Apple Notes Drawing

Quick ideas.

While at the Apple store I was re-inspired to try the tap-to-wake function on an iPad with the Apple Pencil. It’s pretty slick. In an instant you’re in a new Apple Notes sketching away. I tested the idea out today with an idea I had for a design and was struck by the immediacy of it. I grab my pencil, and in a second I’m playing with my idea. Then if the idea grows larger I can transition to Freeform, but there’s something beautiful about the speed. I may be changing how I do things!

On defense of (some) meetings

I don’t like meetings. I do like meetings. I get bored in Zoom, I light up and have the best moment of my day in Google Meet. Context matters. When I say that I don’t like meetings, there’s a certain type of meeting I don’t like. 

When I see some espouse the virtues of meetings, it’s sometimes for different reasons than I personally appreciate. I don’t want meetings to project my thoughts on others. On my best days a great meeting is taking the chance to connect with someone else, to learn from them, to share something exciting that hopefully lights them up, and to use that time to make each person’s day a little better. 

Meetings are often most valuable when used with care, to connect, to share, to inspire. 

Writing for a living

I’ve long followed the likes of other writers, and been in awe of their ability to charge a subscription, or generate ad revenue, from their writing. It’s something I’ve thought about for myself; and there may be a future there, but more importantly I believe writing for the sake of creating positive impact matters more. 

It’s hard, and that’s ok

Life is so wonderfully amazingly hard and beautiful all the same time. Some days I feel the energy and passion to conquer the world; other days I feel overwhelmed and full of doubt. 

Both of these can be true at the same time. People are so full of conflicting emotions, thoughts, and abilities. Today I was reminded of a friend who, in running a startup, freely shared his uncertainties and shortcomings, while at the same time committing to learn and improve and become better.

The confidence that you have it in you to figure something out, combined with the humility of admitting you don’t know yet, are a powerful combination. I love meeting people who have both, and I strive each day to improve in both areas. 

Fast drawing

On the topic of drawing on the iPad, It strikes me that I don’t use the Apple Notes quick draw feature. You tap on the iPad with the pencil and it instantly opens Apple Notes; that’s pretty sweet. I just wish that I could do it with Freeform instead. 

Update: Apparently you can do this with automation. Here’s to hoping someone has steps on how to actually accomplish this. 

Doing something hard

For the last six months I’ve been working with a small team to build up something new. We’re working within a larger startup with a beloved product, and looking at ways to increase delight and impact for users. 

The thing I’m seeing, and reminded of from past experiences, is that building something from scratch is incredibly hard. You face a lot of self-doubt, you’re not sure if you’re building the right thing, you don’t know if you’re hitting the rights marks, and each day you want to come in and bring your best. 

In the past I’ve approached projects like this with a mindset of win or die trying. I’m noticing that no longer works as much for me. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or probably more likely because I’ve faced severe burnout in the past and don’t want to repeat it. 

The approach I take now is to bring the best I can each day, and listen to my mind and body for when I’ve reached a limit. If I run into a deficit day after day I become less valuable as a team member. So, while the project constraints have been a significant challenge and our team has continually done its best to push through roadblocks, I’ve also been trying to make sure I stay healthy so I can keep being available and at my best. 

I’m reminded of a time two years ago when I pushed myself to the extreme limit and ended up sick twice within a month; laying in bed with a fever. 

Now I’m trying to be more careful, deliberate, and finding healthy ways to keep creativity and compassion flowing. In my role I need to be creative, to think of new ways to handle things, to not just push pixels and run through rote tasks. 

To be able to make something new, to think different (pardon the parlance), requires being healthy, consuming great ideas, and pushing forward in interesting ways. 

If you’re someone who creates things for a living, make sure you’re getting sleep, exercise, eating well, and finding time to bring your best each day, and also to step away and see life outside of work. 

Apple Pencil Pro first look

Last night I got to test out the new Apple Pencil Pro for the first time. Though I’ve heard many writers and podcasters comment on the new iPads, I’ve been hoping for a review on how the Pencil works for designers.

More specifically, I’m a UI/UX designer and use an iPad Mini daily to sketch out flows and concepts for the apps I help create. 

For sketching I use Freeform, an iPad app from Apple; and 90% of what I use involves the pen tool and eraser. I wanted to see if there were any marked improvements. 

Coming from a Mini, I immediately noticed a speed improvement in using the app in general. It’s faster to load, and I’m hoping (although couldn’t test) it will handle larger file sizes. 

The next thing I wanted to test was the squeeze gesture on the Apple Pencil Pro. In the past I’ve disabled all tap functionality because of how distracting it is. With the squeeze gesture I initially found it didn’t fit well into my flow because I’m having to squeeze it so hard that it’s distracting my thought process of sketching. However, once I turned down the sensitivity I found it works quite well. 

The ideal for me is to be able to sketch without thinking about my tool, switch colors, change between pen and eraser, and generally let the tool get out of the way. Having the squeeze gesture feels like an improvement, where I can swap tools more quickly and stay in the flow of things. 

I need more time to test, to actually sit with it for an hour and sketch out a real app flow, but based on initial review I’m really excited about this. 

It’s making me question my iPad Mini choice; although the high cost is quite a bit more than I’d prefer to spend right now. 

Resumes aren’t story telling

Resumes set a baseline for what you did or did not do during your career. They are an outline to look at, but they don’t represent the true color and story of a person. People are so varied in their journeys. On paper a resume looks like a linear timeline of someone progressing forward to an inevitable end. 

In reality the journey of each person is so unique, with unexpected tangles, messy dead ends, and looping again and again through situations that weren’t planned. 

The older I get the more I’ve grown to appreciate that people have so many wonderful, intangible, fantastical, beautiful, abilities waiting to be discovered and appreciated. I’ve seen colleagues rise to the occasion when needed, I’ve seen others fall out of favor and be seen as unfit for the team; I’ve also been in both of those situations myself. 

There’s something more nuanced here that I’m only starting to uncover. There are so many reasons why someone does well on a team, and why they fall short. I hope I’ll have compassion for these differences and look at ways to support others through the crazy journey of life that we’re all on. 

For myself I try to take care of my health, be in a good mental state, and understand that there are rhythms to work. Some days I’ll have it and be full of creative energy, other days I’ll feel more empty and need to recharge. If I didn’t have the requirement of making money, I’d undoubtably want to create things for the sheer wonder of doing so, and for the joy I’ve seen them bring to others in giving my abilities toward a thing that will benefit others. 

Loneliness

In this life so many feel alone, feel like they are the one adrift among a sea of people, without an anchor or an understanding of someone to truly feel connected with. All of us have felt it at one time or another, and we crave the connection that comes with knowing others, with feeling understood, with being together. 

As I’ve met people in all walks of life I’m struck by this very human thread, that we want to belong and be known. I’ve felt loneliness, and I’ve also been incredibly blessed to feel love and connection. 

If you feel lonely, you’re not alone in that. Know that others feel it, probably more than you imagine, and try and take that moment to reach out and let someone know they’re being thought of. 

The rollercoaster continues

It’s crazy how much we’re affected by factors outside of us. We try to limit how much our emotions are modified by anything but ourselves, but often find it impossible. Have a rough night sleep? The next day may be harder. Have a challenging conversation with someone? It’s likely to change our outlook for hours. 

The thing I’ve often come back to is an understanding, at least implicitly, that after a rough day the next day is unlikely to be as hard. It will often be better. 

So take these things in stride. Some days are harder, other days are better; and in the midst of all that try to remember (and it’s ok if you occassionally fail) to hug your loved ones, and enjoy the beauty around you. 

Enough

What do you do when you’ve approached the point of frustration where everything seems like it’s about to boil over, where the smallest inconvenience turns into an insurmountable obstacle ready to overwhelm and disrupt your entire day?

What do you do when every part of your inward being is calling out to stop, to run, to get away from the situation, when you are brought to tears at an unexpected turn, when your plans for the day are undone by the simplest slight and you don’t know what you have to left to turn to?

What do you do when you hope for rest, hope for recovery, and see nothing but an unending line of requests and needs laid out in front of you without a hope of completing them all?

You breathe, you pause, you rest. You don’t keep pushing, you don’t keep forcing. You see that you need a moment to yourself, your mind needs to find a place to center, to see the reason for being, to understand that the thing in front of you that’s about to turn your thoughts into chaos is merely a moment in time, it doesn’t represent the whole, it represents a tiny fractional piece. 

So you get perspective, you get time apart from the thing that overwhelms, and you look to the things that bring peace and calm and recuperation. 

Anger and frustration and angst aren’t the problem, apathy and despair are the signals to look for, to recognize and treat. When you feel that there isn’t even a reason to keep pushing because it is meaningless, that the work and effort will amount to nothing, that’s when you need to pause and go back to what is lasting, what is affirming, what brings you those tiny moments of joy and delight. In finding that you’ll find your center.

It might be in seeing a beautiful flower bloom in the middle of a burnt out forest. It might be seeing a smile from your child, telling you that you are the best father in the world. It might be a note from a friend that your small amount of time given as a gift changed their day, changed their life. Find those moments, find those little bits that remind you why you have something wonderful to give to this world, something beautiful and joyful to share with others. 

When it feels that everything around you is going to overrun and destroy the precious light inside, take those moments to pause, to see the little reminders of beauty. They’re scattered, tossed about amongst the ever increasing flow of entropy. But they are there, ready to be found, to be enjoyed, to be understood. 

And lastly, be kind to yourself. It’s not easy, it’s ok that it’s not ok. You don’t have to pretend that you’re perfectly whole. We broken exist among the broken. Sometimes it feels like we’re the only ones with cracks, but we all have them. 

Sometimes we have to hide our cracks, but other times we can let them be shown, a little or a lot, to find healing with others. 

When you feel the breath building up, the pressure growing without release, that’s when—more than ever—you have to find a way to look for the peace, the beauty. And you will find it, I promise. It’s there, it might take a while to find, but you will. 

The best smoothie

Every day, for the last few years, I’ve made a smoothie to replace breakfast. Here’s the recipe for others who may be interested. It was shared with me by a local coffee shop, and I’ve tweaked the ingredients a bit based on what I like.

Recipe for 2 people

  • 3 bananas
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 8 ice cubes
  • 2 cups of frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened peanut butter
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 scoops of chocolate pea based protein powder
  • 3 dates for sweetener (optional)

A few notes:

  • I blend all this in our Vitamix, and my split between my son and myself. It’s a very generous serving and replaces a meal for me.
  • If you’re just making this for one person, cut all the ingredients in half.
  • If you have a less powerful blender blend up everything else first (minus the ice and blueberries), and slowly add those in with the blender running on medium-high.

What rest brings

I ended the week exhausted. I’d pushed every bit of my energy to the last moment, gave everything I had, then shut it all down. Now; unlike in times past that did not mean pushing all nighters. It didn’t mean pushing forward every waking moment. However, it meant bringing everything I could to solve the problems in front of me. On some days I had to use every trick in the book to push through the things in front of me. On other days a run in the woods, a meal, or even a few minutes washing dishes helped me.

I can’t brute force things, not anymore. But, I can ask questions, clarify, throw out tiny iterations, and keep pushing forward. These things work if I’m healthy, if my personal life is lined up well, and if the people I work with are motivated to make it safe to fail, test, and keep pushing forward. Last week, all that came together, and I’m incredibly grateful to the people I work with, and for health to be able to make it across the finish line. 

Then I disconnected on Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t log into Slack, I didn’t open Figma. I just stepped away from it all. Did I do it perfectly? No. I got stuck on my phone browsing Reddit more times than I care to admit, I wasn’t the Bandit version (from the show Bluey) of a perfect father. But, I was able to spend time with people I cared for, get away from the computers, get into nature, and laugh and hang out with people in the real world. That break was something so desperately needed. Without it a five day workweek would turn into a twelve day workweek.

So I came back on Monday, still a bit tired—a three hour nap the day before had somewhat helped—but ready, clear on what needed to be tackled, and with just enough energy to make it through the day.

Put another way, I’ve got a lot of stressors at work I’m pushing through; people counting on me, deadlines looming. But I know, from nearly two decades of experience now, that throwing hours at the problem cannot work. Instead I need to prep for the marathon; take walking breaks, use pomodors and always step away to clear my head; admit when I’m stuck and ask for help, and most of all; take care of my body to stay healthy. If all those pieces come together I’ll be able to make it to the end of the week for the next rest.

I say all this to share that it’s not easy. Some days, some weeks, feel incredibly hard. My body fails me and I get sick more often than I’d like. But to each thing there is a season of life, and often if I have a rough day or week it’s followed by a period of time that’s either not as bad, or downright amazing

So to you amazing reader, you’ve got this. It’s not easy, and I’m sorry. I wish it was. But know that forcing yourself through isn’t the answer, you’ve got this.  

Creating without a feedback loop

I like to make things, to tinker, to think, to create. However, I don’t think the things I make can really drive me to last very long if I don’t have some kind of external feedback loop. Maybe that’s the difference between something built for a marketplace and being an artist. 

Writing books, blog posts, making podcasts, designing apps, all of that can be a lot of fun; but at the end of the day I crave hearing from someone whether the work I did made an impact. 

As I get older I want to keep learning how to do this, so that I can continue to find the energy to keep moving forward. It’s possible to create for a while in a cave, I’ve done it plenty of times, but eventually ideas need to surface, get feedback from the world, and allow the creator time to tweak and modify. 

Here’s to getting things into the world sooner. 

Manager schedule versus maker schedule

This week we had the privilege of being joined by a fantastic guest, Larry Miller, on Fractional. Lance and I dove into talking about the challenges of being a maker and a manager, ala Paul Graham’s fantastic article

We also talked about the challenges and loss of information with with leaders and individual contributors in organizations. This stuff is hard, and frankly most people get it wrong. I wanted to have Larry on because I’ve appreciated how he approaches management. If this kind of stuff gets your riled up, or you find yourself nodding along, then I’d highly recommend giving it a listen

I had an affinity for you

Canva is buying Affinity. I tried to like Affinity Designer, Publisher, and Photo. I tried so hard so many times. But maybe because I’m getting old I could never work them into how I think and design. These days I do all my design with hand drawing out on iPad (in Freeform), Figma, and occassionally Adobe Illustrator. That’s it. Well, that’s not 100% true. I fire open Affinity Photo or Photoshop 1x/month to crop an image or resize it. At least for my use case, even though I own a license for all of Serif’s products, I could never work them into how I design. I’ll be curious what this acquisition will do for the product line. 

KJayMiller: On personal blogs and AI

“If writing is not your thing that is okay. There are other ways of communication that you can lean on to help. If you are better at talking through a point, then create audio or even video (you can also publish these) and use AI to transcribe your content and then modify it to read better.”

A fantastic piece, and hits at a point I’ve been feeling.

Years ago I set out a goal to write a thousand words a day, six days a week. I kept it up for almost three years; I’d have to check the dates to be sure. In that time I wrote seven novels; and actually managed to publish three of them. I also wrote many words on my blog, countless words in my private journals, and probably a score of short stories. What that helped me do, more than anything else, was start to get a tiny glimpse of my voice in who I am. 

That’s aided me so much in the past few years in being comfortable with writing. Does that mean my writing is good? No. But it means it’s not horrible. And occassionally, sometimes, I’m quite proud of it. I hope to keep improving on my voice and tone for years to come. But the bottom line is whatever I put out is me. 

I tested apps like Grammarly and ProWritingAid years before AI became mainstream. I found them helpful to clear out some of my quirks. However, the thing I’ve noticed more and more with millions turning to ChatGPT is the loss of their own voice in the mix. Turn to it, sure, use it; that’s fine, but add back in your voice to make it yours. That’s what I’m here for, that’s what I care about.

I recently attended an event with two speakers that called out the contrast so clearly. One read perfect words from a script for ten minutes straight (with appropriate pauses for claps). The words were good, but had no meaning, no impact, no punch. I struggled to focus. I don’t know if it was ChatGPT, but it really came off like it was written from a prompt on what that particular talk should be about. The other speaker came up, and spoke from their heart with meaning. There were a few things wrong with their speech technically, but I felt moved, I felt the power coming from their conviction and care, and I tuned into every word. That’s what matters, and that’s why I want to show up to listen to someone.

I’ve been playing with ChatGPT since it came out, trying to figure out how it would work, but at the end of the day I appreciate that the journey of figuring out who I am as a writer started just a bit before its arrival on the scene. I’m curious how this will shape me and others in the years to come.

Save for later

There’s too many books to read, too many movies to watch, too many things to do. And so now I write down what I hope I might do, then forget about it. The things I hope to consume often find a way of bubbling back up. Does that mean I miss out on something amazing? Surely. But it’s a way I’ve found to handle the choas and not feel overwhelmed. 

I deferred reading Brandon Sanderson for several years. At one point ignored his books almost out of spite, because they were so popular with a particular group I was following. Now? I love his books, absolutely a top ten author for me (maybe higher if I was doing a GOAT list). I kind of wish I’d read him earlier, but the method works well. Now if I hear friends recommend a book a few times I’ll often try and push it higher on the list. But it’s ok. There’s far more out there I’d hope to read than is possible, and I’ve grown to accept that. 

Kindness

As a teenager I was struck by the care of a friend when I didn’t deserve it. I’d used anger and been unkind, and in return this friend showed love. It turned my world around. This was someone outside my family, who owed me nothing, and chose in that moment to help me see a better way in how I could deal with frustration. In a small way that changed me, and I want to thank my friend for that. 

Over the years I’ve sometimes succeeded in showing kindness as a default, but often failed. I hope, as I get older, that I’ll find ways to show love when it’s not deserved. 

Having a purpose

Over the last two decades I’ve pushed myself in many ways in business; whether it’s writing seven novels, starting six podcasts, beginning several startups, building teams, honing my craft, reading voraciously, or testing out as many ideas as I could imagine to see what would stick. I’ve always felt the need to try something, to tinker, to play, to explore. Sometimes I look into something because I see a possibility to help pay the bills, but most often—and these ideas last longer—it’s with the intent of just learning and seeing what could happen. 

Now, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I’m looking toward the rest of the year, and into the year following, without a clear idea of what my next thing is. As a father, husband, and human-on-this-earth-needing-to-pay-the-bills I always look for a way to cover the basics; and through my career that’s been a combination of running my own service based business and at times working as an employee for a company. So, I’m covered and eternally grateful for the day job side of things at the moment. I’m stable on that front, or at least as stable as you can be in this crazy world of tech where things seem to shift in front of us every few months. But, with that said, I find myself uncertain where I want to go, what I want to do next, what I want to explore, where I want to tinker. 

It’s possible, and I’ve been considering this for a few weeks, that I’m merely in a funk related to the time of year. In the northern part of the United States it gets quite dreary in the winter. We can seamingly go months at a time without any real sun. It gets old. So I accept that’s a possibility. It’s hard to feel excitement and curiosity when you just feel tired. 

I’m also not immune to the possibility of burnout. Having gone through a major dip in that area years ago I’m aware of the signs; and thankfully been visiting a therapist on and off for a good while now. As a result, on that front I don’t see myself approaching that particular cliff. So I sit asking myself what it could be. Is it just that I haven’t thought of a great idea that excites me? Or is it something more? I’m aware of the various schools of thought on the pros and cons of goal setting. Sometimes they’ve helped me, and sometimes they haven’t. 

In the past I would have thought that I just need to push harder, work harder, grind through things. Now, at thirty-seven I’m less certain. I can’t just brute force things like I used to. I have to take an idea and fiddle with it, think through it, play various sides and—hopefully if I can figure this out better in the coming years—test it in front of people sooner than I’m want to do. So I’m trying to be as kind to myself as I would be to a friend. It’s too easy to say that I should just get off my back and go do something, it’s easy to think that I’m being lazy; but I know that’s not the case, and that’s not what I’d think for someone I cared for. Now I find myself wondering what else it could be, and frankly I’m coming up empty. 

It’s not like I’m doing nothing right now. I’m having fun with two podcasts weekly, also working on a third one that may or may not be on the bank burner. I’m also playing around with the idea of an app and a service based business model. That’s also not even to mention the energy I put out each day for mt day job, along with all that I’m learning in that arena for improving my skills as a designer. All these things coupled with my desire to understand people better; and frankly, it’s a lot. That’s nothing to say of my personal life, which is full and amazing and for which I’m eternally grateful. I have an amazing family who love me, fantastic friends who I get to hang out with often, and colleagues who are kind and caring. I have people in my life who impact me positively and for whom I hope I can do the same.

And so, maybe that’s enough. Maybe the thing I can do is be at peace and find calmness in the uncertainty, strength in not knowing what’s next, and being ok with that. And, in the meantime, in allowing my curiosity to delve into various arenas as my interest allows, I may find that next thing. 

This is where getting older, at least on most days, is exciting. I feel that every day I get to learn a little more about the world, how I work, how I can interact with people, and how I can help. Those things matter, and I find myself far more confident in who I am than even a few years ago.