33% rule

When you’re launching a thing, it’s helpful to think about the process in three roughly equal parts.

What’s considered ‘a thing’? I define a product or project as something that you’re creating to put out into the world.

It could be a web product, website, app, zine, publication, course, poll, physical product, blog post, album, video, collection, survey, directory, event, book, and many other items.

You might be setting yourself up for disappointment if you think that one part of the launch process is 90% of the battle, but it’s really only 33% of it.

I’ve been disappointed by this before, so I wanted to share my take on why ideating and executing may not be enough alone.
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Have you ever eaten something because it was in front of you? Those cookies that you don’t even like. The mediocre pizza place that’s downstairs from your apartment. The yoga studio that’s on your home from work.

Understanding how proximity affects you means being more aware of your decision-making habits. You might be on autopilot saying yes or no to things. Without even realizing that you’re on autopilot–that’s the worst part.

I’ve found that it’s surprising how much proximity affects what we choose. We tend to hang out in our neighborhood. We turn down events if they’re too far. Or we go to them because the venue is close by. We might become a regular customer not because we particularly like the food, but because it’s easy.
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No one knows the right answer


Last week, I spoke at the 2015 Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco. My topic: if you are iterating and trying new things, your new normal is to feel a bit anxious all the time. Here’s a blog post that’s based on my talk. Originally posted on the Lean Startup Blog. Here are event photos on Flickr.


The truth is that I was attracted to the lean movement because it felt safe. Lean is a relentless march toward the right answer, an evolving process where we go from safe to safest, from new to tested to successful. Sign me up.

It turns out, though, that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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Comparisons heighten drama

Before-and-after comparisons tend to catch my eye in magazines or ads. I’ve been thinking recently, why are before-and-afters so alluring? What draws the viewer in? Why do brands use feature these photos?

In general, comparisons heighten drama, because they make the difference between two objects more apparent. Your mind skips over the part where the two items are similar, and will naturally focus on the point of difference. Comparisons direct your attention in an intentional way.

Before-and-afters are a specific type of comparisons, because it shows the same person/object over time.

The story of possibility

It changes with the product, but the story arc is this: you are the ‘before’ right now, but you COULD be the ‘after.’

Here is an old IKEA bookshelf. After these DIY instructions, it looks like a chic piece from West Elm.

Here are your sparse, sad eyelashes. After this mascara, lash volume is increased by 400x.

Here is a dull t-shirt. After using this detergent, notice how bright the fabric looks.

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Say compliments out loud

Those of you who know me, know that I have many theories and philosophies on life.

One of the philosophies is this: life is short, so you should trim the lukewarm parts and only leave room for the best.

Only eat food that you love, only do activities that you actually want to do, only buy things that delight you, and only hang out with people who you think are awesome.

Because of this filter, the people I spend any amount of time with, or attention on, are people who I think really highly of.

I realized, though, that many times I’m gushing about friends, acquaintances, distant heroes, or colleagues….in my head. I don’t actually say some of it out loud. In my mind, I think I’m complimenting them all the time, but in reality they have no idea.

Part of my reluctance to say compliments out loud might be because I’m being afraid of sounding too eager or bright-eyed. But someone I respect told me the other day, “If it’s a positive thing and you truly believe it, you should say it out loud.”

If you don’t vocalize a compliment, the other person might never know that there’s a specific thing that you appreciate about them, or that you found your interaction to be really positive, or that you think they are amazing at what they do.

If you don’t say it, it’s as if the thought didn’t occur to you. It just came and went in your own mind. If you say an honest, true, and sincere compliment to someone, it further deepens your relationship and the layers of friendship.

In an effort to say things out loud, here are a few compliments that popped into mind from the past 24 hours.

I recently met Quinn. She runs a global org but is down-to-earth and makes people feel included.  Her presence brightened up the whole office.

I love Ishita’s writing. She’ll paste her entire blog post into a Facebook status. You’ll read the whole thing right then and there, and before you know it, you’ve realized a deep truth that snuck into your brain under the radar.

Alex shares mini design lessons and openly discusses design solutions with zero ego. I get to swivel my chair around and work with someone who’s incredibly refined at his craft, and a joy to brainstorm with.

I’m not sure yet when I can insert my compliments into casual conversation yet. I’ll think about the timing. In the meantime, I’m going to make an effort to say compliments out loud, in real-time, when I think of them.