Knowing what’s more trouble than it’s worth

A friend was recently given a cheesemaking class as a gift. 

The class focused on how to make the soft Italian cheese burrata.

It was a thoughtful gift: he likes cooking, traditional crafts, and learning how things work. He also loves burrata.

The class was thorough, authentic, educational and fun.

But it didn’t really work out.

He realised making burrata was just more trouble than it was worth.

There’s a long setup, it’s messy, and easy to make mistakes. 

The option of paying $7, $10, $12, or even $15 for burrata from a shop or a restaurant was still far more appealing to him.

The class itself was worth it, but building the actual core skill to a useable level (and thus rendering the alternatives at least partially redundant) just wasn’t.

Whether gifts, hobbies, or ventures, we often put ourselves at a disadvantage by taking on things that are more trouble than they’re worth.

It’s worth taking a moment to ask what would really this thing worthwhile for us.

It could be the outcome, the effort, the experience, or even discovering it’s not in fact worth it.

This way, we can choose to step in fully, or just save ourselves the trouble.

Undertaking an Annual Life Review (a Guide & Template)

This Medium post by Steve Schlafman hit my Twitter feed earlier this week.

I’ve tried reviews like this before but the process always felt either overly complicated and heavy, or too ethereal.

Steve’s method strikes a really good balance.

As I was working through it, I realised I was straddling two Google docs (one Sheet and one Doc), so I merged them into one and added some formatting to clean it up a bit and make it easier to navigate.

I was tempted to dive in on adding some more functionality but I think this time less is more.

Steve kindly agreed to share this template in the original post – hopefully it’ll help you undertake your own annual life review.

I’m happy to offer feedback if you’d like to share your own review – just drop me a line.

Original post:


What kind of artist are you?

Finding out with three lines, a few dots, and a long-sleeved shirt

Note: I found this post in my drafts today as I was looking for the shirt diagram. This post originates from May 2015. Even though some of my thinking has evolved since then I’ve decided to publish it in its original form.

Storage Solutions

When I moved into my current flat, clothes storage became a hot topic of conversation (I’m of that age now…).

The bedroom’s long and fairly narrow shape meant we needed to utilise height. We didn’t want to default to Ikea, and a lovely hand-crafted wardrobe was a little out of budget.

After much deliberation, a shopfitters’ storage rack was purchased; floor to ceiling on castors, with three shelves and two rails for jackets, trousers and of course shirts.

Once assembly was complete (slightly quicker than an Ikea nightmare build, but only just), I loaded everything on board only to find I had a surplus.

We’d vowed to keep the new place bereft of clutter, so I started working through everything, culling anything that had been on the substitute’s bench for more than 6 months.

When it came to the pile of shirts I’d rapidly thrown into a bag on moving day, I was shocked to discover that nearly half were either too long, some too wide (the ‘tent’ look), or with sleeves too short.

The Shirt Dilemma

Months later, long after the ill-advised purchases had been given to a better home, I saw this going around on Twitter;

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2018 List: Podcasts

Like a lot of people, I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts this year.

It’s too distracting for me to listen to them while I’m working, but I’m lucky enough to live in a central area of a very walkable city so there are plenty of excuses for me to listen to the spoken word whilst in the space between. 

Subway commute, walking commute, or scenic route, plus going to the gym, airports or train stations.

Last week someone said to me they’d love to see inside other people’s Netflix history as it would tell them so much about that person.

Perhaps podcasts are even more personal, and telling.

As you can probably deduce from this list, my listening themes this year have revolved around entrepreneurship, dealing with transitions, and understanding the self.

I’ve struggled with fiction podcasts (definitely still prefer books, and the paper kind at that), although I’d like to dive into these more in 2019

In no particular order here are my favourite podcast episodes I’ve listened to this year – and one that I skipped.

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Two quick tips on Trend Spotting

This quote from Beth Comstock is a nice heuristic for spotting emerging trends.

Another way of looking at this is through writing.

If you notice something and find yourself writing it down three times in a short space of time, you may have just spotted a trend.

Go back to those notebooks and look for the patterns.

Who knows what you may find.

PS. I’m putting together a recorded version of a class I did on Trend Spotting (including the above Beth Comstock quote plus a bunch of other tactics and exercises)  – that’ll be going live next week.

7 things I learnt in 2018

As the calendar rolls deeper into December people often like to say ‘I’ve learned a lot this year‘.

Whilst probably true, we don’t often think about exactly what we’re we referring to. 

Here are a few of the things I’ve noticed in myself this year. 

Note: Rather than taking lots of time to put this together, I’ve deliberately avoided putting extensive deep thought into it.  These items have come mainly from instinct; things that have been recurrent themes for me over the course of the year and through the specific experiences I’ve had. The full article took an hour or so to write, but the list itself came about in less than 2 minutes.

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The Quick No

I once had a meeting at a prestigious London address. 

You probably know the kind of place – an immaculate 4 storey Georgian townhouse where even the flowers outside are imposing.

After waiting 10 minutes or so in the reception area, I went in for my meeting.

It was one of those meetings that come about from time to time. A slightly tenuous 2nd or 3rd degree referral, possible scope for interesting collaboration, often doubtful but usually worth a look. [1]

On my way home, I got a message flash up on my phone. 

“How did it go?”. 

I replied, “In and out in 12 minutes”.

10 seconds later; “Oh well”

They must have been right – 12 minutes can’t be good, surely?

Everyone says rejection sucks. Being told “No” is the worst. We also read about people who found enormous success after they were told No 1476 times in a row.

But the worst thing isn’t rejection. 

The worst is silence. Indifference, ambivalence, tumbleweed.

I’d rather have the Quick No.

And I knew it was exactly 12 minutes as on arrival I took my watch off and put it on the table in front of me. 

There wasn’t any point in wasting anyone’s time.

[1] Derek Sivers’ ‘Hell Yes or No’ post hadn’t entered my life at this point, but I do still believe that there are interesting things that can happen just outside Hell Yes…at the Adjacent Possible of meetings if you will.

Lowercase skills

You may be familiar with concepts like T-shaped or I-shaped people to help simplify the way we think about skillsets in people.

Here’s another that’s even simpler, and based on concepts most of us learnt when we were 4 or 5 years old.

Capital and lowercase. [1]

It used to be that the Capital was all that mattered. 

You were a Creative, an Engineer, a Secretary [2]. 

The lowercase wasn’t worth much. Perhaps it was the ‘interests’ line on your resume, or a couple of bullet points listing out roles & responsibilities in a previous job.

And if you didn’t have the Capital, it probably felt overwhelming, off-putting or intimidating –  especially if you couldn’t access the paths to building it.

Now it’s different.

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Open Source: My reading list

This tweet on book lists by Stevan Popovic piqued my interest.

My reading list has always been a mix of random notes and a somewhat unwieldy Trello list.

Stevan’s version is built in Airtable, a product I’ve poked around with a fair bit (although haven’t found that really compelling use case for, as yet at least)

I thought it’d be worth borrowing/stealing his idea (thanks Stevan!) and moving my list into a similar format.

Grab it here >>>

Steven has added a couple of interesting ideas;

1. The people who recommended a book to him, and how many of them recommended it. I’ve left that out for now, mainly as I can’t remember how I discovered most of my book list.

2: Whether the book is ‘Tree’, ‘Branch’ or ‘Narrative’. Explainer on that here

Most of the books in my list are non fiction – I probably read 15-20% fiction vs non fiction but this list seems to be probably be more useful for non fiction discoveries. Let’s see though.

I hope this is a useful little resource and there are some books on here that may be up your street. I’m happy to offer my opinion on any of the ones I’ve read before you go diving in.

I’ll keep updating the list every week or two with new finds – just let me know if you’d like to know when a new one is added and I’ll set up an email notification for you.

How to create your own personal investment thesis

The term ‘investment thesis’ is a now a fairly common sight on the internet, particularly in the world of venture capital.

These investment theses tend to update every few years, often at a similar cadence to companies undertaking a rebrand (after all, a new investment thesis is itself a rebrand of sorts). [1]

Previously, a firm’s investment thesis tended to be held more privately.

But as the internet continues to open up all kinds of industries, and differentiation for all sorts of companies (including investors) is both harder and more important than ever, the open source investment thesis is far more common.

Besides, as many investors themselves will tell you: ideas are worth nothing; execution is everything.

VCs deploy financial capital  into their investment (and increasingly human capital too – this article on a16z is a good example), and the investments are largely in keeping with the thesis they’ve set out.

That’s the point of a thesis; it’s a premise to be proved [2].

What’s less common though is a personal investment thesis – a summary of where an individual is looking to investment their time, energy and resources over a period of time (perhaps 2-3 years)

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