Keeping Up With The Kardashians (@KUWTK) — The Secret To Their Success

Today I woke up to the headline that Khloé Kardashian brought her own lighting gear and crew to her driver’s license photo.

How silly. How vain. Khloé wanted her new ID photo to be better than what comes “out of the box”. The author of the article advised readers that if you pull a move like this “expect people to make fun of you.”

But, I think that’s actually the biggest secret to the Kardashian family’s success…

In 1968, Bibb Latané and John Darley, professors of Psychology at Columbia and New York University respectively, performed an experiment. They would put a test subject in a room and have that subject answer a questionnaire. But then they created an emergency. The room would start to fill with smoke from a vent. No alarms. No one else in the room. Just a growing uncomfortable amount of smoke.

75% of the test subjects reported the smoke. It’s a little surprising it’s not even closer to 100% isn’t it?

Then Latané and Darley changed the experiment conditions and added two other people to the room who were “in on the gag” and were instructed to not react to the smoke.

This time only 10% of the new test subjects reported the smoke!

But here’s where it really got strange. You might argue that we all know how important social proof is. You forced these other people to not react. Of course there’s going to be pressure on the test subject to stay still.

So they modified the experiment a third time, 3 new test subjects in the room, and now all three were naive of what really was happening in the experiment as they answered their surveys.

Of the 24 people in this part of the experiment, only 1 person reported smoke coming in the room within the first 4 minutes. After the experiment was concluded, still only 3 people total said anything at all.

This is crazy.

Being exposed to public view may constrain an individual’s actions as he attempts to avoid possible ridicule and embarrassment.

It’s called the Bystander effect. It’s also a huge reason that fire alarms need to exist. Not because it’s a signal for fire. But as Eliezer Yudkowsky writes for the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (h/t Max Temkin for pointing out the research):

The fire alarm tells us that it’s socially okay to react to the fire. It promises us with certainty that we won’t be embarrassed if we now proceed to exit in an orderly fashion.

“That we won’t be embarrassed.”

Keeping up with the Kardashians, or KUWTK, has been on for 14 seasons. And they just signed a $150 million deal to keep it going at least another 5. It’s been a mega successful show and it’s catapulted the careers of everyone involved. Even one of the youngest of the Kardashian clan, Kylie, started a makeup company. She made $44 million last year. The company is expected to be worth $1 billion in the next 5 years. She’ll be 25.

One of the things that’s most interesting to me about the show is that it doesn’t do what you might most expect — making the lives of the Kardashians look brilliant.

If you watch, you’ll see arguments. Jealousy. Dumb mistakes. Neurosis. Trouble with weight.

This isn’t stuff anyone wants to air to others. Believe me, I’m constantly filming my life and showing it to the world on YouTube, and I’m constantly editing out a bunch of these same moments.

As Khloe told People: “Not every episode is juicy to us; it’s only juicy to the audience.” But they do it anyways.

And look what that attitude has done for them. Most people would love to have a better picture on their driver’s license. Khloé’s the only one who actually does something about it.

You know what the big difference is between the Kardashians and most of the rest of us? They report the smoke.

P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups, try Highrise.

How Do You Focus?

Especially when you have a lot to do

Photo by Tim Gouw

A friend of mine, Lachlan Campbell, recently asked me how I focus, especially when there’s so much going on. It’s a great question and I’m sure very apropos to Lachlan’s life. They’re a student, budding entrepreneur, and just a busy busy person.

One thing I know is that the most common advice is to “turn off distractions”. There’s software to measure your time. Uninstall apps. Hack your computer’s DNS to make sure when you visit a site like Hacker News it ends up doing nothing. These all have a valid place.

But I think there’s a meta problem that needs to be solved first.

When I was a sophomore in high school I was insanely stressed out. As a freshman, I had the number one rank so I felt a lot of pressure to keep my grades sky high. I was a decent volleyball player, practiced all year long. I was in Spanish club. Debate. Chess. Math team. And plenty more.

My grades started to slip. It was all this effort applied to all these places. And school was just getting harder. I found myself in an AP Art History class with two teachers I didn’t get along with and my grade went with it.

But my number one rank was incredibly important to me. What the hell was I going to do?

Google has a fun project that doesn’t get much attention from people. The Books Ngram Viewer.

Ngram is a fancy term that simply means: a phrase of words whose length is equal to N. For example, trigrams are three word phrases.

Google’s Ngram Viewer looks at all the books Google has slurped into their search engines from 1500 to 2008 and gives you the ability to find the frequency of whatever word or phrase you’re looking for.

For example,

The word “camels” was much more popular in the 1800s than it is today.

One of the more interesting finds I’ve seen in the last few years was about the words priority vs priorities:

Up until 1940 no one ever used the word priorities. If you have “priorities” how many do you have. What’s the magic number? Three? Five? A dozen? The plural doesn’t make sense.

Priority. There’s a single thing that’s most important in the things you do. Sure you can do more than one thing. But those other things aren’t as important as your priority.

Eventually I understood what I was doing wrong in school. I realized “grades” weren’t what was most important to me, but getting a great education was.

Things started figuring themselves out. I didn’t obsess about volleyball as much; I knew I wasn’t going to be playing in college anyways. I should just enjoy the game.

I dropped more things.

And I also started turning in my assignments late or sometimes not at all. If I didn’t feel like the assignment was furthering my understanding of a subject and I was pressed for time, I just wouldn’t turn it in. If time was still in issue, but I really needed the assignment to understand the subject, I’d turn it in late.

I got points taken away for sure. But a funny thing happened, my grades overall started to improve. I mastered understanding things and could do better on tests. I got more sleep. I felt better about school and my life. I still graduated in the top 10 of my class, but it didn’t really matter anymore. I had stopped caring about all the stuff that used to overwhelm me.

That’s really the answer to learning to focus on ALL OF THESE THINGS.

Getting clear on your priority.

Now, Lachlan isn’t me, so I’m not going to preach they or anyone take the same steps as I took in high school. But, I do think more students should prioritize education over grades. What you learn is far more important than the artificial relic of grades. At least for many of the employers I know these days. Lachlan was an intern here. I have no idea what their grade point average was.

Two More Bonus Tips

If You’re Young, Go Wide, Not Deep

Another thing to remember about being young is that you have a lot of time to rack up those accomplishments. So instead of spending time trying to go super deep into any one thing to become THE BEST, I think more young people should focus on going as wide as possible. Experiencing everything. Take classes in everything. Find jobs that give you access to everything.

I rag on working at Accenture when I got out of college. Real corporatey-corporate kind of place. But it was a fantastic experience for a new college grad. Gave me experiences in so many different places. I was working for the government, telecom, banks, payroll departments, etc. all in just a handful of years. I was working with the tech of CRMs, email marketing, mainframes, web apps, Java, Visual Basic, etc. etc. When I moved from Accenture my next job was drastically more deep. Same tech, same project, for years.

So be careful diving in too deep too fast. Enjoy the time to do a lot of things at first to see what you really want to do.

Most Of It Doesn’t Matter

Everyone by now is usually familiar with the Pareto principle.

Named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, that specifies an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. The principle states that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.

The 80/20 rule. But of course that’s applied over a lot of different systems.

I think it’s often maybe even closer to the 90/10 rule for most of life’s and business choices.

I look at Highrise. So many things we work on, and experiment with, just don’t move the needle. We try them of course, because we’d like to turn over a new rock and find treasure. But it’s a lot of miss miss miss miss miss miss miss miss miss win.

So I know when you’re in the weeds with all these things, it sure feels like it’s all important. But from a different perspective, you’ll probably find, most of it really didn’t even matter.

I hope that helps. I know the stress being overwhelmed can bring. If I can be of any help to anyone, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can always reach me on Twitter or email. Or send me a video!

P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups, try Highrise.

Go Big or Go Home

I’ve been in Y Combinator twice. I’ve been running my own businesses for over 12 years. So I’ve been around quite a few people who didn’t get the inflection point they wanted after trying to start the next ‘billion dollar company’, so packed it up, and quit the game. Does it really have to be like that?

In 1992, a young kid got lucky. He was in the right bar at the right time and met a casting director who launched his acting career. It turned into quite a decent career.

But there was a problem.

He was quickly typecast. Every single movie he was in had the same formula of having our actor showcase his charm and good looks. The paycheck was great, but it wasn’t any fun.

Then… he disappeared.

For two years, after what first looked like the peak of this actor’s career, he wasn’t in anything. The scripts dried up. People stopped sending him things. They got the message he was sick of the formulaic role that had been making him and the studios a lot of money. And studios like to make a lot of money.

It didn’t help that his final project before his disappearance had a 28% Rotten Tomatoes score. Ebert mentioned: “The potential is here for a comedy that could have been hilarious.” This isn’t the film you want to start your walkabout after.

If they’re like this, we’re in deep shit. That’s why you book your next job before the movie comes out.

-Ari Gold

But, finally after a few years of obscurity, the director who started his career had a project. It was different. He’d get to be different. The problem: it didn’t pay well. The budget was 1/7th the budget of his dud movie he left with in 2009.

What does he do?

“Go big or go home” didn’t become part of our lexicon until the 1990’s

Google n-grams count of the times the phrase is found in books

Since then, that expression permeates far too many projects and people’s careers. I don’t know if it’s because of some misplaced “artistic integrity” or psychological desire to complete sets of things that makes us want Everything from our project or nothing at all. But it’s a terrible thing that afflicts too many good ideas. Ideas that, for whatever reason, are small. They have small budgets. They aren’t billion dollar unicorn businesses. They don’t have exponential hopes. So people abandon these great ideas because the biggest payoff isn’t possible.

Our actor takes some of these oddball low budget movies. He does a string of them from 2011–2013. And to offset, he gets some commercial work. The commercials are a little weird. He’s made fun of. When someone asked him about the flak he gets about the commercials:

Fuck that. Because I’m going to. And I like ’em. And they pay well. And they allow me to go and do these other little movies for a lot less.

Not everything we do needs a Go Big or Go Home mindset. There are ways to incorporate the smaller ideas. Your business is profitable but doesn’t make the exorbitant sum you were expecting? Don’t shut it down. Start another business. Do some consulting. Treat it as a side hustle.

A favorite vlogger of mine is Charli Marie. In a recent video she and Matt Ragland talk about side hustles. Charli is involved with a bunch of side hustles. She’s putting all this work into her YouTube channel. She has a merchandise store of great stuff she’s designed. But she also works full time as a designer for ConvertKit, a company she’s not the owner of.

If Charli had an attitude like too many of the Go Big or Go Home folks she’d have so much less of these projects, and she’d be miserable. Instead, she’s not a billionaire, but she’s in a place most people would love to be. If only they could drop the Go Big or Go Home mindset.

Like our actor friend.

In 2014, he finds himself onstage saying “Alright alright alright”, a line from his very first movie, and thanking a host of people for the award he won for his role in the low budget success of Dallas Buyers Club. It was Matthew McConaughey’s first Oscar.

P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups, try Highrise.

Helpful Business Advice From Friends Of Highrise

Photo by Toa Heftiba

Should Small Companies Offer Online Classes and Demos?

Alison Grove makes another appearance on the terrific podcast Support Ops talking about whether companies should offer online classes and demos.

# 153 – Back to School with Classes

10 Ways to Land High-Paying Gigs As A Freelancer

Austin Church talks about how he turned a terrible thing of getting laid off into the opportunity of a freelance career and his tips into making that a success. Hint: use a CRM to keep you focused

# 153 – Back to School with Classes

How Can Companies Get Better At Personalization?

Matthew Grant at Aberdeen Essentials asked me some interview questions on the state of personalization in marketing. I mentioned some mistakes people are making as well as some fantastic marketing campaigns we should be inspired by.

# 153 – Back to School with Classes

The Secret To More Deals? The Follow Up.

Dee Greene of D&G Media Services started a vlog and in this video gives some advice on using Highrise to stay on top of following up with your leads.

11 Reasons You Aren’t Getting Web Traffic Or Making Money!

Julie Syl shares some advice on getting more website traffic. Thanks for the shout out Julie about our marketing site. There’s some great advice in here, not the least of which is being more generous: You’re Not Getting Website Traffic Because You’re Not Promoting Others.

# 153 – Back to School with Classes

How to Get Your First Customer

Had a few people ask me this question recently, so I’ve started making a playlist of advice on the topic. Some great tactical stuff in here and more to soon follow. Stay tuned! You should follow my YouTube channel: here.

I hope you enjoy the things we’ve been sharing. If there’s anything you’d be interested in us covering, or if you’d like to interview any of us, we’d love to chat. Please don’t hesitate to reach out (

Do Your Worst

My daughter is taking swimming lessons. She’s three. It hasn’t been going well. Tears. Fear about putting her face in the water. Dread about going to the next class. I found myself telling her the age old wisdom of “Do Your Best”, but I’m curious if that isn’t very good advice at all…

The Simpsons is one of the most successful sitcoms and animated shows in history running 29 seasons so far. Each episode takes eight-to-nine months to create! That means many teams and people need to be involved to get an entire season manufactured.

But this isn’t a story about The Simpsons. It’s about South Park.

The most surprising thing to me about South Park is that a single episode takes 6 days. Sometimes even less. Of course the animation isn’t as sophisticated as The Simpsons. And I’m sure some would argue the writing isn’t either. But South Park has been going on 21 seasons with 2 more already under contract and includes its own successful spin-off games, merchandise and movie.

Couldn’t Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, use more time to make the episodes better? In a wonderful short documentary about how South Park is made, Trey Parker let’s us know:

I always feel like, “wow, I wish I had another day with this show.” That’s the reason that there’s so many episodes of South Park we’re able to get done, is ’cause there just is a deadline, and you can’t keep going, ’cause there would be so many shows that I’m like, “no, no, it’s not ready yet. Not ready yet.” And I would have spent four weeks on one show. All you do is start second-guessing yourself and rewriting stuff, and it gets over-thought, and it would have been 5% better.

Sure, this is a lesson about how important deadlines are. They force you to keep shipping. You aren’t given a chance to overthink anything.

But I think it’s a bigger lesson in getting stuck in a rut because we fear we could do better. Trey Parker and Matt Stone know these South Park episodes can be better. It isn’t their best. But will it make a material difference if they do more to it? No, probably not.

The pilot episode wasn’t even as sophisticated as you see today. They were made with paper cutouts and stop motion animation. I’m sure in Trey and Matt’s heads, they were better than this. But they published just to get something into the world and avoid getting stuck in obscurity.

It’s how this YouTube channel of mine has gone ( I’m up to about 2500 subscribers watching me talk about business, marketing, design, and just getting through life on a daily basis. But I hesitated way too long to get even the first episode in the tank. I knew I could do a much better job than filming on my phone with crappy lighting, so I spent an inordinate amount of time researching lighting solutions, camera gear, storyboarding.

I finally regained my sanity and just filmed on a camera phone in my bedroom. The result looks like absolute garbage. I knew it should have been better. But what difference would it have made. Ship it. It’ll get better with time. And it has. Today’s videos are drastically different than my freshman efforts.

I see this all playing out with my daughter. She has this idea of being a great swimmer. She sees her best friend swimming already and then beats herself up that she can’t do it, to the point where she didn’t even want to get in the pool anymore because she couldn’t match her friend.

But we kept encouraging. Just get in the pool. It’s ok if you don’t do what your friend does. Just dip your face in, even if it’s just one second. Of course she quickly got a lot better. She’s burying her face in now for 12 seconds and constantly excited to practice and return to swimming class.

But it didn’t start with her best or what she thought should be “her best”. It started with getting comfortable doing her worst.

When Trey completes the latest episode in the South Park documentary, he let’s us know his thoughts on its quality, which happens to be the same feeling he has every single week as they publish their work:

I feel like it’s the worst episode we’ve ever done.

P.S. You should also follow me on YouTube: where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups, try Highrise.

Highrise Mobile 3.1 now on iOS AND Android

Just a couple months ago, we announced iOS 3.0 and today we’re thrilled to announce BOTH a 3.1 version for iOS and Android.

For iOS users, since we just released iOS 3.0, this iteration has a lot of tweaks and fixes so you’ll see fewer crashes and bugs.

For our Android users, you’ll get all of the iOS 3.0 updates like the ability to search leads and contacts by tags.

And a lot more Task features brought into the app.

And more… like support for predefined values on custom fields, incorrectly formatted international phone numbers, copying fields from a contact, and emojis in notes, emails and comments.

A recent iOS review:

4* We’re a small sales organization with tons of complex interaction with our customers. We depend heavily and love Highrise on our desktops and laptops. I’ve been a beta tester for the upgrade iOS app for a few months and have been happy to see everything they’ve added and improved in this latest version….chuckamos

But what we’re really excited about is that from here on out we’ll continue to release BOTH iOS AND Android updates AT THE SAME TIME (read here for more technical details on how that’s possible).

And in case you haven’t been paying attention, our mobile updates have been much more frequent this year. We’re working on another big one coming soon…hint:

And if you love it, please give us a review. If not, let us know what we can improve:

Big Ask

Art from Roger Disney

Every summer, Chicago is filled with outdoor art fests. We close off a big city street and artists pitch hundreds of tents selling their creations. My wife, Lynette, especially looks forward to the one in our neighborhood.

This year she stumbled on an artist selling his art as greeting cards. Lynette loves unique things she can’t just buy at the Hallmark section of Walgreens.

Each greeting card was $2. How can an artist survive on $2 greeting cards? What a terrible idea.

In 1966, Jonathan L. Freedman and Scott C. Fraser, while researchers at Stanford University, picked random people from a telephone book and called them up for an experiment. The researchers wanted to convince people to let a group of strangers into their home for 2 hours to audit what they had in their cabinets.

As you’d expect, only 22% of the people asked agreed to let this research team into their home. (If this seems high to you still, it was the 60s after all.)

But these researchers also called another group. This time, they asked if people would answer some questions over the phone about the household products they used.

Again, as you’d probably expect a higher number this time, about 66% of the people on the phone, complied and answered the survey questions.

But these researchers weren’t done with this second group. Three days later, they made the same large ask: Can a group of strangers come to your home for 2 hours.

80% of the people who answered that small survey just 3 days prior said, “Yes.”. That’s 53% of the entire second group who were originally called on the phone. That’s a mind boggling large number to me. More than half the people will let a group of strangers in their home because you asked them a smaller question just 3 days ago?

The name of this phenomenon is the “foot-in-the-door technique.”

Holy crap is art expensive.

It has to be. Making a painting can take hours, days, weeks. But here you are on a hot, sunny day, and you want to sell a $5900 painting to a passersby? That’s a big ask.

And it’s not that much different than the spot most of us are in. Sell SaaS software? Sure, you might charge something like $24 a month, but potential customers know they’d really be spending thousands on a long term investment with you.

So what have these artists figured out?

Those $2 greeting cards are the small ask. They know most of their visitors aren’t going to be convinced to blow $6g’s on an artist they just met. So they offer a cheap print. Something small. Something easy to take home. A larger ask can come later.

These folks now enter the orbit of the artists: signing up for newsletters, following them on Instagram. My wife is already planning a visit to this artist next year and I’m sure she’ll be pondering a larger purchase 🙂

Too many companies, especially startups, don’t incorporate this. They have a big ask when you first meet them. “Buy our thing. It’s going to cost a lot, but it’s great.” Maybe it’s the “Lean Startup” stuff encouraging “Make something and charge for it.” That’s great and I applaud people charging for their work.

But the thing is, I don’t trust anyone selling me anything anymore with the constant data breaches and frequent phishing attacks. I don’t even answer my phone thanks to the new fun “Can you hear me” scam. So, you have a lot more work to do than just offer me a great product.

You’re going to have to give people other chances to get to know you. Spend a great deal of time nurturing a lead with a smaller ask: signup for a newsletter, subscribe to a social media account, read something valuable you wrote.

You need to get your foot in the door.

P.S. Check out more work from Roger Disney and Ken Swanson.

You should also follow me on YouTube: where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups, try Highrise.

Writing style

Was there a source for my writing style or was it self discovered?


Adapted from Gage Skidmore

My dad loves talk radio. I remember as a kid driving around with him and the car tuned to WGN an AM station based here in Chicago. One of the personalities the station hosted was Paul Harvey. Paul Harvey had a popular segment called “The Rest of the Story”.

I wasn’t in love with talk radio, but I enjoyed Paul. He always told some odd bits of someone’s story and concluded with the name of a fairly well known person he had just described.

The surprise made the stories interesting.

Murray Davis discovered this when he looked at what research papers spread more than others.

An audience finds a proposition ‘interesting’ not because it tells them some truth they thought they already knew, but instead because it tells them some truth they thought they already knew was wrong.

We love movies when the bad guy doesn’t hurt someone when we expect it. We devour books where the good guy unexpectedly turns out to be evil. We crave surprise.

And so a big part of my writing style is simply trying to surprise people.

Did you know that young kid who no one wanted to play on the radio turned out to be Justin Bieber? Or the two guys who struggled to become actors, so they decided to make their own movie instead, catapulting the careers of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

On and on I’m looking for morsels of Paul Harvey/Murray Davis-like surprise. Is there something I can poke at that people currently assume? Or is there even something I can hold back through the course of the story that might surprise people at the end?

“Meanwhile, back at the ranch”


I remember a Chemistry class I had in college. There was this Teaching Assistant (TA) who collected Beanie Babies and decided to sell his entire collection for a pretty good sum. He did it because he wanted to use his money to buy his girlfriend an engagement ring. This has nothing to do with anything, I just remember that being something cool the TA did.

The TA was also the one to show me one of the first “viral videos” ever to hit the internet. It was a cartoon filmed with cutouts using stop motion animation of 4 kids swearing like crazy and Santa spinning Jesus over his head before throwing him across a field of snow.

That was the second ever short episode of South Park that Trey Parker and Matt Stone created in 1995. Today, South Park is one of the most successful cartoons in history.

I picked up a book once about writing. I can’t remember the name of it or the author of this chapter but it was all about an important technique the author used in their writing: weaving. Weave stories together. And that stuck with me.

I started seeing it everywhere. You see it in authors like Malcolm Gladwell, Simon Sinek, The Heath Brothers, South Park.

Wait, one of those isn’t like the other.

South Park’s season 21 premier weaves stories about Amazon’s Alexa replacing people’s jobs and a fake TV show called White People Renovating Houses. Back and forth the show moves from this group of people arguing about Alexa taking over the world and the remodeling show. Until they converge.

Some call this storytelling technique “Meanwhile, back at the ranch”, nodding to the days of the early silent cowboy films that needed to use subtitles to signal to people they were now literally going back to the ranch for the next thread of story.

But you see it constantly in the shows and movies you love. One thread starts, and before it reaches a peak, the story moves you to another thread keeping you in suspense.

The weave also helps in another form of surprise: showing you interesting contrasts between two things you might not have thought of being related before: Justin Bieber and ridiculous hard work, Stealing Cars and Frankenstein, Sansa Stark and building an audience.

Don’t get caught stealing

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

One of my favorite vloggers right now is How to Dad. He’s got a bunch of funny videos showing exactly what his channel’s name describes: weird shit he goes through raising his kids.

He’s been showing more videos recently of his daily life and you can see the things he’s “borrowing” from other vloggers. The selfie-sticks, the drone shots, the timelapses, the musical score. Except the musical score is now often him singing, playing the flute, or banging on his kids toys in his shower and recording the result. It’s a musical score unlike anything you’ve probably seen on a YouTube vlog.

He’s taken pieces of things that have inspired him along the way and added his own bits of creativity to make it truly unique.

Yes, I’ve been inspired by a great many people. And consciously and subconsciously I stand on their shoulders. But I make sure I’m only trying to take a piece of influence. I like his story structure. I like her use of surprise. I like how he uses narration in his videos. And I take all these pieces of things and merge them into a new whole adding my own unique bits.

For example, probably unlike many of my favorite authors, I spend an inordinate amount of time paying attention to People Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Variety. One, I try like How to Dad, to add my own ingredients. And two, because I think there’s some great lessons from those channels people haven’t explored past their surface.

Stop doing the same thing every single time

If I came home on a weekend from college, I would go back to school late on a Sunday night because my mom and I couldn’t miss watching X-files together after dinner on Sunday.

X-files was a fantastic show. Its peak season in my opinion was Season 5. That’s where they really stretched themselves creatively. They broke the usual formula of an episode and told stories through different main character perspectives, with different film making techniques, etc.

That’s how all my favorite shows have worked. Sure they often have a go-to style, but they aren’t afraid to change it up constantly.

And so there’s a style to my writing I reach for a lot, but I’m constantly trying new things and source material. Maybe tonight’s vlog episode is about the psychology of getting my daughter to swim and what that means for us as humans, or it’s simply a montage of the Highrise team enjoying our meetup.

I can’t stand formulaic output over and over, and so I’m always looking for new styles and mediums to use.

Do what you’re not passionate about

Photo by Lauren Peng on Unsplash

And finally, my writing style is a product of me being interested in everything. I don’t know if it’s something I’ve been born with, or something I learned from my parents. I played every single sport growing up from Figure Skating to Football. I enjoy Justin Bieber and Phish. In college I took classes in Thermodynamics, Philosophy, Advanced Calculus, and Acupressure.

I love variety.

And that’s a big reason I can’t stand things like conferences in my industry. We’re all doing the same thing, and now we’re meeting to all talk about the same thing we’re all doing? Yuck 🙂

My favorite conference/trade show I attended recently was a show in Food Technology. I didn’t have a direct use for any of the crazy robots and food packaging technology. But it was interesting seeing the trends in food product design and dissecting how they could be applied to other industries.

Everyone is so obsessed with doing what they’re passionate about. Spend more time on things you start with zero interest in. Become interested in just being interested.

So was there a source for my writing style or was it self discovered? Both. It was a lot of influence from people I enjoy and admire and also an attempt at being uniquely me.

Put those two things together in everything you do and it’ll take you far in writing, work, and life.

P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life.

And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups you should try Highrise.

“Email killer”

There’s a lot we’d like to replace in our lives from material objects to our coworkers, jobs, lifestyles, you name it. But maybe there’s a better way.

Graffiti was a huge problem in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2008. The initial attempt to solve it was, like most things we do against something we don’t like, to replace it. Cover it up. Crack down on those who did it.

But when areas that attracted graffiti were locked down by police, graffiti artists just matriculated to other areas. Even worse, the cover up was incredibly expensive. And it didn’t work. New graffiti would show up overnight.

Then some folks in the Reykjavik government realized an unspoken rule about graffiti culture: respect. You don’t cover up art that is better than yours.

And so parts of Reykjavik embraced graffiti. Some became curators, letting the best of it remain. And some homes and storefronts, even the government itself, commissioned graffiti artists to create beautiful works of art.

Now, walls became more impervious to lower quality graffiti. Some destinations are even tourist attractions where visitors spread the word about its graffiti in their reviews.

There’s still plenty of back and forth conflict with graffiti art, police, property owners, and the government in Reykjavik. But replacing all of it clearly wasn’t the answer. By embracing the art form they’ve been able to incorporate it into their lives for the good of the whole community.

I used to get aggravated working with a magazine editor who wanted my writing in Microsoft Word. Afterall, I created the writing software Draft to overcome things that bothered me about using Word to write. But that’s silly. I’m never going to replace Word. Just like email and Excel, it’s free and ubiquitous. I can email someone a Word doc, and without yet another account and password somewhere, they’re editing it. Instead, I’ve just learned to embrace it. I can easily write in Draft, and export the result to Word to send it on.

Or I look at educating my 3 year old daughter who has taken a deep interest in playing pretend with her dolls. Instead of trying to replace that time to do something more educational, I’ve embraced that playtime and now we’ll pretend to be teachers giving her dolls lessons about reading and math. Some of the dolls have even taken an interest in neuroscience. 🙂

Or I look at how this applies to the things I create.

So many software tools today pitch themselves as the email or Excel killer. “They’re too complicated or messy. You need this new thing.”

But I noticed this recently about the CRM industry — as Software Advice found: “Almost three-quarters of our buyers are using manual methods (and an additional 5 percent are using nothing at all) to manage their CRM.”

We’ve been using software based tools for CRM since the 1980s, and still only three quarters of people shopping for one are even currently using one? Excel, email, even good old fashioned paper notebooks are already working. Just like Word, they’re close to free, ubiquitous, and have zero learning curve.

There shouldn’t be surprise then, that some surveys find 60% of CRM implementations fail. They’ve tried to replace what used to work with something else. But people fall back to the simple, easy stuff even if it isn’t perfect. So we try our best here at Highrise to help people keep using email or Excel to manage their leads and follow-ups and make those tools even more useful to people.

Stop with trying to replace and kill everything. It’s a waste of our money, time and effort. Instead find something that might not work the best, but use the opportunity to elevate it to where its awesome.

Don’t replace. Embrace.

P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life.

And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups you should try Highrise.

What’s my purpose?

One of the most common questions I’m asked is: “How do I find my purpose?” The askers seem bored with their current jobs. They feel lost. They want to work on something that has more importance to the world.

On November 18, 2007, Dennis Quaid’s infant twins were given two injections of Heparin — 1,000 times the normal dose. Heparin is a useful, but dangerous, blood thinning agent. The accident was fortunately caught in time, and an antidote was given to the twins saving their lives. But in 2008 a similar accidental use of Heparin occurred where 17 babies were given the wrong dosage. Two of them died.

Medical mistakes like these are still too common. Dennis Quaid made it his mission to raise awareness of the issue. He helped produce a documentary called Chasing Zero. The short film traces the stories of people who’ve been traumatized by human medical error with hopes of inspiring more medical practitioners to work to eliminate human mistakes.

Interestingly, the documentary team found the janitorial staff deeply involved in making changes at Mayo Clinic, a hospital known for going to great measures to reduce human error.

Mayo Clinic had discovered that the remote controls in patients rooms had higher bacterial counts than toilet seats. So the janitorial team, without even being asked, came up with new procedures and checklists to keep rooms cleaner.

When Iris Cowger, a janitor at Mayo Clinic, described her role,

We’re not just cleaning rooms. We’re saving lives.

She cleans walls, floors, toilets, and remote controls. But she has a radically different perspective of what she does. One that motivates her and her team to take innovative measures that further improve the lives of everyone she comes into contact with.

Iris found her purpose.

When we interviewed Highrise customers earlier this year about why they use Highrise, a simple CRM, we found an interesting niche of user.

These were folks doing sales who didn’t consider themselves salespeople. They were writers, designers, software developers, insurance agents, cosmeticians, etc. who just so happen to have to do sales to keep their businesses alive.

One customer described what he does as, “I’m salesperson in my head, but a designer at heart.” The thing that got him excited was designing the products his business sold. But he had to be out there making deals or the business would tank.

All of a sudden I had a new perspective on what we do here. We aren’t just hosting software to manage contacts, emails and follow-up reminders. We’re helping people keep their businesses alive and get back to what they actually love to do.

I know a lot of people are out there seeking new jobs and careers and businesses because they think they still haven’t found their purpose. So they keep looking. And looking. Sometimes making big changes to their careers and lives only to end up feeling like they still haven’t found what they’re looking for.

There’s nothing wrong with career change to get closer to things you have more passion for. But I think far too many people look at what they do myopically. When they open their eyes and see the people they affect with their work, it becomes much more clear how important the thing you do already is.

There are plenty of janitors at hospitals that see their jobs as simply cleaning rooms and floors. They check in. Check out. It’s a paycheck.

Iris saw the higher purpose of her job. She didn’t need a career change. She just needed the right perspective. And that perspective keeps her motivated to show up at work every day and save lives.

The key to finding your purpose is to be more like Iris.

P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life.

And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups you should try Highrise.