Questions I ask when I’m building something

Just a few questions I like to consider when I’m building something:

  1. Who is our audience?
  2. How does it scale?
  3. What else could we be doing instead?
  4. What will indicate this project has been a success?
  5. What’s our deadline?
  6. What’s the goal? Is there a faster way to that goal?
  7. Is this undeniably our style? Does this look and feel like us, even if our logo/name isn’t attached to it?
  8. How does this make money (or drive leads, or traffic, or get us closer to a core business goal)?
  9. If my mom were to read/use/see this, would it make immediate sense to her?
  10. What can we cut?
  11. Is it fun?
  12. Is this — in even the smallest way — making the world any better?
  13. What problem does this solve?
  14. Who else should be involved?
  15. Would anyone tell a friend about this?

I don’t always ask every question. And if I did, I’m sure it wouldn’t be in this exact order.┬áBut regardless of age or professional experience, the right questions help everyone get on the same page during a project.

It can be frustrating and annoying to deal with these questions when you’re most excited — when you just want to jump in and start churning. But the earlier you face these issues, the better.

From here on out, it only gets more difficult to bring this stuff up.


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Your resume’s fugly missing tooth

I think your resume has a giant hole if there’s nothing “on the side.”

By on the side, I mean something related to the career field you did (created, hosted, learned, sponsored, managed) just because you wanted to — even though it wasn’t required. Something that shows you really love what you’re asking to get paid to do.

This is especially true for the creatives out there. There are lots of adequate writers, designers, and thinkers that need a job. But what smart employers are looking for is evidence of passion.

You can pick up additional management, organizational, and technical skills along the way. Anyone worth working for will take the time to teach you as you grow and learn to master your craft.

But nobody can teach you to love it. That’s what you’ve got to bring to the table. The trick is proving this in the application and interview process.

That’s where the on the side stuff comes in. It’s the volunteer design work you do for a favorite nonprofit. It’s the free editing you do for your local church’s newsletter. It’s the that e-book you published.

Do something great that’s somewhat related to the career path you’re pursuing. And do it because you love it. Be proud of it.

The neat side effect of this is that it’s a good personal test. If you wouldn’t do it for fun, why would you want to do it every day?

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Your job is to break the schema

Do you have a favorite movie involving an unexpected plot twist? Maybe it’s just a scene. Something that made you explode with laughter, made you jump, thrilled you — made you think, I never saw that coming.

It broke your schema.

A schema, in psychological terms, is a structured cluster of pre-conceived ideas. From the depths of Wikipedia:

Schemata are an effective tool for understanding the world. Through the use of schemata, most everyday situations do not require effortful processing — automatic processing is all that is required. People can quickly organize new perceptions into schemata and act effectively without effort. For example, most people have a stairway schema and can apply it to climb staircases they’ve never seen before.

Great storytellers are fantastic at breaking your schemata. They lure you in, making you feel nice and comfortable. You’ve seen this before.

…and then something amazing happens. A twist. A surprise. A shock.

I hope your marketing, your resume, and your next book has a few of these sprinkled in. Otherwise, spend your time doing something else. Because, quite literally, we’ve already seen it before.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Learn to make sacrifices

There are an infinite number of things you can say.

It’s the curse of being experienced, cost-effective, all-new, groundbreaking, fully-customizable, scalable, all-natural, and fat free.

But you can’t be all that, even if you are. It’s too much for our brains to process, takes too long to explain, and we’ve been lied to so much we wouldn’t believe it anyways.

Your brochure, your resume, your website’s sidebar, your tagline, your ad — there’s no room for anything that distracts the audience from your core idea.

This is admittedly very difficult. We’re proud of all of our accomplishments and all we have to offer. But great storytellers know how valuable attention is and how expensive wasteful content can be.

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Behind everything is a market

Been thinking about this for a while now.

I wonder about the root causes behind things. How it got started, how it ended up where it is today.

Like, why is Chicago situated geographically where it is? Why not 10 miles further north? Or, why do insurance companies mostly congregate in Des Moines and Hartford? Or even, why does a particular part of a city have lots of people begging for change, while others do not.

And what I’ve decided it all comes down to, at some point of origin, is market forces. Sure, there are other factors like luck and random chance, but at some point, most decisions are made with at least a basic consideration for what gains and losses are involved.

Sometimes it’s monetary, but often it’s not this tangible.

Just one of my tricks for rationalizing a complex world.

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How to make a million dollars

A couple ways to make a million dollars:

1.) Sell one $1,000,000 product.

2.) Sell 10,000 $100 products.

3.) Sell a million $1 products.

There are other ways, but some thoughts:

A.) Number 1 is the easiest. Selling to a few people with big budgets and lots of problems is the simplest of any scenarios listed above.

B.) Number 2 is the most fun. Well, as a marketer at least. Getting 10,000 customers means earning fans, making something worth talking about, and making meaningful connections.

C.) Number 3 is impossible. And getting more so every day. This is a good thing.


Filed under Marketing, Sales


In some institutions, what came first is an invaluable guideline. Decisions are based on former decisions. It’s purposely difficult to justify changing course.

Law is probably the best example. Decisions made without precedent are rare and typically left to the highest court to determine… to, y’know, establish precedent.

But too many modern decisions are based on the templates of someone else.

Like: “Our return policy is the industry standard.”

Until, of course, someone changes the standard.

Or: “Whatever you sell, have ‘X’ as an option. You’ll alienate customers without it.”

Moral of the story: You’re operating something — right now — based on someone else’ precedent.

It’s not yours, it’s a false standard. Consider raising the bar, or changing the game altogether.

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Filed under Branding, Sales