Birthday

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15 years ago today. I walked from one end of Paris to the other. For no better reason than I was embarrassed. Embarrassed to ask directions. Embarrassed to try to get on a bus. Embarrassed to take a cab. Why embarrassed? I didn’t speak a word of French. So instead I walked all day, and just barely ended up sleeping on a pulled out cot in a packed youth hostel.

But I survived.

And got over the embarrassment. Learned the opposite of embarrassment Learned to be the fool when being the fool was appropriate.

If my first 21 years were about learning to live, then these last 15 have been about learning to be alive.

Dinosaurs, Part 2

If you work in development, you’re always the agent of change.

Another way of saying this: You’re always potentially seen as the meteor.

One way of dealing with this is simply shrugging your shoulders and being the meteor.

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Another way, usually the better way, is changing the metaphor. Maybe you’re not a meteor. Maybe your new Widget 5000 isn’t here to exterminate. Maybe it’s here to educate, unleash, and empower.

In my younger years, I used the think that was a lot of BS. Who cares? I liked being the meteor. Change was coming whether the dinosaurs wanted it or not, so it might as well be me.

That attitude? Somewhere along the way, it found its meteor.

Dinosaurs

How much of the push-back against any innovation, is about the innovation itself?

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Versus the existing paradigm defending itself, its status, in some cases its careers.

It’s a question worth asking. And Hugh Macleod’s cartoon gives us a great framework to discuss it with.

Now, any time I see change, I almost reflexively think “Who’s the dinosaur here, and who’s the meteor?”

I had only one little sliver of our evolving world in mind when I wrote this post, and I hesitate to even mention it for fear of getting involved where I’d rather just watch. Let’s just say it involves .NET, it’s a four letter acronym, it rhymes with ‘blink’, it might be the missing ____.

Indigo

The more intensely I’m working, the more access I seem to have the obscure filaments of my memory.

There were warm summer evenings on the Other Side of The Hill. Menlo Park or Cupertino. San Carlos. There were kids I remember meeting. They thought differently than the other kids I knew. They were open and eager. They wanted to play new games. Invent new games. And they seemed to get me, in a way that nobody else did, and get that I was different too.

It was always summer when I met these kids. Cousins, or friends of friends, or just somebody I’d met on a playground my parents had stopped at so I could play. Central Park in San Mateo.

How many kids? Maybe a half dozen over the course of my childhood. Rico was one of them. Can’t remember where or when or how exactly we met. Just a different kid. We wanted to stay and play all night. It gets syrupy on summer nights on the Peninsula. Sky goes indigo, and Van Gogh stars. You can stay out in tshirts and shorts and in the gloaming we played the hybrid hide-and-seek / 20 questions game Rico and I made up: One hid while the other sought, and when the seeker found you, you had as much time as it had taken him to find you to guess something 20-questions style.

Saw it this evening while walking in the park across the street. A fleeting kid friendship between two different kids who just got each other. The one dad got it, too. He didn’t want to go. Finally he had to say it: “Come on son, we have to go. We have to drive back home to Seattle. Say bye to your friend.”

“Bye. Bye. Bye!”

Man With Idea

“As I say, the day began gloriously. It was only this morning that I became conscious again of this physical Paris of which I have been unaware for weeks. Perhaps it is because the book has begun to grow inside me. I am carrying it around with me everywhere. I walk through the streets big with child and the cops escort me across the street. Women get up to offer me their seats. Nobody pushes me rudely any more. I am pregnant. I waddle awkwardly, my big stomach pressed against the weight of the world.”


– Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

This is how it is when we’re working on a big idea.

All of it is happening inside of you. Germination. Sprouts are forming, and forming sprouts of their own.

And the world knows. Senses. Seas part. Phone calls come in from across town, across country, from Tangiers and the middle of nowheres. Emails from people you haven’t heard from in years. Everyone is there just at the right time. To help. Or just to see what you’re building in there. It’s a neat thing, a sweet thing. One of the many paths of life.

Zipcar

Been using Zipcar for a little while now. There are seven or eight cars within about six blocks of me, and one is always available, and it works great for short trips to the store and for getting out into the country on the weekends.

Here’s the thing about Zipcar: It only works if you have the right mindset.

There’s this thing that happens when you rent by the hour. Real Time Accounting tries to take over. As if there’s a timer running in your head. Thinking like this: “Wow I’d better not stop for dinner, it’ll add $10 to this trip”, or “If I go on a 2 hour hike, it will cost me $18, that’s crazy for a hike!”, or “Holy moly that trip to Target ended up costing $27!”

A car you own might cost you the same amount, if you were to add it up that way. But you don’t. You pay on your car differently and because you pay differently, you think of it differently. You relax and enjoy. You never go back and assign a % of whatever it is you pay each month to each trip.

So the real trick with Zipcar is to only account for it at the end of the month. Add up how much you spent on cars and if that’s less than you would have spent owning a car? Then Zipcar might be for you.

If you have the type of mind that can’t shut off Real Time Accounting, then Zipcar is probably not for you.

Numbers Game, Part 2

I came across a post that Cap Watkins, Design Lead at Etsy, wrote about how much of his career has hinged on making one key connection.

…The other story started after a few months of living in Oakland. I was working out of my apartment fulltime, and hadn’t met a single person in the bay area outside the people working with me on PMOG. One day, I decided I wanted to meet some designers in San Francisco. So, I did the only thing I could think of: made a list of web sites I thought were well-designed, figured out who designed them and sent a cold email to the designer telling them I was a new designer in the area and asking if they’d like to get coffee or a beer sometime. In all, I probably sent around 20-30 emails to a variety of creative people in San Francisco.

I received a single reply.

Daniel Burka (who at the time was the creative director at Digg) said that, sure, he’d love to grab coffee. We set up a time and I took the train to the city to meet up with him and his friend Mark. We chatted for awhile and, just before we left, they both mentioned that they were going rock climbing the next morning with friends, and asked if I’d like to join.

Absolutely, I did. The next morning I hopped on a 6am BART train from Oakland into the city to get the climbing gym at 7am. There, I met a few more people, which turned into a few more people, which turned into a few more and suddenly I wasn’t all alone in Oakland anymore.

And that one contact eventually led to what he’s doing now at Etsy.

What sticks out to me is how he sent “around 20-30 emails”.

Most of us don’t do that. We don’t think in terms of the numbers game. Most of us would send one, maybe two emails at the most. And we wouldn’t get a single reply. And we’d sulk and say “Well that didn’t work”.

In a situation where you’re only looking for one, whether that one is a life partner or a whale client, it’s amazing to me just how wide your initial net needs to be. And how thick your skin needs to be when you cast that net, knowing that out of 20-30 emails, you’re only going to get one or two responses.