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My son is five years old.

I’m busy. Life gets in the way. Work is always there, another conference call, another task, just one more email.

It never stops. It’s easy to keep going, to tell yourself that an extra couple of hours in the evening will make a difference.

But then my son sits there waiting. 

“Will you play with me now daddy?”

No, not right now. I need to take care of this thing that’s really urgent. 

Right now I’m a key figure in his life, and all he wants to do is spend time with me. He’s not asking for much.

One of his favorite times of the day (at least on days when he’s home from school) are the few minutes I can disconnect and play with him. 

It’s almost instant, his eyes light up when I tell him I can now play with him. 

How do I make sure I don’t miss this? How do I make sure I’ll be there for this? 

It’s hard. It’s a struggle. I want to spend time with him, and yet so many other things beckon for attention. 

What I’ve finally realized in recent months is that a daily habit is more important than grand gestures every few months.

Spending a few minutes in the evening, right before bed, is one of the easiest ways to make sure we can connect and do something together.

This is so easy, and I need to do it more.

I write this more as a note to myself. 

Today we spent 15 minutes playing a game together on the iPad. It’s not ideal, but it’s time together, and he loved every moment of it.

Your voice matters

Is there something you care deeply about? 

Do you regularly find yourself frustrated with how things work?

Are you constantly thinking about ways to make something better?

Your voice should be shared. 

Even if you don’t feel that you’re the most qualified (hint: you rarely feel qualified), the impact you can create by sharing cannot be fully measured.

Recently a colleague of mine gave a talk at our company about an important topic related to privacy. We discussed the talk and the impact it made; taking a topic that some might not have paid as much attention to, and finding the angle to make it interesting and relevant.

I suggested he speak at public events with this topic. Initially he hesitated, citing some valuable reasons I can’t quite remember. 

What I felt impressed to do at that stage was push a bit harder and suggest he do the talk

He applied and was accepted.

Now, I know that I wasn’t the only reason for this happening, but I do recognize the value in personal connections and encouraging others to share their voice.

Slicing bread

There’s a passage in the Bible where Paul, one of the early church leaders, talks about a problem in a community (1 Corinthians 3).

Apollos and Paul, two preachers who loved to share with others, were both teaching and preaching in the same general area. As a result some people started calling themselves followers of Paul, while others said that Apollos was the one they followed.

Paul’s counsel was to not call yourself a follower of either. Neither he nor Apollos could take credit for helping to share their belief, it was a slow process that took time. He said (my paraphrase) that one person could sow the seed of information, and another might come along and add water to help it grow. 

This reminds me of a situation I’ve run into often over the past few years.

Let’s say I have an idea that I want to share with a friend. I’m really excited about a new way to slice bread that I just read about. I tell my friend about it and try to convince them to try it.

A few months later my friend starts slicing bread the way I described.

Naturally I’ll be inclined to take credit for it.

However, what I could easily miss is that I was only one small step in her journey toward choosing to slice bread that way. I didn’t see the conversations she had with another friend about it, the time she looked it up and read about it on her own, and the fact that heard it mentioned two years before I said anything (but decided it wasn’t for her yet).

This is where humility should come in. My natural inclination is to get excited about something, and then share it with others. Over time I start to see results where friends adopt some of the ideas I’ve been sharing. While I may absolutely have been instrumental in their reasons for changing, I don’t know the whole story.

Ultimately it has to become the idea that my friend chooses to own themselves, and they likely came to that decision with lots of factors involved, not just my telling them.

So I’ll keep sharing about the new method of slicing bread, but with an understanding that I’m not the only one involved. Other people are also sharing things they care about!

Four day trip with the Goruck Bullet

Eureka! The perfect backpack exists, for me at least. Ok, I’ll try not to get too hyperbolic.

Choosing Goruck as a brand

I’ve researched a lot of ways to carry my stuff (junk?) from point A to point B. As a result I settled on wanting a somewhat small backpack as the sweet spot. That doesn’t mean a bag with wheels is out of the question (I love my Travelpro that I found on Craigslist). But it does mean I need a good bag to throw on my back when I go on a trip.

Picking the right size

Thanks to Ben from Brooks Review I was convinced Goruck was a solid choice. A backpack should be sturdy, have a small profile, and be visually understated. I ordered the GR1 and the Echo. The GR1 is a great midsize backpack that can carry a laptop and several days worth (easily) of clothes for a trip.

The Echo is like the GR1, but it’s short and squatty, like someone took the bottom and chopped it off. Since I’m 6’ 2” tall I decide the Echo would look too small on my back and returned it. I used the GR1 for a trip to Amsterdam and found it a nearly perfect fit for bringing a decent amount of stuff: clothes for 4-5 days, my DSLR camera, an iPad Pro and my MacBook Pro (along with other odds and ends). It’s just small enough that I can shove it under an airplane seat if absolutely necessary. However, in situations where I can pack lighter (Summer time), it’s too big for my needs.

Trying another size

So I decided to try the Goruck Bullet. I tested it on a cross country trip for 4 days. I found that it fit my MacBook Pro (13 inch), iPad Pro, clothes for the trip, and a few accessories. The trip wasn’t quite perfect. I ended up tossing my clothes into a collapsible tote bag on the second day to make it easier to split up things during meetings. However, it was small and light, fit well under the airplane seat, and didn’t look silly on my back. It’s really perfect for specific situations.

GR1 is perfect for trips where I have to make compromises and bring more than I want. The Bullet is perfect for times when I can simplify on clothing and not bring a ton of electronics.


What I actually packed
(Minus what I wore to take the picture)

  • 1 MacBook Pro (13 inch)
  • 1 iPad Pro (12.9 inch)
  • iPhone
  • Cords and accessories for all three
  • Small battery charger for the iOs devices (didn’t end up needing it)
  • 1 pair of pants
  • 1 pair of shoes
  • 5 shirts
  • 1 pair of shoes
  • Running shorts
  • Cubes for sorting clothes
  • Belt
  • 5 pair of underwear
  • 3 pair of socks
  • A few small food related items
  • Glasses case
  • Small quart ziplock with toiletries
  • Wallet
  • AirPods

Downsizing from here?

For my next trip I want to reduce the number of shirts I bring (Wool & Prince, 2 pair total), and find a pair of shoes that fit well for running and business casual. I’m also interested in only bringing my iPad (or getting a smaller iPad) or laptop, not both. I almost brought my Patagonia down jacket (it collapses into a small pouch), but decided Florida should be warm enough without it. I also left my water bottle at home.

Universal notes

Evernote, Apple Notes, Simplenote, TextEdit, Notepad++, Field Notes, Google Docs, Confluence.

Over the last decade I’ve tried out a lot of options for capturing notes. My perfect notes doc would:

  • Be universal – It’s always with me, or easily accessible. This doesn’t necessarily preclude an analog option, such as my beloved Rhodia notebook, but it’s not going to always be with me.
  • Fast – I should be able to start taking notes within a few seconds.
  • Pastable – I write in one doc and have to paste in WordPress or Google docs. What does that look like?

So far I’ve never found the perfect solution. However, Bear is very nearly the closest to perfect I’ve found so far. Now if only Markdown was truly universal.


The value of design

Earlier today I attended a talk by Adam Morgan, a senior Creative Director at Adobe. He shared why creativity and design matter, and why they deserve a seat at the table alongside logic and data.

The question that started the talk was, “do creative ideas work better?”. To find out the answer he discussed the differences between logic and emotion, the subconscious decisions our brain makes vs the conscious decisions, the linear vs connotational way of thinking, and the frontal lobe vs the rest of your brain.

Decision making

All of this led to the importance of considering both logic and emotion when making decisions. For example:

A logical decision

If you need to buy a potato peeler – you make a quick logical decision based on a few points of data. It’s that that difficult. 

An emotional decision

However, you’re going to buy a house, there are literally thousands of data points to consider that will make up your final decision. Is the crown molding the kind you want, is the location correct, how about the size of the lot, color of the walls, which direction does it face on the compass, do you have a good view of the sunset, is it an open floor plan, do you like the pain color, tile selections, the list is endless.

Your brain will take all these questions and work through reams of data in an instant. From all that data, which is really just 1s and 0s, you’ll make a “gut” decision on whether you like it; an emotional decision.


Our brains run on autopilot much of the time. Consider your daily commute. You probably don’t remember anything from the time you hopped into the car until you parked in your garage. But the moment you spot a car accident, your brain flies out of auto pilot and the command center takes over.

Our brains focus on anomalies in and fill in the rest of what we see what predictive models. In other words, you’re not really “seeing” most of your daily commutes, your brain is filling all that in and letting your run on autopilot.

Your brain has 86 billion neurons holding data, and that data is locked in with emotions. You can bring your brain out of auto pilot, in theory, with a logical data point. However, the best way to get all the neurons firing is to force an emotion.

If you see a red flame your brain checks its database to decide what that means, it finds a data point – hot fire, OUCH! – and uses that to help you decide you shouldn’t touch it. An emotion helped lock in that data point and helps make it easier to recall.

If you see a blue flame your brain might not have a data point to check against, so it flags it as an anomaly. It will then report that back to your command center to decide what to do with. Once you decide – yes it’s still hot, it’s similar to a red flame – it will burn a new memory to lock in later.

Emotions are powerful things! They create memory traces. If you want someone to remember your the work you’re creating, you can use emotion to help lock it in or retrieve it. Consider likability (versus negative advertising) and nostalgia for encouraging decisions.

Logic and emotion

Some decisions require logic, while others require emotion. This is where creativity needs a seat at the table; if you want to understand how the human brain makes decisions then you need to consider how emotion and anomalies fit into the picture.

The marketing gut is not dead. At Adobe they champion analytics through their own product, but they still use their marketing gut, along with the repository of past data, to help make decisions.

When you’re trying to decide what features or user interface to implement into a product, you should definitely consider all the data you have available. But don’t ignore the value of your own experiences and emotional feelings.

When it comes to measuring your creative ideas you should use data and logic to provide insight into where you’re going with the decision. From there focus on creating an experience and measure whether that experience hits the trigger for decision making with your audience.

Many companies are afraid to be creative and say they only make logical decisions. This is a fallacy; emotion is involved in much of our decision making at a subconscious level.

By avoiding creativity a company risks not connecting with their audience.


Companies are either relationship driven, process driven, or focused on product innovation. If your company is process driven then creativity will likely not be needed. But if you’re a product innovative company (like Adobe) or a relationship focused company, then creativity has the opportunity to thrive.

If you want to learn more, feel free to visit returnonidea.com; Adam will be publishing a book soon to expand on this topic!

Taking a break

This weekend I spent a few days by myself in the middle of nowhere. Thank you my lovely wife for handling the kiddos by herself! I’ll likely share some more thoughts soon, but the short takeaway is it’s important to take time to think; to stop and take stock of what’s going on. For myself I realized that, the busier I am, the more important to figure out where I’m going. While my time away didn’t reveal any grand new ideas about the universe, it did give me a chance to take a few new photos.


So I’m struggling with something. I love to help people out and love to tinker and try new things. This means I take on more than I can handle and then end up working backwards to try and prioritize.

Last night I started reading two books about this very thing. They’re really driving the point home for me that simplicity and less in life and work are important. These, along with Essentialism and Deep Work are helping to define my mindset for 2018.

So, my goal for the next few weeks is to figure out how to do less, but better. To be candid I’m struggling with that! We’ll see where this goes.

One Small Thing – Running Part 2

Last year I started running 1 mile each day.

Running is my favorite exercise. I can get enjoy exercise, enjoy nature, and listen to an audiobook. However, in the past I’ve only run if there’s an event to train for.

In April, 2017 we had our second child, and training for a big event wasn’t realistic. I decided to try something new instead of giving up running all together.

6 days a week I’d run one mile, regardless of weather, fatigue or how busy I was.

Because I work from home I tend to stay indoors a lot. This gave me an opportunity to get outside.

When you know you’re going to run a mile each day, there is zero energy wasted in deciding, in debating in your head, or making excuses. The cost of decision was made once, months ago, and now you just do it. For me this meant finding a 10 minute gap between meetings, throwing on my shoes, and stepping out the door.

Now, months later I’m loving it.

One concern I had initially was that 1 mile a day really isn’t much. However, making the goal so small helped make it an easy choice each day.

After having established a habit for a while, I switched to 2 miles a day at the end of December. If I run fast it means I only need a few more minutes to make it happen.

Ultimately I want to get back into planning for some bigger events, but this habit has helped me continue doing something small for my health, even when life has been quite busy!


Bullet book review: Radical Candor

Abridged summary from the publisher: Radical Candor is simple, you have to Care Personally at the same time that you Challenge Directly. When you challenge without caring, it’s obnoxious aggression; when you care without challenging, it’s ruinous empathy. When you do neither, it’s manipulative insincerity.

Below are some bullets that really stood out to me:

  • Rock Stars and superstars – Each person at your company can be either of these at any given time. Understand where they are and help support them accordingly.
  • Relationships can drive you forward in your goals, not power
  • Care personally and challenge directly
  • Don’t tell things like, “it’s just business,” or “let’s be professional here” or “don’t take it personally”
  • Bring your whole self to work without expecting work to eat into your life
  • Be more concerned with getting to the right answer than with being right
  • Radical candor is not about being mean, but rather about being clear
  • Don’t sandwich your feedback. It will most likely come off as fake
  • Steep growth doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go into management. That should only happen for those who are right for it
  • Only 5% of people have a vocation. That confuses the rest of us
  • Be a partner with your team. Not an absentee manager or micromanager.
  • Growth should be separate from performance
  • Give appropriate rewards and recognition to your to rock stars.
  • Don’t squash your all-stars. Let them fly. Someday you might work for them
  • The ideal: people nominate themselves for promotion and a committee decides. Not your boss. Google does this.
  • Don’t conflate management and growth. Einstein didn’t go into management. Acknowledge growth trajectory without management or leadership
  • Google has individual career paths that are more prestigious that the management path
  • Management should not be the only path to higher compensation
  • Everyone can be exceptional somewhere. At your company or somewhere else.
  • The book has an entire section on the ways to let someone go and how important it is to get that right
  • Having an off quarter – Recognize when you’re just off. It’s not a reflection of your career, and can be turned around.
  • Getting to Mars. Understand that there’s no one person who can grasp all that it would take, it requires the joint knowledge of a team
  • Steve jobs always (ultimately) got it right
  • When building a ship: don’t drum up tasks for your team such as: collecting wood. Build a vision for getting out onto the sea
  • Build a culture of fixing lots of little ideas
  • In a debate argue each other’s side
  • Expecting people to get behind decision without being involved is ridiculous unless you try explaining or persuading
  • Think of your listeners’ emotions when persuading
  • Essence of leadership is not getting overwhelmed by circumstances
  • Can’t give a d* about others if you don’t give a d* about yourself
  • If you have to use someone else’s name or authority to get your point across, then there’s little merit to the point. If you believe show it
  • The happiness project: hugging
  • Just say that you’re having a sy day, not because of you
  • Admit emotions. Don’t say about not making personal.
  • Listen to criticism with an intent to understand. Not respond!
  • Reward criticism and followup to show you’re trying to get more of it. Find something to agree with and followup! Or disagree clearly
  • Use lots of details with praise and criticism
  • Criticize yourself publicly if you’re boss. Everyone else privately
  • Be just as careful with your public praise as you would with private criticism. Public praise, when not grounded in the correct details, can throw the person under the bus
  • Ask your team, “is there anything I could do or stop doing to make it easier to work for me?”
  • Praise (carefully) in public, criticize in private. Note: public debates, providing factual information to validate information, etc is ok. Just be very specific about any public feedback you’re giving
  • Fundamental attribution error
  • Tell a team member, “that’s wrong”, not “you’re wrong”
  • “Don’t take it personally” worse than useless
  • Listen, challenge, commit
  • Kill the angel in the office
  • Having a flat organization is a myth. Think of ways for all to feel free to speak truth to power. Have skip level meetings
  • Have a long-term vision and 18 month plan
  • What do you want the pinnacle of your creating to look like
  • Difference between praises and thank yous
  • Be careful with publicizing promotions
  • Give gurus the chance to teach classes internally
  • Great chart on micromanagement versus partnership, etc.
  • Your best meeting is the 1-1. Think of it as an opportunity to get to know people better. There were some great 1-1 questions
  • New ideas are fragile **
  • Block time to think
  • Set up meetings to debate. But NOT decide, make those separate meetings
  • Foster debate! Ask debaters to switch roles
  • The sole product of a debate should be a clear summary, with recommendation to keep debating or make decision
  • Kanban. Make all work transparent
  • Culture eats strategy for lunch. Strong culture is self replicating
  • Becoming a boss is like getting arrested. Everything you say or do can and will be used against you
  • Is your culture ask for forgiveness vs permission, or measure twice cut once? Both can be great, just know which you’re in
  • Have an onboarding folder for new hires
  • Daily: solicit guidance and criticism
  • Must adjust radical candor for relationships or culture
  • A fundamental building block of management: getting and giving guidance
  • Enforce no backstabbing
  • Encourage peer radical candor; peer guidance