Tabula Rasa

At some point you will find yourself at a critical inflection point. There are countless moments in a lifetime where one can choose between diverging paths. Some of these moments are more impactful than others. Nearly everyone finds themselves a blank slate moment, a tabula rasa, a point in time at which you can change your current trajectory, a time in which it is especially easy to either build or destroy your future. For many, it is upon graduation. For the vast majority of us, we graduate from high school or college with a net worth of just about zero, and a wide world of career possibilities ahead of us.  For some of us, it is social. We find ourselves… 

Delayed Gratification & Business-Building

In 1972, a professor at Stanford named Walter Mischel conducted a famous study which would become known as the “Stanford marshmallow experiment”.  Children were left in a room for 15 minutes with a single marshmallow, and offered the choice of either one immediate reward, or two rewards (as long as they didn’t eat the marshmallow by the time the researcher returned). If they were able to resist eating the single marshmallow, they were rewarded with another snack of their choice. The beauty of this study was not quite so much the insight about kids and marshmallows, but that it was a quite extensive study that actually followed up on the child’s progression through life for years. It turned out that… 

Relationships or Specifications?

It’s a fact which doesn’t sit well with some: the work itself doesn’t matter quite as much as who is doing it. Especially when we’re talking about service businesses. People buy based upon your likability — not whether you’re the absolute best, or whether you’re the cheapest. At first glance, this seems unfair. After having this discussion with a few folks, I’ve realized that many more people disagree with this statement than I first suspected. Because, if all things were equal, shouldn’t someone hire for value — getting the best work for the money? Yes, if all else is equal. But things are not all equal. And there is a hidden, intangible value to relationships that often trumps specifications. Let’s… 

Attention Span

Everything is faster today. I am one of those people that has a hard time with attention span. I am easily distracted. It’s hard to sit still for more than a few minutes. I also have a hard time in disordered situations — too much stimulus drives me crazy. Loud music, things out of order, clutter, chaos of any sort makes it nearly impossible for me to concentrate. All of these little factors have manifested as very real problems in life. For nearly a decade after college, I barely read books at all — I just couldn’t get through a chapter before putting it down, getting distracted by something shiny, and never picking it up again. For the first ten… 

Restoring a 1972 VW Super Beetle

In May 2020, I was bored. Everything was shut down, closed borders prevented my mother-in-law from flying back to Europe so she was in the guest bedroom for three months, I got banned from the local subreddit for asking if there were any live music shows happening in the area, and Anya really wanted a Beetle. So I bought one on Craigslist. It was undrivable and barely mobile, after sitting in a shop for several years. It was lacking a few important features, like a fuel tank, brakes, lights, seals, horn, you know, the basics. Here’s a few photos of the unrestored car. Beautiful! I started hacking it up. The first step was major body work. The car had obviously… 

Big ideas

I have watched agile methodology kill companies. Agile methodology originated in the software world and bled into every other world. Distilled down, it’s the concept that instead of dedicating a lot of time and energy into one big project, you should break it up into little bite-sized sprints, build a little bit at a time, and test small things before you commit to a big thing. It’s good in theory, and it works for some sorts of projects, but when you apply it to business it is pretty much a recipe for mediocrity. Big success requires big ideas. Big ideas require big work. Let me illustrate. I once worked with a company that wanted to be innovative, but was actually… 

Why the SMMA model is fundamentally broken

This year, I have gotten more messages about one specific subject than anything else by far. On Reddit (where I engage regularly in PPC & agency related topics) I’ve gotten 41 messages this month alone…and of those, 37 of them were asking about SMMA. To be honest, even though we published Building A Successful Micro-Agency earlier this year, I hadn’t heard this specific term. So I did some in-depth research. SMMA (social media marketing agency, also called “agency in a box”) is a term invented by a few gurus. The term isn’t used in normal marketing circles. It was recently invented to sell courses, which purportedly teach you how to make millions without having any specific skills or domain expertise.… 

Goalposts & Relativism

Last week, Q2’s economic numbers confirmed that we are not in a recession. Sure, it’s a recession by how the dictionary defines it (two consecutive quarters of negative GDP) and how the Harvard Business School defines it (two quarters of negative GDP growth) and by all other visible means (waves of layoffs, high inflation, crashing home sales) but no, it’s not a recession. We were assured of this by a torrent of ivory-towered journalists letting loose a preemptive wave of opinion articles declaring that there is nothing to see here. We were additionally assured that all is fine by a Wikipedia editor who changed the article on recession to say “the definition of a recession varies between different countries and… 

ESG & carbon credits: the indulgences of a zero-sum world

At some point in the past couple decades, the corporate world drew inspiration from the Middle Ages, and decided it was time to bring back indulgences.  Indulgences, if you’ve forgotten your Roman Catholic theology, are a way to reduce the amount of temporal punishment you undergo for your sins. In other words, you could pay money and spend less time in limbo. At first this penance was paid in forms of prayer or charity or good works, but if you’ve forgotten your Roman Catholic history, this began to mean financial donations. By the time of the Reformation, you could basically just pay off your vices through consistent donations to the overflowing and corpulent Papal treasury.  Simply put: pay enough, and you’re… 

Scurvy (and, the power of doing over understanding)

If you’ve ever watched an old pirate movie, and I hope you have, you’ll remember scenes in which pirates, stuck in the doldrums, are afflicted by scurvy. They lay around on the deck, first weak and helpless, then depressed and listless, then their hair and teeth start falling out, and then unless they catch sight of land (and therefore, fresh fruit and vegetables) they eventually die. Scurvy, of course, is a disease caused by lack of vitamin C. Humans are one of very few creatures (along with monkeys, bats, capybaras, and guinea pigs) who cannot create their own vitamin C within our bodies. It must be consumed.  Sailors of old ate a diet of salted meat and hardtack (fruit and vegetables…