19 June 2019

Today, I’m foolishly frustrated because we have not had 2 days worth of income to support the business, my 3 employees, and my income. It’s silly, because the last 6 months or long have been very stable, and last month was our most successful month ever. But it still worries me to not know if income will come in the future, and that’s stressful.

I’m also spending most of my day coding, which I hate, and is stressful to spend 1-2 hours on a single project, when we have 60 clients to manage. If I gave personal attention to all 60 projects, which are all time-intensive, that is only about 40 minutes of attention per client, per week, if I only worked 40 hours a week.

That’s another thing which is bothering me right now, I am still working over 40 hours per week, and - once again - burnt out. Clearly, I am not using my time wisely or efficiently. Something is still off. Do I hire a web coder? Do I re-arrange how our team works, do I take less projects? Fortunately, I think I am less stressed that I was 1 year ago, but the stress doesn’t stop and I don’t enjoy working as much as I wish I could. I guess I am just not quite there yet and need to put the pieces of the business together in a better way. Maybe 1 more hire, more training for my team, refining the business model, being more selective with taking on more projects, or just focusing more narrowly and getting rid of more distractions and too many ideas.

Piano Song Work In Progress

Implementing the creative design process with business is my passion. I use creating artistic work like drawing, painting and writing music as my favorite analogy for working on a business project and seeing it to completion.

A business should be worked on as a series of layers, refining and moving things forward over and over again, as quickly as possible.

I use my iPhone as a cheap and easy way to record music ideas. I listen to the result, and then practice and record again. Then do that over 10 or so times, and the song is about 90% complete.

Then, I head to the record studio and force myself to get the song to 99% complete. I never get a recording at 100% perfection, because that would be impossible. So 99% complete is where I consider it a “perfect” job, because designing, building and making businesses is always an on-going process. At some point, you move on to your next project.

The Creative Process

One of my favorite activities is to learn the creative process. The problem is, I am really good at start-ups, but not scaling or growth. So it's something I need to study. Creatively figuring out an idea and putting together initial concepts in a fast and easy way. 

For piano music, I've learned the easiest way to get started is to take out the iPhone Recording app and simply record some music. No need to take 30 minutes getting out all the microphone equipment, stands, compressors and recording machines. That just prohibits me from moving forward. Whatever the quickest, fastest easiest way is so I don't lose an idea. 

The same goes for design. Sketching out an idea with pencil and paper as quickly as possible, so I can record a design idea. In architecture school, students were asked to make models of ideas, but that takes hours. What can be done in 8 hours of modeling can be done in 8 minutes with sketching on paper - to figure out an idea quickly and then do a new iteration later on. 

Here is a recording I recently did on piano with an iPhone 5 SE (nothing special, fuzzy, annoying to listen to), but it helps me remember an idea which I can later hopefully record a nicely done piano album in a studio.  

When I listen to this again, I like about 50% of what I hear. So I will throw out all the boring parts and try again with a new recording later on. Focusing on the parts that I like, and working on piecing it together. Over and over, until I am ready to make the final product. No money spent, very little time taken.

Thoughts on minimalist design

My thoughts on design have always been about efficiency. When I started designed when I was around 12 years old the style then was very similar to what it was today. Super simple, lots of white space. I think mostly because I was just impatient. I wanted to make something on the computer, print it out for my music, or make a website, and be done with it and move on to the next thing.

There are times when minimalism is just about being practical. Not anything beautiful or unique. Just get the thing done, and move on with your life. I didn't realize what I was doing at the time. But when I was 19 years old, I started to realize that the basic skills I had doing web design and graphics could be marketed to people who had established businesses looking to make their mark on the internet. 

The only things I change in terms of design were selecting the right fonts, spacing letters apart in an elegant way, and subtly changing dark blacks to dark greys, or bright whites to off-white greys. In photography, minimalism is about focusing on 1 or 2 simple elements, and filling the rest of the space with voids of color. And in architecture or furniture, it's about creating the easiest, simplest, least complex shapes that come together with the least material possible. 

For me, minimalism is not really about the aesthetic. It's getting to the final result in a simple, calm and elegant way, without too many tools, or materials, or complex processes. And I think that's ultimately the most important part about it.