Day 42: All Business

Dear friends – I am sorry I have failed to blog so far. Finally found a minute on our Aer Lingus flight to Dublin (no private televisions, otherwise I’d likely be watching a movie and relaxing my brain instead). Since day one, my journey has been 100% nonstop whirlwind business. I have not had a weekend, day or single hour free from taskmastering this television series. We are wildly understaffed, under-budgeted and under-scheduled. When people regard my trip with envy, I shrug because this has been all grind and no play – perhaps the most difficult job I have ever had. I have not been able to engage in the places traveled because I spend nearly 60% of my waking hours buried in a device. All things considered, I have been to some pretty incredible locations. I fancy it a sampler platter of countries and have every intention of visiting many of them again.

After a stressful prep period in Dubai (which I shall revisit in a later post), we started filming in Singapore. Definitely an awkward first date for the crew, network and show but I anticipate a strong first episode. You can see a video recap of our trip below. Singapore was incredibly friendly to startups and foreigners. Many people we met in the city were not native and moved there for a change of pace. Everything was pretty clean and tidy, not much stress or chaos as far as cities go. We were there during Chinese New Year which meant that many businesses were closed and costs for everything else were much higher. If you ever get a chance to eat stingray, please do – absolutely delicious. Special thanks to Ken, our local production manager and guide, for taking care of us so well.

From Singapore, we ventured to Istanbul. Dear lord, amazing city. So much history, such ripe culture. Video below as well. I’ve never been to a place that’s so ancient. My inner architecture nerd couldn’t contain itself. We spent almost all of our time on the European side of the city in a district known for nightlife and trendy youth. We met some very talented people and shared several evenings with them. There’s a lot of incredible opportunity in Istanbul, but it’s clear that history and tradition stand in the way of an otherwise progressive mentality sometimes. Many of the entrepreneurs we met were looking elsewhere to start businesses. We ate a lot of street food and drank the absolute best Turkish coffee. Smoke everywhere – everyone smokes and every restaurant or bar we went to was filled with it. Until ten years ago, most of the city was still heated by coal, so you can imagine how polluted it might still be. With ancient urban planning, traffic was untenable the entire time. Our local production fixer, Berk, was an outstanding gentleman and an absolute blast to hang out with. We were very well taken care of in Istanbul and I look forward to returning.

Our next episode to film would have been Stockholm, but drama ensued – our shows hosts, Emiratis from Dubai, secured the wrong visas and were not allowed to board our flight. We discovered this when the rest of the crew landed in Sweden. A damn shame we couldn’t film the episode because Stockholm is a remarkable city. Packed with gorgeous people, flawless urban planning, and a selection of the world’s best cuisine, whiskey and beer. Outrageously expensive, so it’s probably good for our budget that we couldn’t stay the whole time scheduled. Partly from the smoke of Istanbul and partly from stress, I got wildly ill and spent half our stay in my hotel room. Blessing in disguise that we didn’t film. The rest of our time there was spent in uber trendy coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Every detail of Stockholm is painstakingly designed. Interior decor junkies would cry everywhere they go – even fast food joints were ornamental and carried world class brews. I’ll be damned if I don’t spend a lot more time in Stockholm before I die.

We reached Dublin yesterday two days early to regroup. We will film the Ireland episode this week and plan ahead for our future tours of travel. We will head back to Dubai and Abu Dhabi after we wrap Dublin March 7 to edit and prep our second tour of four countries in Asia. With the Stockholm error, we will have to reschedule the rest of our show – and milk an extra country out of the deal to replace Sweden (which I personally cannot complain about). We’re reevaluating difficult countries to enter and film like India and Brazil. If all goes well, we may get the chance to visit countries on all 6 continents which would be wild.

I will do my best to keep you posted along the way. The closer we get to the end, the less planning I will have to do and hopefully be able to win some minutes back to write you. No promises of course.  But please know that I love you.

Back in Business

Many have asked why I stopped blogging. Thank you dearly for enjoying and supporting my writing. While there were many excuses, the biggest one was simple: I needed to invest the 5-10 hours per week spent blogging into another personal project. Fulltime work for Sympoz demanded 60-80 hours, and I found myself battling for spare minutes.

Right before the holidays, I resigned from Sympoz (a decision I may explore in a later post) and will start a new adventure next week. I cannot promise you that I will blog about it, but I will certainly try (a lot depends on access to wifi and how easy it is to write with the WordPress mobile app).

Stay tuned!

My Daily Reading List

I read a lot these days, more than I ever have in my entire life. Almost all non-fiction. Very few books lately, almost all blogs and web news by industry. In addition to the 4,500+ emails I consume, I flip through nearly 8,000 articles every month across 57 subscriptions (with probably a 15% engagement rate).

Many people have asked me what I read, so I’ve decided to share key items on my list. This batch is ever-changing – I am very open to suggestions or criticism. I subscribe to all the following through Google Reader:

Web Tech News
Techmeme
TechCrunch
Mashable
Engadget
Google’s Blog
Gmail’s Blog
YouTub’s Blog
Venture Hacks

Film
/Film
The Playlist
Mondo: The Blog

Entrepreneur & Venture Capitalist Blogs
AVC – Fred Wilson’s Blog
Continuations – Albert Wenger’s Blog
Both Sides of the Table – Mark Suster’s Blog
Only Once – Matt Blumberg Blog
Seth Godin’s Blog
Experiments In Lifestyle Design – Tim Ferriss’s Blog
Reinventing BusinessBruce Eckel‘s Blog
Vinicius Vacanti’s Blog
TechStars
Feld Thoughts – Brad Feld’s Blog
Mendelson’s Musings – Jason Mendelson’s Blog
McInBlog – Ryan McIntyre’s Blog
Seth Levine’s Blog
Peter Levine’s Blog
Jeff Jordan’s Blog
Scott Weiss’s Blog
Ben Horowitz’s Blog
Marc Andreessen’s Blog
John O’Farrell’s Blog
David G. Cohen’s Blog
Ask the VC
Foundry Group

Architecture
Desire to Inspire
A Daily Dose of Architecture
The Architecture Blog – Architecture pictures!
Inhabitat – Green technology, design and architecture

Comedy
Cracked
#Hollywoodassistants
Presidential Pickup Lines
Bonkers World
Texts From Bennett

Other
Zelda Universe – Legend of Zelda news
The Shirnal – Shirl’s travel log
The Domino Project – The future of publishing
Dr. Greer’s Blog – Extraterrestrial disclosure
Optimal Fitness Hub – Health hacks
Insights from the Corner Cubicle – Garrett Dallas’s Blog
Quantified Self – Life tracking
Information Is Beautiful – Infographics
Brain Rules – Neuroscience and life application

Create

Balance between input and output is key. Lately, consumption is easier than ever. Distractions run amuck. But the tools are easier than ever, too. Save for more distractions, you have no excuse to procrastinate your work and talent. If you’re not creating, you’re consuming. You’re not giving back to the world and people in it who give you so much. You’re living a selfish relationship with life. Good luck leaving a legacy. No thank you.

Write. Paint. Speak. Raise children. Build things. Get your hands dirty. Give back to the world and the people you care about. Make a difference. Don’t sit still. Don’t wait and watch. Don’t only take in – put out (no innuendo intended). Try not to concern yourself with turning your creation into your business – if you create well enough, the business will come. Focus on building great things and gifting them to all. It’s good for the soul (and can’t hurt your legacy).

Afraid of Putting Yourself Out There?

I know amazing writers, musicians, filmmakers and artists who have no public voice because they are afraid of what the world might think of their work. You procrastinate posting videos to Vimeo, starting a blog or putting your neck out into the unknown abyss of consumers who might judge you for it. The notion of criticism is debilitating and you wait for “the right time” to develop your public voice.

This fear is absolute nonsense. Unless you already have an established smash-hit brand (at which point, you should have overcome your fear of public speaking), the likelihood that anyone will notice you exist from the beginning is negligible at best. If you’re lucky, your closest friends and family will read you – and they tend to be your most generous and forgiving critics. It takes a lot of effort to scale an audience who might give you crap for your work. By then, you’ll know what you’re doing and have the experience to respond to criticism.

On the flip side, you might fear putting yourself out there because it’s possible no one will connect with your work. The fear of failure. I’ve got news for you: no one can connect with your work if you don’t put it out there in the first place. You’re already failing by holding back. If you put yourself out there and no one connects after a reasonable amount of effort to share with the world, move on. Try something else. Whatever you do, don’t sit still.

You Have A Voice. Use It.

Two or three decades ago, it was not easy to speak your mind – and nearly impossible to be heard. That’s not the case anymore. With the internet, we have an opportunity to share our thoughts, opinions and work on a global scale. We can express ourselves publicly, anonymously or under a pseudonym. While it’s not always easy to be heard online, it’s easier than ever to express yourself. I will never encourage you to add to the noise just for the sake of adding to the noise. But I do encourage you to use the web as a platform to let your mind and heart run free.

I know far too many closet writers, actors, film directors and artists who have great voices that need to be heard. Many of them are too lazy, shy or proud to share directly with the world. I know ten times more people who want to hone their voices and fear an audience. Keeping your mouth shut will not help you advertise. If you don’t put yourself out there, no one will know that you exist. Ever.

If you are concerned about operating online under your real name, simply make up another. Nine times out of ten, quality content online takes precedence over name or brand power anyway. If you can engage audiences with your voice through genuine content, you will win.

Say what you need to say. Don’t be afraid. What’s the worst that could happen?

Invent More, Edit Less

We are so afraid to put ourselves out into the world that we erect barriers of revision, drafts, filters, editing, testing and censorship to prevent us from making mistakes in the public eye. If we spent less time chopping our own balls off and more time giving back to the world without reservation, we could all live rich and accomplished lives.

We are afraid. Afraid to reveal our flaws. Afraid to show our true colors. Afraid to give ourselves to the public for fear that the world might reject us. Fear mutates to the point that we are afraid to invent at all. We do nothing. Live dispassionate, passive and apathetic lives. All because we do not want to be caught with a misspelled word or bad picture edit.

I do not mean to discredit editing or the role of editors. Of all the creative and technical mediums, I cannot think of a single one that accurately channels the human soul. Mistakes happen and products come to life in ways we do not intend. We need to edit and revise to connect the dots so that things make sense. If we ignore editing completely, our message will misinform or fall on deaf ears.

But we alone cannot judge whether our creations connect with others. We cannot separate ourselves from the material. The faster we create things, the more necessary it is to get a second opinion. Put yourself out there to user groups, testers and editors to give you feedback. Some of my most beloved and respected friends are editors. Editors keep people like me from making perilous or silly mistakes. They make sure my thoughts track across the medium and translate clearly. Editors volunteer to help others focus on inventing and offer the confidence to do so. Editors are noble people with a selfless and patient purpose.

Whether you share with an editor, friends, random testers or publish immediately, you need to put your creation out there as quickly as possible. The longer it stays on your table, the harder it will be for you to let go. You will despair in all the flaws, possible misrepresentations and disconnects you come to know. You will revise and remodel your work into oblivion.

Stop it. Stop editing. Get it off the table and into someone else’s hands. Let go. Let your child have a life of its own. Only time will tell how the world reacts to your work. You are not an authority on that subject and should give up trying. Focus more on inventing and less on how people see you. Be yourself. Create from within. Fear nothing.

One Year Anniversary

I started blogging one year ago today. I’ve successfully posted every single day since then. 373 entries, nearly 70,000 words and 17,000 unique visitors so far. I have no intention of stopping.

This year, I hope to focus my material and brand this blog. If you have anything you like or don’t like about the direction I’ve taken, please let me know!

Thank you, dear reader, for keeping up with and sharing my posts. This continues to be a wild and fulfilling ride. An extra special thank you to Shirl for proofing my posts and never missing a word! Love you all.

Woah There, Hot Shot! Take It Easy On Self-Promotion

You walk a fine line to promote yourself. How do you share your value with the world without boasting about it? How can you exude confidence without coming off as haughty? Blowing your own horn turns people off. I know I prefer to follow brands and artists that spend little time praising themselves and provide value to my life. Who wouldn’t? If Ramit Sethi spent less time praising his own accomplishments, I would spend more money on his content.

The key to building a great brand? Consistently providing great value. Without question, a brand like the one Ramit built will grow if you continue to deliver on your promise. People are thirsty for good content and will follow. However, the distance between a strong brand and a sustainable one can be measured by humility. Without too much self-deprecation, a brand must genuinely acknowledge weaknesses, listen to all parties invested and restrain bragging rights as much as possible. Celebrate success with your fans, defend your gifts to the world – and hold back the rest.

I have learned through nearly a year of writing this blog that headlines, tweets and content centered around myself or plugging my writing perform far worse than direct content. I beg you, dear readers – call me out any time my writing is sullied with boasting. No one likes content adulterated by too much Craig Ormiston.