Oh. You Know What I Mean

A shorthand that you are paying more for.

Because if you know what you want for your logo – the right shape, the right colour, and the right fonts. It’s rather cheap to find someone who is good at photoshop.

Even better, if you can write the procedures in a manual, then you can find someone even cheaper.

Perhaps you don’t know what you want (yet). Then instead of saying go design a great logo and I will like it.

It is perhaps more truthful to say – I need someone to go on an exploration with me. Because what great means to you is something entirely different from what it means to your neighbours.

Acknowledge the human work and judgement to guess what you want. But also realise that after the tenth logo – and you still have not nailed it. You might need to change a designer or really dig deep and figure out what you really want in the first place.

Because no one likes that French chef that tell us to add more love in the soup.


The photo was taken in a Shisha cafe in Gifu, Japan.

The Work of Managers

Google famously got rid of all middle managers and when into disorganisation mode. Super talented engineers pick their own project, form their team and got it done. Product features are built at lightning speed.

Similarly, university students received project briefs, assemble their own teams and get working.

With high performing team members, who need managers?

Except (when asked) Google engineers want someone who they could learn something from and someone who helped make decisions. And except, at school, advisor review projects and ask questions to steer the project progress.

In 2002, Google call it quits and brought back their people manager.

Managers (when done well) cares for you. They make sure you are accountable, they stretch you and they create an environment for you to do your best work. They know how to hire great people, evaluate them, and give them hard feedback. They coordinate resources, they facilitate difficult conversations and they fight for you.

They thought of you, the team, and the organisation. Then, put on this great balancing act. And maybe sometimes, they fail. They make mistakes (as we all do).

But once we can stop denying that it is easy, then we can start appreciating the generous work of someone who cares about you – maybe sometimes even a little more than your mum.

Would you be able to say that you have given same care back to them?

[PS Claire Liew did a great presentation (slides). Recommended. Eric Schmidt, ex-CEO of Google, wrote A Trillion Dollar Coach as a tribute to his late coach, Bill Campbell. Wisdom with nuance. ]


The photo was taken in San Francisco while wandering aimlessly.


A hard thing to say and admit.

Sure, there are benefits to an accurate view of the world. But remember the time that you were wrong. Waving the white flag of surrender. The emotional labour we expand to come to that.

Can sorry be a weapon?

In a long-standing argument (where you just want to move on), consider that there might be something that you are missing.

In this case, go first. Sorry, you’re right. Help me understand where you are coming from?

It brings the posture of openness and curiosity. An invitation for understanding, turning a conflict into a conversation.

You might end up disagreeing over a point. But now, you see what they see and learn their story. You have earned an understanding to convince better.

You might even be right in the first place. But now, you just save yourself weeks of made-up mental argument. A cheap weapon, all things considered.

Now with more power, what can you be sorry for?


The photo was taken in Tepito, Mexico City.

Find Your Peers

What kind of person do you want to be?

If you read Fast companies and envy the Silicon Valley entrepreneur at fancy lunches, raising 25 million dollars deal and selling companies in record time. You better be there because you need those conversations.

If on the other hand, you hang out with people who are running soup kitchens. Or you hang out with people who are counselling. Or people who are getting deep into what it means to be human. Chances are, the business you build is going to be more human.

Certainly. Choose your circle and it will change what you dream about, what you notice and what you engage with.

If you hang out with people who are going really slow because they don’t want to make a mistake. Well, you’re not going to make mistakes, but you’re going to go really slow.

On the other hand, if you hang out with people who are going really fast and have figured out that the mistakes aren’t going to kill them. The next time you see them and you haven’t made any mistakes, you are going to be embarrassed.

Who you choose is entirely up to you. There are many happy, smart and successful people. It takes work to find them, help them and support them. The kind of work that pays dividends. The kind that you’ll remember on your deathbed.

Choose your circle. Choose your outcome.

P.S. If resources are limited, you can find these people in books, articles and interviews. They can hardly replace actual interaction, but they might just be better than the jealous cousin.


The photo is taken at the beach in Hualien, Taiwan on a road trip with new friends from the hostel.

3 Pillars for Creative Work

Any project that you are trying for the first time is creative work. Cook a meal. Put up an art show. Start a business. It’s new, it’s hard, and if you are smart, you’d look around for advice.  

There are 3 kind of advices here and they are equally important.

1) Do you have the right tactics?
Is your knife sharp? Can you write a grant application? Can you give a presentation with authority? Can you carry out the strategy?

2) Do you have the right strategy?
Do you understand the macro forces at work? The music business was perfect until someone started sharing mp3 for free. The ice harvesting industry was very happy until the fridge came along.

3) Do you care enough to fail?
Imagine if Thomas Edison gave up on the third try, we might not have the light bulb today. Do you care enough to try, try and try again? Do you care enough to expand emotional labour (which is different from physical labour)?

Too often, we conflate the 3 things. So, we talk to the artist about caring more but it’s not going to help one bit. Because she cares too much and it’s getting in the way.

Or the friend who wants to quit smoking and you start telling him what to do. He knows what to do. He just doesn’t care enough.

A lot of “advice” we get (or give) are tactics. We end up pushing more in the same direction. Perhaps, we need to ask if what we really need are tactics. You won’t be surprised very often, but when you are, bingo.

Hat tips to Seth Godin for introducing the idea.


The photo was taken at the MRI room. It interesting to see the difference in room lighting for the patient and the staff.