shipped something. Something the world didn't have yesterday. It doesn't need to be perfect yet, it just needs to happen.

Make it so.

Be an artist

Transient

I spent today reading The Icarus Deception

I have always and will continue to be inspired by Seth. His generosity is contagious.

Here are a few of my favourite insights from the book:

Art is the act of pointing a light at the darkness. Before you turn on the light, you have no idea what you're about to see, and once you know what you're going to see, it's no longer dark. 
Art is the truly human act of creating something new that matter to another person. The only refuge left, the only safe path, is to be the one who makes art.
The connections in our life multiply and increase in value. Our stuff, on the other hand, merely gets cheaper over time.

My hope for your 2013 and my own:

Be an artist. Make connections. Start something worth starting. Be vulnerable.

Every day this next year you and I will have the opportunity and the choice to approach something differently. I hope for both our sakes, that at least on one day ... we seize that opportunity and chose to make a difference.