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“It isn’t a principle until it costs you money.”

Bill Bernbach

David Vanderveen on Why We’re Afraid of Doubt

“We’re afraid of doubt only because we haven’t learned to love mystery yet.”

David Vanderveen

Not to “understand that it’s important” or to “get the sense that it undergirds everything” but to “love” mystery.

That is an interesting idea. How do you do that without becoming some unhinged crazy person?

Regardless this conversation was a delight to listen to for me.

Favorite Things I Wrote in 2014

I wrote quite a bit this year (I’ll attempt a full list at the bottom). But here’s a few of the pieces I think may just be pretty decent.

First of all, it should be said: this podcast is probably my favorite work of all. It’s not brief or clean, but I have the most fun here and speak most honestly in this verbal format. Ok, back to the list.

Greatest Hits This Year

Hopeful Perspectives 1 Year After My Son’s Birth/Death — Medium“It’s wednesday. Hump day. Last week we planned our first son’s 5th birthday party. This week we plan the remembrance of our second son’s birth and death.”

As I Write This. Depression, Anxiety & Entrepreneurship“I’m getting spun up, like a roiling boil. All this activity, all these thoughts, all this motion, and all of it so clearly pointless.”

One Simple Tip to Aim True & Stay Focused in Your Business — I get to talk about Marc Maron + Billy Connolly, that’s an instant hit right there. (God, i fucking hate headlines.)

10 Thoughts on Focus“You are a human. We think that’s your greatest business asset.”

Jim Henson’s 1961 Paper Animation — Just for the little poem I try to remind myself of from time to time.

Crave“So, last night I find myself going through old videos on YouTube. I stumbled across one that was so confusing and painful and brilliant and terrifying.”

Campaigns for George“Ever heard of George McGovern? There’s a story about this guy’s run for presidency that’s instructive for any of us looking to do good work in the world.”

Third Tier Lessons“That right there was the Third Tier moment: do we sheepishly hedge our bets, hoping to be at the right place at the right time to hear about the party more important people than myself will be going to?”

13 Successful Founders Share First Product Stories — Less of a written thing, but a lot of work and some great insights found.

10 Tactics to Better Work-Life Balance“What’s your job? What’s your life? How do they commingle, reflect and refract one another? What’s at stake if you screw this balance up? Your marriage? Your friendships? Your health? Your business success?”

Is Creative Fulfillment in a Career Possible“I used to fancy myself more of a creative. Almost an artist, but that’s, like, a heavy word, man.”

Insights About Customer Service That Will Change The Products You Make (FS067) — it’s a podcast, but the interview in here is still shaking my world up.

Failure Is An Option“I received an email today that my good friend’s company is shutting down, pulling the plug, closing up shop.”

2 Questions to ask Yourself About the “Equal Odds Rule”“Have you seen any Woody Allen movies? Whatever you think of Woody Allen, his love life or the quality of his movies you cannot argue with the sheer NUMBER of movies he’s put out over the course of his life.”

Everything I Wrote this Year

On The Sparkline

On Medium

On Ice to the Brim

  • Too much to recount, but I updated the editor’s picks with my favorites from the year.

Barrett, one of my partners on the podcast, said this a few months ago: “Work today for the body of work you want to have in 5 years” . It haunts me. I’m not sure what I want to have made in 5 years, but I’m pretty sure none of this is that. But there are bits and pieces, little truths and discoveries and hopefully places where someone feels a little more comfortable in their own skin.

Not sure what the theme of my work will be over the next year, let alone the next several, but my existential crisis (discussed in this talk at pioneer nation) led me to this: make people’s lives better in small and meaningful ways. That can’t be too hard, right?

“Work today for the body of work you want to have in 5 years.”

Barrett Brooks

He said this on our podcast a few months ago and I can’t shake it. I’m not sure what the body of work I want to have in 5 years is, but I know what I’m making right now isn’t it.

“We all spend way too much time practicing being crappy or mediocre. And we spend most of our time being exposed to people who are also crappy or mediocre at the thing we do.”

Kathy Sierra

Scenes From The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology

Watched this movie. Loved it. I was struck by each of the scenes. Feels like a masterclass in lighting and setup. The ideas are interesting also.

Here’s some of the scenes they re-created to make Žižek appear to be in the movies he’s discussing:

The Pervert's Guide to Ideology scene

The Pervert's Guide to Ideology scene


Vonnegut on Boaz’s Revelation

“But Boaz had decided that he needed a buddy far more than he needed a means of making people do exactly what he wanted them to.”

Kurt Vonnegut

There were so many great lines from Boaz in The Sirens of Titan. Here’s some more:

“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

“When you get right down to it, everybody’s having a perfectly lousy time of it, and I mean everyone. And the hell of it is, nothing seems to help much.”

“I found me a place where I can do good without doing any harm, and I can see I’m doing good, and them I’m doing good for know I’m doing it, and they love me, Unk, as best they can. I found me a home.”

A quick read and a good one.

Ursula K Le Guin on Art vs Commodity

Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.

[…] I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this — letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.

Ursula K Le Guin

BBDO’s Renown Brainstorming Sessions

… a brainstorming session at BBDO aimed to create an atmosphere of uncritical acceptance. A group of people, gathered from various departments and levels within the company, met in a room painted sunshine yellow ‘to aid inspiration.’ The room’s pine furniture, table settings, pads and pencils were all roughly the same inspirational hue. With a problem before them, all hands thought out loud, spewing forth ideas no matter how unlikely or unconsidered. The only judgments permitted were positive ones that might allow one participant to ‘hitchhike’ on another’s suggestion. For the time being, internal rank meant nothing: everyone was equal. Only afterward would someone of judicial mind sort through the stenographic record. In 1956, 401 brainstorming sessions at BBDO produced 34,000 tentative ideas, an average of 85 per meeting; of these, 2,000 were judged ‘worthy of development into usable ideas.

Stephen R. Fox

“In any creative form, when the externals become too important the form becomes degenerate.”

Walter O’Meara

I immediately hear: in making a thing, if you are too concerned with how it will perform, the made thing will degenerate.


Is Creative Fulfillment in a Career Possible

‘Advertising began as an art,’ (Rosser) Reeves noted, ‘and too many advertising men want it to remain that way — a never-never land where they can say: “this is right, because we feel it’s right.”’

Actually, said Reeves, advertising is a science like engineering, with some incidental esthetic potential but essentially a tool, an instrument of commerce firmly grounded in practical matters. []…] At all costs, admen should avoid ‘the most dangerous word of all in advertising — originality,’ an esthetic conceit deadly to maintaining a proper USP (unique selling proposition).


Like Rosser Reeves, he (Marion Harper) denied that advertising was an art not because he meant to denigrate advertising but because he had some sense of what real art amounted to. ‘What the audience receives from advertising is all-important,’ he explained. ‘This is not the character of the creative arts, in which the artist’s inspiration is paramount, and in which there can be indifference to the audience response.’

Stephen R. Fox

Still reading this great book on the history of advertising. Still finding so much of my current churnings in it.

Is it possible to be creatively fulfilled and support a family + live responsibly?

I struggle. I think I might, essentially, be a publisher. A publisher is concerned with numbers and eyeballs and moving product. A publisher is concerned with getting the damned thing out in time… whatever the damned thing my writers happen to be writing.

I used to fancy myself more of a creative. Almost an artist, but that’s, like, a heavy word, man. I used to dig and write or make videos like this one just for the hell of it. I used to create websites for fun.

That stuff was fun because it was new. Or because it was lewd and inappropriate. There’s always lewd and inappropriate in a pinch.

Now that stuff’s not new. I’m building a company and supporting partners and customers and there’s this big mess of people who could receive enormous value from the thing we’ve made and I should get this in front of them in a language they can easily receive and if they have different standards from me, different senses of humor and different experiences to draw from, well then I should meet them in those places rather than insist on them learning my own.

This is what it looks like to grow, to get big, to succeed.

Don’t wallow in your whiny artist-isms about “digging” and “the truth” and “what feels good right now” and all that immaturity… don’t be so conceited.

Do that on the side. In your spare time.

Rosser Reeves, quoted at the very top, the villain of 50s advertising (responsible for several of the largest successes) WROTE POETRY ON THE SIDE. Wrote a novel. Put together the first team of chess players from the US to tour Russia. He wrote a short story that was included in a book called The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction (11th edition).

Is that what we have to do? Keep our art separate from our work/career?

Is there a sane and sustainable way to mix the two, or do they necessarily pollute one another?

The two quotes above, both from admen in the 50s, point in one direction. My own success points in another. (It was fucking about and exploring that brought me to any success I’ve found… not calculated strategy or an enterprising point of view.)

Here’s one image I find helpful.

I’m a big fan of Louis C.K. I love his comedy. I love his rambly path to success. And I think I’m learning to see the calculation in his (and other successful comedian’s) act. And the one image I have that helps me hold this question in balance is this:

I picture Louis C.K. as the head of a newspaper company. He’s every yelling, cigar-chomping guy in every superman comic or movie about a newspaper. He normally says things like, “This is shit!” and “I need that piece YESTERDAY, Scott!” He’s that guy, except he’s Louis C.K.

One day I break down in his office. “I got into this racket to tell the truth,” I scream. “But all the people seem to want is this bullshit we keep selling them!” The anger gives way to a kind of creative brokenheartedness. Louis recognizes it. He sits down behind his desk, opens the top drawer, hands me a cigar, lights it for me.

“You know how long I’ve been here, kid? 28 years next month. Here’s what I’ve learned: you’ve gotta give them what they want. Appeal to their shit nature, cuz it feels good to them, to push those bruises and pick those scabs. They love it. Get good at that shit, kid, cuz you gotta give them what they want… so they’ll read enough to find what they need. Surprise them with it, their gross reality, OUR depravity and selfishness, the ways we all fool ourselves, you gotta wrap it in shit so they’ll stick around long enough to maybe, just maybe get a nugget of truth in there… between the shovels of shit. I need your next piece on my desk by 3pm. Get out of here.” That last bit said with more than a little father-son fondness.

There’s a little glimpse into one of my sick fantasies… and one of my current struggles.

“Mastery doesn’t come from an infographic. What you know doesn’t mean shit. It’s what you do consistently.”

Tony Robbins

This interview was so good it makes me question the beliefs I carry about these two guys (this quote from an interview Tony had with Tim Ferriss). A couple hucksters? A couple gurus? A couple douchebags dropping facts about investment, NLP and “neuro-hacking?”

I don’t know what I think anymore. Maybe the conversation was perfect promotion. Maybe it was genuine. A girl can hope, can’t she?

“This being so, so what? ”

Zen Something-r-other via Jerry Colonna

Dan Carlin on Podcasting

“If you talk about what you find interesting, eventually you will acquire a listenership that likes that too… and if you try to make a show based on what other people like, eventually you will have a show that YOU don’t like.”

Dan Carlin (of Hardcore History)

Really great interview here. Hardcore History is a killer podcast. I need to chew on this a bit for my own show.