The Quick No

I once had a meeting at a prestigious London address. 

You probably know the kind of place – an immaculate 4 storey Georgian townhouse where even the flowers outside are imposing.

After waiting 10 minutes or so in the reception area, I went in for my meeting.

It was one of those meetings that come about from time to time. A slightly tenuous 2nd or 3rd degree referral, possible scope for interesting collaboration, often doubtful but usually worth a look. [1]

On my way home, I got a message flash up on my phone. 

“How did it go?”. 

I replied, “In and out in 12 minutes”.

10 seconds later; “Oh well”

They must have been right – 12 minutes can’t be good, surely?

Everyone says rejection sucks. Being told “No” is the worst. We also read about people who found enormous success after they were told No 1476 times in a row.

But the worst thing isn’t rejection. 

The worst is silence. Indifference, ambivalence, tumbleweed.

I’d rather have the Quick No.

And I knew it was exactly 12 minutes as on arrival I took my watch off and put it on the table in front of me. 

There wasn’t any point in wasting anyone’s time.

[1] Derek Sivers’ ‘Hell Yes or No’ post hadn’t entered my life at this point, but I do still believe that there are interesting things that can happen just outside Hell Yes…at the Adjacent Possible of meetings if you will.

If Jobs were Houses

Last week a bunch of us were chatting about how searching and applying for jobs operates right now.

For me it helped to think about houses.

Some houses leave the front door wide open. 

Others keep it on the latch.

A few of the houses at the end of the street have fortified the door and installed some security systems.

And there are a couple of houses buried underground; bunker-mansions invisible to the eye.

The open front door presents a problem. There’s usually a hole in the floor as soon as you walk in. These holes go so deep it’s now becoming less worthwhile for humans to go down there and haul people out, so homeowners get computers to do it instead. 

If you’re lucky enough to be pulled from the hole, you may enter into slow and laborious back and forth in the hallway, after which you’ll be either be invited into the kitchen for an aperitif before being shown to your room, or tossed to the kerb.

If the door is on the latch you’ve got an extra half-second to notice the hole. Sometimes you notice, sometimes you don’t.

If the doors are fortified, alarmed, tagged – you either need the codes or some serious hacking or sales skills to get them to open.

And if the front door is hidden underground – you’re best off looking it up on a map first.

These days the front door is generally pretty pointless.

So what else?

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Lowercase skills

You may be familiar with concepts like T-shaped or I-shaped people to help simplify the way we think about skillsets in people.

Here’s another that’s even simpler, and based on concepts most of us learnt when we were 4 or 5 years old.

Capital and lowercase. [1]

It used to be that the Capital was all that mattered. 

You were a Creative, an Engineer, a Secretary [2]. 

The lowercase wasn’t worth much. Perhaps it was the ‘interests’ line on your resume, or a couple of bullet points listing out roles & responsibilities in a previous job.

And if you didn’t have the Capital, it probably felt overwhelming, off-putting or intimidating –  especially if you couldn’t access the paths to building it.

Now it’s different.

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Tickets Podcast: Kano co-founder Alex Klein on fostering curiosity and creation through technology

Season 2 of the Tickets podcast is underway. With our focus on the intersection of experiences, education and entertainment, what better way to start than with the co-founder of a company that’s connecting all these elements through technology.


What have Harry Potter, Steve Wozniak, Los Angeles County School Board and the Indian Prime Minister got in common?

They’ve all been part of the story of Kano, a London based computer company intertwining technology, education and entertainment.

Today on Tickets I’m joined by Kano’s co-founder Alex Klein.

We talk about the future of collective experiences, overcoming the dark times as an entrepreneur, the key ingredients of a compelling Kickstarter campaign, and how a 6 year old’s question was the catalyst for what has become one of the most exciting new computer companies around.

Alex’s thoughts on using creativity to mobilise and empower people are inspiring – I hope you enjoy this conversation as much I did.

“When it seems the darkest and it seems the hardest that’s oftentimes the moment when, without knowing it, you’re creating that next great bolt out of the blue – that next great success”

“For us it’s about that sense of successive mastery – the fun factor”

02:30: Kano’s origin story
08:00: 3 key factors for a successful Kickstarter campaign
12:30: Assumptions in the early days of Kano
15:30: What’s in the box
20:00: Blending education and entertainment
25:00: Working with teachers and schools
29:00: Alex’s advice for entrepreneurs starting out
33:00: New forms of audience building and creating shared experience
37:00: What’s in store for Kano in 2019

More on Kano at

Open Source: My reading list

This tweet on book lists by Stevan Popovic piqued my interest.

My reading list has always been a mix of random notes and a somewhat unwieldy Trello list.

Stevan’s version is built in Airtable, a product I’ve poked around with a fair bit (although haven’t found that really compelling use case for, as yet at least)

I thought it’d be worth borrowing/stealing his idea (thanks Stevan!) and moving my list into a similar format.

Grab it here >>>

Steven has added a couple of interesting ideas;

1. The people who recommended a book to him, and how many of them recommended it. I’ve left that out for now, mainly as I can’t remember how I discovered most of my book list.

2: Whether the book is ‘Tree’, ‘Branch’ or ‘Narrative’. Explainer on that here

Most of the books in my list are non fiction – I probably read 15-20% fiction vs non fiction but this list seems to be probably be more useful for non fiction discoveries. Let’s see though.

I hope this is a useful little resource and there are some books on here that may be up your street. I’m happy to offer my opinion on any of the ones I’ve read before you go diving in.

I’ll keep updating the list every week or two with new finds – just let me know if you’d like to know when a new one is added and I’ll set up an email notification for you.

The fissures on your path

Fissure: a long, narrow opening or line of breakage made by cracking or splitting

When we think about making changes, pivots or transitions it’s usually a fairly big undertaking. A bridge or maybe a chasm to be crossed.

Whilst we don’t know the whole terrain and the length of the journey, we  usually tend to have a picture in our minds of what we’re getting into and where we’re going.

What we don’t recognise so much are the fissures.

The fissures can appear just before the edge of the cliff.

They can show up at various points over the bridges we’re crossing.

More surprisingly they can also be present on seemingly secure and well-treaded paths.

Some fissures are easy to spot, but others can be so small they’re invisible to the eye.

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How to create your own personal investment thesis

The term ‘investment thesis’ is a now a fairly common sight on the internet, particularly in the world of venture capital.

These investment theses tend to update every few years, often at a similar cadence to companies undertaking a rebrand (after all, a new investment thesis is itself a rebrand of sorts). [1]

Previously, a firm’s investment thesis tended to be held more privately.

But as the internet continues to open up all kinds of industries, and differentiation for all sorts of companies (including investors) is both harder and more important than ever, the open source investment thesis is far more common.

Besides, as many investors themselves will tell you: ideas are worth nothing; execution is everything.

VCs deploy financial capital  into their investment (and increasingly human capital too – this article on a16z is a good example), and the investments are largely in keeping with the thesis they’ve set out.

That’s the point of a thesis; it’s a premise to be proved [2].

What’s less common though is a personal investment thesis – a summary of where an individual is looking to investment their time, energy and resources over a period of time (perhaps 2-3 years)

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Pressing pause on Tetris scheduling

Many of us run our calendars like a game of Tetris: find open slots and fill them.

We’ve had digital calendars to help schedule our time for a few years now, and by this point we’re generally pretty good at allowing for things like travel time, delays and overrunning meetings.

However, we’re still surprisingly bad at allowing for, let alone even recognising, recovery time.

One of Paul Graham’s much-cited essays ‘Maker Schedule, Manager Schedule’ is a good way of thinking about how to better run our schedules and the cognitive overhead of context switching, but there’s still more we can do when it comes to allowing for recovery time.

A good start point is to recognise the different levels of rest we need.

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Life Advice from Underground Resistance & Marcus Aurelius

The DJ Lee Burridge posted this epic 5+ hour mix on his Soundcloud page a little while ago.

Like many good DJ sets, there are a few purple patches where a sequence of tracks come together that make the listener feel they were created exactly that way.

Part of the joy and skill of putting tracks in the mix is that it’s possible to make the weird wonderful, the wonderful weird, average good, the good great, the great… even better.

One of these sweet spots is around the 1hr 40 mark, where a re-edit of a Nils Frahm track is overlaid with the acapella of Underground Resistance’s classic track ‘Transitions’.

Listening to this in my office one afternoon (as opposed to the Tibet mountain that Lee suggests), the ‘Transitions’ lyrics struck a chord, especially as I’m currently reading Marcus Aurelius’ incredible book ‘Meditations’.

One of the magical things about music is you can listen to a track 10,20 or 100 times, and then in a particular place, space, time or mood it’ll suddenly take on a completely different form. That happened this time.

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Career Fuel: 3 elements for making deals as a freelancer or consultant

Today my pal Tom came over to my place for lunch. [1]

Tom is a digital marketing & strategy consultant, and has lots of interesting thoughts about the practice of independent consulting (in fact he’s writing a book about it – for a primer check out this blog post).

We got chatting about a few of the challenges faced by the new breed of independent workers, including;

  • How much to focus on frequency vs craft when writing, podcasting or doing other kinds of creating around your freelance work
  • When ‘seeking clients’ becomes ‘Seeking clients’ or ‘seeking Clients’, i.e. moving from surveying the landscape, to accepting just a few inbound opportunities, focusing outwardly on a very specific sliver of prospects, or scaling up to a much larger degree
  • How to appropriately price yourself when you’re not doing what may be called ‘discrete’ freelance or consulting work – i.e. when a problem or outcome is not at all clearly defined, or a client isn’t sure if a problem actually exists

This final point brought me back to some recent thoughts I’ve  had on figuring out how to value yourself in different situations as an independent, particularly when traveling to perform a service of some sort.

I wrote about this topic here where I quoted the DJ John Digweed:

I don’t charge for DJing, I charge for flying to get there now.

The traveling is the aspect I charge for; the DJing is free.


Returning to my capitalized ‘seeking clients’ concept for a moment, herein is again that challenge of balancing the ‘work’ and the ‘Work’.

Continue reading “Career Fuel: 3 elements for making deals as a freelancer or consultant”