Philosophy + Existence

“We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and there is no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified — how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know, as a matter of fact. And most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don’t know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is possible to live and not know.”

 —Richard P. Feynman

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Philosophy + Existence

The three kinds of things anyone need ever do
“Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do. (1) Things we ought to do (2) Things we’ve got to do (3) Things we like doing. I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of the three reasons, things like reading books they don’t like...
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Good design is the outcome of good process
The reason good design delivers both a pleasing user experience and the desired outcomes has infinitely more to do with the designer’s process and strategic thinking than it does with any artistic sensibility.   Your process is amongst the greatest values you provide to a project. 
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False confidence
A reason Christians become so confident in their worldview is that they spend most of their time debating each other—only to forget that the premises of their perspective don’t move the needle for the rest of the world. This may explain why there are so many denominations. But it certainly helps...
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Certainty is not clarity
There’s a phase of faith where it’s easy to get stuck—where we become a walking list of things we don’t do. And in many ways this is natural. The binary is so clear, even if it is wrong. The problem is that its easy to confuse certainty for clarity. The more I embrace mystery—the less...
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True humility
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” —C.S. Lewis
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My favorite athletes of all time, for the record
In my long tradition of making unrequested, unimportant lists, here are my top five favorite athletes—and then the honorable mentions, in no particular order. My hall of fame: Landon Donovan Dirk Nowitzki Demarcus Beasley Magic Johnson Andre Dawson A few honorable mentions, but really… this list...
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Actions speak louder
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
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Necessary risk
“And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” – Erica Jong
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On feedback
“When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” – Neil Gaiman Taken from: Ten Rules for Writing Fiction, part one.
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My all-time best USMNT players
I don’t typically make “best” lists. I tend to go with “favorites” because I’m a coward. 🙃 But here it is—my list of the all-time best men’s players to ever represent the Stars and Stripes (written in September of 2014), in no particular order: Kasey Keller Brad Friedel Tim Howard   Tab Ramos  Claudio...
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The best customers
“Experience has shown that our best customers are ones who have as much respect for our time as we have for theirs.” – Alex King
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Safety not guaranteed
“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” – William Shedd
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The depths of relationship are up to the people involved
I saw a conversation online about technology causing depersonalization in society.  I jotted down some thoughts. “The best time to come pay me a visit is by telephone.” – my grandpa, probably “A phone call is just a way to avoid the intimacy that you only find on the wagon train together.” –...
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Know your limits
If you don’t push yourself, you have no idea what your limits are. 
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A way to make better decisions
Something to ask before doing anything: “Will I be happier for having done this?”   This is especially valuable for things that are difficult or undesirable.   Asking this question helps me (in theory) make better decisions. 
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The scarcity of truth
“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” – Thomas Sowell
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There’s always room for beers with a friend
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked...
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We learn to dance with a limp
“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like...
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The paradoxical commandments
The verses below penned originally by Dr. Kent Keith in 1968 as part of a booklet for student leaders.  The Paradoxical Commandments People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.Love them anyway. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.Do good anyway. If you are successful,...
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The circle of life
“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.” – Charles Wadsworth
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The best place to succeed
“The best place to succeed is where you are with what you have.” – Charles Schwab
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The revolution of tenderness
“The Christian ideal will always be a summons to overcome suspicion, habitual mistrust, fear of losing our privacy, all the defensive attitudes which today’s world imposes on us. Many try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends,...
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Grown-up love
“I love watching my kids grow up. But I hate it that they’re growing up.” – Frank Barnett
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Mischievous growth
“Being a father now, I know what it’s like to see your children do something mischievous, but also appreciating what they’re doing because they’re experimenting and trying to learn.” – Cameron Moll
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It's ok to change your mind
“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” – John Kenneth Galbraith
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Be generous with affirmation of others
“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” —Tom Peters
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Conversations about budget
If a potential client is unwilling to answer the “budget” question, then you are starting from a point of distrust. This doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but it is a red flag and an opportunity to course correct and build trust.  “If I tell you my budget is $80k, then you’ll...
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Theology vs. wisdom
Theological agreement is not a basis upon which I determine if I can learn from someone. Wisdom is not theology. Theology is not wisdom. Life is more than a stockpiling of knowledge.  Without goodness, I know the story—but I lose the meaning. When I do good, I make the world a better place.  Otherwise,...
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Always help people
“When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” – Thomas Sowell
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ROI and being a dad
“I once attended a seminar on time management where the speaker advised trimming obligations down to those that were high-priority, high-yield. After the seminar, I told the speaker he had just described the juggling act of parenting. Rid your agenda of low-priority, low-yield tasks that suck up your...
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Prayer for our beloved who have passed on
Our pain is in the measure of our blessing.  What we have lost is a reflection of how we have loved.  They return to us, ourbeloved, in flashes of memory, in moments of sweet, anguished recollection.  We remember the smile and grieve that it is gone. We will never again touch the hand that guided us,...
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Donors, dollars, and communication
At Ascendio we do a lot of thinking around how technology can bridge the gap between the collecting and leveraging of data. In our world this typically deals with how organizations relate to donors (and potential donors) online. What is the most effective way to ask for information or a gift?  Why would...
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On partnerships
Every business owner wears several hats. There is no exception. Therefore, choosing a partner isn’t about design or code.  A partner must be both willing and able to invest in a collection of hats to wear. My business partner and I met in university. We had a complimentary skill set, shared contracts,...
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Assembly required
Recently, I spent an afternoon assembling a playground toy for my sons. Piece by piece. Hesitation after hesitation. I bumbled through the process as it slowly transformed from a disorganized mess into a completed masterpiece. My four year old stood by throughout the entire process. Impatiently, he wondered...
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Dallas sports radio
Talk radio has had a place in my life since childhood. Politics, religion, culture and sports all have a forum on the radio waves – and i have always made time to indulge in the conversation. As a child, I recall tucking headphones under my pillow case in order to covertly listen to Sports Byline with...
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I was wrong vs I'm sorry
Admitting fault is a conduit to reconciliation. “I was wrong” is far more disarming than “I am sorry” when apologizing. I break this little rule more often than I care to admit.  And it certainly isn’t because I am always right. It is because I want to win.   The problem...
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Expertise vs. low cost
Are you being hired based on expertise or cost? The answer to this question shapes how clients will relate to you. If their expectations are different than yours, then you will have an enormous chasm of understanding. 
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You don't have to win
I overheard a conversation about how to best work through arguments with partners and spouses. I don’t know these people, but I thought they were dropping some truth bombs so I jotted down a few notes: Let your partner be heard. Let them be right… Let them win. Let go of the need to leave an argument...
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Compassion vs. standards
I have a philosophy that helps shape my behavior: On the issues have standards.  With people have compassion. Not everyone will share my opinions and perspectives—yes, even the ones I hold closest to my heart.  In fact, to put it the exact opposite way—other people have opinions, perspectives,...
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Designing for outcomes
This is a brilliant perspective from Teehan + Lax on focusing first on impact, goals, and outcome and then proceeding to the actual deliverable. How often, when you begin an assignment, do you have a clear understanding of what outcomes are desired by your client?  An outcome is different than a deliverable....
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"Difficult" is a feature, not a bug
“That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly.” -Thomas Paine There are fewer feelings better than starting out thinking you can’t do something and ending up being able to do it.
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A new hope
I love the new year. Not because there’s any particular significance to the calendar turning the page.  But because it has a sort of rejuvenating effect on society.   People feel hopeful. Optimistic.  The proverbial new lease on life.  Some of us focus on the annoyances of people resolved to change....
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In graphic design, nothing is what it actually is
I like these thoughts by Andy Rutledge: In graphic design, nothing is what it actually is. Everything other than content is representative of something else. A line isn’t a line, it’s a boundary. Don’t need a boundary? Or is that boundary already clear by some other means? Don’t use a line. Same goes...
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A gospel of action
What makes a better world – people committed to so-called right belief or right action? Is it one or the other? Is it both? For the theologian, that’s a far more complicated question. In many spheres of Christian theology the issue goes straight into a matter of life and death.  As you can...
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Godless good
If people of different faiths all work together to help feed the hungry and care for the widows in their community… does God view all of their work as good? Not according to many of my evangelical friends. Their basis is that only if we are following God’s will… i.e. “Christian” will…...
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Virtue begins at the coffee maker
My daily ritual at the office begins at the Keurig. There’s something cathartic about enjoying a cup together with my team. Our shared kinship with Newman’s Own Extra Bold and it’s wondrous dark magic brings me unspeakable joy.  However, I’ve realized that I introduce needless stress to...
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A philosophy of life
A friend and I once had the audacity to discuss the meaning of life.  To make matters even more pretentious, this was the first day we met … and the first conversation we ever had.   A couple of wild and crazy guys. Here’s how we summarized our philosophy of life in the simplest terms possible....
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Billing projects on a regular schedule rather than a milestone
I heard Carl Smith discussing this a while ago and found it useful to post my notes here. I have a love/hate relationship with hourly billing, but this perspective creates mutual transparency and accountability.  When billing projects, bill to a regular schedule vs a milestone. When you bill to a milestone...
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Respect your time
If you don’t respect your own time, then no one else will. 
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Formula for accountability
From the brilliant Senator Cory Booker:  The formula for accountability: standards, measures, and consequences for failure.
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On confusing landing pages
When a site visitor is confused the easiest path of resolution is the back button. 
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Our own religion
People often reference their personal relationship with God as a replacement for church, community, and/or organized religion. However, this is a false dichotomy. We enter this world with no knowledge or understanding of God. Without religion we have no concept, no shape, no identity for who God is or...
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Raise donors, not dollars
Today I want to briefly address partnership programs. In other words, donors who commit to support your organization on an ongoing basis. Growing relationships with donors isn’t completely different from how you’d cultivate a strong relationship with a friend. Honesty, transparency and accountability...
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On value pricing
Track your time, but bill your value. 
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Self-made god
There’s no more man-made religion than the claim that one’s personal relationship with God is the final arbiter in matters of doctrine and defining the identity of God. Our personal relationship with God shapes how we relate to God—it doesn’t define who God is. If we believe religion...
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Everybody is a genius
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
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We choose our response
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl 
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Pro tip when planning projects
You can fix time and cost; functionality and cost; but not time, functionality, and cost. Plan and act accordingly. 
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If you want to get paid for your freelance work
If you want to get paid for your freelance work …then you should pick yourself and book yourself and publish yourself and stand up and do your work, and do it in a way for which there are no substitutes.
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Do good vs. feel good
An important choice in life is between what does good and what feels good. This is more complicated than it sounds. 
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Focus on the core problem your business solves
“Focus on the core problem your business solves and put out lots of content and enthusiasm, and ideas about how to solve that problem.” – Laura Fitton
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Integrity must be pursued
Meeting deadlines and keeping promises should be goals we pursue with desire, not consequences we retreat from in fear.  
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Questions of faith
If you take your faith seriously—you will likely have issues, doubts, and serious questions. The moment you question—even a basic tenet of your faith—doesn’t mean you are “out” or should go elsewhere. Think of it in a different context. Would your marriage be over if you ever had doubts?...
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Design defined
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs
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Always vs. never
There’s a giant abyss between “always” and “never”.   To say we can’t always help those in need is a far cry from saying we should never help them.  Don’t get sucked into doing nothing because you can’t do everything or have made mistakes in the past.
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The ethics of hourly billing
“…hourly billing is inherently unethical. The client’s best interests are served by a quick resolution, but the consultant’s best interests are served by a lengthy encampment. That isn’t what I’d call a partnership.” – Alan Weiss
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Clients don’t have design problems
I was chatting with my friend Andy recently and he dropped this wisdom on me: “Clients don’t have design problems and goals. They have business problems and goals. Always keep this in mind when you conduct project discovery.”
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The kindness equation
“All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.” – CS Lewis Kindness doesn’t just happen. It’s a choice.  Kind people make other people’s lives better.  Kind people make the world better.  Think about it. Think about the people you most enjoy. The people...
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Marketing must first deal with skepticism
Too many empty promises have turned the consumer’s default position to “no”.  Marketing is met with skepticism by default. 
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My boys
Good, smart, and successful. This, in that order, is what I want for my boys.
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Lead vs love
In vertical relationships, the desire to lead and the desire to be loved are like oil and water.  The desire to be loved is selfish.  Leaders put others before themselves. 
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Code of professional conduct
Members of The Academy have pledged to uphold, promote, and uncompromisingly adhere to the standards set forth in The Academy’s Code of Professional Conduct. As such, The Academy of Design Professionals represents some of the most responsible and competent professionals in the design world....
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Do something
We can only do what we can do. But we can at least do that. And we must. Don’t brag to me about your faith. Or your wife. Or your friends. Just do it. Don’t tell me about your love for the homeless, your broken heart for orphans or how some video about clean water touched your life. Just do something....
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Feelings vs action
How you feel is infinitely less important than how you act.  Good intentions don’t matter when bad is done.  If people mean well when they do bad, it only matters that they did bad.
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On being a professional
Below is a stream of consciousness I jotted on design professionalism… Good intentions are the hopes of amateurs. Principled leadership is the way of the professional. The amateur is hired to carry the buckets.  The professional is hired to plug the hole.  A professional must abide by a higher standard....
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Believing vs doing
What matters more: believing right – or – doing right? If you ask 100 religious believers what believing “rightly” means, you get 100 different answers. However, if you ask those same people what doing right is… you find far more consensus.  Believe what you want, but do the right thing. 
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We don't all have the same origin story
“Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” – Barry Switzer
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The motto of the cautious
I’m not for taking unnecessary risks, particularly as a husband and father with responsibilities bigger than myself.  But if you find yourself often saying or thinking, “better safe than sorry”, it’s time to loosen your grip on whatever it is you are clutching. Better to take the road less traveled and...
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Discipline vs. regret
“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” – Jim Rohn
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Hire for excellence
My business partner sent me this article called, The Inside Story: 5 Secrets To Pixar’s Success. A brief and enlightening read.  Point number 5 is the one that really floored me, though.   I’ve pasted it below: Hire for Excellence. When Pixar is evaluating potential hires they look for three traits:...
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Are we addicted to gossip?
Think about it for a second. Can you go 24 hours without saying anything bad about another person? If I asked you if you could go 24 hours without having a drink of alcohol, would you be able to? If not, then we’d say you were an alcoholic. So what about speaking ill of others… Food for thought. Control...
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Lead to another
One thing does, in fact, lead to another. The type of work we take. The type of people we work with.  The types of decisions we make. They all lead to other experiences similar to them.  As a business owner, the application is pretty clear. When I consider taking on a project – an employee...
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Strategy is not a feature
Without strategy, we’re at sea without a rudder. Wherever the wind blows, that’s where we’ll drift.  And it’s not just us, but our clients will inevitably follow. If we want to be leaders of influence – strategy cannot be a feature. We don’t charge extra for a fresh scoop of strategy. It’s essential...
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How matters
My business partner posted this to his Facebook wall.  When I saw the preview image was a muscle-bound behemoth I was thinking that maybe his account got hacked, but what I watched was truly a punch to the gut. This video is speaking right to my core: if you want to improve, if you want to change,...
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Aim high and get going
Just discovered Tom Peters today thanks to a colleague. Mr. Peters has a lot of wisdom and insight into what makes us tick as people. I watched about a dozen of his 2-3 minute videos. Each one drenched in the waters of the wise. This particular video talks about being extraordinary vs being “ho-hum”....
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Bad clients vs. bad decisions
Most “bad clients” can typically be traced to a compromise you, yourself, made. It’s time to stop blaming clients for our own mistakes. Whether your a designer, developer, project manager or all of the above — it’s important to have a set of standards that will not be comprimised. This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky...
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New and improved
“Our new and improved 16 blade razor doubles as a steak knife!”   The concept of “new and improved” is one we’re all familiar with.  Whether we’re reading a magazine or watching TV, advertisers are always out to increase the perceived value of their products and services. In the business of...
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How to deliver value
Delivering value is how relationships are cultivated from a single engagement to a long term commitment. Here’s how you deliver value: Listen and get feedback Be honest (don’t talk bullshit and don’t deliver bullshit) Identify and solve the actual problems Don’t over-engineer (don’t sell people on a...
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The prayer of St. Francis
This has always read to me more like poetry than prayer.  As such, I find that it can offer bits of wisdom to people from all walks of life.   The heart of this poetry is that we must be the change we seek, to put others before ourselves, and to treat others as we wish to be treated.  ...
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The gift of character
Piggybacking on my previous post, here is a list of desired character traits I want to model for my family. Loving Loyal Kind Generous Silly Thoughtful The bar is set. And it is set high. It’s time to get tired.
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Pursuing the invisible
A big theme in my life is the pursuit of the invisible. In some ways, it is a concept that is woven in all of life. Parenting is no different. Being a Dad is learning as you go.  It’s an on-the-job-training environment that expands your limits, strengthens your character and gives you gray...
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The so-called Santa lie
The idea of the “Santa Lie” is a grade of foolishness that I describe as an over-spiritualized-stick-up-the-rear.  Let your kids have wonder. Let them be innocent. Let them figure it out themselves. 
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Thankful
A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.– Ralph Waldo Emerson I’m thankful for friendship today. With my beautiful wife. With my lovely family. With my cherished and loyal friends. I’m thankful for all the little things we share. Especially the little things, actually....
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We are prophets of a future not our own.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the...
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Design is a solution
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”– Steve Jobs Whether we’re talking about computers, chairs, or websites – questions of design don’t begin with color or style. They are about purpose and desired outcome. Designers provide solutions,...
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Think, then act
“Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.” – G.K. Chesterton
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Design solutions
I love sports. The  theatrics of great competition is exhilarating.  But when I watch these professionals at work, what I’m observing is the final step of a process. Your favorite NFL team doesn’t just show up on Sunday and run around the field based on a series of gut feelings.  They are executing plays...
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