I’m as guilty as anyone else who says that to build a business, or a blog, it’s good to ask people what they want and then give it to them. It works!But there’s another side to this thinking, and I heard the counterpoint presented beautifully last week by Paula Pant. For years, she's published a popular blog about personal finance. But as she shared in a talk, after starting down the familiar path of "Hey everyone, what should I write for you?" she realized that maybe it was better to ask herself what she wanted to do. Read More
Just as there are some things that can’t be fixed, there are also some things you can’t control. This fact can be hard to accept for those of us who like to both fix and control things.You might have a lot of influence, all the autonomy you could wish for, and independence for days—but when it comes to things you can’t control, none of that matters. I was reading a thread on Quora recently and noticed a recurring theme in what people mentioned as being outside the realm of control. Read More
Imagine revisiting a place you’d been long ago during a hard time in your life. Maybe that time was long, long ago, and the place far, far away. Or maybe it was last week, and the place is the coffee shop down the street.Whatever the story, you walk in and experience an unpleasant flashback. You remember what happened when you received bad news, that thing that someone said, or whatever the hard time was about. But it’s not just about the memories. You can feel it. The anxiety tightens, and maybe you’re short of breath. There's no doubt about it: that thing was hard! Not just a little hard, but hard in a life-changing way. Back then, during the time of the hard thing, you had no idea how you'd recover. You couldn't fathom ever being "okay" or normal again. But maybe there’s also something good about this experience, the one that feels so unpleasant at first. Read More
I have one or two drinks with dinner, rarely any more.Before bed I make a cup of herbal tea and take magnesium. Sometimes I have a square of dark chocolate. I sit with my thoughts and my calendar. I look at my tasks. I do this in digital and analogue form. There is pen and paper and phone and MacBook Air. I determine the priorities for the next day, with the knowledge that there can only be so many. There may be thirty things to do, but only two to three are truly critical. In fact, it’s hard to do three. Often it’s just a maximum of two. Choosing more is a recipe for procrastination, if not outright failure. Read More
A while back I wrote about the idea of your life as a movie, with you as the director. When you go through your archives in post-production, you might stumble on a scene that feels particularly surreal.In those times, you may want to ask yourself, “Why did I put this scene in my movie?" With the benefit of perspective, I realize that some of the scenes in my movie are a little surreal. Looking back on those scenes, it's easy to wonder, “Did that really happen?” Read More
On an upcoming episode of Side Hustle School, I tell the story of someone who obtained a patent for a special kind of mittens for runners. Unlike a $100 Startup, getting a patent is not an easy or cheap process. It look several years and more than $5,000.Still, she stuck with it because she believed in the idea and was convinced of its value. When she asked one friend where she was going to get the money, he said, “Do you own any stocks?” She said yes. “If you can invest in someone else’s company,” he told her, "you can invest in yourself. Sell the stocks!” Read More
I recently recorded a Side Hustle School episode about Michelle D’Avella, a designer who spent several years building a blog before turning it into a full-time income.The first year she started her blog, she made $0. Last year, after experimenting with a series of virtual workshops and mentoring sessions, she made $50,000. The success isn’t just about making money, it’s also (maybe even more importantly) about finding work she believes in. Her advice to others is to create from a place of joy.
"Don’t put so much pressure on figuring it all out, but make sure what you’re doing is something you can feel good about. When we create from joy, people feel it. When we create from lack, people feel it too. We run away from desperation."Read More
Creative people usually have no shortage of ideas of things they'd like to do. The greater challenge is: how do you know which ideas are worth pursuing, and which should be abandoned or just put on hold for now?Here’s one way: consider the amount of time you spend thinking about the idea, even as you go on to other things. I don’t just mean when you have an idea and you think about it a lot the same day. I mean when you have an idea, and you think about it for a while before putting it aside... and then it comes back to you the next day. Then a week goes by, and you realize you’ve thought about it almost every day. Read More
Despite what Google or Wikipedia tells you, today (April 4th) is not my birthday. Last year on this day I got a flurry of messages from people all wishing me a joyous celebration.“Thanks,” I’d reply, “but it’s not my birthday." I finally developed a working theory of what happened. I’m not positive it’s true, but it’s something that feels comforting, so I’m going with it. Read More
On a recent trip, I had to get back to Doha from Paris, a 5 1/2 hour flight. I was transferring via an initial connection from Zurich, and I booked the Zurich flight to arrive less than an hour before the Qatar Airways flight departed.You might think that’s cutting it close, and it was. In the worst of times, Charles de Gaulle airport can be an absolute nightmare to navigate for transit. It’s not unreasonable to walk more than a kilometer between terminals, and some terminals are reachable only by an extended bus ride. Add long security lines (no PreCheck!) to that equation, and it’s not unreasonable to allow 2-3 hours for a connection. Read More
I recently had the honor of introducing Emily McDowell and facilitating a Q&A session with her at Powell’s for her new book, There Is No Good Card for This.You probably know Emily’s work even if you don’t know her yourself. She’s the creator, designer, and entrepreneur behind a line of greeting cards and related products, all with the goal of serving “the relationships we really have.”
Here are a few of her popular cards (order yours online or from one of 2,000 stores around the world):Read More
If I’ve done my job well and managed my time properly, most of the crunch time work has happened in the morning. I work every morning, afternoon, and most evenings, but in different ways.
The afternoon is a slower form of work. I have at least 40 minutes for lunch, which I usually read with the New Yorker or Economist or (when in my hometown) the Willamette Week. Afterwards, if the weather’s nice, I might walk for a while. I run an errand or two. Eventually, I end up at a coffee shop, or I pick up a pastry and head home.
The 2pm-4pm work period is nice and easy. I might have deadlines but I usually avoid calls or interviews. I plan ahead and do some editing, a bit of writing, maybe some business work. But it’s thoughtful. I’ve already read all the news in the morning, but I might read more analysis or an article on Longreads with my coffee.Read More
When I’m not jet lagged from flying around the world, I have a clear routine that I follow as much as possible. This routine allows me to stay relatively sane while also working as much as possible on things I believe in.
I love living on the west coast, but working on Pacific time can be a challenge. Even when I get up early, I’m three hours behind the other side of the country. My 6am is their 9am—most people have been awake and starting their days for a while. Their idea of an early call is extremely early for me.
When I have a book out, I do my best to accommodate anyone else’s schedule. Drive time radio for a major show on the east coast? That usually means even if I’m in the later portion of the show, I’ll be calling in at 5am or earlier. It’s okay; I do what needs to be done.Read More