Ryan Irelan

is building Mijingo.

Everyone will be the same

North Carolina basketball assistant coach Hubert Davis:

One of the things that we tell the guys is that you have to do more than what is required. At some point in your career whether it is high school, college, or the NBA, you’re going to be at a level where every guy can do the same things that you can do. So what is going to differentiate yourself between you and the other guy that is just as talented is your willingness everyday to work on your fundamentals and your craft, before and after practice.

Coca-Cola Life

Oddly enough, I first saw this at the vending machine at our neighborhood bowling alley. I don’t drink many soft drinks but this is what I’d choose from the Coke lineup. Pretty good.

The Best Travel Tool

The best, most practical, and helpful travel gadget or tool I’ve purchased is the Eagle Creek Pack-it Garment Folder.

You can have the cheapest suitcase, a duffle bag, or no suitcase at all (I’ve tossed it in my shoulder bag overnight trips), and this garment folder will keep your shirts crisp and unwrinkled. Nicely ironed shirts matter.

Iron (or dry clean) your shirts beforehand, fold them using the included folding card, and then pack. Once you arrive at your destination, unpack your shirts and hang them up. Putting your shirt of the day in the bathroom while you shower is just enough to steam out the creases.

I’ve purchased a lot of silly travel gear and bags over the years. But nothing, absolutely nothing, is as important to me when traveling as this garment folder.

Open Offices

I love and loathe open offices. They’re visually appealing but emotionally taxing.

They’re wonderful to look at, look great in photos, fairly simple to decorate nooks and seating areas (an interior designer’s dream), and less expensive to build.

But they are a burden.

There is no privacy at all. You and your actions are on display from 9 to 5.

Illness travels fast in the open air, and there are constant interruptions—even unintentional like someone just walking by that cause a momentary loss of focus as you catch a glimpse of movement in your peripheral vision.

If, like me, you’re of the easily distracted variety, you work very hard to get focused. You’ve probably created all sort of tricks and hacks to get and stay focused. For us, an open office and its distractions can create a frustrating work day.

I am an introvert who can be extroverted in certain situations. Like many others, I’m well-adapted to living this contradiction. However, my energy depletes quickly when I always have to be “on” and around people. This includes being in an open office every hour of every work day.

I can sometimes manage with headphones (noise canceling seem to work the best). But when I can’t, I have to find a small, quiet place to recharge. And there’s no better place than a car. It’s a small space, wonderfully sound proofed (cars make great recording environments), and feels safe.

In the past, I’ve often eaten lunch and then gone to my car, got in, closed the door, and then just sat in the small cocoon of privacy. There was a sense of relief as I closed the door. I’d then put on some music or a podcast and recharge my mental energy to get through the rest of the day.

Open offices also assume we sit at a desk while doing our best work. I certainly don’t. My best work is done while standing, pacing, walking, mumbling to myself while I talk through a problem, and other office culture taboos.

None of this is a problem if I’m in a private space where I can work in a way that works for me. That’s why I’ve been so much more productive and happier in the years that I’ve either worked at home or in an office with a door.

But I get it: we can’t build offices and work environments that are perfect for everyone. And they certainly can’t cater to me.

Some people love and thrive in open offices (a rare species?), others, like me, have to implement coping mechanisms to stay productive and happy.

If we do continue the open office trend, we should try to create closed, private spaces that someone can duck into for an hour of working alone, or just to sit and recharge.

I bet even the extroverts will like it.

You Will Find a Way to Fail

Like others, I had lofty goals for 2014—especially the second half of the year—and I didn’t meet them all. I got down on myself about that because I had only measured one thing and then deemed everything a failure.

Until I looked a little deeper (basically, I opened up Google Analytics and segmented the data).

And while I missed my big lofty goal that I had written on an index card taped my desk the last six months, I actually moved the needle considerably in some very non-flashy areas—but stuff that really matters.

The effort that I put in on marketing, writing, writing more, writing even more, and publishing made a big difference.

But if you’re determined enough, you can find the data and slice it up just right to show that you failed.

Peter Thiel’s best advice

Always prioritize the substance of what you’re doing. Don’t get caught up in the status, the prestige games. They’re endlessly dazzling, and they’re always endlessly disappointing.

Peter Thiel, in an interview with the Washington Post.

Why I’m raving about Plex

I’m late to the game but after a Thanksgiving dinner conversation and demo I was sold on setting up a Plex media server. I raved a bit on Twitter about it but if you really want to know why it’s so great, listen to this 70 minute podcast about it (and one of my favorite every day beers).

PACE book by YNAB founder

Jesse Mecham founded You Need a Budget (YNAB), a software application that helps you track what you spend and keep you and your finances honest with each other. But YNAB isn’t just a piece of software, it’s an approach and way of thinking about your money. And, it applies more to people who make above average incomes where overspending is a well-greased wheel.

Jesse took what he learned from YNAB and wrote a book that covers the same approach but for businesses. PACE stands for Prioritize (cash on hand), Anticipate (big expenses), Change (as needed), Establish (a buffer of cash).

Even if you think you know everything about business finances, you should read this book. It’s not a scheme, it’s a plain and simple way of thinking about your revenue and expenses.

OmniFocus Field Guide by David Sparks

David Sparks has been doing Field Guides (with iBooks) for awhile but now he’s out with a 2 ½ hour screencast on getting started with OmniFocus. If you are confused by OmniFocus or want to get better at it, David’s video will help.

A true mensch

Greg Storey has left the building.

Last month he stepped down from his position at Happy Cog, thereby ending nearly a decade as an agency owner. I was fortunate—truly fortunate—to be tapped as his first hire back in 2006. He’s the best example of generosity and kindness with time and resources (and with me, probably patience, too). There are people who would line up to work with him again. I know I would.


David Weinberger on the quiet re-emergence of blogging:

Blogs are — or at least were — different. They are an individual’s place for speaking out loud, but the relationships that form around them were based on links among posts, not social networks that link among people. I’m all for social networks, but we also need networks of ideas.

Things I Like: Podcasts

I have a weird history with podcasts. I was “part of” the first wave of podcasting back in the mid 2000s. I went to the podcast conferences, unconferences, and other gatherings. I co-wrote a book on podcasting, I ran a podcasting website (with very little success!), and I had a couple of my own podcasts. The first one I had was a weird mix of music and stories. Then I did a podcast on ExpressionEngine, with Dan Benjamin as my co-host.

But then I got out of podcasting when my agency work took over and I started writing and recording screencasts.

And now it’s, like, huge.

So, anyway, I like podcasts.

It’s a wonderful medium that is easy to enter as a content producer. It’s only slightly easier to enter today as it was in 2005 but still pretty easy to turn on a mic and talk.

Podcasting highlights voices and ideas that you’d never otherwise hear. It brings attention to topics and opinions you would miss because not everyone has the time or inclination to write it down and post online to share.

Podcasting is great because it captures what we all do best: talking.

As part of my Things I Like series (of which this is the first post), here are my favorite podcasts. I post these to show gratitude to the people who create them, and the stories they cover.

  • Systematic – Brett Terpstra’s weekly show where he talks to interesting people and technology. Brett is routinely giving a platform to people who are outside of the normal Apple/podcasting/tech circles. Listen to the episode with his wife and her animal rescue work, the one sub-zero bartending, or the show with veterinarian who works at a turtle conservancy, or the most recent show (as of this writing) about the challenges of software development for medical devices. They all gravitate to technology at some point but the stories and people are interesting.
  • Serial – From This American Life, it’s a weekly series about a Baltimore murder case. This podcast is addictive and, like This American Life, really well done. It’s becoming a bit of an online sensation.
  • Slate’s Political Gabfest – I don’t listen to any other political podcasts and I prefer not to read a lot on politics. But this podcast is good. Two of the hosts are working journalists with beats and they are calm in their opinions. It’s an enjoyable way to hear about the bullshit that is our American political existence.
  • CodePen Radio – The podcast by the three guys behind CodePen. Each episode is a new topic on their experience building a web app and a business. An honest take on what they’ve learned, what they do and don’t know, and how they work. It’s not pushy “do it like us” business talk. I like that.
  • Slate’s Amicus – I tweeted about this new podcast recently. Dahlia Lithwick has guests on about Supreme Court cases for conversation deep enough to be informative but not so deep that only law geeks would understand. She also edits in recorded audio from the court proceedings so you can hear the justices give their rulings.
  • 99% Invisible – The darling podcast of the last couple years. This is a successful indie spin-off from public radio and always, always a great listen. It is presumably about architecture and design but it appeals to everyone. Interesting fact: Roman Mars said his close mic technique (you can almost hear the saliva smacking around in his mouth) is on purpose to give a more intimate feel to the show.

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