No one has it all figured out

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One thing I didn’t realize until I reached my 40’s is that no one has it all figured out.
Everyone’s is pretty much making it up as they go.

That CEO you admire.
That entrepreneur you wish you could emulate.
That gifted artist.

None of them have it all figured out.

It’s not that they’re faking it.
It’s more like they are figuring it out as they go.

This can be scary.
To realize their is no playbook.
There is no top ten list.
There is no pre-ordained pass to life or success (whatever that is).

It can also be very liberating.

No one but you who can write that book.
No one but you can draw that picture.
No one but you can write that song, produce that blog, or create that work of art that haunts you at night.
Just you.

There is no one holding you back but yourself.
And anyone who says you can’t … hasn’t yet figured this out for themselves.

So what are waiting for?

Joining Spotify


Well, after a whirlwind summer, I can proudly announce I have joined Spotify as an Agile Coach here in Stockholm Sweden. I just completed my first week, and before entering bootcamp I wanted to share some thoughts, observations, and comments from week one.

Surface observations

Spotify, for those of you who don’t know, is a music streaming company founded in 2006 which today has about 40M active users and 10M paying customers.

The best way to think about what they do is to imagine having access to all of iTunes for free. You don’t download the songs. They are streamed to you in real time on whatever device you happen to be listening. Then for $10/month you can get rid of the occasional add – this is called the premium service. Spotify competes with Google and Apple in the music service industry.

Being a music tech company Spotify has some pretty incredible engineering talent. They have music players, iOS/Android clients, embedded hardware in speaker systems, not to mention some enormous scaling issues for when it comes to streaming music to people anywhere, anytime around the world. Very strong engineering.

They are also the most mature Agile shop I have ever had the chance of working with. They have been innovating in the Agile space for some time. Most of their challenges are organizational. Like how do we scale this thing.

For a good video on Agile at Spotify watch this.


This being Sweden, there is a strong culture of building consensus (similar to Japan). But different also in that there very little formal hierarchy. Spotify stress autonomy, and empowerment at a level I have never seen before in a company of it’s size. Every team here truly is a startup and empowered (and expected) to make their own decisions and follow through.

So overall, a very high-level of self awareness, a great deal of maturity, but an understanding that they haven’t got it all figured out (despite the number of daily tours and requests they give to other companies visiting the office, and asking them how they do it). They answer of course is there is no one way – this just happens to be the Spotify way.

Great challenges

Working here is also like having a front row seat to one of the greatest battles our industry is going to see – who is going to dominate music. Going up against the likes of Google and Apple is no small thing. And Spotify is well aware of the challenges they face.

Organizational scaling, reduced friction, iterating fast, and discovering the future before others have real meaning here. There are going to be some real challenges. And I feel very fortunate to be a part of that.

Coming soon

For my friends and family back in Canada stay tuned. Spotify is coming! There were some regulations from the Canadian government that needed to be sorted out before Spotify could launch, that that being complete Spotify should show up sometime I hope this year.

So stay tuned. Sign up. And listen to the music.

Cheers – Jonathan


CEO Daniel EK Charlie Rose Interview

Personal blog of family life in Sweden



I love this picture of the bull by Picasso.


It shows how much you can strip away, while still capturing the essence of what you are trying to represent.

Apple uses this picture within it’s internal training program. In there they use this, and other examples, to try to communicate the essence of what Apple does, and what it as a company stands for.

Google may come up with a remote requiring 78 buttons. At Apple we feel you can do it in three.

This design philosophy manifests itself in so many other ways. Writing, software, art. What can be taken away. What must be left.

Probably my favourite quote about writing:

I would have written a shorter letter but I didn’t have the time. – Mark Twain

Happy designing!

Faking it

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When you start a new job, enter a new career, or just continue to work in this fun but crazy industry we call software, you are going to be asked to do things you have never done before.

You aren’t going to have all the facts.
You aren’t going to have the necessary experience.
And you Google isn’t always going to give you the perfect answer.

When faced with this kind of a challenge sometimes the best thing you can do is fake it – just make it up.

Just say ‘Here are the assumptions I am making, here’s is what I think is going to happen, this is what I believe we should do.’

This is the dirty little secret about becoming a professional, or even an adult.
We don’t have all the answers because with most problems we face in the world there is no right answer. You just need to decide what’s best for the situation you are in.

All through our lives we are taught to follow the rules, give the right answer, and echo back to our teachers what they want to hear in order to get the mark or the grade. That’s fine for elementary education and even most of university, but the real world doesn’t work that way.

You will never have all the information.
You are going to have to make guesses, and base decision on assumptions.

This is why I would like my kids to either form their own companies, or work in some kind of startup environment before embarking on their professional careers. I want them to get used to thinking on their feet, getting work done with imperfect information, and getting used to ‘winging it’.

So don’t be afraid to ‘fake it till you make it.’

Do this long enough, and eventually you won’t have to fake it any more, You’ll know exactly what to do. At which point you will be ready for a new challenge.

How to fill in a shape that you have drawn with a brush – illustrator

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Sometimes when I draw shapes in illustrator with the brush, and then join the paths, it doesn’t fill in the way I want it to.

It colors outside the lines, and looks pretty ugly.

The problem is some of the anchors points on my path are not completely lined up. I need to join them.


Fortunately this is pretty easy, just go around your shape grabbing x2 segments at a time, and then join them.


Now when you invert the paint, you should see them fill in nicely.


Happy painting!

iMessage Not Delivered

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If you get this error message on your childs iPad try the following:

Goto Settings -> General -> Date & Time

And turn on ‘Set Automatically’. If it’s already on turn it off and on again.
If you are still stuck go

Settings -> Messages and logout and log back in again.

For some reason this has fixed my kids iPad problems multiple times.

Links that help

Leadership and Choice – Carly Fiorina (former CEO HP)

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There have been two excellent podcasts from the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leader series that bear recording. One from Carly Fiorina. And another from Carol Bartz of Autodesk.

What resonated most with me about these two podcasts was:
1. Don’t try to overplan your career.
2. That old cliche about change being hard.

Carol (a straight talker) came right out and said: ‘No body cares about your career except you and your mother.’ And that you shouldn’t create fixed narrow straight up the ladder career paths because:
a) your focus will be too narrow
b) you won’t have a good foundation

If you want to be CEO, VP, or some high-level executive a broad range of experiences is better than shooting straight up the ladder – because eventually you will fall over.

I also like the fact she never knew exactly where she was going next. Her whole attitude was is you saw something that was interesting, run with it, do it well, and chances are someone will notice and reward you with another opportunity. Just do it!

This is empowering. It means if there is a job or position you want, just show the initiative, get involved, and go for it. Chances are it will work out.

Carly gave what has probably been one of the best leadership talks I have ever heard. She describes leadership as facing two huge obstacles:
1. Fear
2. Status quo

Everyone fears something. And people in positions of power want to preserve the status quo. Not because they are evil people. But because it’s comfortable, and it’s good for them! It’s natural and many of us would do it to in similar circumstances.

But leadership isn’t status quo. It’s about creating that vision for change.

Carly has one of the best stories of leadership I have heard. She describes how after studying medival history at Stanford as an undergrad, and dropping out of law school after a year much to the disappointment of her parents, he talk a job as a secretary at a local business and worked there for a couple months.

A few months in, two gentlemen approached her and told her they thought she had potential to do more than answer the phone and asked if she would be interested in learning more about what they did around there.

That’s leadership. It’s seeing the potential and possibilities in others and then helping them seize them.

Income statements and balances sheets are lagging indicators

An income statement of a balance sheet is an indication of decisions already made. Somebody has bought a product, that’s revenue. A manager has made a decision about expenses, that’s an expense you post. Lagging indicator. Important but you are looking in the rear view mirror.

THere are things that tell you where a business is going. Asking the right questions of customers is really important. Customer satisfaction is the leading indicator of how a company is doing.

Single greatest indicator of a company’s health

Carly’s single greatest factor as to whether a company is doing well or a company is doing poorly is customer satisfaction. This is why Carly boldly announced in 2002 that in a few years time HP would be the world leader in technology surpassing both IBM and Dell in sales. She knew this because she knew HP could replicate Dells cost structure, they could replicate their distribution and Dell had stopped innovating, and there customer satisfaction ratings were falling while HPs were going up.

Dell had quit innovating. They had stopped taking risks. They had stayed with the same competitive model for too long and their customer satisfaction was straight down.

A companies ability to take risks is also an indicator of a leading business.

Customers always know what’s wrong. And every time they do, it’s an opportunity.


Carly then goes on to describe leadership further as:
1. Capability.
2. Collaboration.
3. Character.


Every company eventually hits a point where the old answers don’t work anymore. And when that happens it’s only creativity, risk taking that can save the company (innovators dilemma).

Learn something every day. Those most adaptive to change survive. True of species, organizations, and people.

You can’t ever settle in. Don’t get old before your time.


Good decisions are a result of diverse people coming together and examining every point of view in a deliberate, rigorous, process, and then making a decision.

Groupthink is the enemy. People all alight and get together and agree. It’s human nature because we all want to surround ourselves with people like us. It’s comfortable. It’s easier. You finish each others sentences. You can relate. But one day you are going to miss something.

The goal is to always build a diverse group of people. Because you make better decisions. It’s harder. But it’s better because you get better answers.

Anybody can play today. But not if we can’t leverage. So learning how to collaborate with people with different POV than you is a very important leadership skill.


Character is about judgement, perspective, and ethics.

Judgement – being able to take loads of information, and distill it down to it’s core. Should I act? Or should I pause. Do I have all the information? How do I filter the good information from the bad. The necessary from the irrelevant. That’s judgement.

Perspective – understand the difference between the interesting vs the important. Not everyone is like you. Need to understand those differences. Carly encourage people to read history, art, travel the world. All that gives you perspective about what’s out there.

Ethics – in most organizations and in most endeavors if you do things that are on the line, or one the edge, you can get better results in the short term. That’s why a lot of businesses tolerate businesses that are on the edge.

Values are what guides your behavior when no one is looking and don’t think anyone is going to find out. Leaders most important job is making people understand that values actually matter. Ethics count.

And that we are not going to do things on the edge, because eventually we are going to cross the line. Devastating things then happen. You can’t hide anything anymore. So you can’t get close to the edge.


This was an awesome talk about an awesome leader and I encourage anyone interested to listen to the full podcast on the link(s) below.

Note this is also available on iTune as a podcast (great for commutes).

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