Kieran Snyder with an excellent twitter thread on leadership. Here’s part of it:

The best leaders lead from the front when things are tough. They are visible, accountable, and own the challenge + their own failings. Sometimes the only way to guide or coach things to improvement is to live in the difficulty yourself.

The best leaders lead from the back when things are going great. When things are going great, that’s a sign that the organization knows what it’s doing, and you’d be foolish to mess with the day-to-day. Your job in that case is giving credit + setting up the next challenge.

Ineffective leaders often make the choice backwards: they stay in the background when things are difficult, hoping someone else will figure it out. They get in front when things are going well, hoping to take credit. No one wants to follow these leaders for long.

(Via Sean Sperte.)

“You Can Lead From the Front or From the Back”

“It is All. On. You.”

Discipline Equals Freedom, Focus

Jocko Willink’s chapter on Focus from his new book, Discipline Equals Freedom, is so awesome and so intense.

Sometimes, in day-to-day life, you can lose track of the long term-goal. It fades from your vision. It slips from your mind. WRONG.

I want that long-term goal to be so embedded in my mind, that I never lose sight of it. EVER. […]

Embed that long-term goal in your mind. Burn it into your soul. Think about it, write about it, talk about it. Hang it up on your wall. […] Every day: Do something that moves you t toward that goal — that keeps that goal alive and in sight and in focus.

Also, check out Jocko’s special episode on the Tim Ferris Show where he shares topics from his book such as success mindsets, overcoming laziness and procrastination, behaviors that lead to failure, and more. I love his advice for how to stop procrastinating.

“It is All. On. You.”

How to Be Productive When Traveling

In the past year, I’ve been to Austin, Chicago, San Diego, Atlanta, Breckenridge, Denver, Boise, Portland, and Nashville. It’s the most amount of traveling I’ve done in a 12-month period in the past 10 years.

It used to be that I would step on to the plane with the excitement of having a few hours to work on whatever I want — I figured that I would have several hours to put on my headphones and just write. But over the years I’ve learned better. In reality, when it comes to doing creative work such as writing, I am just not productive on flights.

Some folks can write an entire novel over a series of airplane flights. Not me. Though sometimes I will edit content that I’ve already written (such as moving an article from the “idea” folder to the “edit” folder).

If you’re looking to be productive when you travel, my best advice is this:

Have a specific goal in mind and be prepared for it.

(That advice goes for quite a bit beyond just travel productivity, btw.)

In short, don’t step onto that plane with a blank canvas and the hopes of being inspired. Instead, know your desired outcome and prepare ahead of time. What are you hoping to get done? What do you need to do to make it happen? What will you be doing on the flight?

A little bit of preparation goes a long way. Because then, once you’re on the flight, all that’s left for you to do is get to work.

Here’s What I Do

As I said, I’m not good at creative work or inspirational thinking when on a plane. Therefore I have found other ways to still make the most of my time (though I’m also not above watching a good kung fu movie).

Before my flight, I download a few podcast episodes or an audio book. Then I listen (with my B&O H7 headphones) and take copious notes.

Listening to a podcast or audiobook while taking notes is a great way to learn the material. It’s also a more passive form of creativity and work. It’s been helpful for me, and the results from the notes are always a huge asset. For example, my book club articles for Rhinoceros Success and The Dip both came about from times I was traveling this past year.

After listening to my podcast episode(s) or audiobook, I’ll then watch a movie or read a novel and just relax. Or sometimes I skip the note-taking altogether and get straight to the movie.

How to Be Productive When Traveling

Long-time readers will know that for the past several years the original Monument Valley soundtrack is part of my daily, morning writing routine.

Well, a few weeks ago the soundtrack for Monument Valley 2 came out and it’s fantastic. I’ve been listening to it all this week instead of the original soundtrack. If, like me, you like music while you work but you need something that’s instrumental and isn’t too crazy, this is perfect.

And speaking of, the soundtrack for Land’s End is also quite excellent.

Monument Valley 2 Soundtrack

Over on The Sweet Setup, we’ve put together a breakdown of some of awesome apps that will come in especially handy over coming weeks.

On my iPhone, Day One, Paprika, Deliveries, and Apple Music all get used a bit more than normal during the holidays. And, for me personally, instead of AnyList, my wife and I are using a shared note via Apple’s Notes app to keep our Christmas shopping list in sync.

And lastly, I’d add one thing to entertainment: The Kindle (the actual gadget, not the app). I’ve got Andy Weir’s newest novel, Artemis, lined up next.

TSS: Apps and Services for the Holidays

Christmas Photos from Castle Rock, Colorado

We were in Colorado for Thanksgiving weekend, and downtown Castle Rock is just amazing during the holidays.

My family and I spent this past Saturday evening walking around the downtown area, and I took this nighttime photo with my iPhone X and then edited a bit with the VSCO app…

Not bad! Especially when you compare it to this next pic, that I took few years ago on that very same street corner. Except that this one I took with my fancy Olympus camera and the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens:

Christmas Photos from Castle Rock, Colorado

How to Tell You’ve Created Something Worthwhile

There will be some people who strongly dislike it.

I’ve always felt that great design is polarizing. There will be some who love it and others who hate it.

For example, I recently received a request for a refund of the Focus Course from a fellow stating that the content was “inane, generic, bland and full of nothing but buzzwords.”

Negative and vile feedback like that used to really throw me for a loop. I’d worry, What if they’re right? What if I’m selling snake oil I and don’t even realize it?

There is a difference between constructive feedback and angry feedback. If the former, I’m all ears. I am happy to learn from genuinely unsatisfied customers who tell me they were expecting one thing but got another. That is a great way for me to improve my marketing, products, and more.

But angry feedback just comes from angry people. They feel entitled to something and they want you to know just how angry they are. Angry, hyper-negative feedback is not a reflection of you nor of your products. It is a reflection of the person giving the feedback.

And so, in times like that, I choose to politely refund their money, delete their email, and go about my day creating new things and working toward what’s next.

(As a side note, I’d rather get negative feedback than no feedback at all. Perhaps the worst response to a product would be indifference.)

It’s not easy to make something and put it out there.

Another way to tell you’ve created something worthwhile, is to look at the people who are talking about it, sharing it, and using it.

Look around at the people who are gladly doing business with you. Are they people you respect? If so, then you’re doing it right.

Sometimes it’s hard to get a clear picture of the work you’re doing. You’re so immersed in the product and the message that you can’t easily step back and see it all with fresh eyes.

But if there are people who you find awesome, and they are happy to be around your work and they actively seek you out, then you are on the right track. You’re serving the right people doing something worthwhile. Good job.

How to Tell You’ve Created Something Worthwhile

Seven years ago today it was a Saturday morning, and I was standing in line to buy an original iPad.

Since then I’ve owned an iPad 2, iPad 3, and a 2nd-generation iPad mini. The latter is the one I’ve been using most for the past few years.

Until last week when I bought a 9.7″ iPad Pro. I picked up this iPad Pro for two very good reasons:

First of all, I’ve begun traveling quite a bit more, and needed a portable computer for when on the road.

Secondly, I’ve been trying to keep my home office reserved for work-only. Which means that in the evenings or on the weekends when I have home-related computer-y stuff to do, I needed another device I could use upstairs on the kitchen table.

It’s now been seven years since the original iPad shipped. And the basic landscape hasn’t changed all that much. This is simultaneously good and bad.

…bad because the iPad is fantastic device, and yet it’s not the go-to platform for the best apps and innovations.

But good because it means the iPad is still full of simplicity and promise.

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P.S. Here are a few other fun articles I’ve written over the years:

Diary of an iPad Owner (circa 2010)

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My thanks to Marketcircle for sponsoring the site this week.

Daylite: Business Productivity App Exclusively for Mac & iOS (Sponsor)

Cal Newport:

Someone who plans every minute of their day, and every day of their week, is going to accomplish an order of magnitude more high-value work than someone who identifies only a single daily objective. […]

In other words, don’t settle for a workday in which only an hour or two is in your control. Fight for every last minute. Even if you don’t always win, you’ll end up better off.

I couldn’t agree more. Since I began scheduling every minute of my day I get far more of the important work done each day. And, I rarely end the day with that feeling in the back of my mind where I’m wondering “what did I actually do today?” and it feels like no matter how many hours I work, I still haven’t gotten it all done.

But!…

Though the Most Important Thing is not enough, it is still very important.

I always take a few minutes at the end of my day to write down what tomorrow’s most important task is going to be. Having that ever-so-basic starting plan for tomorrow helps tremendously (James Clear has written about it, calling it The Ivy Lee Method).

P.S. Speaking of Cal, I had the opportunity to talk with him on my podcast earlier this year, and a lot of what we hit on is along these lines.

Your Most Important Thing Is Not Enough

All this week over on the (new!) Focus Course blog, we’re posting some short and sweet video previews.

Here’s what’s been posted so far:

All these previews are just 2-minute clips from the conversations that will be published next week as part of the Creative Focus Online Summit.

We’ve got more in the pipe for the rest of this week. And then, on Monday, we kick off the summit itself. If you want to get access to the Summit, it’s free to register.

Short and Sweet Creative Focus Previews

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My thanks to Elgato for sponsoring the site this week. Sponsorship by the Syndicate.

Automatically control your connected accessories via your presence. (Sponsor)