Thoughts on the iPhone 7

iPhone 7

It was 2:00 o’clock in the morning, and I was sitting up in bed, barely awake enough to keep refreshing the Apple Store app.

While I was somewhat concerned that the iPhone 7 might actually sell out in the middle of the night, in truth I was mostly awake at that hour because it’s tradition.

It wouldn’t be New iPhone Season without having to wait in a line of some sort, even if it’s a virtual one in the middle of the night.

One week later, my matte black iPhone 7 arrived. It sat at my house for a couple of days because my wife and I were in the hospital that weekend having our third son.

This is my 9th iPhone.

(I skipped the 3G because it was far uglier than the original and so I didn’t upgrade until the 3GS came out. And I have bought the newest iPhone every year since.)

Like many of you have probably done, I used to sell my previous model iPhones for more than it cost me to upgrade to the new one (thanks to my partial subsidies on my AT&T contract). Thus, I’d actually make a little bit of money each year — enough to “upgrade for free”, basically…

Then my wife got her first iPhone, and we started upgrading on a tick-tock schedule with AT&T. In even number years it was my contract’s turn to upgrade through subsidized pricing, and in odd number years it was her contract’s turn.

Whoever’s contract was due for the subsidized pricing would use that line to buy the newest iPhone. Then, I’d give her my “old” iPhone and I’d get the new one.

But that whole upgrade process changed last year with the advent of Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, et al.

AT&T (and Verizon, too, I think), are working hard to move away from subsidized upgrades and instead offering their “lease to own” options. AT&T calls theirs “AT&T Next”; Verizon calls it their Annual Upgrade Program.

With all of these programs you are effectively getting an interest-free loan to buy your iPhone over the course of 24 months. And then, if you want to upgrade every year the new iPhone comes out, you just trade in your current phone for the new one.

It’s the access over ownership model. And I think it makes sense for folks who simply want the latest iPhone each year. So I finally signed up, and for first time ever, my wife and I both upgraded. (Rose Gold 7 for her, matte black 7 for me.)

The iPhone 7 in Matte Black

First, let’s address the former elephant in the room: My former iPhone 6s Plus.

Last year I bought the gargantuan. The Hercules. The Titanic. The giant. The iPhone 6s Plus.

It took some time to get used to the massive device, but I did eventually acclimate. By far and away, what I loved most about the Plus was its larger screen and the better battery life.

Once it became natural for me to use both hands when dealing with the Plus, it stopped being quite so awkward a device and the advantages of the larger screen were pretty great.

However, as awesome as it was to have the larger screen, the better battery life, and the nicer camera… it just wasn’t worth the tradeoff for the unwieldy size. More often than not I found myself frustrated by my inability to wrangle the phone with one hand and just how clumsy I felt when trying to use it.

After a good year-long run with the iPhone 6s Plus, I’ve returned to the regular size iPhone. And I have no regrets.

There are, I believe, a few reasons it wasn’t too terrible of a “downgrade” to move from the 6s Plus to the “regular” 7.

Basically, the battery life of the iPhone 7 is improved enough that for my own day-to-day usage it’s just as good as it was on my iPhone 6s Plus.

According to Apple’s specs for the iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone 7, the former gets up to 12 hours of internet usage on LTE or Wi-Fi and the latter gets the same if not slightly better.

Secondly, my iPhone 7 now has in-body image stabilization just like my iPhone 6s Plus had. And since the camera optics in the iPhone 7 are improved over last year as well, I actually have a better camera.

So, in the end, the only thing I “gave up” was screen size. And that is exactly what I wanted to give up.

Needless to say, I’m glad I went back to the regular sized iPhone.

Additional Miscellany

  • The new home “button”. It took a few days, but I’ve gotten used to the new “button”. But it doesn’t feel like a button, really. It feels like the whole front of my iPhone is on a hinge, and I’m pressing the entire front bezel of the phone down.

    There is also this issue where you can’t press the button with gloves on…

    imyke tweet

    But, at the same time, if you had gloves on you couldn’t operate the home screen anyway. So what do gloves do other than turn on the screen? Well, with raise to wake and the side buttons — is there truly a loss of usability? There’s a loss of functionality, yes. But is there a loss of usability?

  • The Camera Bump: The iPhone camera bump is probably here to stay. At least for a few more years. Now that they’ve had it for 3 years in a row, it’s become “accepted”. Heck, in this year’s marketing material Apple is no longer trying to hide the bump, they are showcasing it front and center.

    The advantage of keeping the bump is that it gives the iPhone engineers so much more space to work with for improving camera optics and lenses. And, well, if the iPhone is anything it’s a camera.

  • Matte Black: Three cheers! I is so great to have a black phone instead of that Space Gray. I went with the Matte Black over Jet Black because I think the former looks better and because I knew it wouldn’t get fingerprints all over it.

    However, the extra grip you get on the glossy finish of the Jet Black is appealing. And while the matte black iPhone is a bit less slippery than 6 and 6s were, it’s still slippery-ish. Oh well.

  • Future Colors? With the process that creates the Jet Black iPhone, I wonder if Apple will introduce new colors in the future that have the same glossy, grippy finish as the Jet Black? Like a 5c-esque color lineup, but made of aluminum.

* * *

Year over year, the iPhone continues to be my favorite gadget of all time.

The best reasons to upgrade (in the author’s order of preference) are:

  1. New matte (and Jet) black colors
  2. Better camera (with IBIS for the “regular” size iPhone)
  3. Better battery life
  4. Stereo speakers that are also louder
  5. Water Resistance
Thoughts on the iPhone 7

Thoughts on Content Strategy (Part 1)

First things first…

“Content Strategy” is not a dirty term.

Sure, it carries with it some corporatespeak baggage, but let’s look past that. Let’s look at what the term actually means and why it’s so important for you to have some thoughts of your own on this issue.

Content: What you create.

Strategy: Your plan of action.

In other words, how will you use your creative work (your content) to move you toward your goals? Answer that question and boom, you’ve got yourself a content strategy.

Now, for many folks, they don’t want or need a content strategy. For them, there is no goal beyond just doing the work. The art in and of itself is the goal. And that’s great! I love it. That’s how I am with my photography — it’s a creative outlet and that’s the extent of it. Thus, there is no content strategy with my photography.

But with my writing, it’s different…

I write for a living.

Thus, my writing serves a goal beyond the art of prose and beyond the joy of doing the work.

I write to teach and to sell. These are my two goals.

And in order to do that, there needs to be a strategy for my content; a goal for my writing.

When thinking about your content strategy, it can be easy to get caught up in the metrics of sales, conversions, etc. Now, yes, those things matter, and I’ll explain why in a bit. But I hope they aren’t your driving force behind your creative work.

First and foremost: your content strategy should be focused on serving your audience.

Does your content strategy have only the best in mind for your audience?

Consider if your content strategy does the following…?

  1. Does it provide value at all times…?
  2. Is it relevant at the readers’ time of need…?
  3. Does it serve your business goals…?

Your content strategy can’t serve your business goals if you don’t know what those goals are. What type of business are you trying to build? What level of income do you need to sustain your creative pursuits? Where do you want to be in 5 years time? How is your content strategy moving you in that direction?

As you build a better content marketing strategy, it’s important to balance what works and what feels right for your brand and your voice.

For me, my goal is to build a creative business based on long-term relationship equity. So while there are many email tactics out there that may work, not all of them are things I personally want to do. I want to incorporate what feels right for my brand and my voice.

In order to do build a creative business based on long-term relational equity, it requires trust.

Trust that is built on feedback loops, delivering on my promises, serving others, pursuing generosity, and more. (See my notes here about taking your personal project full-time.)

I avoid selfishness and tricks. I don’t try to squeeze out short-term profits that end up hurting the long-term quality of my brand and voice.

Now, this doesn’t mean selling is bad. The problems only arise when we become indifferent toward our readership, stop caring about providing value, and instead just become greedy for the sale.

* * *

Simply put, if you’re struggling to provide value at every single interaction, then (a) you’re not trying hard enough or (b) you’re over thinking it.

It’s more simple to provide value than you may think.

A valuable interaction can be a helpful tip, an interesting or entertaining story, a tutorial, an educational case study, a behind-the-scenes look at something cool, and more.

Focus on providing value at all times. If that is your goal, then you’ll come out ahead.

In the next article, I dive into the second aspect, which is being relevant to the readers. Click here to read about how I now do this using email automation in my article.

Thoughts on Content Strategy (Part 1)

Benson

Last week my wife and I had our third (!) boy. His name is Benson, and he’s awesome.

Benson Blanc

Everyone is doing well, and there is much excitement here at the Blanc house. Benson’s older brothers love having this little guy around. We are all feeling full of love and thankful for this life we’ve been given.

You’ll find me sharing kid pics on Instagram and Twitter.

shawn-and-benson

Benson

Special B&B Throwback Episode: The iPhone 7 Event



My friend, Ben Brooks and I recorded an impromptu podcast episode to talk about yesterday’s iPhone 7 event. (Those of you who remember the B&B Podcast, you’ll like this.)

Topics we cover include our first impressions of the new Apple Watch, the iPhone 7, the shift toward carrier upgrade and payment plans based, buttons, and more.

If you’d like a direct download that you can toss into Overcast, you can grab the MP3 from the SoundCloud player above (by clicking the download icon). Or download the file directly here.

Special B&B Throwback Episode: The iPhone 7 Event

Learning Not to Think About It

Here is a quote from Ernest Hemingway that I often refer to in my own professional life:

I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day. That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything, I hoped.

I added the emphasis on the word “learned”.

You see, I’ve always taken that quote and referenced the part about how he would let things brew in his subconscious. Which is pretty common advice. People tell you all the time that when you’re stuck on a problem you should go take a walk or build a kitchen table or something.

But what I’ve always missed is how he says he had to learn not to think about anything he was writing.

Let’s break it down:

  1. He would not think about anything he was writing.
  2. He had to learn how to do that.

So often I bring my work with me wherever I go. And by “bring my work” I mean that I keep thinking about it when I leave my office, or go on an errand, or go out to eat with friends.

A few months ago I decided to stop reading business books in the evening before bed. They would get my mind too fired up to sleep. So instead I read fiction.

It is a challenge to stop thinking about the things I’m currently writing or working on. It’s a skill to be able to shut off work. To learn to give my mind a break and not to think about what I’m currently writing. But I’m working to learn it.

One of my goals with my creative business is to continue the work I’m doing now for several more decades. And a big part of that requires that I work at a sustainable, healthy pace. A marathon pace, if you will.

And to do that well, means leaving work at work. It means learning not to think about anything I am working on from the time I stop working until I start again the next day.

Not only does this lead to a higher quality of work produced, but it also leads to a less stressful lifestyle. Win-win!

Learning Not to Think About It

I Buy More Books Than I Read

And I don’t care.

A quick survey of my Amazon order history for 2016 shows me that I’ve bought 30 books so far this year. Which is about one new book every week.

While I’d love to say that I also read about one book per week, the truth is that I only finish about one or two books per month.

But that does’t stop me from buying books. Because…

The First Rule of buying books is to not be a wimp about it

Here is my criteria for if I should buy a book or not:

  • If a book sounds interesting at all, then I buy it. (If it sounds interesting then it’s a topic I’m hungry to learn more about.)

  • If there are a lot of folks I follow who are all talking about the same book, then I buy it. (What do they know that I don’t know?)

  • If someone I know recommends a book to me, then I buy it. (They read a book and it made them think of me. So what’s in that book that can I glean from in order to to better refine my own message and thinking?)

Basically, I don’t debate over if I should buy a book or not. I just buy it.

And I feel no guilt whatsoever about buying books and not reading them. Because…

The Second Rule of Buying Books is to not care about reading them cover to cover

Once I’ve got the book, if its content and writing grab me then I read the whole thing. But if not, then no big deal. If I lose interest half-way through, then I just move on.

All I care about is getting one good idea or story from that book.

If I get that, then it’s worth it to me.

Chances are good that that single idea will impact my personal life as well as my business.

A life- and business-changing idea for $10 or less? Sold.

However, as a human, I don’t have a very good memory. So sometimes these ideas don’t stick too well. Which is why…

The Third Rule of Buying Books is to make notes and mark up the margins

I try to only ever buy physical copies of books.

Why? Lots of reasons, actually.

A physical book is easier to grab right off my book shelf. It’s more approachable than a digital book. It’s easier to thumb through and skim quickly. I can skim around to any chapter that sounds interesting to me and read a few pages.

Moreover, it’s nothing to have 3 or 4 physical books all open at once, spread out on the floor or my desk. Something I find so very helpful when doing research and getting lost in a topic.

I also love leaving sticky notes in my books. And highlighting them. And writing notes in the margins. And dog-earing the corners.

I also create my own alternate index on the back pages.

Then, once you’ve got all those ideas and notes and highlights…

The Fourth Rule of Buying Books is to share what you know

Here goes…

I recently bought The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, and I haven’t yet read all the way through. But it has already impacted me significantly.

On page 14 Twyla Tharp tells about her routine of going to the gym every morning. The “extent” of her workout routine is to get dressed, walk outside to hail a cab, and then tell the driver which gym to take her to. After that, her routine is complete.

This hit me at just the right time.

After hurting my ankle in Colorado last fall, I completely fell off the running wagon and hadn’t been running regularly for about 9 months. I read Twyla’s story and realized that I could at least put my running clothes on and drive to the gym. If, by the time I got there, I didn’t want to run, then I could go to the coffee shop instead.

That was well over a month ago and I haven’t missed a day at the gym since. Not bad for a used $7 paperback. And there is still the whole rest of the book left to read!

Other ways to share what you’re learning:

  • At dinner with friends, bring up something you just read in a book.

  • Summarize your favorite books into 3 sentences or less.

  • Start a book club and invite your friends to join…

I’m Starting a Book Club. Join In.

If you’d like to get my personal book recommendations along with my notes about that book, then sign up for the book club.

Sign up Here (it’s free!)

Once a month I’ll send you an email letting you know what that month’s book is and why it’s so great.

I Buy More Books Than I Read

How to Get Time For Your Projects

Between ideas, time, and focus, which do you have the most of?

Ideas, right?

We all have more ideas than time. Myself included.

A few years ago I wrote about how I would often find myself wrestling with the tension of having more ideas than time: “There are many great things I want to do and build and ship and start, but I just don’t have the time to do them.”

And I still feel that tension. In fact, hopefully I will always feel the tension of having more ideas than time because ideas are, and should be, a commodity.

Here’s the thing: it’s not about the balance between time and ideas.

The trouble comes when we have a lack of focus. When we have more time than focus.

Or, put another way, if we have more time than focus it means there is time that we are wasting.

Does this mean you should spend all of your time being “focused” on work? Not at all. I don’t have the energy for that. And neither do you. Besides, there is so much more to living a focused life than just being productive in the office.

Having more focus than time means you’re proactive and intentional about how you spend your minutes. It means thinking ahead and establishing some awesome default behaviors to fall back on when your focus and energy run out during the day.

* * *

This week, as we continue discussing The Creative Life, I’m going to answer some questions I’ve received regarding how to make time for your creative project.

Florian H. says:

My biggest challenge is to be consistent in working on the different projects I’m currently involved in and want to drive forward. I have two professions, a side project, and lots of ideas. I’m also a father of two daughters. :)

Julian S.:

My biggest struggle to move forward is to actually block the time necessary to invest into my creative endeavors. Because there’s always a ton of stuff to do relating to the business that pays my bills. Every day that I don’t reserve some time on my calendar to do it (and honor this appointment with myself!) it’ll be another day I didn’t move forward.

Marianne C.:

By far my biggest challenge is saying no to the other things that take all my time or at least figuring out ways to schedule high quality work time while still dealing with the endless minutiae of life and business.

To sum these questions up:

How can you make time (and follow through) in order to work on important projects and areas of responsibility when life is already so full?

This is a “category” of question that I get frequently. So much so, in fact, that I created an entire class that dives deep on time management.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life’s made of.”

Ultimately, managing your time is unto something. And that “something” is the living of life. How we spend our time is, quite literally, how we are living our life.

The good news is that diligence and focus are not personality types; they are skills you can learn.

In just a moment I’m going to share some ideas, perspectives, and practical suggestions that can help. But if there is one thing to take away, it’s this:

You have more control over your time than you think.

If you’re not happy with where things are at right now regarding your time and attention, then make a change.

There are some mindset changes you need (which I’ll get to in just a minute).

And there are some practical things you can do in order to improve your likelihood of success. And whereby “success” I mean “spending your time and energy the way you want to”.

Let’s dive in…

Start With Your Personal Integrity

Personal Integrity is defined as doing what you’ve said to yourself that you will do.

So many of us are good at following through with the commitments we make to others. But we are not so good at following through with the commitments we make to ourselves.

Without a deep amount of personal integrity, it will always be difficult for you to make changes in your life. Not that change is ever easy, but it is especially challenging when you have a history of not following through on your own commitments.

The best thing to do here is start small with something simple…

Such as putting your shoes away in the same spot every day when you come home. Make that the first thing you do when you arrive home, no matter what shoes you are wearing or what the weather was like outside, etc.

Do that every single day for a month, and you will begin building your personal integrity. You’ll be following through with a commitment and proving to yourself that you can see a task through to the end.

You Have to Make Time

You don’t find time. You make it.

I know it’s semantics. But it’s also a huge mindset change and it’s one worth musing on for a moment.

Sure, if we were being philosophical and direct about it we would all agree that, yes, of course, you don’t find time the way you might find a dollar bill on the sidewalk.

But how often do we truly act that way in our lives?

Many of us act as if we are trying to find the time. We are looking around, hoping there may be an hour or two just lying there not being spent.

Say No

You make time by saying no to a lot of things — other interests, hobbies, time-sucks, etc.

You also need boundaries for yourself so that you know when to say no to other people and opportunities. Your creative ideas and the side projects you’re working on are valuable.

Find Your Pockets

Something we do in The Focus Course, is take a week and track all the time we are spending. Literally we try to map out every minute of the day for a whole week and then see what our schedule actually looks like. It brings clarity about how we are truly spending our time.

And most folks (myself included) always discover there are pockets of time here and there that we didn’t realize where there.

I know it doesn’t feel as if there is any time in the day. Every minute of your day is spent on something — you’ve got something that you’re doing.

But we all do.

Every single one of us is spending every minute of our day. Right now, for example, you’re spending your time reading this article. (Thank you!)

What happens when you take a week to track your movements, you discover those pockets. And the pockets aren’t spots where you’re doing nothing at all. They’re spots where you realize you could spend less no time on a particular task.

Reduce your activation energy

Oftentimes, the real challenge is not in the making of time…

It’s getting started in the moment.

I have had so many conversations with folks who tell me how they don’t have time in their day. But when they come home from work, they watch TV for a few hours before going to bed.

If you were to take a whole week and track how you spend every minute, you would discover that you have pockets in your day that you could adjust to make time for other things. The trouble is that it’s not always easy to turn those pockets of time into creatively productive time.

Thus, the more you can do to reduce your activation energy, the better.

It’s the idea of helping your future self. And it was a revelation to me a few years ago.

Yes, you can change your schedule around. Yes, you can make some time. You can wake up earlier. You can skip your lunch break. You can dictate into a microphone while driving to work or write while on the bus. Etc…

But when you finally those precious minutes to do your creative work, the truth is you just don’t want to. You’re tired, your distracted, you’re not sure where to start.

Getting started is the hardest part.

Take heart: It’s that way for everyone. You’re not the only one.

There are some articles I’ve already written about this, that can help you, and I’ll list them out in a second.

But first, it boils down to this:

What is something you can do today that will help you make things easier to get started on your creative work tomorrow?

For further reading on reducing your activation energy, check out these additional articles:

Change your schedule for just a short season

My friend, Sean McCabe, took the month of July to write a book. It was a sprint, and then he returned to his regular schedule.

About a month ago, I took one week and spent it getting up an hour earlier in order to write first thing in the morning. I enjoyed it so much I gave it a shot for another week. And then another. And another. And now I’ve been doing it for 4 straight weeks. But it started as a 5-day experiment.

Buy back your time

Are there things you can delegate or automate? Such as mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathrooms?

They say time is money, but time is worth infinitely more than money. You can always earn another dollar, but you never get back another minute.

If you can spend a few dollars to give yourself a few hours, and then use that time doing something you love, that’s a bargain!

If the idea seem preposterous to you, try saving up to pay for a service for just one month. And then commit to yourself that by the end of the month you will have created something you can sell.

Think Outside the Box

What about your commute? Could you negotiate with your boss to work from home one day a week, and then use the time you save on your commute to work on your side project?

Accountability & Social Support

By far and away, one of the best ways to help yourself show up every day is to be accountable to that task.

If you have a small measure of accountability in place, where you’ve got to report back to someone about your progress, you are far more likely to complete it.

As part of the Focus Club, we’ve been doing daily stand-ups in our members-only chat. Every morning at 10am people can check in with what they’re working on.

As I’ve written about before, social support is your single greatest asset when it comes to success in nearly every single area of your life.

Start with 20 minutes.

If you know how you want to spend your time, but the struggle is to make the time, start with 20 minutes. For sure you have 20 minutes somewhere in your day.

Break it down like this:

  1. Set a timer for 15 minutes (yes, 15). Spend those first 15 minutes working on your project.
  2. Then, spend the remaining 5 minutes leaving a breadcrumb trail for yourself so that tomorrow you know exactly where to pick up where you left off.

Find Your Creative Focus

If you don’t yet know how to spend your time, or what to focus your creative energy on, this workbook can guide you through that.

My Own Story

I’ve been writing and publishing regularly for over a decade. A few of the milestones along that journey include:

  • Jan 2006: Started my first blog on Blogger
  • Jul 2006: Bought my own domain and started publishing more regularly
  • Jul 2007: Started shawnblanc.net
  • Oct 2010: Started selling sponsorships
  • Feb 2011: Announced the Shawn Today membership
  • Apr 2011: Quit my job and to write full time
  • Aug 2011: Built and launched Tools & Toys
  • Feb 2012: My first son, Noah, was born
  • Jul 2012: Wrote my first book, Delight is in the Details
  • Sep 2013: My second son, Giovanni, was born
  • Nov 2013: Launched The Sweet Setup
  • Jul 2014: Updated my book with new chapters and interviews
  • Feb 2015: Started my email newsletter
  • Jun 2015: Launched The Focus Course
  • Dec 2015: Created The Elements of Focus
  • Jan 2016: Updated The Focus Course
  • Jan 2016: Hired a full-time employee
  • Mar 2016: Launched a Time Management class
  • Jun 2016: Hosted Focus Camp
  • Aug 2016: Started The Focus Club

Now, let me share a bit of behind-the-scenes backstory to those milestones…

For those first few years of writing in 2006 and 2007, I was a young married dude and was traveling. I had plenty of free time and writing for my website was perhaps my singular biggest focus. I loved it.

In early 2008 I took a new job that required roughly 70-80 hours a week. I did that job for 3 years: from 2008 – 2011. But I continued to write on the side and build an audience.

In fact, during those three years of writing on the side, I was able to build enough relational equity with my readership that I was able to quit my job and go full-time writing my website thanks primarily to the generous monthly support of readers like you.

Then, just one year after going full-time with my website, my wife and I had our first son.

After her maternity leave, she returned to do part-time work with our church. For about a year my wife’s schedule was extremely varied. Some days she would be gone in the morning, and some days in the afternoons. I was a part-time writer and a part-time stay at home dad who didn’t have any regularity to my day-to-day routine.

After our second son was born 3 years ago, my wife changed her schedule to something more regular. I now have my whole day every day to focus on the work.

And yet, even now, I write for a living, and yet I’m waking up at 6am — before the kids, before the neighbors, before I want to — so I can get a solid hour of writing in as the very first thing to I do in my day.

Sure, I will do more writing during the day, but not like I do first thing in the morning. This early morning session is for me to write what matters. This is the time I write new articles and do the work of fleshing out ideas and topics.

In all of the aforementioned seasons it was a challenge to make the time to write. It has always been a challenge to show up and do the work, and I know that it will continue to be so.

Here is More Stuff on Time Management

I’ve been writing about creative focus and time management for years. It’s one of my favorite subjects.

Here are a few of my best resources on the subject. Some are completely free and some you can buy.

Also, check out our membership community, the Focus Club. It’s brand new and it’s awesome. You can connect with like-minded folks every day, keep accountable to your most important work, join in on our live coaching calls (hosted by yours truly), and more.

How to Get Time For Your Projects