learning to do less

i just got done reading Seth Godin’s manifesto, Do Less.  i’ve actually been reading quite a bit of Seth Godin recently, having decided that his blog is pretty cool.  Seth Godin is a smart guy.  he’s not saying anything revolutionary — in fact, a lot of what he blogs about should be common sense.  but it’s not.  Seth is really good at calling attention to the things that we need to hear and present them in a way that makes it easy to hear them.  in my opinion, that’s what makes him a big deal.

the basic premise of Do Less goes right inline with something erin and i have discovered on our own: when the product we want to make is supposed to be a creative and limited, one-of-a-kind thing — something we like to think of as a work of art — you can’t take on every project you get.  this is tough.  a lot of web designers out there, including the design firm that we did freelance stuff for over a year ago, just has a “take all comers” approach.  they will scale a plan to fit any need and do it quickly and — presumably — well.  but if you take everything you’re offered, you can’t produce anything that’s exceptional.  because a lot of people don’t want exceptional.  there are some people who want budget.  there are some people who want functional.  there are some people who want fast.  and you can do these things, but they do not produce an environment conducive to doing something extraordinary, and, for the most part, these people aren’t looking for extraordinary anyway — they want something that looks like the stuff they look at every day: clean, professional, businesslike.

and we started out this way — taking what we could get, and working for cheap, because we needed to start building up our business and portfolio.  but we knew that wasn’t the type of business we wanted to run.  as we grew, we were torn with the desire to stay true and fair to our past clients, and the need to raise our rates, focus on our niche and unique talents, and brush off projects that would not benefit us in the long run.

it feels counter-intuitive to decline projects, even when they are under your budget.  as a consumer, we’re always looking to make the most out of our buck, and as providers, we feel inclined to respect that wish for value.  but quality is worth something.  Seth opens Do Less with an anecdote about a real estate investor.  This investor does just one new investment a year.  The reason?

In any given year, we look at a thousand deals. One hundred of them are pretty good. One is great.

I don’t think we’ll be at the point where we can do just one gig a year and spend the rest of the year making art, and writing, and working on projects that are self-gratifying, and working on being great parents to our kids.  it sounds great, i just don’t think it will happen. but we probably did more than 100 projects our first year — for ourselves, and freelancing for another company — and we still brought in less money (with a part-time second job I carried at Whole Foods) than the $40k/year job I left to do design full-time from home.  a lot less.  and sure, we could have continued working as freelancers, getting paid $20 a page for a slew of subpar projects that really didn’t interest  us all that much for someone else who didn’t care about individual designers’ talents as long as they got the job done quickly — we could have learned to do more, faster, using as many shortcuts as possible and not spending too much time on the process, but that went against the whole reason for doing this.  it wouldn’t be something we loved, it would be just another job.  and i think that doing something you love shows in your product.

hareandtortoiseit’s interesting that i decided to read Do Less at precisely the same time that we started having conversations about the types of projects we take on and how we want to do business now and moving forward versus how we used to do business.  we were already on the do less path, because what Seth says is true — you can’t be everything.  you can’t have quality and speed, you can’t have cheap and have time left over to spend on side projects or with the fam.  we’re learning this, learning to go against what feels natural.  if you’re in the business to sell the most thneeds as quickly as possible, then bigger, faster, better, more is a good mantra.  but that’s never been something that’s meshed very well in my brain.  when you’re learning to Do Less, you need to think more like Turtle: slow and steady wins the race.

teh s3quence 006

2009-10-10 12-57-42.033so i finally got around to checking again on what was wrong with my media center.  i hooked it up to my other monitor and a spare keyboard and mouse i had lying around and first checked BIOS for any signs of processor issues like overheating, but there were none.  i turned on all the integrated monitoring stuff anyway, just in case.  after booting it up on my newly reinstalled windows os, it was doing the same thing, namely flickering picture and graphic “archives”.  i vaccuumed the thing out last weekend thinking maybe dust was causing the issue, or the processor overheating, but seeing it again today made me go back to my original hunch that it was a graffics card issue.  sure enough, i swapped the card with another one i had lying around (have i mentioned that i have a lot of hardware lying around?) and it worked fine.  so there’s that.  i’m glad i figured it out, and that it’s easy (and not a motherboard or cpu issue), and also that i haven’t lost my touch with diagnosing hardware issues.  i looked again at the card and it’s fairly obvious what happened — the resistors, literally, popped, so that would be the loud, ice-cracking noise i heard several weeks ago.  this time around i’m getting the same card (which doesn’t have an onboard fan, hence the overheating and frying) but i’m getting a fan that fits into an expansion slot specifically designed to cool off your video card.  the case doesn’t get really good ventilation and doesn’t have any extra fans, so this should keep this from happening again (i hope).
night-shots-006

it’s been a long time since i did a mix and i was talking about dj’ing yesterday and it made me want to do a set.  i’ve been running sets in my head for months, so it’s not like i haven’t been thinking about it.  i’ve been wanting to do a set based on the garage punk/psychobilly road trip cds we took with us on our last 2 road trips but that will have to wait for another time.  this set is based entirely around wanting to drop “becoming x” in to something, and also listening to bats for lashes and remembering how good they are.

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1, bat for lashes, moon and moon
2, Sparklehorse & Danger Mouse, dark night of the soul (ft. vic chesnutt & david lynch)
3, can, oh yeah!
4, slow noise, deepness
5, sneaker pimps, becoming x
6, recoil, incubus
7, depeche mode, it’s no good
8, tortoise, spiderwebbed
9, thom yorke, and it rained all night (burial remix)
10, omni trio, diffusion loops
11, radiohead, i might be wrong
12, autechre, eggshell
13, coldcut, walk a mile in my shoes
14, public image, ltd., seattle

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1, bat for lashes, moon and moon
2, Sparklehorse & Danger Mouse, dark night of the soul (ft. vic chesnutt & david lynch)
3, can, oh yeah!
4, slow noise, deepness
5, sneaker pimps, becoming x
6, recoil, incubus
7, depeche mode, it’s no good
8, tortoise, spiderwebbed
9, thom yorke, and it rained all night (burial remix)
10, omni trio, diffusion loops
11, radiohead, i might be wrong
12, autechre, eggshell
13, coldcut, walk a mile in my shoes
14, public image, ltd., seattle