Your computer is a factory for ideas. Go build something.

Category: Lifehacks (page 1 of 2)

Haiku for Thursday, April 14, 2016


Homer, Virgil, and Milton never faced the distractions we moderns confront daily. Which may be one reason why they could write book-length poems while I’m throwing out 17-syllable Twinkies.

What you’re about to read is a true story.

I spent hours—hours—yesterday trying to get a handle on my email. The main issue: I have three separate Gmail accounts and another three addresses that I usually open in three different browsers. In an effort to consolidate time and effort, I thought, “It sure would be nice to manage all these accounts in one place, and preferably not a browser.”

After doing a bit of research and asking friends who know about these things, I looked at Mailplane, Google Inbox, Postbox, and Airmail. For now I’ve decided on Airmail since it has both a desktop and an iOS app—consistency is a good thing and will, hopefully, help me manage this chaos more effectively.

All of these Gmail accounts have thousands of messages in their inboxes, many of which are unread. So I also thought, “Gee, it would be neat to get my inbox to zero while I’m doing this.”

After a couple hours, though, of trying to sort through action vs. archive vs. delete decisions, I gave up.

And wrote a haiku:

Goal: inbox zero.
Too many messages so—
email bankruptcy.

…and that’s how I got to inbox zero on April 14, 2016.

Lessons From Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter MittyWhat can a mousy day dreamer teach you about life?

Quite a bit, actually.

Last night I watched Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with my family. The story is inspired by James Thurber’s 1939 short story of the same title, although the setting is contemporary and many of the central character’s circumstances are different.

In Thurber’s story, hen-pecked Walter Mitty spends an afternoon running mundane errands with and for his wife, all the while imagining himself in more exciting and dangerous situations.

The new movie sets an unmarried but lonely Walter (Ben Stiller) in an otherwise unremarkable supporting role at LIFE magazine in its closing days. The new Walter gets pushed around at work yet elaborately imagines himself pushing back. But, of course, he still gets pushed around.

Until Walter realizes he plays a critical part in publishing LIFE’s final print issue. The courage that Walter has always pictured becomes real and he begins to do things he’s never done–or that he would have done. Walter continues to understand, however, that his adventures have a purpose: he does not become a self-absorbed thrill-junkie. Rather, his risk-taking is done solely in the service of others.

The themes of sacrifice, vulnerability, and risk will resonate with anyone who’s read Julien Smith’s The Flinch, Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, or seen Brené Brown’s TED talks. I found the music and cinematography to be delightful as well.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a fun, engaging, inspiring, and worthwhile use of two hours. Check it out.

Why I’m Going Old School with My Shaving

Let’s face it: for many men, shaving is an expensive drudgery.

Currently, a 10-pack of Gillette Sensor Excel 2 cartridges, the model I’ve been using for nearly 20 years, costs around $21. A cartridge usually lasts me about a week before it starts to pull at my face intolerably. I’ve tried the fancier 3-blade cartridges but they’re even more expensive: $25 to $30 for a 10-pack, depending on whether you want the Mach 3 or Mach 3 Turbo flavor. And the super-premium cartridges with even more blades? Fuhgeddaboudit.

I’m probably spending $100/year, then, on cartridges. Your mileage may vary.

So that takes care of the expensive part. Drudgery? I tend not to shave if I don’t have to. And judging by the number of unshaven guys I see in my circles, I’m guessing they don’t care to shave any more than I do.

So mostly I’ve been looking to save some coin on something I have to do nearly every day. And if I can make the task more enjoyable (or at least less toilsome), that’s icing on the cake.

I considered two alternatives to solve the problem:

Dollar Shave Club is a subscription shaving supply service that has attractive pricing (as little as $1/month) and a funny commercial. I’d have given it a try but a couple friends used it for a while and they weren’t all that jazzed about the blades.

What about retro?

Old School: The Double-Edged Safety Razor

If you pop over to The Art of Manliness, you’ll find an article entitled, “Learn How to Shave Like Your Grandpa.” It explains the technique and tools behind “wet shaving” with a double-edged (DE) safety razor. This is, in fact, the kind of shaving my grandfather did: I remember seeing the razor in his medicine cabinet when I was a kid.

The Art of Manliness has a nifty instructional video to acquaint wet shaving newbies with the process:

After doing some quick research at The Art of Manliness, Badger & Blade (a site for shaving aficionados–whom I didn’t realize existed), and Amazon, I decided to take the plunge into wet shaving. The up-front costs may set you back more than when buying into a cartridge system but the long-term consumables are way less expensive. You can spend more or less on a razor, brush, and other supplies depending on your budget and interest.

Here are the tools I’ve chosen:

From what I’ve read, it’s important to experiment with different blades to find the best choice for you. After you land on a favorite, you can buy double-edge razor blades in packs of 100 for as little as $10. Compare that to a 10-pack of modern cartridges for $20 (or more) and you should be able to recover your initial safety razor investment in less than a year.

So How’s the Shave?

While a typical cartridge razor is very forgiving, there’s a learning curve with a safety razor. I’ve used my new safety razor twice. To be honest, I expected that going retro would trade me cost savings for a worse shave. Here are a few observations:

  • The shave is as close as you want it. Already get a good shave with your expensive cartridge system? You can get that close–or closer–with a DE safety razor. I’ve started with the Feather blades (made in Japan) and they’re very sharp. Maybe a bit too aggressive for my face but, again, I’m experimenting.
  • It takes a little more time. It takes me maybe five minutes at the most to shave with my GIllette Sensor Excel 2. The first couple shaves with the safety razor have taken about 10 minutes. Some of that, I’m sure, results from my inexperience. But the process is also a bit more involved.
  • The experience is exquisite. Yes, I said exquisite. It is a sensory-rich experience. The fresh menthol scent of the shaving cream fills your nostrils. Swirling the brush in the lather cup and the feel of the bristles against your skin beats slopping some slimy air-compressed goo about your face. And the razor itself (at least, the one I purchased) has a solid heft to it that makes it feel more like a well-crafted handmade tool instead of mass-produced plasti-chrome gadget.

After a couple of shaves, I’m pleased with both the quality and experience of old school wet shaving. I’ll check in again after I have a few more miles behind me.

Is a DE safety razor for everybody? Probably not. But maybe you’re the kind of guy who’s learned how to tie a bow tie, enjoys quality writing instruments, or appreciates good timepieces. Wet shaving may appeal to you. And if you’re willing to take the time to learn the process and invest in the right tools, you may take your daily shaving routine from drudgery to delightful–and save some money in the long run.

Check Out Chris Brogan’s New Thing

Chris Brogan does some neat stuff.

He makes businesses, speaks, writes, and shares a lot of what he learns. For free.

Last spring, for example, he Skyped with my Marketing II class at Lincoln Christian University at 8:00 in the morning one day. We chatted about doing things that matter, how to stand out, pushing through fear. It was a highlight of the semester for the students (and me, too, for that matter).

Now he’s publishing a magazine called Owner and you can read it online for free.

The first issue has articles on productivity, business, writing a resume that gets you hired, small business marketing, and more.

Check it out. Good stuff there.

How to Succeed After College: More Advice from Your Future Self

Last week I shared advice from two friends, Jackie and Ashley: knowing what you know now, what would you tell your 19-year-old self?

Ashley thought about it some more and offered a few more nuggets:

  1. Our pastor frequently says, “The person you will be in 10 years is directly affected by the people you hang out with and the books you read.” I think there’s a lot of wisdom there. Read more books and surround yourself, not only with smart people, but good people; people who will speak life to you and who will challenge you to do the same.
  2. Disillusionment is coming. It happens to everyone. As you get older you realize that some people that you really loved and respected didn’t really deserve your love and respect. It’s sad and heartbreaking. Embrace it–there’s no way around it. Love them anyway, but be careful who you let speak into your life.
  3. A few months after I got married, Eric Teoro (one of my business professors) told me that I didn’t know what it meant to love my husband, and I wouldn’t really know what that meant until we had some water under our bridge. He was right. He also once said, referring to some scripture from Corinthians, that love means growing up (in some other words;)). He was also right about that. I’d probably advise myself to keep my opinions about love and marriage to myself for the first several years of marriage.
  4. A smile and polite, gentle answer can get you out of most everyday difficult situation.
  5. A van is really not as bad as you think it is. In fact, it’s kind of fantastic.
  6. READ Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen, stat. Most twenty-somethings desperately need to hear those words.
  7. “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for his cause, but the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for his cause” (The Catcher In the Rye). I would tell my twenty-year-old self to choose to live humbly–it speaks volumes more than a noble death.
  8. Buy some real clothes. Jeans and vintage t-shirts are only going to work for so long. If you are wearing jeans and tees all the time, while complaining that no one takes you seriously, you should probably change your wardrobe. Take yourself seriously enough to invest in some decent clothing. And dress up for the job you want, not the job you have.

Please–Do Your Thing

Last night I finished reading Bob Goff’s Love Does. It’s a collection of true, funny, remarkable, inspiring stories and reflections from Bob’s life. When you read this book, you want to be friends with Bob because he does some wonderful things.

In one of the last chapters, Bob shares this insight:

I don’t think anyone aims to be typical, really. Most people even vow to themselves some time in high school or college not to be typical. But still, they just kind of loop back to it somehow. Like the circular rails of a train at an amusement park, the scripts we know offer a brand of security, of predictability, of safety for us. But the problem is, they only take us where we’ve already been. They loop us back to places where everyone can easily go, not necessarily where we were made to go. Living a different kind of life takes some guts and grit and a new way of seeing things.

Bob’s not a talker; he’s a doer. And he wants you to be a doer, too.

But here’s the thing:

If you spend your life reading about other people’s lives, you’ll never live your own. Bob’s stories are amazing, yes, but they’re his stories.

Go make your own stories. That’s what I’m doing.

In my photography business, in my teaching at Lincoln Christian University, in my home with my wife and our six kids, in our church, in our community, I’m writing my own stories.

I hope you’ll do the same. Please–do your thing.

Permission is Overrated

A lot of people talk about the things they’re going to do… some day.

Fewer people actually do things.

The great thing about doing things is that, for most of them, you don’t need anyone’s permission.

Of course, there are some exceptions. If you want to take out someone’s appendix, for example, you need to be a surgeon, and there’s a path for that. Same for practicing law or being a grade school teacher or adopting children. You’ve got to get permission, jump through some hoops to do those.

But you can do most other things without asking anyone.

Write a book. Write a song. Make art. Start a business. Help someone who needs it.

Quit talking about it and just do it.

In his book Love Does, Bob Goff says “secretly incredible” people know the difference:

Being secretly incredible goes against the trend that says to do anything incredible you have to buy furniture and a laptop, start an organization, have a mission statement, and labor endlessly over a statement of faith. Secretly incredible people just do things.

Don’t wait for someone else’s permission. Do your thing.

10 Rules for Writing First Drafts

10 Rules for Writing First Drafts

Good writing results from good work.

Whether you’re writing your first college papers in a written comp class, blog posts on your personal site, or sales and marketing copy for your business, these rules will help you write better drafts.

Not a writer?

Take your creative endeavor (photography, art, presenting…) and season to taste.

Three Subversive Lies You’ll Tell Yourself When You Try to Do Something That Matters

1. It’s good enough. You’ll tell yourself it’s “good enough” when you’re tired, frustrated, or lazy. The problem is that everyone is “good enough.” Good is average, mediocre, barely hitting the ball out of the infield. Jim Collins opened his bestselling book Good to Great with this sentence: “Good is the enemy of great.” You can’t do something that matters if you settle.

2. It has to be perfect. This is the flipside of #1. The perfectionist wants to keep tweaking until everything is precisely right. Perfectionism, however, is a stalling tactic, an unwillingness to commit. Could you make it better in another week? Maybe. But then you’ll want to spend another week to make it better still, and another week after that. Better is the enemy of best.

3. I can’t do it. What makes you think you’re so smart? Who gave you permission to do this? At some point, behind every entrepreneur’s big idea, every aspiring author’s novel, every dreamer’s vision is the nagging doubt that they don’t have the stuff to pull it off. This is the resistance, the lizard brain, the flinch. Don’t listen. Take a risk. Take cold showers for a week. Face the flinch and act.


Maybe You Should Unplug for a Bit, Too #quitter

Just yesterday I wrote about my exercise in unplugging for a few hours each day.

After the kids were in bed (day 1 was a success), I hopped online to see what I missed. Serendipitously, I came across an article on LinkedIn, “Think About the Benefits of Unplugging,” which highlighted this video:

Maybe we could all stand to put down the phone and be more present.

Go ahead and unplug for a while. The Internet will be there when you get back.

Older posts

© 2018 MichaelGowin.com

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑