My favorite iPhone apps (2016 edition)

I’m an explorer by nature. I love trying new things and discovering hidden treasures. This extends to every area of my life… Including iPhone apps. When it comes to apps, I’m always on the lookout for something new and exciting. As I write this I’m counting 67 apps installed on my phone (including the default Apple apps).

With all of the exploring, there are a few standouts that last for more than a month or two. These are my favorite iPhone apps right now.

Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter for six years, but it wasn’t until this year that I finally started to ‘get’ it. I made myself a rule that I would respond to every post from every person I follow.

The difference has been night and day. I’m not sure why it took so long for me to catch on to the simple fact: social networks are meant to be social.

Why did Twitter make the list, but not Facebook? I check Facebook once on my laptop and I’m good. Twitter is more immediate, and so the app is more useful.

Snapchat

I love Snapchat. I’ve had so much fun with this app, and definitely seen how it can be used to reach a lot of people in a personal way.

Unfortunately I’ve been totally inactive on my Story for several months because of battery issues with my phone. Still, I’ve continued to use the chat feature almost exclusively, replacing iMessage and Facebook Messenger. Snapchatting is the future, and I’m happy about that.

Enlight

I’ve been a photography buff and photo editor for a long time. I used Photoshop to edit my photos, and I always thought it would be awesome if I could do the same on my iPhone. Then I found Enlight. Enlight has the photo grading tools of Instagram and other stuff, but it also includes cutting, splicing, text overlays, brushes… It’s incredibly full-featured. If you need to create graphics from photos on your iPhone, this is the app for you.

Splice

I use my iPhone to shoot videos, but I always had to upload them to my computer and edit them there. Splice is the solution to that. It’s low on features, but I’m fine with that. All I needed was a way to splice videos together and add background music and a title, and Splice does that flawlessly.

Moment & Focus

I’m grouping these two apps together because they’re made by the same guy and they have the same objective: getting you to be aware of the time spent on your phone. 

I installed Moment to track how much screen time I get in a day. I’m averaging around 2.5 hours on my phone, with some days going as high as 5. 

Focus is similar, but for driving; it tracks how long you’ve driven with your phone screen unlocked, and gives you audio reminders to lock your phone if you’re driving.

I’ll probably remove both of these apps soon, as they’ve done their job. They’re definitely worth it in my estimation. If you do try them out, let me know what your average screen time is.


Apps that I’ve tried this year but didn’t make it to my favorites: Hound, musical.ly, Simple Habit, Telegram, and Anchor.

Apps that I’ve installed but still haven’t used include Service, Google Cardboard, and Gyroscope.

I’m always on the lookout for new iPhone apps to try. Do you have one that you think I should see? Send me a tweet or a Snap and let me know!

Why Businesses Exist

In business, there are a lot of nice-to-haves. As entrepreneurs it’s important that we don’t switch these (admittedly very good) things with what is actually required for a business to exist. When we get confused on this point we can waste a lot of time, energy and money.

Let’s start with a few examples. In conversations about business, I’ve noticed two concepts that are generally presented as being key to starting or running a business: innovation and profit.

Innovation

Also known as the good idea, innovation is by far the most popular explanation of what’s required for a successful business. As a society we’ve done a lot to perpetuate this by idolizing “inventors” and “disruption” as shining examples of business done right.

In reality, almost all of business is based on the same time-tested principles. Boring businesses are often stable and profitable. Attorneys and accountants aren’t usually considered “innovative”. The majority of grocery stores or plumbing service companies don’t get written up in TechCrunch or featured in the latest edition of Inc Magazine, but they exist and thrive. Innovation is commendable, but it’s definitely not a requirement.

Profit

The other example I’ve heard is that to have a business you need to make money. I get the impression this is referring to profit, as most of these discussions tend towards estimating growth potential, plotting charts with rising lines, and generally attempting to predict a rosy future before making the first move.

In fact, it’s quite common for businesses to break even or run a loss for extended periods of time. Startups run on borrowed money for years, often with no revenue model at all. The entire airline industry averages a one percent profit margin. Small businesses with seven-figure revenues operate on annual profits in the fractions of a percent. Many service-based businesses don’t account for profit at all, content with (or resigned to) covering expenses or making payroll. Profit is fantastic and helps to ensure longevity, but it also is not required to start or operate a business.


 

So what is required for a business to exist? It’s actually much simpler than most people seem to think. At it’s simplest, a business exists because of two things: desire and execution.

Desire

The existence of a business is contingent on what someone wants. Desire is a core aspect of human existence. When you satisfy someone’s desire you provide value. The measure of value is relative to how strong the desire was, and how well you fulfilled it. It’s easy to equate value with your product or service itself, but a desire can be satisfied many different ways. It’s also easy to confuse value with cost, but desire is an emotion, not a dollar amount. You may have equipment and employees and products and services, but without desire it’s not a business.

Execution

In order to have a business you must deliver value. Unlike desire, execution is objective and measurable. Until you do the work, you don’t have a business. Period. You can call it an idea, a business plan, a project, a pitch. You can dream about it, write it down, draft up a formal document, even put together a professional slide show extolling its virtues. You can tell your friends, tell your relatives, or tell investors. You can set up an office, appear on Shark Tank, or win scholarships and awards, but until you deliver the value and take home the check, it’s not a business.

The real good news is that value and execution are just as effective at any scale. You can start by providing something valuable for one person today. One person, one transaction, one desire fulfilled, and you’re in business.

Someone cared

I got a call from my insurance company last week. I’ve been “in talks” with them for several months, trying to get a window replaced on my 24-year old sports car after a smash-and-grab in Portland. It’s a long story, but in summary the car is just old enough and just unpopular enough to make this particular piece of glass virtually impossible to find. Nobody makes it, nobody has it and nobody wants it… except me. By the time I got this particular call, I’d estimate that I had spent several hours on the phone with different insurance adjusters, sub-contractors and middle-men, trying to locate this piece of glass. All in all, it has been quite frustrating.

This call started off the same as the rest. The lady on the other end used a very “professional” voice, the type of tone that makes it clear: this voice you hear is not mine. I am a mouthpiece for someone else. Someone who doesn’t have a childhood memory or a favorite ice cream flavor. Someone whose full name includes Corporation. She warned me that this call was being recorded (for quality purposes, of course) and asked one or two standard questions about my claim. But then the call took a surprising turn.

“I’m just calling to apologize for your experience with us recently.” I noticed a distinct change in her voice. The robotic tone started to fade, and her words took on a more personal feel. “The last time you talked to an adjuster, he told you that there was nothing more we could do for you. I’m sorry about that.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond. This was completely unexpected. She went on to explain what they would be able to do for me. Although I had previously been warned by my agent that the insurance company wasn’t responsible for locating obsolete parts, she assured me that they would continue to work with me to locate a supplier and get the glass installed. She mentioned how frustrating it must be to deal with this unusual situation. She checked to be sure I knew what I could do next, and what my new adjuster would do to help me out.

Before she hung up she apologized one last time. It was a straightforward, no-strings-attached “I’m sorry about all this. I hope we can get it fixed soon.”

What’s the result after all that? I’m still left trying to find a near-mystical piece of glass. The car still sits unused. Nothing about my situation changed, so far as tangible, measurable things go. But I wrote to you about it.

Every human interaction is a relationship, whether it’s a friend, a customer, a date, or a complete stranger. Honesty, trust, and empathy make all the difference.

The End (of the month)

Well, here we are; the end of the month.

To date, I’ve written (and you’ve read) 7,826 words this month, for an average of 270 words per day. My longest day clocked in at 413 words, while my shortest came out at 163. Of the 40 people who subscribed, 3 unsubscribed some time during the month – probably shortly after they figured out that I wasn’t giving up my five bucks so easily. On the other hand, I received 33 replies to my topics, every one of which was greatly appreciated! Your comments and feedback were very insightful. I must say that as a writer, although sometimes the work itself can be fulfilling, it is also very rewarding to hear what readers like you are thinking!

I’ll be candid with you; writing every day has been difficult. Additionally, much of what I have sent out was below my personal standards of quality. In the future, I’ll space out my writing commitments to give more time for reflection and revision. On the other hand, it feels great to be writing again!

Now it’s your turn. What were your thoughts this month? Did you have preferred topics, length or frequency of writing? I’d love to hear from you; not just today, but any time some interesting thought crosses your mind.

That’s all! I’ll be taking a bit of a break for now to try and get caught up on some other commitments. I do have a few ideas that I’m working on, some of which will involve writing; stay tuned to learn more about them in the future. Thanks for reading!

-Isaac

Bigger vs. better

There is a very human tendency to equate size with value. Take the thirty five-inch TV screen in my living room, for example. Before I bought this screen, I viewed all things digital – movies, websites, photos, etc. – on my eleven inch netbook. There was never any point at which the netbook screen was too small; after all, I’m not reviewing detailed documents or editing high-resolution photos. Despite the adequacy of the laptop, I was under the distinct impression that my life would be much better if I had a larger screen.

Well, now I have that larger screen. Oddly, life doesn’t seem remarkably better because of it. The extra size does make it easier to share the screen with others, but otherwise my view is virtually the same. When using the TV, I sit across the room from it, which means it takes up roughly the same amount of my vision as the netbook would. This also limits my uses to watching video, since I’m out of reach of the keyboard.

True to my nature, I’m still tempted to think that this screen isn’t quite big enough. If only it was fifty inches, life would be noticeably better. Seventy five would be euphoric. Never mind the fact that I rarely use the screen I have now; it’s too much of a pain to plug the netbook in and get it all set up. Something, somewhere in my mind, tells me that bigger is always better.

Too often, we attribute fulfillment to physical objects, like my TV screen. Not surprisingly, that fulfillment rapidly vanishes after we acquire those objects, and transfers on to bigger, more expensive things. Fortunately, we’re far more fulfilled by the intangible things in life, like giving someone a hug. Thanks for reading!

Why I don’t read the news

I don’t read the news for two reasons:

The news doesn’t affect me. When was the last time your favorite major news network reported on something that directly affected your life? As a general rule, if I need a reporter to tell me about it, that probably means I never needed to know in the first place. Reading about the tornadoes in the Midwest? That probably means I’m not close enough for it to matter. Reading an article on the price of tea in China? I don’t even drink tea. The events and news that do affect me reach me through other channels; my family, friends, business associates and mentors.
I don’t affect the news. Almost every story reported by national news networks is a story which I cannot personally affect. Stories of tragedy, suffering and death are stories of past events, things over which we have no control. By taking in a regular diet of violence and pain, but having no way to act, we grow callous to the suffering of our fellow human beings. Because we know “it happens every day”, we are less likely to reach out and make a difference in the places where we do have influence.
This isn’t an original idea: many of the world’s most creative people avoid the news. Here are some other great reasons why you should put down the paper, ironically published by a major news network. Thanks for reading!

On purpose

As the end of the month approaches, I’ve been anticipating the end of this writing project. Coming up with new material every day has been a real challenge. I was thinking it was a big deal. And then I noticed that Seth Godin has been writing every day… for several years now.

At first I felt overwhelmed by the sheer weight of that achievement. Writing every day for a month has left me feeling like I’ve done nothing but write. Every day has been a struggle to come up with a topic, and then to get started. Many days I feel like I’ve written only to fill my obligation. Why would someone do this indefinitely?
Then it hit me; writers like Seth Godin have a purpose. Their writings have a common thread running through them, a central point or topic that unifies the parts for a greater purpose. Writing is more than an exercise or a good habit. It is communication, and good communication is purposeful.
A few of my readers have asked whether I would continue writing after May. I don’t have an answer for you yet, but if I do it will have to be on a central topic that I care about and stand for. In the meantime, here’s a short video explaining why ‘x’ stands for the unknown. Thanks for reading!

Changing trains

Twenty two hours on a train is a long time. I shift in my seat, trying for the umpteenth time to find a comfortable position. At times like this I begin to wonder, will this ever change?

Of course, it will change. Life is funny like that. In the moment everything seems more permanent. We grow impatient, wondering whether our situation will always be this way. We worry and fret. Time seems to drag on. But eventually, everything changes. All of those moments that seemed so interminably long pass by, and something new comes to take their place. Truly, the only option we have is to accept change, to embrace it as a part of life. We can only enjoy the present as it is, and accept the future as it arrives.

The train slows, then stops. I step through the doorway and into the open air of Williston, North Dakota. The train is now a memory. Change has come again.

Think I’ve written enough about trains? That’s all for tonight. Thanks for reading!

Evening

A beautiful blend of oranges and reds burns on the horizon. Slowly, yet inevitably the deeper blues and purples of evening advance downward, chasing the sun as if to snuff it out forever.  The clouds, the armies of the heavens, massive and dark, look on in silent expectation.
The battle is set. The resistance glows bright, fighting valiantly to stay the fated course. The splendid hues reach the assembled clouds, forming a sort of skirmish line against the approaching darkness. Against this last bastion of the day, menacing and confident, the soldiers of the night launch their assault.
The struggle cannot last. The nocturnal forces drive forward relentlessly, taking no prisoners, giving no quarter. Day’s strength is gone, its battalions of brightness retreating below the horizon. The final pockets of resistance are overrun. Night has arrived.
I’m headed home from a long weekend. The view from the train was so captivating, I just had to share it with you. Thanks for reading!

The legend of Draft

Once upon a time there was a text editor named Notepad. Notepad was a very nice, decent and well-behaved text editor. It wasn’t fancy, and didn’t have crazy amounts of menus or toolbars; just a few simple but essential features like Undo, Save and Copy/Paste.

All too soon, people began to tire of Notepad. It didn’t have enough formatting options, it’s feature set was too limited and the font was hard on the eyes. So Bill Gates invented Microsoft Word.

As Word grew up, it began growing in other ways too. Some thought it was muscling up, but really it began taking on excess weight in the form of unnecessary features, too many formatting options and frightening fonts like Comic Sans. The toolbars took over the window space, and people began to feel lost in their own text editing program! It was a dark time for word processors.

Then Sergey Brin at Google had a word processor baby named Google Docs. Docs was much smaller and more agile than Word, having lost some of the more cumbersome features of it’s predecessor and gained some new, flashy skills, like real-time editing and cloud storage. Still, it had it’s quirks.

Then, from a single seed of awesomeness, watered profusely with the tears of a thousand designer souls killed by Comic Sans, sprouted a little munchkin named Draft. When people saw it, some wondered if Notepad had been reincarnated as a beautiful maiden, but no – it was better than that. Draft took all of the goodness from Google Docs and left everything else to moulder in the grave. All that was left was perfection: golden brown, just the right temperature and with a little whipped cream on top. Finally, the world was right again.

This month I’ve been using Draft for much of my writing. It’s a neat little tool that I’ve come to appreciate for it’s simplicity. If you do any writing, you might try it out and see if it fits your workflow. If you don’t write, I hope I made the writing entertaining enough to appreciate it anyway. Thanks for reading!