Japanese concepts to live by

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#1: Oubaitori- Never compare yourself.
Everyone blossoms in their own time in different ways.
Don’t judge yourself by someone else’s path.

#2: Kaizen – Continuously improve.
Constantly strive to improve across all areas of your life.
Small changes accumulate and make all the difference.

#3: Wabi-sabi – Embrace imperfection.
Nothing lasts, nothing is complete.
Accept your own flaws and those of others.
Find beauty in imperfection.

#4: Gaman – Have dignity during duress.
Hard times need to be met with emotional maturity and self-control. We need patience, perseverance, + tolerance.

#5: Ikigai – Know your reason for being.
Define the reason you get up in the morning.
Make it something you are good at, passionate about, and that the world needs. THIS is meaning.

#6: Shikita ga nai – Accept and let go.
Some things simply aren’t within our control.
Accept what you cannot change, and move on.

#7: Shu-Ha-Ri – Don’t be wasteful.
Everything deserves respect and gratitude.
Recognize the value in what’s around you and don’t waste it.

#8: Kintsugi – Repair cracks with gold.
Imperfections are a thing of beauty.
The journeys we all take are golden.
Our flaws are embellishments that make us more beautiful.

#9: Omoiyari – Show consideration for others.
Life is better when we care for others.
Be thoughtful. Build compassion.


How we put Facebook on the path to 1 Billion people – Chamath Palihapitiya

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This is a great talk on how FB got to where they are, and some of the underlying principles that got them there.

Slides can be found here.

Some highlights for me were relentlessly focussing on these three things:

  1. How do you get people in the front door.
  2. How do you get them quickly to that ah ha moment as quickly as possible.
  3. How do you deliver core product value as often as possible.

A very powerful metric for them was also focusing on getting new users to 7 friends in 10 days. That was all they focused on in early days.

They also worked hard on removing ego from the product. And their recipe for success was basically this.

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 8.36.25 AM.png

No magic. It was as simple as that. Not some overly complex thing.

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Chamath is not a fan of trusting your gutt. Spent a lot of time debunking and invalidating lore, to disprove all the product decisions people were making based on gutt.

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Most people aren’t very good. That was his experience after working at AOL.

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Most products miss their core value, or focus on the wrong things.

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Story here was that FB didn’t get excited when they passed MySpace at 45M users. They knew they were winning, and they know they were going to get much larger. Because they new their business. They knew they had won.

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 8.37.22 AM.png

They didn’t talk about monetization or anything for 3 years. All they focused on at every townhall and Q&A was :

How to do we get people 7 friends in 10 days as quickly as possible.

Special thank you Jonathan Yeo for sharing this video with the team.








From Inspiration to Implementation – Tina Seelig

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Here are my notes from a great talk by Tina Seelig (hostess of Stanford e-corner) on a model for describing creativity and inspiration.

Need vocabulary to describe words like: creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship. Don’t have good definition for these words. Sharp contrast to other disciplines like maths, physics.

So we need a model and way to describe. Here is the model/definitions/framework for describing these concepts.

Imagination – The ability to envision what doesn’t exist

Creativity – Applying your imagination to solve your problem.

Innovation – Applying your creativity to come up with a unique solution.

Entrepreneurship – Applying your innovation to bring those ideas to life.

Now can break down and see what have to happen at each level.

engaging and envisioning
you need to start with engagement
if you don’t engage, you won’t see opportunities
Most people don’t pay attention
Go through life with blinders on
Miss opportunities – because they don’t engage
Hence they can’t envision
Many people don’t know they have a passion until they engage

requires motivation and experimentation
most people in world are puzzle builders
they know exactly what their life should look like, and they assembles pieces to complete the puzzle
they are the ones who get stopped by barriers
creativity people are quilt makers – they weave stuff together
many of these people stcratch itches they fac
13:39 Monster maker – cheap prototyping experimentation

focus and reframing
this is for deep insights and breakthroughs
reframing is when you start looking at the problem from all different angles
? + ? = 10 infinite answers
they way you ask the question is profound
the question you ask is the frame into which the answers will fall
Example – Plan big birthday for Morgan
if we change one word to
Plan birthday celebration…
The set of solutions completely expands
If you don’t ask the right question, you won’t get the right answers
18:38 How to reframe problem and come up with innovative solutions

persistence and inspiring others
persistence = grit
people who will walk through walls to get things done
also critical for you to inspire others to join you
22:45 Global innovation tournament example

Organizations need people playing all these roles.

No one has it all figured out


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?



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!

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

Persist – Creativity Inc Letter

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In Creativity Inc, Ed Catmull describes a letter he received from Pixar animator Austin Madison, which he found particularly uplifting when it came to protecting and promoting Pixar’s culture.

To whom it may inspire,

I, like many of you artists out there constantly shift between two states. The first, and far more preferable of the two is white hot, in the zone, seat of the pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode.

This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice. This happens about 3% of the time.

The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office corner full of crumpled up paper mode.

The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair. Put on some audio commentary and listen to the stories of professionals who have been making films for decades going through the same slings and arrows of outrageous production problems.

In a word – persist.

Persist on telling your story. Persist on reaching your audience. Persist on staying true to your vision.

I think this is a great letter. The audio commentary Austin refers to is what you find in your blu ray DVD. Turn it on sometime. Listen to the struggles the artists and directors when through making that movie.

You’ll see it’s not magic. It’s a lot of hard work. But through the hard work, and persistence, magic can happen. And that is what we all love.

Learning to draw – practice sketches

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After working through Betty Edward’s book, watching a lot of YouTube videos, and trying to draw at least x1 thing per day, I thought I would share some sketches of how things are going.

Here are some of my most recent creations.



I am a big Pixar fan, so I just had to try drawing some of my favorite characters. The hard thing with characters for me is hair and eyes. Get the eyes wrong and it all falls to pieces. Hands are hard too.


Same thing here. Basic structure for Mr. Fredrickson is his body. It’s blocky which helps.


Couldn’t find the original drawing I based this off of but it was good practice.


Perhaps the drawing I am most proud of – Goofy. I got most things here pretty right. You can see where I messed up the chin, and didn’t have the heart to erase and start over again. I do those while the family and I are watching playoff hockey so time is of the essence.


I take that back. This is probably my favorite picture. Here I was so proud at getting the basic structure right (sketch on the left) that I learned that if I put the time into getting the proportions of the picture right, the rest becomes a lot easier. Then it just becomes a matter of filling in the blanks and details (which can still be hard!).


I am a big fan of fantasy art. So I after watching a few videos on bone and structure, I wanted to draw replicating some of my favorite pictures from this book:


I started of course with one of my favorite fantasy pictures of all time:


Larry Elmore is one of my favorite fantasy artists and this picture is a classic. It’s gorgeous. Here I was just trying to get the basic poses down of the main characters.

Here is another, where I wanted to try and get the structure points right on the wizard Raistlin.


If you look close, you can see the skeleton points I used on the left to define the basic structure and orientation of the warrior. This is critical in help you get stance right.


This one I really like. It just felt good to get the basic pose down.


Here you can see I took a run at doing the face, but faces are hard. I lack the skill to do those. But again, here I am just practice getting the body and orientation down. Faces, eyes, and hair are going to take a lot of practice.

Still life

Only tried one of these so far. This was perhaps the hardest thing I have tried to draw to date.


There is a lot going on in this picture. You got the bridge, the water, the shadows, the building on the left, trees and foliage are particularly hard.

But the cool thing about drawing pictures like this is you pick up details that you many never have seen before (like a second bridge hidden on in the distance in the background).

Anyways. Those are a few of the drawings I have to playing with. Stay tuned. I will update this page with more insights and improvements as they come.

Happy drawing!

Links that help

Drawing the self portrait

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Last night I bit the bullet and tried drawing my first self portrait. Here’s the result.


Here’s the original.


I asked my daughter if she thought this looked like me. She said ‘Nah.’ Guess I better keep my day time job.

Despite the fact that I look like ‘The Joker’ this exercise (applying everything I had learned so far from Betty’s book) was most rewarding. While the self portrait isn’t ‘great’, it was orders of magnitude better than anything I had ever drawn before.

Here are a few observations about drawing.

Eyes and hair are hard

Getting the eyes and hair on a portrait are hard. The eyes are the soul into somebody. Get those wrong, and it just doesn’t look right.

The hair I also find really tricky. If you try drawing every line, you feel overwhelmed. And the left hand side of the brain is always trying to take over and say ‘Just draw a bunch of lines somewhere in the area. That will look like hair’.

And that is exactly what most of us do when drawing. We just draw lines based on what the left hand side of the brain thinks they should look like. Which is why most people struggle initially to draw.

Spacing and proportion are everything

When drawing, especially faces, spacing is everything. You need to get the eyes, ears, nose and everything just right. Betty has a good chapter on this in her book and it helped teach me how to measure, grid, and get the spacing right.

The power of a single line

Lines are all drawings are. But lines are everything. A single line (especially in hair or facial expressions) can convey so much. I had a hard time filling in the hair (in fact I purposefully didn’t because I wasn’t sure yet how to do those thousands of lines without it ruining what I had already drawn).

Still. This was a great fun experience. And one I’ll continue to practice.

Happy drawing!

Other drawing posts in this series:

How Artists Draw the Hard Parts – Negative Spaces
Modified Contour Drawing Exercise
Drawing on the right side of the brain
Three exercises to get you going
Vases and faces
Drawing upside down
Use contour drawing to see things differently
Drawing the human face

Betty’s excellent book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

How Artists Give Depth – Perceiving Relationships

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Look at this drawing. There is a lot going on.


Notice how horizontal edges that fall on the horizon are flat?
Also notice how any horizontal edges above the horizon converge down?
And how horizontal edges below the horizon converge up?

“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” – Pablo Picasso, 1923

“Point of view is worth 80 points of IQ.” – Alan Kay, Computer Scientist

These concepts are part of the perspective paradox. We know alls sides of a square have equal length sides, yet if we want to draw one with perspective, that ‘rule’ needs to be broken.

Art has concepts that helps artists deal with perspective. One of them is vanishing points.

Vanishing Points

The vanishing point is that level on the horizon the artists eventually sees all lines of perspective converging. It’s that classic road fading off into the horizon.

When we do this a couple of things happen.

  1. Horizontal edges that are below the horizon converge up.
  2. Horizontal edge below converge down.
  3. And those on the horizon are flat.

Get this wrong in your drawing and things are going to look weird. So it’s a maxim artists use to maintain perspective.

Here’s a building I happen to be sitting inside.


Can you see the vanishing point? Here is me trying to capture it.


If an artist were doing this for real, they would be way more careful than I am (I just eyeballed it). But you can see it. It’s there in every picture with depth.

The trick is identifying the vanishing points in your drawings, respecting them, and then drawing everything else in a way that respects them.

Easier said than done. Here is me trying to fill in some detail.


It’s OK (in that I picked a vanishing point). But you can see how bad it looks if you get the horizontal edges wrong.


Here’s a beautiful drawing (with lots of challenging perspective lines) by Alex Eben Meyer.


Anyways, as a software programmer learning to draw, what I take away from all this is there are rules of thumb, design patterns, and maxims in art, just like there are in software and anything else.

I enjoy learning about these because it helps me see the world differently, in ways I couldn’t before.

Vanishing lines are neat. You need to respect them, else your drawing will come out all funny and the human eye will reject.

More drawing posts:
How Artists Draw the Hard Parts – Negative Spaces
Modified Contour Drawing Exercise
Drawing on the right side of the brain
Three exercises to get you going
Vases and faces
Drawing upside down
Use contour drawing to see things differently

Betty’s excellent book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

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