Pick Your Problems

by Chuck Westbrook on April 8, 2009

Tweet version: “Challenges don’t always need a head-on response. A work-around is often smarter. Should you fix the printer now or just go to the library?

Stuff is going to get in the way. No matter what you’re doing, you will run into obstacles. Our first reaction is to attack the problem and move on, but it’s often better just to go around.

If the printer breaks while you’re in the zone, don’t let that derail you. Just go to the library or Kinko’s and fix it when things are slower.

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Getting Attention Is a Stupid Business Plan

by Chuck Westbrook on April 7, 2009

Tweet version: “Starting a business is about providing value and making money. It’s not about blog readers, Twitter followers, or impressing friends.”

These words from Shakespeare describe many who claim the title of ‘entrepreneur.’

“…A walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

They can be spotted at networking events, at parties, and online making lot of commotion and doing some serious talking about themselves and their experiences and ideas. But there’s little to no real business happening. The actions and results are lacking. It’s like playing pretend at entrepreneurship.

Business is about earning a living and adding value to the world and the people in it. It’s not about cocktail chatter or friends and followers, as fun as that can be.

Here’s the real problem. Some have latched on to this stuff as a plan, as a full-time occupation. They blog, tweet, email, network, scheme, and dream so that the attention comes pouring in.

There’s a market for sound and fury. Plenty of people will gladly trade some of yours for some of theirs. If that’s the currency you’re after, be advised: It has a lousy exchange rate.

Image by theparadigmshifter.


Blog Applause

by Chuck Westbrook on April 3, 2009

Tweet version: “We need a ‘blog applause’ widget. It’d let people express their appreciation in a simple and authentic way and reduce comment noise.”

Do you ever read a post, enjoy it, and then move on without leaving a comment? I do it all the time.

I don’t like commenting unless I have something to say that adds some value. Sometimes I’ll find a way to make, “Great post!” sound interesting, and other times I’ll send an email. Really though, I just want to have a quick and simple way to let the person know that requires little time and no thought.

So we need a blog applause widget. It’d be a simple button, an icon of clapping hands or something. You click it and the author would get a little notice that said, “Nice work. You’ve got 20 people clapping for this one.”

I know there’s stuff out there that’s kind of like this. But what I want is this. Exactly this. No rating system. No sharing. No bookmarking. No submitting. No logging in.

I mash a button. The author knows someone appreciated the post. End of transaction.

**Humorous (to me) Addendum**

My friend Ashley just IMed me seconds after I posted this:

Question - how do I tell you I agree with your blog applause button without said blog applause button?

I responded:

great point
i kind of just doomed my blog to never get encouraging comments, didn’t i?

So just so there’s no misunderstanding, I like getting those comments especially compared to the alternative of crickets chirping. It helps me know people like what I’m doing. When I get my applause widget, then you can stop leaving them. Deal?

Image by Multiple Fragments of Tissue.


Stuck? Confused? A Lesson From Descartes

by Chuck Westbrook on April 2, 2009

Tweet version: “If you’re stuck or confused, back up to what you’re absolutely certain about. Use that as a foundation. Descartes was an extreme example.”

“I think therefore I am.” You know the quote. Do you know the context? It might help you the next time you get stuck.

The author, Descartes, was a philosopher and mathematician. He’s considered to be the first modern philosopher, the father of the discipline and an overall important guy.

Descartes Gets Himself Stuck

His most important philosophical work was to lock himself in a cabin and doubt everything. He reasoned that if he could find something that was absolutely trustworthy, he could build off of that. So he started meditating to see what was beyond all doubt.

The big problem was the possibility that all of his experiences might be a dream or illusion. If Descartes was crazy or somehow having his thoughts manipulated, then what could he really be sure of?  I imagine this was a stressful exercise for Descartes, bordering on mentally unsafe and unhealthy. He had found a way to be maximally unsure, perfectly stuck.

How He Got Out

I’m not sure how long he was stuck there, but he finally found a way out. Paraphrasing: “Even if all of my thoughts are completely crazy, I’m at least having thoughts. So I must exist. I know for certain and beyond any conceivable possibility for being wrong that I exist as a thinking thing.” To quote it: “Cogito Ergo Sum” or “I think, therefore I am.” He uses that to get through the rest of his confusion, one step at a time.

The Takeaway

No matter how stuck or confused you are, as long as you’re not worried that your entire life is an illusion, you’re better off than Descartes. You can use his same basic trick.

What’s giving you trouble? Back up and list everything about the situation that you are 100% about. Go from there.

Image by StarbuckGuy.


Failure Comes in Two Flavors

by Chuck Westbrook on April 1, 2009

When you take a risk, by definition, there’s a chance you will fail. From trying to train for a marathon to asking someone on a date to making a phone call. There are going to be times when it doesn’t go your way.

People understand that. There’s plenty of warning from friends, family, and gurus that you should brace yourself for it.

But what is less often discussed is that failure comes in two flavors:

  1. Failure that is excusable. (Could happen to anyone.)
  2. Failure that is inexcusable. (You really goofed.)

The first kind of failure is those that people will sympathize with and forgive you for. It’s something that’s totally out of your control or the kind of mistake that could have happened to anyone.

But the second kind of failure never has a good excuse. You simply didn’t do what you should have done, and there are consequences. There’s little sympathy to be found when you screw up absolutely.

Expect to encounter both on your way to ultimate success.

You won’t win them all. That’s part of life. But beyond that, if you’re trying to do something big, your habits, your personality, your work ethic, your temper–some part of who you are will cause trouble for you or for others.

When you’re fundamentally at fault, it can be painful to face up to it and change that part of who you are. But if you can tell the difference between the two flavors, you stand a better chance of avoiding burnout and solving problems, and you will grow as a person as well.

Image by B. K. Dewey.


New Name, New Home

by Chuck Westbrook on March 30, 2009

Thanks to all of you who offered helpful and thoughtful comments here. I plan on engaging with each of you in the coming two weeks and discussing the ideas and suggestions you’ve offered.

Today, however, is moving day. From here on out, this blog will become a platform for my writing. You are, of course, welcome to stay subscribed to my feed.

The project has a new home. Head on over to Bloghiker.com to check it out!

I’ve wanted to move this project all along, so I’m glad to finally be able to do that. Thanks to all of you for the support and interest. I’ll see you on the other side of the move!

Image by macaroniandglue.


Mission Failure and Changes Coming Monday

by Chuck Westbrook on March 27, 2009

For many reasons, the momentum around this project is gone.

The time has come to either pull the plug or re-evaluate and try again, doing some things differently. Next week, we’ll begin trying to figure out which it is going to be.

On Monday, I will be revealing a new domain, a new design, a logo, a name, and a tagline. For the next two weeks, I won’t be featuring a blogger. Instead, I am going to talk about the project itself–what worked, what didn’t, and some options for moving forward.

We’ll see where that conversation takes us. I look forward to figuring it out together.


PS Failures aren’t so bad. Especially when you set them to ragtime music.


Introducing June Lin and her blog

by Chuck Westbrook on March 16, 2009

Hello world. I love Chuck’s mission to help under-appreciated blogs and am thrilled to be part of it!

1. Who are you?

I’m June. Currently a student at the University of Texas at Austin studying finance and operations engineering. I’m an Internet person. If I had to live anywhere, I would live in the Internet so that I can be connected to the thoughts and experiences of brilliant people. Instead of frat parties, I go to geek parties (LAN festivals, blogger parties, TweetUps, etc.). Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a frat party in my life (and I go to the number 1 party school in the nation or something like that). We’re also supposed to be into something called football, but I’ve never been to a game either.

I am constantly doing things, have an incessant need to be busy, and can’t stay in one place. Right now, I’m “focused” on finishing my last year of school, working on a start-up, working at a wind energy company, and trolling for more shoes on the Internet. In my life, there’s not really a concept of work/life balance. I also love modern art and fashion; my favorite artist is Kandinsky and my favorite designer… that’s a hard one but, if I had to pick one, it would be Oscar De La Renta. You can read more about me here .

2. How would you describe your blog?

I write about a lot of random things like entrepreneurship, financial markets, strategy, school, food, shoes, and dresses. I guess you could integrate all of these things to describe it as a techie nerd’s musings on fashion and business. I don’t claim to know everything (or anything), but I make a genuine effort to share the knowledge I accumulate through my studies, workshops, and experiences.

Even though my blog is highly personalized (hello, it’s my name [dot] com), I sometimes pretend that future employers don’t read it and try to sort out random thoughts about my life. Right now I’m primarily focused on my startup, so I’m going to be blogging a lot about my thought process, what we learned, how it’s affected my life… so that I can later look back and laugh at myself. After all, I’m just a n00b.

3. Why do you blog?

In the beginning (like 6 years ago), I blogged to release my teenage angst upon the world and because all my friends were doing it.

I think I’ve matured since then, and now I blog to share information, expand my horizons (it forces me to do research about things I want to find out about), and encourage discussions. I’m very analytical, so my self improvement process involves reflecting on past ideas / situations / experiences, thinking about all the antecedents that attributed to the outcome, and trying to figure out how to improve next time. Blogging helps with that.

4. What blogs do you love?

I subscribe to a ton of blogs on my Google Reader, but my favorite ones are

  • Mixergy – I love hearing about other people’s ventures and adventures, and this is one of the best sources
  • Seth Godin’s blog – this man is genius.
  • Penelope Trunk’s blog – I love her candor and unconventional approach to things. Her story is also amazing.
  • Politicoholic - I love her attitude
  • Valleywag - A reminder that even smart people do dumb things (all the time).
  • DABA – Guilty pleasure; it’s like really bad reality TV: blog style.

5. What’s something interesting about you that has nothing to do with blogging?

I used to play World of Warcraft and do ballet. Weird combination, I know, but I’m eclectic like that.

6. Which 5 of your posts would you recommend for new readers to start with?

I’ll give you a taste of everything:

  1. Be the Change you Want Through the Power of Technology
  2. Recession: The Sound of Settling
  3. 10 Reasons Why You Should Blog
  4. New York Fashion week (part 1 , part 2)
  5. My IPOs [Used to] Bring all the Girls to the Yard

Please feel free to leave a comment because I am always learning and would love to get your feedback =)


Introducing Miss Banshee and ‘Inverse Candlelight’

by Chuck Westbrook on March 2, 2009

For the next two weeks we’ll be reading ‘Inverse Candlelight‘ by Miss Banshee. Be sure to subscribe to her RSS, but don’t forget to visit first.

Ahoy Hoy, people! I was SO thrilled that Chuck asked me to be part of this here blog, so let’s find out about the enigma, I mean, the mystery, I mean the goofball freakshow that is Miss Banshee, shall we? Oh, and did I mention that your ass looks great today? Are those new pants? Cause seriously, your ass? Spectacular.

1. Who are you?

I’m Miss Banshee. I am a writer and rabid squirrel from the great state of New Jersey, and I am here to entertain you. I don’t like long walks on the beach, but I DO like bad television, making fun of my family, and big black boots. I am always open to gifts of big boxes of money, suitcases full of diamonds, and most importantly, new readers of my blog.

2. How would you describe your blog?

I’d describe my blog as the workings of my brain, for better or for worse. It’s funny, except when it’s not. Sometimes I write actual conversations I’ve had with various people and inanimate objects, and they’re all true, except for the parts I make up. Sometimes I talk about my cats, but not in a schmoopy way, don’t worry. More in a “why do you torture me every second of your life?” kind of way. Sometimes my grammar is atrocious, which is why my dad doesn’t read it. Thanks, dad!

3. Why do you blog?

I blog because I have too much in my brain. I need to let it be FREE, man! I started way back in the Diary X days, right after the dinosaurs, because I was wicked bored at work. Then Diary X went away, POOF! and all my writing went with it. I was so pissed! So I hopped on LiveJournal, then Blogger, then Wordpress, and then Typepad, and suddenly, through all my manic jumping around, I had a blog! And that was neat.

4. What blogs do you love?

My favorite blogs? WELL. obviously, MamaPop would be #1, because all the people who write for it are incredibly talented and v.v. good looking, and of course, I am one of those writers. You’d be a very smart and also good looking person if you followed all the writers there, because I will get fired if you don’t.

5. What’s something interesting about you that has nothing to do with blogging?

I blog about EVERYTHING, so that’s a little tough. I’m bipolar, and also in recovery from alcoholism. That’s where the not-so-funny posts come from, unless I’m talking about rehab, which was HILARIOUS. Oh! I’m single, and I don’t really blog about that, because it makes me sound desperate, doesn’t it? Maybe if I go on some really bad dates I’ll blog about it. Oh, who am I kidding, of COURSE I’ll blog about it. What else…Well, I was once felt up by Keith Richards, that’s pretty cool, right? Right.

6. Which 5 of your posts would you recommend for new readers to start with?

  1. A Love Letter To My Wireless Tech Support Dude
  2. Where The Hell Is My Boom Box When I Need It?
  3. An Actual Conversation About My Neck
  4. Mourning The Monster
  5. Lulu Returns To School You In The Ways of The Lulu

And that’s it! Hope to see you over at Inverse Candlelight. We have cookies!


Introducing Faryl and ‘The Fearless Blogger’

by Chuck Westbrook on February 16, 2009

For the next two weeks we’ll be reading ‘The Fearless Blogger‘ by Faryl. Be sure to subscribe to her RSS, but don’t forget to look at her great design first.

Hello there, fellow chuckwestbrook.com readers! I’ve been a fan of Chuck’s project since it started, and am thrilled the The Fearless Blogger is being featured!

My blog is still young (about three months old), and still a bit in the development stages. I’m learning from experience, tweaking the site and finding my voice as I go. New as I may be, I’ve quickly fell in love with the opportunity for new connections that come with having a blog. So, I’m especially stoked to get a chance to connect with the community of readers here.

The blog is still evolving, and I always love feedback. I adore hearing from readers and getting a sense of who dropped by, so would love it if you said hello!

Looking forward to meeting you all!

Now onto “the questions”:

1. Who are you?

The over-simplified answer is: I’m a geek girl, living in Southern California writing a blog.

If I had to describe myself in one word it would be “eclectic”.

Being a chatty gal who rarely keeps it simple, I’ll elaborate. The product of a New York Jewish family, I moved to Seattle (my adopted hometown) in my 20’s to (forgive the cliche) “find myself” and slowly have migrated south - with a five year layover in San Francisco before ending up in San Diego (where I’ve surprised myself by being able to envision a long-term future living here). I’ve had jobs ranging from assistant director of a daycare to health club receptionist to manager at a top public accounting firm to unemployed (with accompanying diverse salaries/lifestyles). My music tastes range from the Grateful Dead to Justin Timberlake and I’m not ashamed to admit to have been a card-carrying member of the Ricky Martin fan club.

Aside from cheesy music and warm climates, my passion is technology - especially anything that gives me a creative outlet, connect with people or learn something new. It’s probably not a shocker that I’m equally addicted to anything Apple and the internet. I get jazzed about seeing how the web is evolving and the social technology that’s been popping up to open new ways to form new connections with people. I get even more jazzed sharing (some might say evangelizing) the information with non-techie folks to help demystify the web and identify relevant ways to incorporate it in their lives.

Other randomness that flavors who I am: I have severe ADHD (first diagnosed in my 30s), have a huge soft-spot in my heart for animals, bleach my hair within an inch of its life, am chronically late and diabolically messy. I’m a huge procrastinator (but will tell you more about that later). My preference to focus on the good in the world is somewhat offset by my sarcastic sense of humor. I’m vegetarian and adore carbs. I’m a fan of wordplay and puns. I love to make people laugh.

I also love to talk. And write. Both are evidenced by my oversized collection of run-on sentences, despite a deep yearning to be brief and concise. (Admittedly, I’ve clearly missed the “concise” mark with this answer!)

(For the curious, nosey, masochists, bored-and-needing-something-to-do, or psychologists-looking-for-a-case-study, you can ready yet more about me here.)

2. How would you describe your blog?

If I had to describe it in one word it would be “eclectic”. (Whoa! Deja vu!)

My “official” description is: A girl geek’s musings on technology, web/graphic design, social media trends and life in general.

Although it’s not a cat blog, I consider The Fearless Blogger to be a personal blog in that I blog about things that interest me that I think other people might be interested in. Rather than working to keep myself or my voice out of my posts, I’m trying to get better at injecting more “Faryl” into them.

My posts range from personal reflections and reactions to software/site reviews and social media trends. I write about blogging, but it’s not a blogging blog. I love social media, so find myself frequently writing about that. I’ve been finding myself fascinated by Twitter and the surrounding culture evolving around it - but am making an effort to continue to write about a wider range of topics, since the world really doesn’t need another Twitter blog!

One particular series I’ve been having fun with is Inside the Bloggers Studio, where I ask bloggers and other non-actors the questions from Inside the Actors Studio. (The next one features a familiar face - Johnny Truant!)

3. Why do you blog?

I started blogging because I wanted a place to have a voice. For one thing, I felt after being a bit of a lurker in the blog-o-sphere and gaining so much from the blogs I’ve read, it was my turn to give back and contribute to the online community. I also provide social media consulting services and I wanted a professional homebase.

I’ve continued blogging because I’ve since discovered that blogging is my passion. I love to write and share and I love connecting with my blog’s readers. When I can’t blog, I miss it.

Connecting with readers is the other reason I blog. I don’t mean subscribers or page hits - those are just numbers. I love the emails, comments and tweets. As I’ve said, it’s important to me to write about what interests me and let my voice shine through. But if I didn’t feel I was connecting with or reaching anyone, blogging would lose it’s allure for me. I’m still learning to find that balance between writing for both me and my readers, hopefully it’s something I’ll get better at!

4. What blogs do you love?

Besides chuckwestbrook.com and the featured blogs? (Which I do love!)

For information, resources and trends, I love Mashable, Chris Brogan’s Blog, all the sites in the Envato network, Lifehacker, Seth Godin’s blog and Just Creative Design.

My favorite personal blogs at the moment are Who is Jon Ray and the up-and-coming-brand-new Jocephus.com (OK, I’m biased towards that one, because my sweetie’s the writer!).

I have a tendency to find a blog and spend a day exploring it - so I sure I’m missing some top notch faves, but those are the first that came to mind.

5. What’s something interesting about you that has nothing to do with blogging?

I used to do improv.

I started taking improv lessons as a way to meet new folks when I moved to San Diego, and surprised myself by accepting an invitation to become a member of a group. Even bigger surprise - performing in front of an audience rocks!

Although I’m no longer with the group and it’s been a while since I’ve performed, improv is something I think I’ll remain connected to throughout my life. Chronically running late and procrastinating gives a girl a wealth of experience of thinking on her feet. Turn that into an asset and pair it with making people laugh and I’m hooked!

(On the off-chance you want to learn more random facts about my life: Seven things (I’ve been tagged!)

6. Which 5 of your posts would you recommend for new readers to start with?

  1. To get a sense of how I started and the background of The Fearless Blogger: The Fearless Blogger’s Maiden Voyage.
  2. A post that’s just about me putting my thoughts and feelings out there: Free Fall | Dedicated to my Brother.
  3. In the “least -creative-but-most-popular” category would be: Four Blog Ideas Worth Stealing.
  4. Any of the posts in my Inside the Bloggers Studio series.
  5. Because it’s a message I don’t think can be said enough: Never too Late to Say “Thank You”
  6. Bonus posts: