Notebooks, Business Models, and Solutions

We meet again for another Fantastic Friday.

Under normal circumstances, right now I’d be packing for WWDC. I’ve been to the conference in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Alas, this year, I won’t be attending. The main reason being that I have two trips already scheduled for this fall, and felt that was enough travel for the year.

(Side note, come join me for seanwes conference and hear me speak.)

Secondly, we’ve just kicked off Focus Camp, and I wanted to be available to devote my full energy to that.

So, I’ll be watching the WWDC keynote from my basement instead of a hotel room at Parc 55. And I’ll be making my coffee at home instead of standing in line at Blue Bottle. Those of you headed out, don’t have too much fun without me!

— Shawn

And here are some of this week’s best links and items of note.

  • The Baron Fig Vanguard: These new notebooks from my favorite notebook maker are stellar. For me, the vanguard is not a full-on replacement for the Confidant, but I’m putting them to work as a single-purpose notebook. Using a Charcoal, Flagship, Dot Grid Vanguard (whew!) as my dedicated notebook while I work through the courses in Digital Commerce Academy.

  • Ugmonk 2.0: My friend, Jeff Sheldon, makes the coolest t-shirts and mouse pads you’ve ever seen. And he just launched a massive update to his brand and website. I also highly recommend you subscribe to the Ugmonk Journal. Jeff is a guy who walks the walk, and he’s going to be sharing a lot of the behind-the-scenes info of how he runs his business.

  • You Need a Business Model: Fantastic article from Jessica Abel. To make a living doing your creative work you need (a) skill at your creative endeavor, (b) systems for making constant progress, and (c) a business model so you can actually make a few bucks. What’s awesome is that all three of these things can be learned.

  • Quote of the week: “Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.” — Mark Cook, as quoted in The Lean Startup.

    In a world where we value shipping early and shipping often, we can often loose sight of the purpose of shipping. If you’re trying to build a business, grow an audience, and provide value to others, then what you ship should serve that goal.

    And I believe this sits in harmony with the idea of “scratching your own itch”. Because if what you’re shipping is a solution to a problem you face, then chances are very likely it’s a problem other people face as well.

    That’s a pretty wonderful place to be in. Where you’re simultaneously solving your audience’s problems and also building products you love and are proud of.

    If you’ve ever received an email from me where I asked you about your biggest challenge, now you know why. My aim is to get an understanding of what obstacles you’re facing and what tools I have in my tool belt that I can share with you to help you overcome those obstacles.

Notebooks, Business Models, and Solutions

Four Lifestyle Practices

This week for Fantastic Friday I want to peel back the curtain a bit and share some personal notes.

I didn’t fully realize it until this week when it really hit me, but for the past several weeks (at least) I’ve been living with quite a bit of stress.

This morning I sat down and journaled out all the big projects going on right now.

Seeing each one listed out next to the others was eye opening.

The first thing I said to myself was: “Shawn, what were you thinking!?”

Now, people tell me that I write a lot about living a focused life. And so, in lieu of those topics, I think it’s important for me to share both sides of the coin: the things I do well and the things that I don’t.

(That’s why I shared about my own laziness.)

And so, today, for Fantastic Friday, I want to share with you a few of the small things I do to help keep my laziness in check.

Moreover, what I love about these things is that they also help during seasons of stress.

When you’re dealing with overwhelm, there are two responses. You either need to reclaim some margin back into your life, or you’ve just got to press on until you get the breakthrough.

If the latter, it’s helpful to have a few “lifestyle practices” to help keep you on track. Below are a few of mine.

Thanks, and enjoy your weekend!

— Shawn


1. Reading Daily

I read quite a bit during the work day, but also in the evenings. My routine is that every evening between 7 and 8pm I do something useful or productive. Such as reading, spending time with friends or family, or doing handy work around the house. That hour isn’t for cramming in yet more office work, but neither is it for zoning out.

(Side note: Right now I’m re-reading The Lean Startup. Highly recommended if you find yourself in the position of trying to build something of value while in the midst of extreme uncertainty.)


2. Writing Daily

When I start my work day, I make myself write before I do anything else.


3. Family Time and Weekly Date Night

As a type-A creative entrepreneur, it can be so easy for me to have work on the brain at all times. And combine that with a to-do list is literally never ending, and there’s always a reason to work long hours.

But I refuse to look back in 5-10 years from now and wish I would have spent more time with my family. Having boundaries around my work time and family time is a pretty no-brainer way of making sure work life doesn’t take over family life.


4. Journaling

I journal for the sake of recognizing and celebrating progress. It’s one of the best ways to build and keep momentum in your life.


* * *

Okay, one more tidbit…

Here are two quotes I use often throughout The Focus Course:

People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” — F.M. Alexander

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” — John C. Maxwell

By far and away, the best way to keep the needle moving forward in life is to have smarter “defaults” for how to spend your time and energy.

If you choose the right actions and attitudes long enough, they begin to choose you back. And you find yourself naturally gravitating toward the behaviors you want to do as a lifestyle rather than the things you feel like doing in the moment.

You can get clarity about your own “lifestyle practices” by going through the Focus Course. There’s a group (including yours truly) that are going through it together this summer. I hope you’ll join us.

Four Lifestyle Practices

Hustle Friday

You can’t throw a rock at the internet without hitting a webpage where someone is talking about hustle.

Ask Gary Vaynerchuk how he defines hustle and he’ll tell you it’s “maximizing the energy you put into what you are passionate about.”

In his book, he says that hustle is the one tangible thing people can do to change the direction of their lives.

If you want to turn up the hustle, you just have to spend more time doing whatever it is that takes you where you want to go.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

And, well… I simultaneously do and don’t agree with Gary’s definition of hustle.

Yes, I’m all for showing up every day and I adore focusing on that which that matters.

However, the term hustle also carries a bit of baggage within some circles — because there’s this idea that sleep and rest are the enemy.

For me, I gravitate toward the word diligence, even though, really, I see diligence and hustle as close to synonymous.

The truth is, we only have (at best) a capacity of 3-4 hours per day that we can spend on deep and focused work.

And so, in order to maximize the energy we put into what we are passionate about, we need to live a healthy (a.k.a. balanced) life so that the time which we dedicate to our work is as efficient and impactful as possible.

In a nut: checking email 30 times per day is not “hustling”.

For me, to make every minute count, means:

To make every minute count you’ve got to make every future minute count also.

And that means living a life today that won’t leave you burnt out, sick, and broke in 5 or 10 years.

— Shawn



Greg McKeown on Working Smarter, Not Harder

From his book, Essentialism:

What is the obstacle that is keeping you back from achieving what really matters to you? By systematically identifying and removing this “constraint” you’ll be able to significantly reduce the friction seeing you from executing what is essential.

Before we just try to throw more hours at something, consider first what obstacles may be keeping us back?

For example, if someone is watching 5 hours of TV every night, there’s a pretty huge opportunity for reclaiming that time to spend it on more valuable things.



Fizzle Show: Anti-Hustle →

The crew at Fizzle recently put out an excellent podcast episode regarding “why hustle hurts you”. It’s a balanced and thoughtful discussion about the value of resting well and being okay with not-yet-breakthrough results in our business or side project.



Why Srinivas Rao writes 1,000 words every day →

In short: momentum. But that’s just one of the plethora of benefits of having a deep work activity that you show up every day for.



Your’s Truly, Regarding Goals

This little tidbit is adapted from one of the days in Module Two of The Focus Course.

There are two “camps” when it comes to goal setting.

  1. On one side are those who champion for clear goal setting with a very intense, daily system for tracking your progress. This can be extremely helpful for the professional athlete, but it’s not always practical for everyone.

  2. On the other side are those who champion for little to no goal setting at all. The mantra here is that it’s all about the joy in the journey.

There is value and truth in both of these camps. When we have a clear goal, it’s a way to define what the fruit of our life’s values and vision may look like, and this gives us something to be motivated toward and work for. That motivated state helps us make progress toward the things that are important in life.

If you spin the phrases of “qualitative” and “quantitative”, you get this dual-sided approach to goal setting.

By defining your goals you’re giving yourself something quantitative to attain. And then you can build a quality-of-life-centric lifestyle that is based on the foundation of your vision and values.

In short, you’re not only moving forward in the aim of attaining a tangible goal, but you’re also finding joy in the process.

It works like this: Decisiveness brings motivation for action; action brings clarity; clarity helps us make future decisions.

To me, this is what hustle is all about. Working hard to reach for a goal while also taking great joy in the process. Casting off as many distractions as possible and living a focused (and healthy) life.

Hustle Friday

Fantastic Friday: Books and music and podcasts

Here we are, the first Fantastic Friday of May. Welcome!

On a personal note, my wife and I are almost done unpacking! It’s been 3.5 weeks since we moved in to our new home. We’re down to just the last few boxes — I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

As any of you who have moved can surely attest to, it’s not easy to keep going. Each day I try to do at least one if not two projects around the house — even if they’re small projects. Such as yesterday: I (finally) put up a hand towel holder in our master bathroom.

In other news, I’ve got something awesome planned for The Focus Course that we’ll be doing in June. I’ll share more information with you in just a few days. But here’s a hint: it may or may not involve a cowboy hat…

nice-hat

— Shawn



1. 11/22/63

I’m a huge fan of Stephen King’s book, On Writing, but I’m not a fan of horror fiction. So I haven’t read any of King’s fiction books until now… 11/22/63 is about a man who travels back in time. It’s not horror fiction, and the storytelling is fantastic. I’m still early on in the book, so don’t tell me what happens.



2. Unemployable Podcast

Last week I linked to one of the episodes of Unemployable featuring Austin Kleon. Since then I’ve listened to about a dozen more episodes of the show. It’s fantastic. The episodes are short (usually just 20-30 minutes) and full of inspiration.



3. Paradise Valley by John Mayer

This is the album I’m listening to right now as I type up this week’s Fantastic Friday.



4. My iMac’s Desktop Wallpaper

May is here, the seasons are changing, and it’s as good a time as any for a fresh desktop wallpaper. For this one I just went to Unsplash and searched for “mountains”.

Fantastic Friday: Books and music and podcasts

Fantastic Friday: Gadgets

Hello friends, and welcome to another edition of Fantastic Friday.

The past two Fridays have been silent because, as you know by now, my family and I moved into a new home. We’re nearly settled in! As fun as it is to move to a new place, I’m ready to get back to life as normal.

This week’s edition of Fantastic Friday, I’ve got a few gadgets for you. One is a new one you may never have heard about but if you have an Apple TV you definitely need it. The others are not new, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth talking about.

Enjoy. And I hope you have a great weekend.

— Shawn



1. Apple TV Remote Cover

If you’ve got one of the latest-generation Apple TVs you know how awkward the Siri remote is. It’s difficult to tell which way is the proper way to hold it, and there’s no easy way to pick it up without fear of accidentally fast forwarding.

This case / cover for the remote solves all the handling problems of the remote. It makes it feel safe to pick up, you know which way to hold it, and it’s easier to hold.



2. The Apple Watch

Speaking of Apple gear, my pal Casey Liss recently wrote an article about how it’s becoming “trendy to be smug about the Apple Watch.” I’ve noticed this here and there for sure. Though, from where I’m sitting, most of my friends who bought an Apple Watch still wear it. As do I.

During our move I couldn’t remember which box I packed my Apple Watch charging cable in. It took me a few days to find the box and thus I went 48 hours or so without my Apple Watch. And it was a massive bummer.

I don’t use my Apple Watch for much, but what I do use it for is so helpful. I love being able to quickly reply to incoming text message threads; I love seeing what the outside temperature is every time I glance at my watch; I love being able to control the music we’re AirPlaying from my wrist; I love having one-tap access to a timer; I even love the Watch’s alarm chime far more than my iPhone’s.

The only two gripes I have about this incredible first-generation gadget is that I’d love it to be faster (especially when using Siri dictation), and I’d love for it to be even smarter about turning on the display when I’m trying to see what time it is. Otherwise, the conveniences the Apple Watch provide are fantastic.

I’ve had my Apple Watch for nearly a year now. I suppose a proper year-later review is in order…



3. Sonos Play:1

So I finally broke down and bought a Sonos speaker. Thanks in no small part to a gift card from a friend. (Thanks, Tyler!) We’ve had the Play:1 for about a month and I’m still not sure about it. I’ll probably write more about my Sonos at some point in the near future, but for now my thoughts boil down to this: The speaker sounds absolutely incredible, but using the Sonos app is not so great.

What about you guys? Do you have a Sonos setup? It seems that if you’re going to go Sonos, you should go all-in with them and not just get one speaker for one room.



4. Simplenote

I’ve long been a fan of Simplenote. And once again the app proved its usefulness as I used it to compile pretty much all of the notes and ideas and other random tidbits of information related to our move. With things getting packed into boxes and just generally thrown into a tizzy for about 6 weeks, one thing I did have on me at all times was my iPhone. So, having a singular central spot for all the necessary information related to our move was so helpful.

Fantastic Friday: Gadgets

Fantastic Friday: Read This

Hopefully by now you’ve had a chance to make your cup of coffee. Because this week I have a few articles for you to read with your morning coffee.

But these quotes and articles are special for another reason.

On Monday, it will be the 5-year anniversary of when I began my gig as a full-time, indie writer. To “celebrate” I’m doing something special next week.

Today’s Fantastic Friday links are to particular articles that have been meaningful or impactful to me in some way over the past 5 years.

And, I have to say, picking out just 4 articles was nigh impossible. I had to print out the titles and URLs of at least 100 different articles from my Instapaper Likes and Pinboard bookmarks. Then I put them all up on a wall and threw four darts.* The four items below are the ones that got stuck.

* Okay, not really. But I should have thrown darts. That would have been awesome.



1. 1,000 True Fans

No doubt you’ve heard of this Kevin Kelly article, if you haven’t already read it once or twice (or a dozen times — ahem).

Kelly’s proposal is that an independent artist needs only about 1,000 True Fans to make a living. Ideally, the artist has a direct connection with his or her fan base and is able to create art directly for those people.

Over my years as an indie writer, I have tried to be honest and transparent with you: my “true fans”. I have tried to write about things and create things that are as helpful and exciting for you to read or use as they are for me to put together.

And, in my experience, it’s feasible.

Not that I have a count on how many “true fans” are around. But I do know that it takes less people than you’d think to help you earn a living, so long as you’re doing your best to provide as much value in return as possible.



2. The Nerd Handbook

I remember reading this article years ago, and I’ve never forgotten about it. Michael Lopp is one of my favorite writers, and his Nerd Handbook article is a riot.

(It’s funny because it’s true!)

If you’re a nerd, read it and weep. Then forward it to you significant other. If you’re not a nerd, you might be married to one, so you had still better read it.



3. What Screens Want

Now we come to Frank Chimero. Frank’s writing is clear and incredible. His book, The Shape of Design, is one of my all-time favorite books.

And, as with most of Franks writing, in his article about What Screens Want you’ll find a secret message that’s not so much about design as it is about being intentional with our choices (and loosening up a bit).

Take the time to read Frank’s article straight through on the site. And be sure you’re in a setting where you can watch the short in-line videos.



4. How to Get Good at Making Money

This article from Jason Fried is just a little over 5 years old, and I have referenced it over and over again. In short: you get good at making money the same way you get good at anything else: practice.


* * *


In other news…

Exactly five years ago today, I was taking the day off. Yep. I remember it clearly.

I had just quit my job as a marketing and creative director and was about to start my new job as a work-for-myself, work-from-home writer.

It seemed reasonable to give myself a 3-day weekend before starting my new job. So I took Friday off. Then, on Monday, April 4, 2011, I started my new job as a full-time, indie writer.

Five years later, I’m still here. Thanks entirely to you, dear reader.

Next week I’ve got each day planned out. I’ll be sharing stories about the past five years and more. Can’t wait!

Fantastic Friday: Read This

Fantastic Friday: Coffee Paraphernalia

Unknown to both my wife and I, our coffee grinder was losing its edge.

Nearly four years ago, Anna bought me a Bodum Bistro Grinder for my birthday. It was an awesome little grinder for a great price.

I used it every single day. Until one day, it broke.

new grinder - baratza virtuoso

We replaced it with the king of the hill: a Baratza Virtuoso.

And wow. The first cup of coffee using our new grinder was a revelation.

Who knew a great coffee grinder was so important? I mean, I knew they were important, but seriously the difference was huge.

In addition to the new grinder, the other (somewhat recent) addition to my coffee arsenal is the Kalita Wave. We’ll get to it in a minute. But I have to say that the Wave has officially replaced the AeroPress as my daily brewer. What a time to be alive.

All that said, this week you get to peek into the four key components of my daily coffee. (Since I keep the list to just four things, one thing had to leave out was my kitchen scale.)



1. Crema.co

It all starts with beans. Freshly roasted coffee beans make all the difference.

Here in Kansas City, we have local coffee roasters coming out our ears. Such as PT’s, Broadway, Oddly Correct, Messenger Coffee, Roasterie, Thou Mayest, Parisi, Post, and Second Best. To name a few.

However, you may prefer to have freshly roasted beans delivered to your door. This is great for folks who don’t like going outside or for those who don’t have a great coffee roaster nearby where you can easily get access to freshly roasted coffee.

If you’re searching for a coffee delivery service, I highly recommend Crema.co.

Crema.co is like Netflix but for coffee. You add the coffees that you want to your list, and then you select how often you want a bag of coffee shipped to you.

This differs from coffee subscription services like Blue Bottle, because Crema lets you pick what you get. Where as with Blue Bottle, you get what they’re roasting.

I’ve gotten beans from Crema and I was very impressed. Great service, great pricing, great coffee.



2. Baratza Virtuoso Grinder

This is the grinder we went with, and it’s fantastic. Here at the Blanc household, we like to buy things for life. So we went with a grinder that is excellent at its job, but also should last us for quite a while.



3. Kalita Wave, Pour-over Coffee Maker

As I mentioned last week, this pour-over coffee maker has become my new favorite.

What I like about the Wave is that it can make a larger cup of coffee than my AeroPress (350g+ versus 250g), and I think the coffee it makes is much better than what you get from the v60.

I know everyone says that the AeroPress is super duper easy to clean. And it is, but I think a pour-over contraption like this is even easier to clean. You just dump the filter into the trash and rinse out the dripper itself. There are no moving parts, no lids, etc.



4. Double-Walled Glass Bottle

There are about 150 different variations of this glass bottle on Amazon. I’m pretty sure they’re all made at the same place, and everyone gets a turn putting their logo on the front.

What I like about my double-walled glass compared to my stainless-steel thermos is that the bottle is easier to clean in the dishwasher and it doesn’t fiddle with the flavor of my coffee.

Of course, the tradeoff is that the glass bottle doesn’t keep my coffee as hot for as long.

The glass bottle is also great for cold drinks, since the outside of it won’t sweat onto your desk.



* * *

What better to go with awesome coffee than something to read? I’ll be sharing some great quotes and articles in next week’s edition of Fantastic Friday.

Fantastic Friday: Coffee Paraphernalia