Design in not just Veneer

In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.
— Steve Jobs

One (Seemingly Obvious) Key to Healthy Relationships

Here is something that will drastically change the way you view relationships with the people around you. It’s not a new idea, but it’s been eye-opening for me in the past few weeks in coming to terms with how to build and maintain healthy relationships, and diagnosing unhealthy ones.

Start with this; view every encounter with someone as a relational deposit or withdrawal, as a transaction. Although this may sound a little cold, thinking of real human interactions as strictly transactional, but if you can look at it this way, at least on a high level, you’ll become keenly aware of how you’re affecting other people’s lives through your day-to-day interactions.

Why is this important? Because the goal is to deposit more than you withdraw. You want to be the person that gives more than they take, that invests in people more than they're a drain on people. Relational withdrawals without relational deposits lead to relational bankruptcy. People need their relationships to be life-giving. Relational deposits come in many forms, such as encouragement, empowerment, trust, kindness, forgiveness, grace, etc. That means you need to...

Encourage more than you correct...
Praise more than you ignore...
Give more than you ask...
Forgive more than you begrudge...
Credit more than you blame...

The list goes on. If you begin to deposit more than you withdraw, you’ll start creating habits that affect peoples life in more positive ways than you can imagine, and you’ll begin to reap what you sow. You’ll even treat complete strangers differently! When going about your day trying to build people up, think about these three things:

1. Intentionality

This takes a fair amount of intentionality. Chances are that your natural instinct is not to give more than you ask, to encourage more than you correct, to deposit more than you withdraw, but understand this, intentionality is what separates good friends from the great ones, good leaders from the great ones, and success from failure. Just as you don’t build up a savings account accidentally, you won’t build people up unintentionally.

2. It's about the little things

It really is. It’s the details in our everyday communication with people that make the difference. Be sure to smile, to say thanks, to be polite, to offer help, to be friendly, to serve. These small acts of kindness pay off in huge ways. Details, details, details.

3. What about you

Who is depositing in you? Make sure your surroundings are fulfilling and not draining. You can only give as much as you have been given, which means your unhealthy relationships will have an adverse effect on your healthy ones.  

Sidetone: No one needs this more than me. That's the glory of writing and blogging... self revelation.

The Dip

I have, in the past month or so, struggled to find the time and motivation to publish to this blog for the first time since starting it back in March. I have, of course, thought about quitting altogether during this dry spell for fear of never finding anything else to write about ever again. I have since decided not to quit, but instead push through the dip.

From the book “The Dip” by Seth Godin:

If the journey you started was worth doing, then quitting when you hit the dip just wastes the time you’ve already invested.

This journey of writing and putting it out there has been worth doing, and it has proven so many times. I find great value and benefit in writing and sharing my thoughts, and the feedback I get is encouraging. So, after a few shaky weeks, I’ve decided not to quit, but, in order to make the time and spark motivation, I’ve realized the need to quit other things to make sure I can do this thing, and do it well. 

We all have to quit something. It’s deciding what to quit, and when, that’s the challenge.


The Dash/Plus System for Notes

Partick Rhone (a fellow Twin Cities resident) invented a pretty clever to-do list system that I've been using for about six months now. It's called the Dash/Plus system. If you make to-do lists by hand every morning or week, this will be a huge help in organizing and categorizing items.

The beauty of this system is that it is all built upon, and extensions of, the original dash. Therefore, it is easy to change items from one state to another (an undone action item to a done one, an undone action item to waiting or delegated) and in the case of an non-dashed item changing completely the item is circled to denote that.

This is how it looks in action in my Field Notes, where I create lists all the time:

My Ideal Morning

This is what I want every weekday morning to look like. I've been waking up at 6AM on most days since around April of this year and this routine seems to be working well for me. It rarely ever actually looks exactly like this, but its a good framework.

6:00 - 6:15  |  Wake up, make tea or coffee
6:15 - 6:45  |  Read, pray and maybe read some more
6:45 - 7:30  |  Write, about anything and everything
7:30 - 8:00  |  Prepare, schedule and write my to-do list for my day
8:00 - 8:10  |  Eat breakfast
8:10 - 8:40  |  Shower, get ready
8:40  |  Leave

It looks so nice when it's written out like that.

Making an Impact

In a post a couple of weeks ago, I talked about the constant stream of white noise that is created by the social world we live in, and asked how you could break through that noise to make an impact. Everyone out there is saying everything all the time, and it takes a deliberate effort to say something that matters and omit the things that don’t, both online and in the real world.

Here are a few things that I see as keys to making an impact.

Provide Value
What you say has to provide value to peoples lives. No one follows you to hear what you had for breakfast, and no one chooses to have coffee with you to talk about your cats. Figuring our a way to enrich peoples lives, to push people to become better people is a surefire way of making an impact on peoples lives. You have knowledge and wisdom that other people don’t, and as soon as you make that readily and freely available, people will look at you differently. Share what you know and push people to be better.

Tell Stories
You have a story to tell, and not only do you have your story to tell, but you know other peoples stories that you could tell. Everyone connects with great stories. We all have our own personal story, and it’s interwoven with many stories around us that all make up one great big story. It’s deep within us to hear and experience the trials and triumphs of others. What’s your story? Is everything your saying contributing to a bigger story?

Be Consistent 
Show up and be consistent. If people are expecting, you’re making an impact. Inversely, if people are expecting and you don’t show up, you will lose trust.

Get Lucky
Don't count on this. Virality is not something you control. You don’t get to to decide which videos get 6 million view in 24 hours, or what tweet will spark a huge conversation, or what joke will get retweeted a few thousand times. A few will get lucky, the rest will have to work hard.

The Ultimate INFP Dilemma

I came across this post a few days ago entitled The greatest post about INFP careers in the history of ever, and I have to say, they might be right.

I agree and resonate with most of what this person writes when explaining her viewpoint on the ultimate INFP dilemma, but the opening paragraph is what really hit home:

The cunundrum I think a lot of us have is that it’s hard for us to do what we love for a living because it frequently requires us to go by other people’s guidelines and ideas and such, which makes it no longer our own creative expression and cheapens it for us. And if we do that all the time we want to do something else in our free time, so we don’t end up ever really getting into our flow and feeling really alive in the activities we love. However, we also have a hard time doing something that isn’t something we really love and believe in because then we are pouring our time and energy into something that doesn’t matter and that leaves us empty.

And then, towards the end of the article, they list ideals that they found important to her in a job, and I pretty much yelled yes out loud after reading every one of them. In you're an INFP, or an INFJ even, you need to go read this.

Personality types are fascinating.

White Noise

I sleep with white noise at night. I have an app on my phone that I ritually turn on every evening before I go to sleep. I can say with a decent amount of certainty that I would struggle to fall asleep without it, especially if I was not in my own bed.

White noise works like this; it provides a steady stream of sound across all frequencies that occupies your brain, thus helping to drown out other unfamiliar, and sometimes jarring, sounds that otherwise would have center stage on a silent night. When you’re woken up by a sound, it’s the sudden change in sound level or frequency that wakes you up, not just the sound itself. White noise helps to dull those impacts.

The world around you is producing a constant, steady stream of noise, and that noise is getting louder and louder as the world gets smaller and smaller. The incredible amount of information that streams through our social world is almost unbelievable. There is so much of it that most people just ignore it all, it’s too overwhelming to look at everything. Getting people's attention with your piece of information is hard enough, making an impact with what you say is even harder.

So the question is, what’s it going to take for you to break through? (If you think you have an answer to this, let me know. A follow up post maybe to come.)

Will most of what you say contribute to the never ending stream of white noise? Or will you produce something that will wake people up?


This is my 100th post.

This blog has been up and active for 5 months and 2 weeks, and I've hit publish 100 times. You can now see a complete list of all the posts over on the archive page, and seeing them all listed like that is pretty incredible. 

Whatever anyone says, that's something I'm proud of.

Onto the next.

Success Hides Problems

One concept that has stuck with me in the weeks since reading Ed Catmull's Creativity Inc. is the idea that success hides problems. Ed Catmull, the president of PIXAR and Disney Animation, explains why he thinks all great companies fail, and it's this idea that the great success that these companies enjoy mask the many small, internal problems that cripple the organization over time.

John Madden put it more simply: 

"Winning is a great deodorant”

Both people and organizations hide behind their success. We've all witnessed these giants fall to their knees because they thought their success excused their attitude of complacency. We judge internal character and culture based on external results. Results are not always king and it's never just about one thing. The downfall of any person or organization is due to the sum of many small, seemingly inconsequential choices, that compound over time and lead to companies like Microsoft and people like Tiger Woods.

The fact is this; There is no cruise control. Everyday you have to decide between deliberate action or apathy. The weeds will grow, and its up to you to be intentional about pulling them out. Take the time today to evaluate areas in your life that need the deodorant of success, and make the change before it's too late.

It's all about the small things.

Public Accountability

Accountability. Many are aware of one form. The traditional form where you elect yourself to be accountable to one, or a few, individuals where you share your struggles, fears, goals and dreams in hopes that having these people around you will help you overcome adversity, reach goals, and become a better person. Let's call this private accountability. It's really great and strongly advised.

I know of another form of accountability, and just like the former, I believe it has significantly changed the course of my life.

I made a choice over three years ago to launch a website, and for various reasons, name it Folklore Design. With the launch I announced that I would post a second of animation everyday for the entire month of March, 2011. It was really the sole reason I was launching the site, to help myself achieve something I had seen someone else do with great success, I had no plans for the site after that. Before this point I had only dipped my toe into the world of motion graphics, but I knew it was something I wanted to get really good at really fast, but I needed something to kickstart the process. I set up a form of public accountability. I told the (small) world that I was going to be shipping something everyday, in this case it was a second of animation, and you could find the result on the site. The very notion that people were expecting this, whether they actually were or not, forced me to crank out work every day, no matter the circumstance. At the end of 30 days I had created something that I was really proud of, and it led to many other opportunities as I was learning, ultimately landing me where I am today. I am convinced that if I did not do this one project, if I did not subject myself to the public accountability, I wouldn’t have learned as much as I did, and I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Nothing accelerates growth like iterating in public. Forcing yourself to put yourself out there on a regular schedule will focus your efforts and gain you a platform and attention that will launch you on to other things.

I know that this may not work for everyone or everything (I certainly haven’t thought through how you could use public accountability for more serious efforts, like addiction), but setting a goal, making that goal very public, and putting your reputation on the line, will force you do things you couldn’t imagine were possible. For a 1-2 punch, pair private and public accountability to ensure that you’ll stay on course on whatever journey you chose to endeavor. 

Start something, and tell the world you're doing it.

Print is not Dead

I'm sure we're all aware that the print industry has being burning in front of our eyes for the past ten years or so, but recently the phoenix is rising from the ashes.

You can witness this occurring in multiple industries, most notably with coffee shops, artisanal crafts and products that are made in the USA. It all starts with an uprising of a dominant, cannibalising force that wipes out competition faster than you can spell the word cannibalising. With print, it was the internet, with coffee, it was Starbucks, with goods made in America, it was imported goods made in China. Then, usually after a period of apparent calm, the people look for something different, and a resurgence for the once obsolete medium has its rebirth.

In the print world, you see this in magazines like The Great Discontent, Cereal, Kinfolk and others. These high quality, niche market magazines have seen great results in recent years because there's a great desire for printed goods that exceed everyday expectations. While traditional magazines are hemorrhaging money, even as they clamor to become "more digital", small start-up magazines like The Great Discontent are finding great luck with their loyal fanbase. 

There is undoubtably something romantic about print. When I pick up one of these magazines, I feel like I’m holding a piece of art. The smell of the paper, the thick stock, the beautiful design and typography. Even things like the packaging and the buying experience all contributes to this experience that delights when I pick one up and browse through.

While rekindling the art of print, these magazines have made sure to stay fully engaged in the online world like any company running in 2014 should be. In fact, numerous magazines had their start in online publishing, which helped fuel and further their printing business. Kinfolk has a large online following and has created some incredible videosThe Great Discontent have amassed an enormous online catalog of interviews with creators from all walks. All the magazines are active and fully engaged in everything web and social media related that you’d be surprised they would ever even consider selling non-digital goods. It all adds to the experience.

The Sunday newspaper, the Tabloid, the Washington Post, People, Time, US Weekly... all of these publications are about the race to the bottom. They all are trying to deliver the same content, at a cheaper price, faster and with better headlines then the one sitting next to them. They fill hundreds of pages with useless content, ads and, in some cases, fear-mongering content, all in efforts to sell more issues and meet the bottom line. Conversely, these smaller, more refined, higher quality niche magazines are about the race to the top. They charge a premium for highly vetted, carefully produced content and a well thought out experience. In this market, you don’t need 10 million readers from ads to make it work, you may just need 10,000, or even 1,000 loyal fans to make an honest living. There’s always more room at the top, there’s never room at the bottom. 

Here are links to magazines that I've picked up in the past few weeks. I would love to hear about more if you know of any.

The Great Discontent