The beauty of imperfect

Deer in the forest

What do Christmas, responsive css design, National Geographic and a walk in the forest have in common?

The internet turns 25 and people are connecting via their PCs, tablets, phones, game stations, e-readers, … (you name it). The world of devices has changed. Yet, it feels like only yesterday that I met my first client curious about designing for mobile.

In those days research revolved around Nokia phones (as they were the most advanced at the time) and good ol’ flip phones.

So it felt odd when I realized that the internet was turning 25 years old and this blog wasn’t mobile friendly. Not to worry, Christmas was coming, and if there is one thing I love – it’s a good project. Converting a website to a responsive design is easy… child’s play really.

Maybe that’s how all great miss-adventures start. Pack light, plan for a day trip and then get lost.

Starting with the Mobile First Approach, I created a responsive WordPress theme. This is a really simple approach, simply put, you design the website for the smallest screen sizes first. When you are happy, expand the screen, and use media queries for the larger sizes.

Why’s this a good approach? Well, it reserves media queries for devices that are built to handle them (tablets and PCs). Secondly, the bloated design code that often comes when designing for larger screen sizes extends the clean css in the media queries. This is much better than the Web First Approach. Where the same css code is often written multiple times in order to remove style attributes for smaller screen sizes. As it so often happens.

And so the redesign began.

Off to a great start, the newly minted theme completed, a mistake followed. I asked my wife what she thought of it. Her reply came as a shock, “A bit boring” she said frankly.

I’ve always believed that honest feedback makes for a much better design.

So I took a step back and tried to rethink my approach. Maybe it could be better.

1 week later, 5 major redesigns, and nothing to show for it. I couldn’t believe how tough the redesign had become. Nothing seemed right about it.

Yesterday it started snowing. The mountains looked beautiful. Crisp and clean. And I decided to go for a walk.

Deer jumping in the forest

There’s something magical about nature. Nothings perfect and it couldn’t be made more perfectly.

Spend enough time there and it will reduce even the toughest problems to simple solutions.

I came across this deer while walking through the woods. It was painfully aware of my presence. Beautiful and graceful the quiet forest became alive as it leapt into the distance.

As it disappeared so too did my thoughts.

It seems that we love asking kids the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s possible you were asked this question too. So I’m going to ask you it again.

What do you want to be?

Take a second to think about it. Are you on your way to achieving it? Are you already doing what you love? Maybe you haven’t asked yourself this before.

For me, I love capturing moments. Growing up I wanted to work for National Geographic. I didn’t tell people this because it seemed too much of a dream. Instead I would say a doctor or a scientist. This seemed to please people and I came to believe that this was the answer they wanted to hear anyways.

 There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion Edgar Allan Poe

Photographers from National Geographic seemed to have mastered documenting imperfect moments.

National Geographic I didn’t notice it at the time, but when I look at one of their articles today it seems that they have given up on the idea of perfect and have captured something far richer instead. A story.

This brings me back to web design. By the time I returned home I was full of energy and a new direction. I embraced imperfect, threw out my code, and found a theme called Independent Publisher that was good enough.

In no time at all I had updated my blog and started writing instead. Sometimes running after the holy grail of web design – perfect code and a perfect design – leaves a person with a missed opportunity.

While walking in the woods I saw the analogy to life. At least to my own.

We need to talk about the impact of Likes

Have you ever experienced information overload? Maybe I’m alone in this, but I love discovering new things. And for me learning from blogs, forums, or videos is an easy way to do it. With all that input I am influenced by the thoughts and ideas of the content. Which is part of the joy of learning, reshaping one’s frame of mind and gaining fresh insights.

Then I read Martin Cooper’s interview of Jeremy Keith in Net magazine. It was at night, I was sitting outside on my patio under the warmth of the propane heater as rain thundered down beyond the roof. In that moment I was reminded of what made the internet so compelling.Jeremy Keith interviewed by Martin Cooper

Here are the words I was reading. “What fascinates me,” Jeffrey says, “is the very basic idea of the web. This idea that anybody can publish on the web and other people can see it. People anywhere in the world. It’s a very simple idea but all the permutations of that have influenced a lot of what I do.”

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Facebook is broken

Facebook likes brokenFacebook is broken. The site isn’t down, you can still login to your account. The problem is with its business model. Have you noticed how your newsfeed is getting more filtered? When you post something to your Facebook wall, it is only seen by a few of your friends. To prevent people’s walls from being inundated with thousands of posts, Facebook shares your posts with just a few of your friends, then if those friends like your post it is shared with more of your friends.

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You have everything you need to be successful

Muhammad AliIn part 1 of this series I posed the question, are you building something bigger than yourself? “A company needs a core vision, a rally cry, that everyone on staff can come behind.” Today, I want to focus on the second half of the question, “What does it mean to actually believe that you have everything you need to build something way bigger than yourself?”

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you, too, can become great.
Mark Twain

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Achieve great things

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time. – Leonard Bernstein

Motivational Quote - challenge your limits

Struck by the response I received from last weeks post, Why Motivated People are Waaay More Productive, I asked myself this question, “What does it mean to actually believe that you have everything you need to build something way bigger than yourself?” If you are an entrepreneur who wants to build something great then you need to ask yourself this question as well. This is part one of this series.

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Why motivated people are waaaaay more productive

You have everything you need to build something far bigger than yourselfGood entrepreneurs intentionally surround themselves with people and activities that motivate them. We know that to win we need to stick with it when the going get’s tough. For some entrepreneurs that means getting good coaches and for others it’s engaging in the stuff that inspired them to get into their line of business in the first place. When you are motivated you work harder, for longer hours and your productivity goes up. This article will discuss your role (as the entrepreneur/CEO) in motivating your employees and why that matters.

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Step by step strategy on how to grow your blog’s traffic

Monthly web traffic growth of Machiine.com

This is a graph of Machiine.com’s web traffic over the last 12 months (April 2012 – April 2013). You will notice that while the number’s aren’t huge, they show steady growth. I’ve posted on 3 blogs over the last 4 years and noticed some similarities between all of them. Here is a summary of what I’ve learned about blog traffic.

If you have a blog you write content on, it’s probably because you’ve learned something and want to share your experience or knowledge with others. It’s encouraging to see that the time you spend on writing the articles is paying off. Conversely seeing little to no growth in traffic is über discouraging. If you are at this point, before you give up, read this article. I hope it will encourage you to continue. Maybe it’s not the way you write, but the types of articles you are writing. This tutorial will walk you through the steps to grow your traffic.

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Islands are the fastest way to kill your startup – how to align your team

Working on islands kill startups

There’s a reason rockets are stored in silos. Working on stuff in silos kill startups. I laugh at how we ran things when we first started our company. Fired up about every new idea we had we tried to do them all… independently. I was especially bad for this. Focusing on the next great idea, I would mentally block out what the rest of the team was doing and put all my energy into the task at hand. While it might not be the worst way to build a company, it’s still a terrible way. If we were to survive we knew we needed to change, so how did we change our core culture and align our focus?

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Comfortable lives do not lend themselves to extraordinary things

Amanda LindhoutEvery day ordinary people live extraordinary true stories. A few weeks ago I met Amanda Lindhout. She’s a smart caring person working hard to raise the level of woman’s education in the failed state of Somalia. The story doesn’t start there. We’ve all heard of the pirates of Somalia, kidnapping ships off the nearby coast. Amanda understands the dangers of Somalia all too well.

In 2008 Amanda, a then journalist, was sent on a free-lance assignment to the displaced interment camp of Mogadishu. About 4 days in her journey, she and an Australian photographer were kidnapped. And their horror began. After sometime, they planned an escape. Using a nail clipper they chipped away at two bricks until after a couple weeks were able to dislodge them and escape. They planned to arrive at a nearby mosque around the mid day prayer, when it would be packed with people.

When they arrived no one could understand them. They tried to explain through hand gestures and actions, but it was too late. The kidnappers had heard them escape and arrived shortly after them firing their guns in the air. A lady in the mosque wearing a burqa, the only lady Amanda could see, came over and tried pleading with the kidnappers. The kidnappers listened for a couple minutes and then got annoyed. While the kidnappers were dragging Amanda out of the mosque the lady tried holding onto Amanda until breaking free.

After that it was a truly dark time. Amanda was kept in a dark room, raped and beaten daily. By the time she was released 460 days after intially being taken as a hostage, hair had fallen out and her teeth knocked out. Yet three years later you would never guess the experience she endured. While I was still processing her story she was talking gracefully, clearly at peace. Today she is passionate about helping educate woman in Somalia. She is passionate about making a difference in a place where she was so brutally taken hostage. It’s a remarkable story. And it’s true. Today she has been interviewed by Anderson Cooper, raised millions of dollars for woman half way around the world and is at peace. When I meet people like this I am in awe and I am inspired. I hope it inspires you as well. You can discover more about her story and the cause here http://www.globalenrichmentfoundation.org/.

Comfortable lives do not lend themselves to extraordinary things Stephen Whiting