Hand with 'Notes to self' written on the back

Notes to self

Short letters to myself. Things worth remembering.

These are not thoughts or advice for anyone else, but who knows, maybe something will resonate with you.

First thing's first: Wear sunscreen.

The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists. Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice now.

—Mary Schmich, via Baz Luhrmann.

Perceived easiness

People often decide whether or not to do something based on not only how hard it actually is, but also on how hard it seems to be.
Matej Sucha

Tell people the task you want them to do is quick and easy. Otherwise people may assume the task is a drag, and not do it.

Good social media post vs bad social media post

From 1% better newsletter:

Ingredients for a bad post:
Fake influencer speak, boring, no soul, no storytelling, no progression, sounds like it was made by chatGPT, 0 conviction, can be found on any account that’s clearly attempting to farm some followers.

Ingredients for a good post:
Soul, passion, storytelling, humour, personality, high conviction, gut punching opinions, argument starter.

Very useful checklist. The only thing I don’t like is “argument starter”. I get it, more engagement from supports and detractors. But the world doesn’t need to be more polarised. It’s kinda Trumpian.

I prefer this framing: Strong opinion loosely held.

Pumping flammable gas into our homes doesn’t seem a very good idea

Gas central heating. Gas cookers.

There’s no need anymore. Society might tell us they are better, but they are not.

I have gas central heating. Society told me it was better.

Its feels very last century, and needlessly risky, to be burning gas at home.

I’m literally burning a fossil fuel and I don’t like it.


“Mainstream” is the echo chamber you’re caught in

Seth Godin says mainstream used to be the masses, now it’s pockets.

It was the masses when there were only a few channels. When everyone was consuming similar stuff.

Now we’re individually fed content based on other content we’ve watched or interacted with.

You can be in a mini-mainstream community that believe one thing, but there will be a mini-mainstream community that believes the opposite.

Both think they’re right.

Acronym for stuff that makes ideas memorable

Include most or all of these to make ideas sticky.



Boil the idea down to it’s essence. The basic principals that make it work.


Spark people’s interest with something unusual. Something counter-intuitive. People will want to discover why.


Make sure people can grasp your idea, draw a vivid picture with real-life things. Metaphor this puppy.


Your idea must be believable, but not with too many facts and figures. It could be put to question.


Appeal to people’s wishes, desires, hopes. Ultimately, people are self interested on some level. Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs.


Human brains work in stories.
Maybe rags to riches via obstacles.
Maybe bridging a gap between opposing groups.
Maybe solving a long-standing problem in an interesting way.

Consuming too much productivity advice is not productive

Do stuff instead.

Creativity before laundry

Pretty sure I got this from Rick Ruben.

Applies both literally and metaphorically.

Literally—do creative work before chores.

Metaphorically—do creative work before checking email, or working on bugs (for example).

The best cross-disciplinary skill

Understanding people.

Maximising a moment

  1. Create anticipation. Book it early.
  2. Appreciate the moment when it arrives.
  3. Afterwards, write down the best bits. Include the best photos. Share it with the people you were with.

Two or three books

If you need to learn something, two or three books on the subject will get you a really long way.

For example marketing. Read Alchemy, Building a StoryBrand, and $100m Offers. Or others, there’s loads to choose from.

You’ll know more on that subject than 95% of people. Maybe more.

Then implement what you’ve learned and you’ll develop even further.

You already know how to use it

—Steve Jobs at an Apple event introducing the iPad.

Apple introduced a successful UI design pattern with the iPhone. They stuck to it with the iPad.

Apple this to web design. If there is an accepted, or expected UI pattern, you should generally adhere to it.

Put the logo in the top left, or centre. Put the navigation in the top right. Use icons that people understand. Name things in a familiar way.

A good design get’s out of people’s way.

The best design is often un-noticed

When you use a website and it’s effortless.

You din’t notice that you that you instantly found what you were looking for.

Or you did what you needed to do, then you moved on.

It’s likely that website was well designed.

Zero point in road-rage

Road rage is absolutely pointless and benefits no-one.

We’ve all accidentally, or mis-judgingly, cut in-front of another driver.

When someone does it to you—and they will, because humans make mistakes—give them a break. Shouting and gesturing will not help.

Anxiety is worrying about the past or future

So try to stay in the moment.

The ultimate spaced repetition cards

Rules for creating the cards:

  1. One thing per card.
  2. Write the thing you want to remember on the front.
  3. On the back write how it relates to you personally. Even if it’s loose.
    For example if you’re learning the word ‘abrir’ in Spanish, (‘to open’), write something about a time you opened something. Anything.
  4. Draw a stupid picture of it. The stupider the better.

Spaced repetition rules:

  1. Test yourself with the card.
  2. If it was hard put it in the next day slot.
  3. If it was easy put it in the slot to review in 7 days.
  4. If it was hard on the 7th day, put it in the next day slot.
  5. If it was easy on the 7th day put it in the slot to review in 14 days.
  6. If it was hard on the 14th day, put it in the next day slot.
  7. If it was easy on the 14th day put it in the slot to review in 28 days.
  8. If it was hard on the 28th day, put it in the next day slot.
  9. If it was easy on the 28th day put it in ‘I know this’ pile.

Proximity is not the same as skill

—Seth Godin

Because you are close to something doesn’t mean you’re the best person to do the adjacent thing.

There’s a balance between increasing your skillset and diluting it.

It might be energy. If an adjacent task saps energy it may be better for someone else to do it.

Dieter Rams’ 10 principals of good design

  1. Good design is innovative
  2. Good design makes a product useful
  3. Good design is aesthetic
  4. Good design makes a product understandable
  5. Good design is unobtrusive
  6. Good design is honest
  7. Good design is long-lasting
  8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail
  9. Good design is environmentally-friendly
  10. Good design is as little design as possible

Pour out the bad ideas to get to the good ones

—David Epstien

Bad ideas are necessary, don’t be afraid to have them.

Because each bad idea is a step closer to a good one.

840 minutes in a day

From 8am to 10pm theres 840 minutes. How are you going to use them?

I’m just guessing…

And so is everyone else.

No-one actually knows what they’re doing, it’s all guess work based on experience, knowledge, and past failures.

An expert is someone who has failed lots.

Do something hard

Lifting heavy weights makes you stronger. Solving hard problems makes you smarter.

Perceived content owners

It’s better to post articles on your own site.

When was the last time you read something on Medium and remember who wrote it?

“I was reading a article on Facebook…” who wrote it? “Dunno”.

Same with video reels. The perceived content owner often becomes the platform rather than the creator.


Build stuff that helps people get where they’re going

It’s very difficult to prove a prospect or customer wrong. Hard to get them to want something they don’t want. The opportunity lies in helping them get what they wanted all along.

—Seth Godin

Opportunity comes dressed in overalls.

And looks like work.


Be aware of opportunities when they arise, and be ready to do the work. Most people aren’t.


A Japanese word that means attractive in it’s restraint.

For me this applies broadly—in life and in design.

Be simple. Be minimal. Be necessarily functional only.

Make things that are inherently beautiful, not superficially beautiful.


The Japanese concept of beauty lies in appreciating the imperfections.

It seems they are mostly talking about nature. Which is great, and I agree, but it can apply to creative work too.

The thing I love most about Polaroid Diaries project is it’s perfect imperfections. Some are under or over exposed, or degraded. And it gives them a quality you would never achieve on purpose.

Perfect is not believable.

It is human to be imperfect. Let that show in your work, and in life.

People resonate with really good, but imperfect.

In the end, the race is against yourself

Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind.

It’s ok to be behind because it’ll change. The race is long.

—Mary Schmichm used in Quindon Tarver’s club classic, Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).

The inconvenient path

May be the best route because other people won’t do it. Seth Godin said this.

The obstacle is the way. Ryan Holiday said this.

When smart people are saying the same thing it’s worth listening to.

Business success trifecta framework

  1. Have a good strategy
  2. Execute well
  3. Be consistent

Mitigate/improve limiting factors:

  1. Skill
  2. Time
  3. Energy

Why NFTs are great

What to say when people ash “you do why you like NFTs?”:

Digital ownership. Artists from anywhere in the world can put work on to a global 24/7 database. No gallery gatekeepers. If the work is good they can find an audience and collector base.

There’s good chance the Etherium database will be the canonical ledger of human activity. It could be around for as long as Humans are. The art we mint on the Etherium blockchain will live loooong.

NFTs are new canvas. People threw their toys out when artists starting painting on canvas as opposed to huge frescos on walls. Or when digital art was in it’s beginnings. NFTs unlock another creative vector in art: code. Generative art is at home with NFTs.

Creatives no longer have to live off social media ‘likes’, fans can support by owning their NFT. This has a load of benefits for both the creator and the collector.

There’s also a tonne of great stuff in the detail. Find out what the person you are talking to is in to—there’s probably an NFT use-case that would benefit their world.

NFTs are here to stay, never bet against the inevitable.


Always be interested

Everyone has something they can teach you. Your job is to be inquisitive and interested when you speak to people.

Plus, it’s nice to ask people about their interests.

Some stuff you have to learn by experience

You love a good self development book. But nothing beats learning lessons through experience.

You earn talent

Talent comes from repetition and persistence.

99.9% of people are not born with talent, but it can be cultivated.

How are you going to cultivate talent today?

Build upon on the ideas of others

It seems to me that humans have become the dominant species on Earth by building upon the ideas of others.

For example computing:

First we had Abacuses, then mechanical computers.

Electricity came along.

We made electronic computers.

Electric computers then got transistors and things.

We then we thought of the Internet and connected up all these electronic computers with transistors.

Now we’ve got a global network of connected electronic computers with transistors and things, that have access to Artificial Intelligence.

Mind blowing.

But my point is, who’s ideas are you going to pay attention to, and building upon?

You don’t have to invent the next revolution in tech. But try to add something creative on top of someone else’s work. Then someone else can build on top of that.

That’s how culture advances, a tiny bit at a time. Be a part of it.

Good enough is good enough

Perfect is the enemy of good and all that.

Getting something good done, and published, is way better than perfect and never done.

And if good enough leads to high quantity. Higher quality will follow.

Let people react

When someone is disappointed, or angry, or upset with you (whether it’s your fault or not), they may lash out.

They may make derogatory comments about something you do or have, or like.

I don’t know whether it’s them trying to make themselves feel better, but just let them. Even if it’s related to something you can’t control, or you feel it is unjust.

Don’t react. It’ll only lead to more bad feeling.

Things will be back to normal shortly.

Thinking in frameworks

Frameworks give you a way to approach and discuss problems, or make decisions.

If you’re ever stuck with what to say, refer to a framework.

A basic framework for increasing profit is fundamentally: how can we either increase prices, decrease costs, or increase sales.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a framework. It helps us understand people’s motivations.

Pareto’s Principal is a framework. the 80/20 rule helps us focus on the 20% that’s most important.

In marketing, thinking of the customer as the hero in your story is a framework you can build a narrative from.

Frameworks are springboards for a step in the right direction.


Japanese word for purpose. “A motivating force”.

Pronounced E-key-guy.

Just an awesome word.

Behavioural science suggests ikigai is a motivator more powerful than money.

Why would people join the police in Columbia during Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror, when their lives are at risk? A shared ikigai: to get Escobar.

Why would you buy a pair of TOMS Shoes, when another pair may be just as good and maybe cheaper? Ikigai. For every pair of TOMS told a pair is donated to a person in need.

Why would you work for a charity when there may be more lucrative jobs out there? Ikigai.