I'm in a philosophical mood. Got the flu, lack of sleep, an excess of stress, and the general feeling that I need to "get things done" before I have earned the right to enjoy life (though I will try to enjoy seeing old friends on the 31st).
Yesterday, or this morning, I published a list of materialistic wishes for 2OO8… now it is time for the a-materilistic, or rather the idealistic wishes I have for my family, friends and myself in the near and more distant future.
Surprises - After composing a list of idealistic "to-do's," I felt that no matter what you plan it's important to experience and be open to surprises. What life is worth living without them?
Financial success for my family & friends - as materialistic as it may seem, there is a clear correlation between success and happiness, and I wish this very much to the people I know, those that I don't know, and myself of course. Money not only makes the world go round, it makes for a better world.
Beware of the accelerator - I can't speak for other people, but I've noticed a clear trend with myself. I'm like a ball, when I start rolling, I go faster and faster, until it becomes hard to stop. This is true for my work, for my more artistic projects, even for depressive days. It's important to keep the balance, as theoretical as that may sound. Even if it feels "wrong" to stop sometimes, stop, and even if it feels wrong to work sometimes, work. It's a little connected to 'surprises' also.
No assassinations during the holidays - a minor point perhaps (is it?), but have you noticed that last year on this day, Saddam Hussein was executed, as was Benazir Bhutto a few days ago? A serious bummer, dude.
A better US president… perhaps - I think there is a complex interplay between what I would call macro-leadership and micro-management. Both are important, and one cannot exist without the other. The US makes a good case-study for observing the interplay between federal and state-politics. When Bush goes against the climate, you see plenty of bottom-up activity for improving the climate on a city or state-level. I would love a US president that is more moderate and appreciative of the complexities of international politics, terrorism, climate-change, world-hunger, world-disease, emerging economies, etc. But really, I just want people to fight for what they believe in, whether it be top-down, or bottom-up.
A good job in 2OO8 - one that I enjoy doing and that teaches me skills that help me be a better project-manager.
My own company for 2OO9 onwards - not sure when and how this will manifest itself, but that is what I'm working towards.
- Cordless earplugs that are also headphones - imagine going to bed and blocking out your partner's snoring, and waking up to the sweet sounds of […insert your sweet sound here…].
- Fluorescent permanent marker - to convert my non-pro Apple laptop-keyboard, into one that lights up in the dark.
- A binder/folder that allows me to bind printed web-articles into an easy to read non-webzine.
- A mobile (!) pad that allows me to draw on paper, which stores these drawings electronically, and allows me to later transfer them to my computer - saw this somewhere for €80, always regret not buying it.
- Some kickin' clothes.
- For my Laptop and iPod to last me through their 3rd year.
- Anything on my wish-list.
- An Apple laptop that is as light and as thin as possible - So no disk-drive as that can be external. 3-4 USB-ports to compensate would be nice.
- The next OS (10.6 or 11.0) from Apple.
- An iPod with a nice screen and no phone - for music, video, books on the road.
- A small car (unless I live in a big city, then a good rent-a-car service).
- Orexin A.
- More public wifi / or a pan-European service.
- A Wii / DS and time to play it.
- Some kickin' clothes.
Just a collection of films I enjoyed in 2007.
Eastern Promises - a tale of chasing dreams in cold, criminal London, of finding decency in filth. ★★★☆☆
American Gangster - a tale of value chain analysis and strategy, of pursuing the American dream, a dream that is different for everyone. A great soundtrack also. ★★★★☆
Knocked up - a tale of random accidents that lead to dramatic lifestyle changes, of growing up. A worthy successor to 40 year old virgin. ★★★★☆
Ratatouille - a tale of overcoming any challenge to pursue a dream. Inspired this blogpost a few months ago. ★★★★☆
Bender's Big Score - a tale that binds the whole series together. I was first sceptical but the ending made it all ok. One of the best "episodes" of the series ever. ★★★☆☆
Disturbia - a tale that has been remade over and over again. While I'm getting tired of Mr. LaBeouf, I have to admit that this is the best remake yet. ★★★☆☆
Little Children - a quiet tale of adults being children and children being adults. ★★★☆☆
The Prestige - a tale of pride and a complete disregard for the worthiness of love and people. Great, yet dark, and a hard to watch movie. Can't wait for Batman 2. ★★★☆☆
Freedom Writers - a tale of finding that inner spark in people, one of my most favourite activities in life. I also have a thing for Ms. Swank. Still a story-line that has been remade over and over. ★★★☆☆
Biggest disappointments for 2007
Spider-man - too crowded
1408 - unbalanced
Sunshine - copy of Event Horizon
Zodiac - 30 year long snore-fest
Hot Fuzz - oh, where for art thou, Shaun of the Dead?
Gone with the Wind - a tale of survival, manipulation, machismo, and unconditional love. Thought Clark Gable was great in it, as was the black housekeeper, Hattie McDaniel. But definitely an undertone of male-to-female violence. ★★★☆☆
Breakfast at Tiffany's - a tale of random encounters, quirky characters and personalities, the disloyalty of cats, and how people can be like cats and vice versa. A story with very little plot, yet some jewels don't need a plot. ★★★★☆
Roman Holiday - a tale of wealth and poverty, the search for experiences, the difference that a haircut makes, how old media douchebags are just like new media douchebags, chatty italians, and moped-driving. Basically a rich princess going incognito in Rome. Didn't like it much, though the ending was somewhat touching. ★★☆☆☆
Marathon Man - a tale of endurance, family, greed, suspenseful shadows, hot women named Elsa, and how shaving the middle of your head (i.e. Lawrence Olivier creating a bald spot) makes for a pretty interesting disguise. Was exciting and had some terrific acting. But… is it safe? ★★★★☆
Casablanca - a tale of love, loyalty, honour. The romance that inspired many a celluloid romance. Here's looking at you, kid. ★★★★★
On black & white pictures
Never has black seem so black, white seemed so white. There's something basic about black & white movies, it brings forth the concept of good and evil in very minimalist way. At the same time, the greyness that is life comes across also, impossible to see perhaps with the stark contrasts that some of the more current colour-flicks present.
I'm not a big lover of self-help books. My favourite quote of all times regarding this topic is from a movie called "School for Scoundrels," and goes something like this:
"How can you help yourself, when your self sucks?"Indeed.
My attitude towards "The War of Art" is not much different. I actually bought it as a gift for an artist that I know, realising shortly after that giving a book on creativity to an artist is about as useful as giving a book on parenting to an grandmother… or something to that effect.
So I started reading it myself. I call this a "mid-book-review," because I don't like reviewing whole books, rather I prefer writing what comes up from however many pages I read. Also, the first half of The War of Art is quite monotonous and, I would say, masochistic to read.
The first 70 or so pages are all about the barriers or resistance we encounter before we create. Essentially nearly every page describes another type of resistance: drugs, jealous people, procrastination, etc. If I were to read this book for myself, I would feel more and more beads of guilty sweat streaming down my back. My god, how badly I've been treating myself over these years trying to produce a thesis.
There must be some pedagogical law that guilt is not the best teacher. But ok… after reading about ca. 30 guilt-inducing types of resistance, I skipped this part and went straight to the good stuff. How to be a professional artist.
Now, I haven't read much—this is a mid-book review after all—but I think the gist of being a professional is discipline. Getting up early, going to your office (wherever that may be), and producing. But that's not all.
My artist-aquaintance is actually a tremendous producer. She produces paintings like a factory. But she does not get paid. And that I think is the other side of being a professional artist—the paycheque.
From what I can see, The War of Art is meant well. It's meant as a kick in the ass. But, just like all self-help books, it does not actually do the kicking, rather it's you that's meant to kick yourself… easier for some than others.
What is needed then is a framework, a recipe that people can follow to indeed transform into the professional artists they are meant to be. I have not yet found anything resembling that in this book. Instead, just like, I guess, the book, whose title it was inspired by, The Art of War, it is a collection of advice and up to the reader to follow and consult it again and again over the years. When the productivity is falling… what is that resistance? Ah yes, time to kick my ass again.
But I still have to finish the book before I can give a final judgement. If, incidentally, this final judgement is not printed on my blog, then you know how much, or rather, how little there was to say about the final 70, or so, pages…
Some eternal truths, I've learned myself, from producing what seem like countless pages for my thesis, include:
- After a while you enter the zone. It takes around 30 mins to 1 hour then your set to go. I can work for hours on end after that.
- The more your practice, the easier it is to enter a zone. Ever since I started blogging, I've essentially been writing creatively for several hours a day. And I can produce a piece of text fairly quickly, and get into the zone after a few mins already. And I notice the same when you draw on a daily basis or do whatever art you want to do. It all eventually gets easier, and that's why a daily discipline is important.
- Balance is vital. Nothing sucks as much as working your ass off, not quite finishing what you planned (perfectionist), and the only reward there is is the lonely tv, the only thing still "awake" in the middle of the night. Instead, people and experiences are the reward. These experiences also recharge you way more than a workaholic lifestyle ever could. Breaks are, as paradoxical as it may seem, vital to becoming a true workaholic—one who gets intoxicated by his work, sometimes referred to as loving his work.
- Little triggers matter. The greatest trigger ever? Feedback. Packaging your work into little chunks which people can evaluate really helps here. And getting feedback really forces you to create better work.
- It's all about the paycheque. You could say this doesn't apply to a thesis, but it does. A thesis is a piece of work that will be a reference for future job-applications for a long time. It will also help in managing future creative projects that do pay. So it really helps to factor that into the schedule: you are producing, not for the art itself, but because you want to achieve something. What that is is up to you and varies from project to project, but ultimately financial reward—direct or indirect—is a great motivator, not to mention fuel for the engine allowing for the creation of more things.
For now, my recommendation is: if you want to create, just do it. Don't waste time, build up a daily discipline, reward the little successes, get lots of feedback along the way, and always remember to get paid. And if you want to learn, then learning from doing is usually a better choice than learning about learning.
Exhibit 1: 11 Myths of the Small Business Entrepreneur, by Susan Dunn, describes 11 misnomers about entrepreneurship, such as being the boss, being free, independence, etc. All of which are all somewhat incorrect. I already knew most of them, but a good reality-check, nevertheless.Why am I thinking about a framework? With blogging there is a constant trade-off between providing content and linking to content. Well, trade-off is a big word, it would suggest that there is an opportunity cost. Since the only cost of blogging is time, there really is no trade-off in my mind—if someone can phrase words better than you (which comes from having done more research, usually), than you're better off linking to them.
Exhibit 2: Why early stage venture investments fail, by Fred Wilson, outlines two primary reasons why an investment may fail—a dumb and/or misdirected idea—and gave me a cool quote, which made the whole bookmark worthwhile: "the art of a successful deal is figuring out dead ends quickly and trying another and another until you find the one paved with gold (source: Dick Costello)"I am also thinking about the nature of links because it's the 10-year anniversary of blogging, and I read a guide to blogs by one of the first bloggers on the net.
Exhibit 3: Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers From Original Blogger Jorn Barger, by Jorn Blogger, is a list of tips that really made me think. For instance: "if you have more original posts than links, you probably need to learn some humility." Or: "Being truly yourself is always hipper than suppressing a link just because it's not trendy enough." Or: "Always include some adjective describing your own reaction to the linked page (great, useful, imaginative, clever, etc.)." Yes, really an, ahum, insightful guide to being a link-blogger.I don't consider myself a linkblogger, not like Jason Kottke or Robert Scoble at least, both whom I think excel in their craft. And, of course, if everyone were to become a linkblogger—and the rise of link-blogging platforms like Tumblr and del.icio.us would certainly suggest it—then it would lead to a fall in content.
But I feel that I need a framework for what links I post and what links I don't, as the latter are links that I plan to incorporate in my own "original" content (sorry for the lack of humility, Jorn).
I think it's as follows. When I read a cool story, which I think is well-researched and adds some general value to coming up with new ideas, or which falls out of my core-competencies, then I'll link it.
Exhibit 4: The Advertising Slogan Hall of Fame lists some noteworthy slogans between the years 2000-2003, such as: "All the news that's fit to print (NY Times)," or "Let your fingers do the walking (Yellow Pages)," as well as offers a—somewhat spammy—guide to developing your own slogan.Any original content, which I plan to start producing again beginning of 2008, will be in the form of a brainstorm, where I write about what matters to doing business in the food & retail-space. Sometimes these will be somewhat long posts, at other times, they will be short bursts. But whatever happens, I hope it adds just as much value to your life as it does mine, and that it does the legacy of blogs proud.
Another thing I'm thinking about is whether I should be more or less specific about my links. For instance, I link a lot more to stuff about entrepreneurship, innovation, and design, than I do about e.g. food.
Exhibit 5: A bookreview of "Starbucked", by P. J. O’Rourke, NY Times, discusses what the rise of Starbucks may have had on the general coffee-culture in the US, competition, and the fair-use of coffee. I find it pretty balanced, and interesting that between 1989-2007, the number of coffeeshops in the US has grown from 585 to 24,000—57% of which are "mom & pop". And that Starbucks only sources 2% of the global coffee-supply and does not have as much an effect on "fair conditions in coffee" as people may think.It's links like these that a reader of a food & retail blog will perhaps prefer to read.
But the framework should be, I think, one that is based on balance. Content, which i think is already well-produced, and for which the only value I can add, is a link with a well-phrased description, should just be just that: a link. Content, where I think I need to do more research for my own self-development, and where it helps that I write a good piece of text about it, should be written by myself.
Stuff on this blog, for the rest of 2007, will be limited. I plan to produce a list of perhaps my favourite albums of 2007, as music, I think, has a great influence on how people feel in environments that I want to create. After Xmas, I think. And next year, I'll start with an overview of what I've written so far, to continue with a clean slate.
Heh, a good way to present 5 links, I think. For more like these, check out my bookmarks or the Link-tag on this blog.
The picture is part of the Reuters pictures of the year 2007 collection (hope they don't sue me).
Hello friends and fauna,
I want to reassure people once more that this blog is not dead, though, for the moment, admittedly of little value to readers looking for food, retail, or related coverage.
As was hopefully made clear before, I'm busy with finishing of my master-project, which includes finishing some chapters on the practical data I collected, the conclusions, and the final editing. Since it is technology-related, you'll find my conclusions about it on Tech IT Easy, started with my latest thoughts about funding innovative start-ups.
There's plenty of stuff, I wish I could write about sounds + food 'n' retail every day, but I notice that I get so much more done when I focus on just one thing, and I'm very close to finishing this particular thing.
After this is done, I can get back to posting (my own crappy) drawings and learning/writing about the business and art of running a venue in my chosen industry.
Until then, you can always check out my links, which I do update continuously, and to which I added some cool and useful stuff for interested parties.
Until soon, I hope!
The picture is courtesy of Aaron J. Louie.
I like maths. I wasn't always good at it, but I've always tried to push forward in it, because I consider it a language, just like any other one. The reason I like maths is because it allows you to communicate in simple terms.
One of my favourite concepts in maths is the lowest common denominator (LCD). It brings complicated things down to a communicatable level.
I think that in life common denominators are very important. When growing, what is the simplest thing you need to do to achieve that? What qualifies success? What does your brand constitute of? What is culture? Etc.
Now in many cases the LCD can be something like people, money, quality, but the question again becomes what the LCD of e.g. people is. Is it effort? Is it education? Is it a skill-set? Is it training? You can always bring it down a level until you reach the point where you can in all essence write a manual for it.
And at times there are things that you don't want to bring down to the LCD. Love for instance, success, beauty, etc.
If you brought them down to the point that everyone could replicate the LCDs, then they would be nothing special. Still it helps to know for yourself what the LCD of love is. What makes you love a person, what makes that person love you? That's a tremendous knowledge to have. Similar to what makes you successful and what doesn't.
Food for thought…
The picture is courtesy of j-archive.com.
OK, I know I said I was going to break for 12 days. But it's just to tempting to blog (I need to find some kind of bloggers-anonymous meeting). In any case, I'll try to restrict myself to reproduced content only—no original stuff! Here's a good comment I found on writing marketing plans. From mooders @ askmefi:
Okay. In a nutshell, you need to:
a) Define the current state of the market - your competitors, the industry, the problems your products or services are intended to solve, the Political, Economic, Social and Technological contexts within which you operate and so forth. This is the Marketing Audit
b) Next, you need to define to whom you are marketing. Define the industry, define the sector within that industry, e.g. Financial Institutions and retail banks with significant offshore presence.This is your Segmentation and Targeting
c) Define how you will position your product or service in the minds of the target customers. This is your Positioning
d) Write down what you need your marketing plan to achieve - increased revenue, increased customer base, increased feedback, increased market share and so on. Make these Marketing Objectives S.M.A.R.T.
e) Write descriptions of the following:
f) Calculate your budget to do all of e) and achieve all of d)
- e1) Product / Service
- e2) Pricing strategy
- e3) Distribution channels
- e4) Promotional activity - how / where / when / what you will advertise your product or service and its features and benefits
g) Assign roles, responsibilities and timelines to each of the Objectives and any other activities defined above
h) Define some means of measuring progress against those Objectives and controls to implement to minimise the chances of straying too far from them
Bare bones, this is enough to be a marketing plan. In terms of numbers, you need to use as many real, hard numbers as possible and make sure you detail where the numbers come from and the assumptions you have made in drawing those numbers up. You could add this into the appendix of the overall plan.
For more detailed info, I suggest you pick up a book or two on marketing plans. Something like this would be enough for your purposes. If nothing else, google for 'marketing plan template' which will provide a fair few resources for headings etc.
The picture is courtesy of milosobel.com
In this piece, I am planning to discuss my current thoughts about my thesis, this blog, and my plans for the future.
I suppose, to a great degree I like to be a focussed person. I like to have goals, pursue them, and not get too distracted by things. It's kind of a silly attitude, because life is an exercise in overcoming distractions. As Fred Wilson wrote recently about something that Dick Costolo, co-founder of FeedBurner, said:
"A startup is the process of going down lots of dark alleys only to find that they are dead ends. The art of a successful deal is figuring out that they are dead ends quickly and trying another and another until you find the one paved with gold."I love that quote and I think it's a great attitude in life as well.
But, as I said, I love planting myself behind a project and shutting the door to everything else. I tried doing this here, 8 days ago, and, as a result, underwent a pretty amazing productive period since then. So what are my plans for my thesis?
My thesis on funding high-tech start-ups
As I said, 12 days break, which would give me another 4 days. Truth be told, I have to add writing a conclusion, writing mini-summaries per chapter, an executive summary, and editing the whole thing into the mix, so I will like likely be busy for another 10 days after that. The nice thing about conclusions is that they are already in your head, summaries happen automatically as you edit a piece, and editing is a perfect all-nighter activity.
The not-so-nice part is that we are currently at 150 pages of material, which would more or less make my thesis a book about innovation, entrepreneurship, venture capital, and incubators.
- One of my thoughts is to edit it down to a reasonable size and publish the whole thing as a pdf.
- A second thought is that as I write summaries per chapter, I might as well turn them into blogposts about innovation, entrepreneurship, finance, and incubators, and publish them in the form of regular blogposts on Tech IT Easy.
Which brings me to this blog…
The status of (my blog on) sounds + food and retail
The funny thing about this blog is that it is interconnected with my life. Random readers may think this is a nice (or not so nice) blog about subjects concerning music, food, and retail, but it is in fact, what I see as, one of several stages towards forming a career and a business (or series of) in this industry.
So my head has not stopped thinking about this subject, and I've actually been making summaries about interesting topics, and thinking about the shape of things to come. I cannot interrupt this blog too long, at the same time it is reassuring (to me), that even though my publishing took a break, my mind did not.
Concerning this blog then, I will be back and I already have a huge backlog of material to publish here… looking forward to that!
The status of "real life"
As I speak with friends and strangers about my ideas I also realise that there is much that remains to be done in "real life" also. I believe everything starts with a good business-plan with realistic assumptions about what you want to set up. It is the ultimate "social object" towards getting my plans in motion, convincing partners, investors, employees to work with me.
Questions I have received so far include:
- What type of place do you want to set up? My answer has so far been: probably a night-venue, a restaurant or night-club, or something in between (this may come as a surprise to some of my readers, as I write a lot about retail). Ultimately though, I want to set up a successful venue and am flexible on the format.
- Where do you want to set it up? My answer: I'm flexible, but it depends on where I feel most comfortable to set it up.
- How are you going to fund it? My answer: I'll need to save a bit, but I expect my first business to be sponsored, probably over 50%, and will look for suitable working partners also.
- When do you want to set it up? My answer: 3-5 years from now would a realistic number in my mind.
- When do you want to exit? My answer: Depends on how much fun I am having, as well as other factors. I see myself as both a serial entrepreneur and someone who wants to create great things, and I'll have to find the middle-path between both.
First thing first. Finish my current project, get a degree, close this chapter of my life.
Intermediary thing, publish blog-posts when I can and want to, in between.
Afterwards, blog more, look for a cool job to gain experience, contacts, and cash. I also want to travel for a bit through Europe to decide on a suitable location, check out different formats, and brainstorm with friends.
And then, take the plunge.
So, à bientôt, I hope!
Metaphor: I am the bunny or rather my thesis is. Everything is progressing well, but of course it's a lot of work. More when I'm done.
5 links to let people know I'm not dead:
- How to choose a name for your product / service / business by Scott Trimble - not much to say about it, except it rocks.
- The 8 challenges innovations face by Scott Berkun - there's so much talk about how cool innovation is (flying cars, anyone?), and very little about how hard it is to actually bring it to the market. Exactly the topic of my thesis, btw., mostly focussed on Scott's point 3: "Find a sponsor and funding".
- The 2007 Esquire 100 has some awesome food-related stuff. Namely on Luxardo, Sechuan buttons, New Texas Cuisine, Rum, shrinking cocktails, The Best Breakfast in America (mmmh looks good!), Washington Wine, and other cool stuff.
- Understanding Web Design by Jeffrey Zeldman - "Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity." Kind of applies to designing other kinds of interactive environments as well (don't shoot me Jeff).
- Wal-Mart’s Environmental Report Card (NYTimes) - the point is that Walmart is continuously increasing its competitive advantage in the area of green tech, which is sure to affect businesses bottom-line in the future. So get busy!