Experiment: The Argument Clinic

Last week I read about The People Walker, a guy from San Fransisco that is getting paid to walk people. It’s is one of those poster-boy stories for Inc Magazine; someone making money with nothing but a weird idea.

When I read something like this, I get envious. Having put in a lot of work and time to pursue ideas that just never got the attention I thought they deserved, there’s a feeling of entitlement that kicks in. It’s the mind’s way of shedding responsibility. What makes this guy so lucky? I’d never get paid to do something as dumb as walking around.

This time, though, I decided to try out a stupid idea of my own. I sat down and started writing. Ten minutes later I had this Craigslist post:

Argument Clinic craigslist ad

I hit publish and promptly forgot about it. I didn’t even remember I had put it up until this showed up in my inbox.

Weird response to Craigslist ad

I started off excited – I was going to get paid! – but my interest quickly waned. This sounded more like some sort of weird fetish than an argument. Even if it was just a confidence-building exercise, it sounded oddly over-structured and, honestly, just a bit too weird for me.

I politely declined, and reposted the ad. Let’s see what another week brings.

Week In Review #3

Week In Review 3


Week In Review #2



  • Start – MVP-building service
  • PocketChip – $69 Nintendo-esqe pocket computer
  • Bills by Grandson (Canadian trap-rock)


Week In Review #1


  • Published More YouTubers, fewer astronauts
    Inspired by a Seth Godin post and something Jason Zook wrote.
  • Published the online version of Because It Matters
    Benjamin and I wrote this a few years back, but just now made it available free online.
  • Created an accountability follow-up for the Client Excuses course
    After creating the course, I wanted to make sure people were sticking it out.
  • Published My WordPress Starter Pack
    I included my own theme, Baselayer, to get started super-fast. A little rough around the edges right now, I’ll clean this up later.
  • Weekend photo challenge: silhouettes


More YouTubers, fewer astronauts

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a cowboy. I would dress up in my version of Western attire, which consisted of cowboy boots, a leather vest, jeans, and a turtleneck. It was the height of cowboy fashion to my 5-year-old brain.

Me exploring career opportunities as a kid.

Cowboy is a common career choice among children, along with doctor, astronaut, fireman, and President of the United States. We encourage kids to dream big and shoot for the stars, even when their dreams are unlikely or even downright impossible. “It’s good for them,” we say. “Don’t lose the innocence.”

Strangely, once we reach a certain age those expectations change. At sixteen, Mom and Dad are no longer impressed when you say you want to be an astronaut. “If you’re going to live around here you’d better earn your keep,” they say, and that means giving up those childhood fantasies and making minimum wage at a local fast-food joint.

Societally, we treat this transition from dreams to day jobs as the tragic, inevitable death of childhood optimism. It’s a story we love to tell ourselves, blaming the cold, hard world for killing our noble aspirations. We were so brave, we tell ourselves. To be a child again.

But what if we aim high for the same reason we aim low?

They don’t accept 5-year-olds into the space program. Not the Presidency either. And while it’s fine to encourage long-term goals, too often we have the opposite effect: instead of encouraging people to act, we’re telling them they should wait. Wait until you’re older. Wait until you’re more skilled. Wait until you’re done with college. You can be all these things later. Not now.

On the other hand, there are a lot of things that people can be right now. They don’t require degrees; they don’t have age limits. For the able and willing, all they require is action.

Author. Photographer. Chef. Actor. Runner. YouTuber. Storyteller. Artist.

These titles (and many more) are all defined by simple actions. Once you take a photo, you’re a photographer. If go for a run, you’re a runner. It’s a distinction between a dreamer and a doer. It’s a mindset shift from experts to experiences. You don’t need permission or validation or certification or acclaim. You just need to pick up your tools and get to work.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

You Don’t Need An App

You Don't Need An App

In a different year, this piece could be titled “You Don’t Need A Website”, or “You Don’t Need A Bot”. In the near future I’ll probably refer to this same piece to talk about virtual reality or the cryptocurrency. I started writing this in 2016; at the time I was working with some small businesses who kept coming back to app ideas, which is how it earned its current title. You don’t need an app.

You Don't Need An App

In 2010 I started working as a web designer for what was then a small, local web development company near Portland, OR. At that time the team was all programmers except me, which meant that–due to reading a few Smashing Magazine articles–I was the “design expert”. There were many disadvantages to this, but one of the upsides meant that I became involved very early in the sales process.

There was a lot to learn in these early meetings. I came in midway through the web app frenzy. Almost everyone who came through the door wanted to build the next Facebook. Everyone wanted to build a web app, and every person we met with was certain that their particular idea could change the world, be it a blogging platform for families or a dating site with music.

Unfortunately for many of these people, web applications don’t sell themselves. Technology may be the wave of the future, but once it’s in the present it functions according to the laws of economics and the mechanics of social sharing. After a few large projects crashed and burned, we became cautious of endorsing ideas. The drive to create was a strong one, though, and many insisted despite our apprehensions and warnings.

Fast-forward to today. The focus has changed, but the assumption remains just as faulty as ever. In meetings, phone calls, and emails multiple times a week, I hear–from dreamers, wantrepreneurs, and even conventional business owners–a starry-eyed wonder at the mystery of technology. These people see mobile apps as the secret sauce: that elusive recipe for success that will change everything for them.

If that description perks your ears, this post is for you. You don’t need an app. Most of you are looking for one of four things, and–for the vast majority of you–an app is probably one of the least effective ways to get it. Let’s talk about what you’re actually asking for: Innovation, Process, Communication, and Scalability.


In the early days of both the web app craze and the mobile app craze, this was the overwhelming logic behind every new request. There were no more details: you didn’t need them. Apps were the future, and that was all there was to it. Like the idealized versions of inventors from the 19th century, no one expected there to be rules to how innovation worked. It was innovation; it defied the rules. “Build it and they will come”, they said.

In actuality, there are rules for what makes a successful app. The market decides whose ideas are innovative and whose are worthless, and the market is not kind. For the first thousand app creators, the app itself was innovation. Now, it’s commonplace. It’s not enough to have a cookbook app or birdwatching app or monster truck racing app. We already have those. What valuable thing are you doing in a way no one else has done? That is innovation. You don’t need an app for that.


Once the initial app fervor had faded a bit, people started realizing that you needed to build something useful. Processes and systems were the key. Businesses were a mess, but a web application would change all that. Now we’d have a place for everything, and everything in it’s place.

In reality, while applications may force systems development, the advantage of well-tuned systems and processes has existed for centuries. With few exceptions, process is not a technology problem. You can build a process on the back of a napkin or on a whiteboard in the office. You don’t need an app for that.


The bond of human connection is strong, and communication may well be our biggest advantage as a species. Historically, the introduction of new technology has enabled entirely new forms of communication. It’s undeniable that apps have enabled another significant shift in how we communicate.

However, communication is not restricted to technology, and properly adapting technology to foster communication is a difficult nut to crack. Communicating better requires thought, planning, empathy, common ground. You don’t need an app for that.


Building a business that scales well has always been incredibly difficult. Technology has normally had an advantage in this respect: it reduces the cost of money or time to create or provide goods and services.

For most businesses, problems of scale encompass much more than a single technology can provide. How will you handle the increased workload? How will you maintain quality? Who will respond to customer questions? What will happen if something changes unexpectedly? You need experience, expertise, a willing market and a whole lot of luck. You don’t need an app for that.


There is a place for technology in our lives. The when and where is still up for debate, but one thing is clear: technology is not your savior. You’re not facing new problems. These same core challenges have plagued businesses and organizations for centuries, and for centuries we’ve found ways to overcome them. For now, focus on simple, effective and immediate solutions. You don’t need an app for that.

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!