Thursday, April 29, 2010

Find your own ocean

This is an inspiring tale of a kid, Clay Marzo, who has autism and struggles to deal with life as it's usually led - on land. But when he's in the ocean he thrives.

We give up too quick trying to find our oceans. Places where, like this kid, we feel free to create things, help people, and still enjoy ourselves.

When I was in college I found out that doing chemical engineering and working at a chemical plant wasn't my ocean, and I worked my ass off to find some new things. That led me to working at Accenture, which was also not my ocean. I didn't enjoy the lifestyle of being constantly away from home. So I kept looking.

It wasn't overnight. It took me years of working at night, learning how to do software development and experimenting with weird things. 10 years ago, I tried to apply to Thoughtworks. They had this computer science problem to solve to get an interview. It was something that was pretty tough for me at the time, but I thought it would be a great learning experience. I thought I'd impress them if I ran the solution to the problem off of a server in my home and they can access it over the web. That might have been cool, but I'm not so sure I did a very good job writing code for that thing because they didn't call me in for an interview.

Who cares. I kept looking.

I've also gotten my fair share of "no thank you"s after dozens and dozens of interviews at other software companies. Once I didn't get the job because I didn't have "Weblogic" experience, even though I had experience with every other Java app server on the planet. The guy just couldn't get past the keyword "Weblogic" :) Very frustrating. But.

Who cares. I kept looking.

Today I'm in an environment where I thrive. I get to find new problems every day if I want and solve them. I can write code or do marketing. There's no end to stuff I get to create. It's not always perfect, but there wasn't a lot of magic finding this. It took a bunch of work, persistence and experimentation. And faith that one day all my work would lead me to an ocean.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Very cool conference speaker gift

I spoke about Achieving Less at a conference a couple weekends ago here at the University of Chicago.

The crew (Minogi and iFoundry) that put together the conference sent me the coolest gift I've gotten as a speaker: a plant. It's awesome for a variety of reasons, one of the big ones is that it's alive. Great idea guys and thanks!

If anyone is looking for a unique gift, they ordered my bamboo plant from Easter Leaf.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How long can you go without saying "I want"?

He who desires is always poor. -Claudianus

I've been trying a little experiment, and it's not going so well.

I was attempting to see if I could go one week without saying the words "I want ...". I thought it wouldn't be that bad.

Look, don't get me wrong. I don't want to be an ascetic. I don't want to live in a monastery only eating rice and wearing my only possession.

But I thought, too many of us can probably go a week without saying things like "I love you" or "Thank you", which sucks. So maybe saying "I want" for a tiny little while wouldn't be so bad and would be good for me.

I couldn't go 24 hours.

Now, I wasn't breaking it like a kid in a toy store. But I was breaking it. There'd be things I'd say like "Oh, I want to eat there, maybe we should plan that next week". Or "I want to fix that bug in the software".

I bet you can't do it for a week either :) But it would be neat if you could. So try.

Try, for just one week to not say "I want something". That doesn't mean you have to not want things. It just means you can't talk about your wants using the typical language with people. You can still tell people you plan on purchasing an iPad one day, just don't tell them you want one.

And leave a comment here in our blog please to let us know how it's going.

I think what this might accomplish is point out actually how often you want things. How often you're sitting around on a perfectly fine sunny day with your very best friend around you and you still want something.

I think recognizing how often we want things might help us temper that desire a bit. And tempering desire probably leads to feeling much more content. And contentment seems to be everyone's ultimate desire.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Getting inspiration from touring bands

In the last two weeks I've been fortunate enough to see two of my favorite bands live here in Chicago. These weren't well known bands, having what I can tell only a small but loyal following. And due to that, they didn't play at the larger venues like the Congress or Aragon Ballroom, but instead in one of Chicago's dozens of quaint, ~250 person venues.

Last night's concert was by a band called Horse Feathers who played at a bar called Schuba's. It was one of the best concerts I've seen in a long time. They played a rousing hour long set and before that, Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps (sans the Goodnight Sleeps) opened.

There are few experiences that match seeing a band who you are mildly obsessed about live and up close in a candle-lit intimate venue. I parked myself in the front row of a standing room only crowd and stayed there all night.

Why do I bring this up on our Inkling blog? While the music was great, what made the evening transition from special to inspiring was seeing the band themselves do all their own setup, their own tuning, everything. Before they played they just walked in from the bar through the crowd to the front of the stage. And outside wasn't a big bus with a cool graphic of a western sunset on the side, with equipment trucks trailing. There were no roadies, not even a band manager. Instead I spotted a cargo van outside with an Oregon license plate that the band drives themselves and their equipment around in.

The money they're making touring can't be great based on the ticket prices. Looking at their aggressive tour schedule they're driving several hours a day or night to make their next venue. They're away from their homes and families. But they're out there doing what they love.

We should all be so lucky.

"I'm confronted with my own ignorance all the time"

I’d rather be challenged by somebody, rather than have somebody say, ‘Dude, where are you going to have drinks after the show?’ I love a spirited debate as much as anybody. I even like being wrong, if something can make a good case … on something. In a lot of ways, that’s what I do professionally, traveling. I’m confronted by my own ignorance or misunderstandings all the time.

- Anthony Bourdain, Chicago Tribune interview by Kevin Pang (via 37signals)

Oddly coincidental quote, since I was just going to blog about my own ignorance.

I was amusingly reminded of my own ignorance when I watched a little mini-marthon of Chucks yesterday. Chuck is a TV show on NBC. It's in its 3rd season, and has a modicum of success. And might get picked up for a 4th, even though its ratings have been dropping.

But the funny thing is, I ridiculed this show when NBC was advertising for it originally. I thought it looked like a waste of money and these actor's talents. I predicted it wouldn't run a whole season.

What's funny about that is not that I made a terrible prediction.

What's funny is that it's now one of my favorite shows. :)

It had me at the first episode.

Just a nice humbling reminder to me, that we can be certain of very few things. "Certainty is the mother of fools" for sure. And it's also a reminder to me about why it's so important to keep putting stuff out there just to see what happens. I can't predict the next best iPhone app on my own. I can't even predict which of my blog posts are going to do well.

Some days I spend a good chunk of time writing, thinking that this is really going to resonate with folks, and I end up getting 50 people to read that post. Other days I spend 15 minutes writing something I think no one but myself is going to care about, and 7,000 people show up to check it out.

It's another good reason to still believe something like prediction markets can come in handy.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

"One day you'll be dead."

As Hugh MacLeod explains:

Earlier this year, I was working at home, sitting in my backyard. My landlord, Martin was over, fixing something in the back,so we were chatting.

He could tell I was kinda agitated that day. I was stressing over some, minor, short-term business issue that just wasn't getting resolved as quickly as I would like.

He asked me what was bothering me. I told him. He then told me verbatim what is written in this cartoon.

Marty wasn't wrong, either.

I like my landlord...


I've blogged about Hugh and his awesome book before, Ignore Everybody. But I also highly recommend signing up for his daily cartoon newsletter.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do we really want our lives to mirror video games like Farmville?

Farmville is a very popular Facebook game. Game players build virtual farms they have to constantly tend and grow. And if you look at the game, it mirrors a lot of the things we get addicted to in real life.

One of the reasons for Farmville's popularity is their thorough knowledge of game mechanics. Game mechanics is a fancy term for a collection of things that game designers know people enjoy doing and get addicted to in games.

For example, game designers understand that people love to Level Up. That's why games have levels. We get addicted to constantly trying to get to the next level of something.

Game designers also introduce concepts of collecting coins, points, gifts, and treasures. People also love to show these collections off. So game designers allow you to compete transparently with other people. Or allow you ways to show off your treasures to all your friends. And if you don't want to do all that work, many games have shortcuts you need to discover or use. Farmville makes a ton of money helping people shortcut the way to achieving more with their game. Sounds like everyone's favorite phrase Do Less, Achieve More.

So people get attached to all this stuff and leveling up for completely worthless virtual objects in a game. But do we really want to play this game all day every day in our lives?

Do we really want to be constantly looking to level up our jobs with promotions or level up with bigger houses. Most of us are constantly looking for the next level of whatever we are doing today. Look at CEOs trapped at leveling up even though they are making 10 million a year and their companies are having layoffs.

We have this need to collect and collect stuff. Stuff that obviously doesn't even need to be worth anything for us to NEED to start hoarding it. And we like to show it all off. Even if you don't find yourself to be much of a braggart, I bet a good chunk of you feels great to have all the stuff you've accomplished celebrated or envied by other people.

Sure this is fun in video games when you can satisfy your hoarding and leveling up addiction for an hour and then it's easy to turn off. It's a lot harder to turn these things off in real life.

Recognizing where your life resembles Farmville is probably a start.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tolstoy today

I opened up the new book I'm reading by Michael Lewis called "The Big Short" and felt the opening quote before the prologue was so appropriate; not only for what the book is about to discuss (the few contrarians who bucked Wall Street's conventional wisdom and shorted the real estate derivative markets to make billions,) but also to the personality characteristics of certain people we all deal with on a daily basis who think because they are considered experts, they know, without question, the answer. Legends in their own minds.

"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him."

--Leo Tolstoy, 1897

Monday, April 19, 2010

Brag about being small

This is a great commercial by Sam Adam's beer company. They are doing what most businesses are absolutely petrified of doing. They are bragging about how small they are. (You might want to turn up the volume)

In the video, folks are asked how big do you think Sam Adams is. Responses come from people like "huge, 30% of the beer market", "10% of the market?". They come back with the clarification that "no, we are less than 1% of the beer market"!

I'm always taken aback when I see a small company, especially one that just started, decide they need to proclaim they are some kind of Leader of something. They obsess over some kind of dominance over the competition.

Running a business doesn't have to be about being Big or being a Leader or being competitive. It really can just be about making something great.

There's another great example of this I learned when I first started taking Aikido in college. Aikido is like the martial art of peace. There aren't offensive moves. If your "opponent" decides not to fight, there will be no fight. Aikido is about existing peacefully, but if someone attacks you or encroaches upon you, there are ways to remain balanced and redirect the attackers aggression.

One of the most famous Aikido experts is Steven Seagal. And though Steven Seagal is actually an awesome martial artist, sometimes his ego has gotten the best of him. My Aikido teacher had once been part of Steven's school and taken classes from him, and in the process learned of this story he shared with us.

This was when Steven was at the pinnacle of his movie career. He was on top of the world. And he was doing some fight choreography in a movie studio with a guy who was very well versed in Judo. Steven was talking up a storm about how he himself was the greatest martial artist on the planet right now, and he was pretty much untouchable. The Judo guy, a small, 50 year old man, told Steven that he should hold his tongue and be careful with his ego.

Steven didn't take the advice very well, and challenged the Judo guy to a "friendly" fight.

Not much long after that, Steven found himself waking up after going unconscious from a wrestling move the Judo guy put on Steven called the Rubber Ducky.

You don't have to be big to be good.

Friday, April 16, 2010

You matter more than you will ever know

"I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump."

A story that has always stayed with me since grade school that might be part fiction, but might very well be true is of the guy who left a suicide note that was found after he killed himself by jumping off a bridge.

A topic that interests me a great deal is how little people realize their effect on other people. Here's a few recent cases.

Mark Hayward - performance artist

I attended ORD Camp (like Foo Camp but in Chicago) a few months ago and heard a talk from Mark Hayward, a yo-yo performer and comedy juggler. He talked about performing on stage. I asked him how he obtains feedback about his performances.

He mentioned that it's tough, because sometimes a crowd of faces just isn't honestly portraying how they feel. For example, one performance he gave had a bunch of people that looked stoic and unimpressed all night. But after the show, someone came up to Mark and said that was the best yo-yo performance he'd ever seen. This happens more than you know it about yourself. You rely on the unspoken feedback you think you are getting from other people while often silently they think you are being a whole lot of awesome.

A volunteer program

I volunteered with a program this last fall and winter helping high school seniors apply to college. These are kids who are the first in their families to go to college, so this is quite a challenge for them to get through this process. We get teamed up with a buddy at the beginning of the program.

Well, my kid decided to not show up anymore after the first day :) without ever officially quitting. So I filled in as a floater helping a kid one week whose mentor couldn't show up, and a different kid another week.

I didn't feel like I made much of a difference in this program since I was just filling in a tiny bit. So when a follow up panel discussion was being done this spring with the seniors about what college and careers are like, I really hesitated about attending. Everyone else had spent a good chunk of time getting to know their buddies and help out, and I can't even remember my kids' names since my relationship with them was so fleeting.

But then out of nowhere I get an email from one of the kids I helped for just a few hours one day, asking me if I'd be at the panel. Wow, I didn't expect that at all.

A talk to students

I gave a talk a few months ago down at my alma mater, the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana). It was a talk about starting a business to mostly a room of students. I thought the talk went fair, but just like Mark above, there wasn't a ton of visual feedback. And there were kids yawning already and I was the second talk. It was early in the morning on a weekend, but still, kind of gets you feeling blah about whether or not this talk even matters. But then I've gotten follow up emails from some students about the talk and wanting more information, and blog comments like

"Nate, I am one of those students at the University of Illinois that you showed the video to. Your presentation was fantastic!" - Loren Burton

So there's just a few examples of the impact that some people have on others that you're lucky to even find out about. Think about all the people you impact that you don't get this feedback from. The people on your blog that get stuff from your writing that never write a blog comment. The people who you inspire at work who you'll maybe never actually converse with.

Or the person you smile to on your way out the door for work.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happiness from jumping off the corporate ladder

One of the most interesting people I ever met at Accenture was a lady named Joan. She also was one of the happiest people I met there.

She was interesting because she was an anomaly.

You see, Accenture, like many many companies, puts people on a plan. You're expected, and you in turn expect, to be promoted at methodical intervals. Analyst to start, Consultant 2-3 years after that, Manager 2-3 years after that, Senior Manager, and onward (or some timeline like that).

"Up or out" is the motto many of these companies share about their career paths.

Well Joan was an anomaly because she just didn't give a shit about getting promoted.

Joan had remained an Analyst for something like 10 years. She just bounced around the company finding things that interested her. She'd work on this for awhile, then work on something else.

I'm pretty sure you think she must have been a "bad" employee or had Uncle Joe at a high level keeping her at the company. Nope. She was a great employee. Happy to do her work and take on stuff she's never done before and work hard at it. I have no idea how she finagled her way out of the "up or out" path, but it's likely she just opened her mouth and asked for radically different assignments.

And she couldn't be promoted though because she wouldn't stay long enough in any spot for anyone to sponsor her promotion. She was always doing something very new with new people.

I bring this up, because I can't help notice that most people I've ever met at any company aren't truly happy about their promotions. They get excited about the raise it brings. And they get excited to check off another goal that's expected of them off their list.

But most people I've met end up more stressed after their promotion. A new promotion means more "responsibility". More responsibility means, really, more stuff to do in the same amount of time. After the promotion, it doesn't usually mean just thinking at a higher level and applying the things you've learned to help enable the people below you. I'm obviously not the only one to have noticed this either.

"British researchers found that when people get promoted, they suffer on average about 10 percent more mental strain and are less likely to find the time to go to the doctor." - Live Science

While I knew Joan, she was eventually promoted to Consultant. I believe mainly so that her bosses could justify in print her getting another raise. But I hope she's remained happy and stayed on the right path for her.

I don't have a 12 step program for a better organizational structure that everyone needs to adopt. But I do think we should take notice that the carrot & stick approach to encouraging employees, and using "promotions" as one of those carrots has gotten us off track of finding out what could really make our organizations happier.

I also think it's a great lesson that we can already want we have, and find happiness without achieving what we think we are supposed to achieve.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Yesterday would have been different

House: "...we die alone. Model Husband, father of the year, tomorrow will be the same for you.”

Patient: "But yesterday would have been different."

- A conversation on last night's House

I was looking through some old email to find a phone number I needed. In the course of my search I found an email thread with an old friend of mine, David Efergan.

David was my boss at Digital River (DR). I worked at DR for 2 years before starting Inkling.

Before starting that job, David was a friend of a friend who needed software developers in his Chicago office. It was an awesome change in my life to join DR. Mostly because it got me off the road. I traveled a great deal for work before that and I hated it.

(75% of the business travelers are miserable because of the travel. I think more people have to figure out how to abolish all these constant weekly trips for work. We aren't like George Clooney. I know there's a percentage of people that dig it, but it's a lot smaller than we want to admit.)

But the point of this is, David left DR a little after I left to run his own startup, Amadesa. In the email, David and I were planning on having lunch soon to catch up, and talk about these new adventures of ours.

David died 2.5 years ago at 42.

We never got that lunch. We just always had too much to do running our businesses.

There's really not that much to it than that. We're all on our deathbed. Entropy is ravaging the cells in our body this very second. Some of us have longer than others.

I think about how many people are excited about their new iPads and the never ceasing output of reviews. On top of that there's the never ceasing output of rage filled content about Apple's new policies. I'm not judging those or Apple. Just makes me think for a second.

If I was dying today, tomorrow or next week, would I be running to the Apple store to get this thing, or would I be on the phone talking and making plans to JUST BE in the same room with people that I cared about and who cared about me.

We all have our wants and our rewards. But temper that constantly with the thought that one day soon you too might have wanted to make yesterday different.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Things of the past

Things of the past are already gone
And things to be, distant beyond imagining.
The Tao is just this moment, these words:
Plum blossoms fallen.
Gardenia just opening.

- Ch'ing Kung

Friday, April 09, 2010

"Certainty is the mother of fools"

-Patrick Jane on The Mentalist

There's a bunch of "mother of fools" quotes. Pick something you don't like and stick it on the beginning of that :) But I like this one a lot.

I definitely like decisions. But I try and pepper decisions with the knowledge that often things don't quite happen like I think or want them to. Sometimes better. Sometimes worse. Sometimes just different.

Where does being "certain" get you anyways? You don't need to be certain to make a decision or to act quickly. It is possible to make a choice about something and lead people to do something, but keep your eyes, ears, and mind open to the possibility that your choice needs to be changed or reversed.

Certainty provides a bit of comfort for people who don't want to think too long about something. Afterall, once you are certain, you no longer need to process that information. Thinking can be hard. Thinking can be tiring. But it's also a friggin miracle that we can think long and hard about things and also reevaluate our choices. It's a shame when people piss that away.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Inkling in the classroom

I love it when I hear about MBA classes using Inkling to help teach about prediction markets. A few weeks ago I did a midnight skype session with a business class in Hong Kong to answer their questions and I just received this about a professor at American University who has made trading in Inkling and asking a question an actual assignment:

"Participate in prediction market.
Objective: gain basic familiarity. Steps: sign-up. It is free. Use your
inkling money to make predictions. Set up one question of your own. Let the
rest of the class know so we can make predictions on it. Generate at least
10 transactions on your question. Print out your question on paper. Hand it

Every semester we have lots of professors setting up marketplaces for their classes. If you're a professor out there who's interested in doing the same, let us know or just go ahead and set one up.

Does self promotion cause heart disease?

One of my favorite parts of Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers was the very first part about the town of Roseto, PA. People had discovered that the people of Roseto in the 1950s had some kind of super human trait of being able to NOT get heart disease.

Researchers studied this town like crazy. Was it the food, the weather, what? It turned out, the researchers surmised, that it was because of the culture of the town. It was because the town and everyone in it was extremely close knit. People cooking for neighbors. Everyone chatting with everyone else on the street. 3 generations of family living under one roof. And an "egalitarian ethos".

"They picked up on the particular egalitarian ethos of the community, which discouraged the wealthy from flaunting their success and helped the unsuccessful obscure their failures." - Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers

That doesn't sound like our world, especially in the US, at all.

Egalitarianism: "a social philosophy advocating the removal of economic inequalities among people." - Wikipedia.

Every day there's someone on places like Twitter or Hacker News mentioning the latest greatest thing that happened to them. Their latest book review, their latest multimillion dollar acquisition. Like Jason Fried mentioning in Inc that their company makes millions in profit. And us blogging about our BusinessWeek mention.

We do it to self promote. It's a big part of marketing ourselves. By mentioning these things we hope to raise our credibility for our potential clients, fans, readers, etc. A mention about how much money 37signals makes, just solidifies how well they know what they are doing, so you'll trust that they aren't bullshitting you in the book they want you to buy. Our BusinessWeek mention helps solidify for a potential client, "hey these guys aren't some folks fooling around with a website".

I completely see the non-evil benefits of doing this. I think our business is doing a lot of good for people. I absolutely know our blog has inspired some folks. But I also absolutely know it has the reverse effect on some others. A minority probably. But still a negative effect I wish it didn't.

I guarantee that someone who read our blog post about that BW mention, came away from it a little worse. A little more depressed about their lot in life. They looked at this, and was like, "uggh, why can't I achieve that. I work so damn hard at everything, and something like this is beyond my grasp".

I don't have a solution here. It's just a puzzling topic for me. I HATE BRAGGING. I'm super proud of what we do here, but I cringe a little bit anytime we mention something good that's going on. I recognize though that self-promotion seems important to marketing our businesses, but tries to completely tear down equality amongst others. "This good thing happened to us, so you should read my stuff, not theirs. You should buy my stuff, not theirs".

It's a consequence of capitalism probably? But also leads to stress, ills, and unhappiness that didn't exist in Roseto. Well, until Roseto became just like every other town years later.

How do you guys feel about this? Achieving egalitarianism and wanting it is probably just the same as trying to be socialist. Which clearly hasn't worked and has it's own problems. Any awesome examples of folks who have balanced being capitalist without having to be at all self-promoting?

Tom's Shoes might fall into that example a bit. I don't see that guy writing about how much money he makes, but rather the good they do for the world. Maybe he does bring up revenue somewhere, but that point seems to be lost amongst his greater point that his for-profit business exists to give away shoes.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Life and work aren't as bitter as you think

The Tao of Pooh is an awesome introduction to Taoism. Taoism in a nutshell: your life, your job, the roller coaster of starting a business, etc. isn't as bitter as sometimes we think.

The book starts with the parable of The Vinegar Tasters.

The 3 men in the picture from left to right are Confucius, Buddha and Lao Tzu (the recognized father of Taoism). Confucius and Buddha have sour and bitter looks on their faces after tasting the vinegar, while Lao Tzu remains smiling. It's a bit of a dig on Confucianism and Buddhism.

According to the parable: Confucianism typically views man as something that needs lots of rituals and training in order to become perfect. Buddhism also views life as pretty imperfect, and to improve on that we have to meditate to achieve Nirvana or enlightenment by stepping outside of our imperfect selves.

Lao Tzu remains happy though because life with all its complications is still pretty damn awesome.

Taoism isn't a philosophy about being lazy. But it does try and find the balance in what feels like a paradox to most of us. Working hard shouldn't equal unhappiness with what you already have.

As we sat around in January talking about what we want for ourselves in 2010, we started thinking about the number of readers we REALLY WANT to get to read this blog. The users we REALLY WANT to get to use our new collaboration tool. The conversion rate that we REALLY WANT to improve. And so I glue myself to our metrics and just keep working and working to get something that doesn't even exist yet.

That behavior makes me forget just how much I want what I already have. I forget how awesome just the act of blogging or working on a feature is. I forget that even if no one read or used whatever I'm working on, I actually love writing and building this stuff for it's own sake.

I believe I'm happiest (and most successful) not when we follow some insane need to accomplish goals we've laid out. But when we just enjoy the act of trying this, trying that. Learning something new. Keeping our ears open. Having fun making something somebody mentioned they needed. It feels a lot more like enjoying a series David Chang's accidents than stressing about the next thing we want to achieve.


I'll be exploring this topic more in a discussion I'm leading called "Achieving Less" at the Creative Entrepreneurship Conference coming up on Saturday April 17.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A corporate elliptical machine

Recently I was told about another CEO who got a raise this year to increase his 10 million dollar salary while his company has recently announced layoffs. I was struck with the realization that even after all the years this CEO has been climbing to get to the top, he's still trying to find a bigger payday.

The CEO of a company represents the top of a corporate ladder many of us think we are (or were) on. I remember getting out of college thinking about the number of years it would take me to climb a corporate ladder and become "Partner". After all, Partner is the top of something. Something pretty special sounding, and big-money making.

Even though the CEO above has been climbing all these years, even though he's done all this work his entire life, and "succeeded" at all sorts of goals he and others have set out for him, he's still climbing. He's still probably stressing about his next raise. The next monetary bump. The next promotion.

Most of us reading this have seen, or are on, or have at least considered climbing a corporate ladder. And sure many of us still concern ourselves with becoming better leaders and mentors to younger employees. But the first thing most of us want to hear with that promotion, is how much do I get paid.

My dreams have often gotten soured with thoughts of raises and promotions. When I got out of college my dream of Partner had as its top priority some kind of goal of "financial independence". I was pretty focused on raises and promotions and saw most everyone else was too. Everyone was climbing and climbing and buying more stuff their new finances allowed them too.

But this isn't a ladder for this guy. There is no end to it. This is a treadmill or a stair machine. A corporate elliptical machine. But calling this an exercise machine doesn't do this justice. Because this isn't exercise.

His version of climbing leads to stress and heart attacks. Stress that's passed onto everyone else around him. Stress that hides all the awesome things he's already accomplished and the people and events that matter in his life today.

How's work for you? Are you on a ladder, or have you stepped onto the elliptical machine?

Monday, April 05, 2010

If we could never have started Inkling, dayenu (it would have been enough)

I was fortunate enough to attend my first Passover Seder this weekend.

A very poignant part of the meal for me was the reciting of the song Dayenu. Dayenu means "it would have been sufficient" or "it would have been enough".

It's a song about thanksgiving, and an attempt to realize that even if none of the great things that have happened to us constantly actually happen to us, there are STILL things to be thankful for.

The song Dayenu traces a series of miracles and successes that happened to the Jews after they left their captors in Egypt. The song exists to help remind people that after freedom, even if all these extra things didn't occur, there is even so much more to be thankful for. Being free would have been enough.

Thankfulness is one of the first things that we completely throw out the window. Especially those of us who are constantly reaching for the next goal, the next promotion, the next award, or the next big sale. We constantly want more, and it's fabulous when we get it, but we forget that even if we hadn't gotten that next success, all the blessings and gifts that we already have, would have been enough.

I personally relate to needing to be more thankful for what I already have. I've constantly worked hard to achieve more with Inkling and my whole life. But really, Inkling has already been a gift to me.

The people it's allowed me to become friends with. The freedom it's helped me achieve in my career. The crazy amount of things I've learned.

It's hard to say this actually. It would be much easier just to pay lip service to this, and just say "we" should be thankful for what we already have while I continue to HAVE TO GET MORE.

But seriously, if Inkling couldn't get another customer after today and we had to shut down. If Inkling had only lasted the first 3 months of Y Combinator and never went on to be a lasting company. If we had never had the courage to quit our jobs and start Inkling. If I had never had the ambition to change my career path after college. If I had never had the chance to go to college. It would have been enough.

I'm lucky enough to have never had a captor. Everything else I'm given is a gift I need to enjoy and be grateful for like it could be gone tomorrow. Dayenu.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Technical support over online chat is available

We launched a new feature today that adds to our other technical support channels: online chat.

We've been testing the waters with running a support chat room over at our collaboration tool service, tgethr.

The input in that chat room has been awesome. It doesn't get used so much that it overwhelms us, but instead we've uncovered features people have wanted, fixed bugs we didn't know about, won a couple customers after steering them through some of the things still hanging them up, and met some very nice people.

We feel we've made ourselves pretty easy to get a hold of over email and other channels before, but we've found that some of the things coming into the chat room might have just been lost forever if the experience took any more effort than just finding someone online, right now, to help.

So we'd like to try this out with our sites for prediction markets. On any Inkling site, there is now a "chat with support" button:

Anyone can click that button, admin or otherwise, and get help from the folks working on Inkling. We don't have set hours for the room. Often we are there during typical business hours and sometimes you might find one of us there at 1AM. So if we aren't there please continue to use the normal support channels you have available, especially our help desk. Also any questions specific to the marketplace we'll redirect back to the specific administrators of the marketplace to be asked.

For those interested, the chat room is powered by 37signals' Campfire. We've been using it for a few years as a business as well as personally, and have been very happy with it. We'll see how it holds up as a support channel.

Hope you find it a handy way to interact with us if you need something. Thanks a ton for using Inkling!

Administrators of Inkling also will notice that there is now an admin drop down menu.

The list of things admins can do from creating groups to managing the marketplace was getting a bit long. So we polished it up into this great looking menu. :)

Thursday, April 01, 2010


CHICAGO—April 1, 2010—Inkling is now the Leading Information Technology Company in the Universe. They have also announced plans to complete a purchase of Google in 2010.

"We felt really terrible when we saw brand new companies and our competitors labeling themselves the Leading Provider of Prediction Markets or The Leader in Whatever They Want.", said Nathan Kontny founder and CTO of Inkling. "So we decided to take matters into our own hands. We think these 3 announcements of ours puts us on top again."

Adam Siegel, co-founder and CEO of Inkling announced to staff and shareholders on Monday that Inkling has been bestowed the label of the Leading Information Technology Company in the Universe. When asked how that had been determined, he continued to repeat "I'm the Wiz, I'm the Wiz. And nobody beats me."

Inkling also had a couple other announcements that it shared with employees and shareholders this week.

Their most important announcement was that Inkling will work to complete a purchase of Google in 2010. "We are working very aggressively on this deal. We can't disclose the exact sum, but we will give Google all the money in our bank account for this purchase. We like what we see over there. So we are willing to do away with the formalities and overhead. No lawyers. No due diligence. No escrow.".

Siegel added, “We really like the breadth of the talent those guys bring. We’ll likely open source or shut down most of their projects. It’s the engineering talent we are most interested in bringing on. I'm sure given their track record of doing the same, they'll understand and be appreciative of our needs"

To help grow the company Inkling also announced a new component to their flagship product, Inkling Prediction Markets. The name for their new project is the Leading Universal Dashboard In Crowdsourcing Reconnaissance Of Unimaginable Seriousness .

"It's an add-on to our current offerings, but can be used separately as well. We are very excited to bring this to market, as we are sure this is the first time anyone has ever even thought of launching something like this", Kontny explained. "Keep an eye on us in 2010 and 2011 as we continue to launch things no one has ever done before or thought was even physically possible on earth."


A professional reenactment of the interview with Mr. Siegel was produced by NBC and is available on youtube.