Just Do the Thing.

Zhu Li, Do the Thing - Varrick

Sometimes you just gotta Do the Thing you’re putting off.

After a recent serious bout of email anxiety, I’ve finally got to Inbox Zero. Tonight.

I wasn’t going to do it tonight. I almost left my house. Had something else to do — I still do! But I had been putting off emailing Valeska for too long. I had to at least get some momentum. Before I left the house, I had to at least prepare for emailing her upon my return tonight. Then I thought — no, I have to get started on the email. At least to write the initial greeting, formalities, etc.

So I did that — then I kept going. Just kept on. I had momentum, finally. It wasn’t so bad! I’ve been putting off this email for 3 days now, procrastinating both consciously and sub-consciously. That’s the scary part — the sub-conscious procrastination. I’d eventually identified that, and realized what my mind and body were doing to me. Well, mostly my mind, but the body acts in accordance with what the mind wants.

Anyway, I gained momentum and before I’d realized it, I was 80% done. Just had to finish! So I did. Just powered through it. Clicking ‘send’ hadn’t felt so amazing in such a long time. Then I was down to 1. Yeah, that’s right, I was still at Inbox One. Like Air Force One. Not really.

You know what happens next. Momentum. Powered through that one too. And this one had been put off for about 2 weeks now. And it’s not that I don’t like these people or didn’t want to email them — on the contrary, I really like and respect both of these individuals. Very much. But that’s what made it so hard.

Sometimes, you just have to sit your ass down, and Do the Thing.

When the pain gets great enough, you just do it. No more excuses. No other things to do. Just Do the Thing. And it feels great. Feels amazing, like I can finally breathe freely once again. Fresh air. I love fresh air. And sushi. What? Where was I going with this?

Oh yeah, since I already had the momentum of Inbox Zero, and the wonderful feeling of having Done the Thing, thought I might jot this down. Maybe it will help elseone struggling with Doing the Thing.

Side note: If ‘elseone’ doesn’t make sense to you, please remind me to post my Proposed Additions to the English language note. I’ve typed it up somewhere and pretty sure I was putting that off too…

And now, I leave you with a montage of Varrick requesting that Zhu Li… “Do the Thing”.

ScreenCap Credit: KatherinaXC

Email Anxiety

Inbox - Email
Breathe while reading your email!

I don’t know if email anxiety is a real thing, but I definitely have it, regardless.

When composing an email, sometimes it takes me one, two, … up to three hours or more. To write an email. Not a long email of a few thousand words (I don’t believe most emails should be that long). Just a simple, short introductory email.

“Hey, how are you? I’m Nathan. I see you’re doing [INSERT COOL THING HERE], I think that’s cool because [REASONS] and just wanted to connect with you. I’d love to help if you need it with [SOME THINGS I CAN HELP WITH].

Anyway, take care,

<<--- this template took me 2 minutes to write. An email that looks just like this template, but with details filled in and written completely from scratch, can take me hours to write. My anxiety is that bad. Side note: I really should start using templates like this to make life easier.

I agonize over the process, how will this sound to him/her? What words should I use? What should I say? This is especially true with people that I respect and admire.

Replying to emails is the same way, sometimes even worse. Because someone’s taken the time to write me a message and respond, meaning they at least don’t hate me. They took time out of their day to write me something. So I’ve now got to step up and really deliver value.

I know it’s over-analyzing. It’s really a form of perfectionism. I don’t want to mess anything up, say something one way where it could have been said better, or more elegant, or more precise.

Analysis paralysis – the reason why I don’t get near as much accomplished as I’d like to. But I’m committed to being prolific, so I’ll have to just power through and as my friend and colleague Chiara told me, “I think you need to get out of your head, and get out there and talk to people… just talk to people, I think the biggest thing that’s holding you back is this perfectionism. You need to practice moving fast.”

I also have this internal rule where I always reply to emails unless I think it’s spam (like from a tech recruiter — those people really are the worst). So, if you’ve emailed me and I haven’t replied, and the email warrants a reply, then it really is on my TODO list, promise. It’s likely that I respect and admire you, and just haven’t had the time (read: hours) to sit down and craft a well-written, perfect response to you, because that’s what you deserve. I’m sorry, I do want to write back to you, and I will eventually.

So my challenge for today is to:

1. Get this post up & published, and:
2. Get to Inbox zero — reply to all emails where I’ve been putting off emailing them (which is why my Inbox isn’t at zero now).

Thanks for reading, thanks for understanding, and you’re awesome.

Illustration credit: Marie-Chantale Turgeon – Breathe while reading your email!

I get what they don’t have…

Typical Country Club Residence

My wife and I were invited over to a new mutual acquaintance’s house the other day. The house is in a nice subdivision… really nice. As in, 4 beds 4 baths 3518 sqft… $500k+ house. Just looked it up on Zillow.

Many of the houses are even bigger, with better views. Some of them are $1.5M+. There’s one that’s $4.8M, 8-bedroom and 15000 sqft.

That’s crazy. Anyway, that’s just to give a feel for where we were. As I drove through the subdivision, I got a little inspired. Motivated.

Then we got to the house and spent about 1.5 hours with our acquaintance. The entire time we were there, she was moving, running, hectic… so busy. She had other guests over too, and I got to observe her interactions with them.

It was crazy. For one, I noticed a definite scarcity mindset.

Like, as in,

“Sure, just pay me back whatever, I mean it cost around $100, a little over.”
“Oh, so I owe you $100, that’s all it cost you? Should I just pay you that then?”
“Well, I mean, it actually cost me about 140, 150, something like that. But you can just, ya know, pay me $100 and take me to lunch some time. We can call it even. Don’t worry about it.”

…but H *was* worried about it. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have made a big deal about it. Or she would have just gone with the $100 and been ok with it. The other guest was her friend, and H was obviously pretty well off. I mean, the cabinets were stocked, completely filled, with expensive ingredients, raw food ingredients especially, and exotic spices from Africa, all over the world. Yet she was worried about being reimbursed a few bucks here and there by a friend.

Another thing – probably the biggest – is how her sense of “fairness” came across.

We were there to juice carrots — the reason we got invited over. Ok, sure, it should be a fun afternoon, we’ll hang out, get to know each other and juice. We’re all into raw food and healthy living and eating. But it really felt like she definitely wanted to get her “money’s worth”, so to speak, for having us over.

Keep pushing us, “hey guys, let’s keep the juice rolling. Gotta get those carrots juiced.”

Almost like in her mind, our role was to juice the entire bag of carrots and in return she’d give us some juice and we’d be “good”. Even.

Really awkward time, seemed like an exchange-based relationship. But we had no idea going into it, that it would be that way. I mean, she was our yoga teacher, we were just chatting about health and raw foods after class, had some mutual friends and really thought that we could have a good time and maybe bounce some ideas off each other, share some knowledge, recipes, etc.

But, now that I know… I’ll obviously be avoiding such “exchanges” in the future.

I mean, she did used to be an attorney, and maybe that’s given her the kind of mindset that she has today. But it’s sad. Really sad that, with all her money, *I* have more freedom than she does.

Her husband’s tied to a job, and obviously their lifestyle requires it or he wouldn’t be working. Why would anyone? All that money and that big house. Lavish lifestyle. And she’s not free. And I don’t envy her. I’d much rather be carving my own path, making my own way now, than accustomed to a lavish lifestyle and reliant on an income that I don’t directly control.

And she seemed jealous. Maybe because she’s not free. Maybe because I get what she doesn’t have. Could I have a house like hers? Maybe. Eventually, if I took a $100k software job and saved up or started a successful business, of course I could. But I don’t get to have that right now, and that’s ok by me. I get something much more valuable. I get what they don’t have. My freedom.

Customer Service for Businesses and People Too

The first interactions with your company or organization really the the most important ones. It’s what makes your company in a person’s mind — be it good or bad. It’s the initial filter that everything else passes through. It’s also really really hard to turn around a negative first impression.

I’ve been in service-oriented positions before, and in positions where I didn’t have to offer great service, but chose to anyway. It’s really made a huge difference in both how customers perceived me, and in the way I felt afterwards. Like I was actually helping out vs. just “doing my duty”.

Good customer service isn’t hard.

I think it’s more of a mind-set, than anything, to want to offer good service to everyone, even if they’re not your customers per-se.

It’s about making their lives a little easier and less difficult. And it’s about not having the mind-set of “that’s not my job”. In fact, for those people who only do the bare minimum, and no more, only trying to get through the day, only “putting in your time” and “paying your dues”, this post isn’t for you. Just leave. Or die.

For those who do care about adding value to the world, I’ve put together a short list of things which can really boost your organzation’s customer service to the next level.

1. Smile. Always, no matter what. I mean, don’t give fake smiles, be genuine. Make people feel welcome. One way to cultivate this attitude is from the book “The Greatest Salesman in the World”, by Og Mandino. From The Scroll Marked II:

I will greet this day with love in my heart.

And how will I confront each whom I meet? In only one way. In silence and to myself I will address him and say I Love You. Though spoken in silence these words will shine in my eyes, unwrinkle my brow, bring a smile to my lips, and echo in my voice; and his heart will be opened. And who is there who will say nay to my goods when his heart feels my love?

— from The Scroll Marked II

2. Don’t expect the customer to know anything. I see employees get frustrated all the time when customers don’t know or aren’t aware of something. And then vent on the customer or rudely explain to them the “rules” of the establishment, or policies, or whatever. Look, customer’s don’t know the business inside and out — that’s the employee’s job. It’s also their job to make the customer feel like the most important person in the world, which brings me to my next point:

3. Treat your customers like gold. Like solid gold. Because, they’re your lifeblood. Each and every one of them. A customer isn’t a one-time thing. Know the lifetime value of a customer and then treat that customer as such. Do this for every single customer and you’ll be fine. Customers talk. They also listen and see. They can see when you or your staff treats another customer poorly, and they think “Well, what’s to stop them from treating me the same way?”. The answer is “nothing”, so just treat them like gold instead.

4. Take care of the customer. Even if it’s not your field of expertise. You don’t have to know everything, or be an expert. People don’t expect that. But they do expect to be treated well, to be taken care of.

Example: Let’s say your business is dry-cleaning, and a customer asks about the best method to wash… a car. Sure, it’s asinine. But people sometimes are. Regardless, compare these answers below:

“Umm… we don’t do that. We’re a dry-cleaners, for clothing.”



“Well sir, I’m not really an expert on car washing, but let’s see… there’s a car wash about 1/2 mile down on the right. I know that someone there will be able to help you better than I can. We’re actually a dry-cleaners, for clothes like suits and shirts and such. If you ever need any of those cleaned, be sure and come back and see us.”

Which one gives the customer That Warm Fuzzy Feeling?

5. Always be professional. Always be pleasant.

Sometimes customers get irrational. Sometimes they’re jerks. This does not give you the right to be a jerk back. Remember, other customers are watching. Remember the phrase “I’m very sorry” and use it in difficult situations.

“No sir, I’m very sorry, but the price is actually X, and you still owe us Y.”

“I’m very sorry for any inconvenience, but we just don’t have it in that color.”

“I apologize ma’am, but my manager’s simply not in right now. I’m very sorry.”

This might require training in keeping your calm, especially if you’re someone known to have a short fuse.

6. Never air dirty laundry. Don’t bicker or argue with an employee in front of any customer. If you must settle something with a co-worker, pull them aside or around back, out of sight of customers. This is especially true about arguing with customers. (But never do that, also see the above point.)

7. Always go above & beyond. Do more than is expected. “That’s not my job” should never, ever come out of your mouth, nor of your employees. Of course, your words originate in your mind. In truth, this shouldn’t even be in your thoughts. Rather, how can you take care of the customer? What needs to be done? Just do the thing.

Even if it’s not your job, if no one else is around to do something and that thing needs to be done, then just do it yourself. Don’t stand on principle, just do what needs to be done. Also, don’t complain about it, nor about having done it. In fact, just don’t complain at all, ever.

This is how you become valuable.

8. Remember the lifetime value of a customer.

A couple of months ago I was searching for an accountant for my new business. I called a local accountant that I found through Google and set up an appointment with John.

John was nice enough and answered all my questions. But I couldn’t help but feel a sense of disdain from him. Answering my questions unconcernedly, just trying to get me out of his office. Almost like I was a joke and he didn’t really take me seriously as a businessperson. This really discouraged me for a few days.

I almost thought about giving up on local accountants, then decided against it. Maybe it was just him, and a chat with a different accountant might be a completely different experience. Boy, am I glad I did.

My meeting with my current accountant started with a warm greeting, smile and handshake from Keith, then he ushered me into his office and answered all my questions. We chatted accounting. We talked about my business and deductions I could claim. About young, determined rookie IRS agents and how to deal with them. For an hour and a half, he answered every question I had about accounting and starting my new business. That was his own time, given to me for absolutely nothing.

Keith knows the lifetime value of a customer, and now I’m a paying client of his. All that to say, always keep the lifetime value of a customer in mind. In addition to building goodwill and adding value to the world, it will also be of value to your own bottom line.

On Being Prolific

Cut to the chase – I’ve decided to commit to being prolific. YOLO, and I’ve got so much stuff that I’ve worked 80% on, then just left it there. Articles that I’ve left it on my hard drive, never published. Ideas for amazing things, workshops, businesses, just left in my notebook.

A couple weeks ago, I had an idea for a non-profit. It just came to me in the shower, but it was so detailed, and the potential upside so big, that I had to write it out. It’s just sitting in Evernote now, but I’ll be publishing that publicly very soon.

(Note: Here it is. It’s tentatively called “Foundations”.)

Some of the things I’ve worked hours on. Some things, probably 20 – 40 hours at least. And yet, they’re just not good enough yet. I still don’t feel great about the end result, it’s not polished enough or whatever. So I let it sit for later. I intend to finish, but then never get around to it. Something else catches my attention, maybe a newer, better project. So the old one, it stagnates. Even though I’m 70% done.

Many of that will never see the light of day. Some of it could have helped a person or two. Instead it sits on some cloud server where it’ll eventually get deleted or the physical disk will crash (most likely disk hardware/firmware, but that’s being pedantic).

We’re all gonna die some day. It’s scary to think about, but it’s true. A lot of us, myself included, live like we have all the time in the world. The truth is that none of us know when it’s our time to leave this world, and we only get one shot at this thing called life.

This is your life. You get one of them.
— Sebastian Marshall

I haven’t been publishing much lately. That’s not to say that I’m not creating. I’m doing lots of things every day. Proactive, positive, productive things. Strategies. Ideas for things. Building good will, trying to help people out.

Developing a personal system of policies and ethics. Reading the Credo. Reading a lot of really good books. Learning to type using Colemak.

I’ve been scattered, but trying to consolidate.

I have lots of disparate interests. Trying to bring all those under one umbrella, into one place and have it all make sense, is hard. But I’m starting now, and I’m committed to getting things done, even if they’re not 100% perfect. That’s one of my problems – most of my life I’ve been a detail person. Now I’ve had to learn to be a “big-picture” thinker instead. I still sometimes fall back to being detail-oriented. At times I catch myself trying to fit into that role, instead of realizing that I’m growing beyond that, and can’t have everything. I can’t do everything. I used to think that I could. Over the past year I’ve been realizing that I can’t. So, in an effort to just “ship” as they say, I’ll be putting things out that may not be 100%. Some details might be overlooked. That’s ok. They can be changed later. Details can be corrected/fixed/added/subtracted. But something that’s not shipped can’t be used by anyone.

This also means that I’ll be more vulnerable, which I don’t like to show. A lot of people like me don’t like to show that side of themselves online.

If you’re reading this now, then I’ve already created & scheduled quite a few things to be produced, published, or otherwise released to the world. This might mean code, books, articles, plans/strategies, ideas, businesses. Most of it will probably be at my blog, but I’m branching out from there. That’s the entire point.

In fact, I almost just tabled this to be finished “later”. I have somewhere to go, a few little errands to start on now, and then… then I realized that I was doing it again. So, I apologize if this seems unfinished. If the closing paragraph isn’t as polished as I’d like. (It almost certainly isn’t.) But I have to get this out to the world, as well as many other things.

In closing, watch these spaces for changes and general awesomeness:


(This list will be updated as things happen/unfold/are created.)

Thanks for reading. Oh, and please get in touch if you have any inclination to do so.


Foundations – Name of a non-profit organization to work with young people and teach them to make good decisions.

The basic idea is that the decisions we make, big and small, are the very reason that we’re exactly who & where we are at this moment in life. So, for people to affect their future in a positive way, they’ve to have a solid base of decisions. The non-profit would organize a workshop for juveniles (both delinquents and school children) to not only demonstrate the power of decisions, but give very specific tactics for pragmatic implementation of making good decisions. Teaches basic entrepreneurship and community involvement.

Example: a workshop on how consumer credit works, brief overview of credit scores, how the bureaus determine scores, examples of bad credit and consequences, and how to start building good credit when young, before it’s needed.

Another example: a gardening workshop which teaches community gardening (local business or person can donate space to a comm. garden), organic methods, how to grow produce, pH levels of soil/medium, companion planting, in-season planting, etc. Even rooftop gardening to maximize use of space.

All these workshops would be integrated into a weekend programme. The organization would work with judiciaries and officials to offer this program to young offenders in exchange for community service time, or some kind of reduced sentence.

The youth learn valuable skills and also have to spend less time doing work that’s… less rewarding (e.g. the standard community service).

Community volunteers teach the courses/workshops for the weekend, and the local area children are more educated. More educated, and hopefully less likely to fall back into a life of bad decisions.

The juvenile detention centers are less full (always a good thing), and the community is overall a better place. Future value of the local community increases tremendously as a result, because the young today are our future businessmen, entrepreneurs and politicians.

This is obviously still in idea stage. I’d like to implement something like this one day, if for no other reason, just to give back to my community and try and create the world I’d like to live in. Anyone who wants to take this and run with it, feel free. Also please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to collaborate on anything like this or just bounce ideas around.

Be Ruthless with your Email

Email is sacred ground. It’s where you get important notes from friends and family, as well as the businesses and organizations that you care about.

But for a lot of people it’s become a wasteland, a junkyard to be traversed, only every once in a while finding a gem here or there.

Me? I’m ruthless with my email. If any company, organization, or marketer sends me something that I don’t want to receive even once, they’re gone. Done. Unsubscribed. I don’t care how much they might have improved my life or condition. By giving over my primary email address, for any reason, I’ve given you my trust, and that doesn’t come lightly.

Once you violate that trust, even one time, you’re done. Gone.

I signed up for Medium.com the other day, just so that I could get set up for publishing some articles there in the future. And less than 24 hours later, got an email with “stuff I might like”, or some such nonsense. Bam! Gone. If I want to waste my time going through “stuff I might like”, I’ll search for it myself and on my own time.

Email is sacred. It’s my own place to receive asynchronous communication when I feel like it and when I’m ready to do so. Not somewhere you can get more eyeballs on your content on a regular basis. I trusted you, and you let me down. You don’t get a second chance. I’m through with you.

I use Gmail, and they have a nice “Spam” button. It’s real nice when you’ve committed to being ruthless with your email purges.

Nowadays, my primary inbox is pretty clean. It’s only used for communications that I want in there. If I do want to collect marketing or autoresponder emails for future use, I use another “fake” email address. Not an actual fake one, but another one that I’ve set up that’s not my primary one.

My primary email is sacred. I try and treat it well, to keep it spotless, and in return I have a lot more mental clarity and less clutter when checking my email. I can visit my inbox, do what I came to do, and then leave. Less distraction, more productivity.