Silicon Valley has become especially good at turning software, the highest margin product ever, into many of the worst performing businesses imaginable. With few exceptions, the amount of money being lost by the leaders of the new school is absolutely staggering.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

David Foster Wallace, “This is Water”

Kara Swisher and I shoot the shit (and some sacred cows)

Last week I was in NY to record a podcast with Kara Swisher of Recode. I’ve been reading and watching Kara for years, so it was a distinct thrill to finally get to sit opposite her and talk tech, business, VC, why it doesn’t have to be crazy at work, and a variety of other topics. We covered a ton, and it was a fun conversation.

You can listen to the full podcast here. You’ll also find an intro article as well as a lightly edited transcript for the roughly one hour conversation. Hope you dig.

And BTW, if you didn’t know, we have our own podcast called The REWORK Podcast. We record new episodes every two weeks, and sometimes hit with a bonus episode on off weeks. We hope you’ll listen in there as well.

Busy is the new stupid

Looks like I may be doing it right. This is exactly why we don’t have shared calendars at Basecamp.

At Basecamp, everyone controls their own calendar, and no one can see anyone else’s schedule. You can’t claim time on anyone else’s calendar, either. Other people’s time isn’t for you — it’s for them. You can’t take it, chip away at it, or block it off. Everyone’s in control of their time. They can give it to you, but you can’t take it from them.

And by the way, this isn’t a special privilege for ownership or the CEO. Everyone controls their own days at Basecamp. Time isn’t a commodity we trade. No one can turn your day into theirs.

Note: We have a whole chapter called “Calendar Tetris” in It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work on this very topic. You’ll find it on page 62.

Get to know Max Büsser – a creative powerhouse

Maximilian Büsser is the MB in MB&F. They make wholly original mechanical creations – most of which tell time and fit on your wrist. MB&F’s machines are an acquired taste, and they’re priced out of reach for most, but they’re undeniably creative. I have deep respect for what they make, and how they make it.

Max is the creative force behind the whole thing. And he’s a remarkably thoughtful and insightful fellow. Humble, too. It’s hard to imagine how he manages to make a business like his work, but he does. And then some.

In this wonderful interview (embedded below), Max explains how and where he got his start. How he serendipitously found a mentor. How he mustered the courage to just go for it. Why he collaborates and who/what inspires him. How being a trained engineer allows him to push through and find solutions rather than be roadblocked at someone else’s “this won’t work”. Why creativity isn’t a democracy. He goes into just how challenging it all is, but also how natural it all feels. He also gets very personal and honest about his painful childhood – a childhood which clearly fueled his future drive to find his friends and collaborators.

The one-hour interview is one of the best things I’ve heard in a long time about creativity, business, product design, art, purpose, challenges, going your own way, seeing a vision through, and figuring it all out as you go.

It’s well worth your time. Please listen in:

Note: If the embed above doesn’t work for you, here’s a link to the interview on HODINKEE.com. You can also find the HODINKEE Radio podcast anywhere you subscribe to podcasts.


Putting on some wait

I’m generally patient over the long term, but I can be impatient in the short term. But, really, what’s the rush? Why the hurry? I’ve been asking myself this question more and more lately.

A new year is a good excuse to make a change, so in 2019 I’ve decided to put on some wait. In practice this means choosing the slower option whenever possible.

For example, when shopping online, I’m picking the slowest shipping option (I used to always pick the fastest one). Related, I’ve also cancelled my Amazon Prime membership. I only used it for fast shipping, so it’s of no use anymore.

When confronted with two lines at the grocery store, I’m choosing the longer one.

Even small things like waiting for the next walk symbol. Yeah there’s a good 8 seconds to get across the street, but it’s close enough to just wait.

Whenever there’s an opportunity to pick the wait, I’m picking it. And I’m not filling my time with other things I have to do while waiting – I’m genuinely waiting. Waiting while doing nothing. Idling. If I’m in line, and it’s moving slowly, I’m not reflexively reaching for my phone to soak up the dead space. I’m just enjoying having absolutely nothing to do.

In the end, after all this waiting, I suspect I won’t miss anything. I’ll just have waited. In fact, I think I’ll actually find something: Additional, special moments with nothing to do. Sacred emptiness, a space free of obligation and expectation. New time to simply observe.

In a world where everyone seems to be super busy all the time, bumping into more moments with nothing to do seems like a real discovery.

Down in front!

Doug gets it, most don’t.

Look around YouTube at car reviews, and you’ll see a lot of people standing in front of cars. Below I’ve snapped captures of early frames in six car reviews. These represent the first time the car is shown whole, in profile.

Who’s on review here? The car reviewer or the car? Get out of the way people!

Take it from Doug DeMuro. His reviews always start with him standing behind the car. The car is in full view, in all its glory, at center stage. Doug comes second — he understands what the viewer is there for.

Doug in the background. Car in the foreground. Doug gets it.

True brand awareness

Fantastic branding

It’s been said that your name is your favorite word. Likewise, a brand’s name is its favorite word. Pair their name with their logo, and it’s a self-love fest.

You can see this play out when you order a physical product from an online store. The shipping box is often branded. Sometimes the tape is even branded. Then once you tear into it, the internal packaging is branded. Then the item, too — often in multiple places. Name, logo, name, logo, name, logo.

There’s nothing inherently wrong about this. Many brands use shipment packaging as advertising. And it’s nice to know when you ordered something from Brand A, and a box from Brand A is waiting for you on your doorstep when you get home.

Except when it’s not for you.

Keep reading “True brand awareness”

The Chase Jarvis Live show

← Me | Chase →

Back in October I was in San Francisco to record an episode of the Chase Jarvis Live show. We talked for nearly two hours about work, life, building calm (and crazy) companies, FOMO + JOMO, philosophy, the downsides of real-time communication tech, not setting goals, saying no, our new book “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work”, etc. Loads of stuff, a really fun conversation.

Here’s the full YouTube video:

If you prefer audio-only, you can find the episode on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Big thanks to Chase for having me on, and for being such a kind host. He also had David on a while back — well worth watching that one as well.

We hope you enjoy!

Why scrap scrappy?

For the last decade or so, I’ve been on a number of boards, consulted with a number of entrepreneurs, and have been both formally and informally involved in helping a number of young companies find their way.

Many young companies I’ve seen have one thing in common: They can’t wait to grow up. They desperately want to be taken seriously by others. They want to be perceived as sophisticated, as having it all figured out.

This is where they begin to get into trouble. As they technically begin to be able to do more things, it’s the things they can no longer do that turn out to be the big losses.

Take company size, for example. One way to be taken seriously is to hire more people. As a whole, bigger companies are taken more seriously than small companies. Thing is, small has major practical advantages over large. Small companies can do both small and big things. Big companies can not do small things. Once you get to a certain size, you can no longer do the small things. When you’re big, every initiative turns big, like it or not. Except the small things are often all that’s necessary.

Take “systems”, for example. I’ve seen a number of small companies jump into big sophisticated content management, inventory management, e-commerce management platforms. Buying into something the big guys use helps a small company feel like they’ve arrived. Now they’re ready to scale! But now all the sudden they can no longer do the things they need to do. Trying a quick idea they used to be able to just whip up becomes a wrestling match with the new system that prefers you do things the more complicated way. Now “let’s just try that” becomes “when can we schedule a time to figure out how we can try that?”

The other thing that’s lost in transition from small to big are instincts. I’ve seen companies paralyzed by ideas they can’t seem to implement anymore. They could still do things they same way they used to, but they can’t think that way anymore. For example, a small company that would have just spent a couple hours sending out 50 hand-written emails to test a personalized selling campaign, is stuck for days or weeks trying to figure out how to get their new e-commerce platform to automate the same thing. They could still just pick the customers and write the emails by hand, but they’re forgotten how to think about doing it that way. Once you have something in place that’s supposed to be able to do that work for you, you lose flexibility, your mind and muscles atrophy. You cease to be able to be scrappy.

Scrappy is a mindset, and the skills are lossy — once they’re gone, you can never recreate them the same way again. Being scrappy is easier the smaller you are, the younger you are, and the fewer options you have. Hang on to it for as long as possible! Don’t be in a rush to abandon such critical survival instincts.

It happens to all growing companies. We’ve certainly lost our fair share of scrappiness as well. My suggestion: Resist the allure of large — there’s very little payback, especially if you artificially get there before you’re really ready. Be aware — and beware — of the things you give up too early and never get back.