Pat Dryburgh

Design Hub Kampala

Since arriving in Kampala, I’ve been looking to connect with others in the region who are using design to solve complex problems. For a while, the only evidence I’d found of such a community existing was a Facebook page for a group whose last post was announcing an event back in January. Not very promising.

I started looking up resources and suggestions for running user tests in Uganda and found an article by Jacqui Watson of Praekelt.org sharing the lessons she learned performing user tests in Kabale, Uganda. Praekelt.org doesn’t have an office in Uganda so there’s no opportunity to meet with them, but it was encouraging to see other teams practicing human-centred design in Uganda.

After a bit more searching, I came across an organization called Design Without Borders which appeared to operate exclusively in Uganda. Reading through their case studies, I was floored by the work they were doing. I sent an email in the hopes of connecting with someone there and when I received a response, was pleasantly surprised to be invited to the grand opening of their new office in a new co-working space called Design Hub Kampala.

The following Saturday, my partner, a colleague, and I found ourselves wandering through a beautifully renovated warehouse which now houses eight design-focused companies. The space was filled with glass walls, modern wooden desks, and presentations of work from each tenant.

Design Hub Kampala
I have to admit, I'm jealous of this space

I spoke briefly with one of Design Without Borders’ design trainees who shared her story of joining the organization with a background in interior design and being trained in human-centred design. To learn of an organization in Kampala so focused on training a new generation of local designers was inspiring.

Design Without Borders

Design Hub Kampala appears to be an amazing addition to the community of Kampala. My hope is that in the short time I have left in Uganda I can make some connections with people in the space and begin the process of growing Ensibuuko’s design team.

Considerations for user testing in Uganda

While designing and developing a new product, your team is making a number of assumptions about the people who will use the product, their skill level and understanding of how technology works, and how they conceptualize the task they need to accomplish. The number of assumptions made is multiplied by the cultural differences between yourself, your team, and the end user.

Over the past couple of months, the development team at Ensibuuko has been working on a complete rewrite of the platform they’ve created to help microfinancing organizations in Africa bring a higher level of accountability and security to their record keeping. The goals of this project are to improve the stability, performance, and usability of the product.

To address the performance and usability of the product, our team has embarked on implementing user testing as a means of validating our assumptions and ensuring that the feedback loop between making a decision and validating it is as short as possible.

As we begin to implement this process in our organization, it’s important to consider some of the differences between my experience in North America and the realities of designing and testing products in Africa.

If you build it, they might not be able to come

When I first proposed the idea of testing our nascent product with users, the first assumption I made was thinking we could invite 5–6 participants to visit our office. This is how we ran user tests at Brewhouse and is the method recommended by most practitioners of design sprints.

A benefit of performing the tests in your office is setting up an observation room for your team members. This allows the test facilitator to focus on providing clear instruction and guidance to the participant, while observers can take notes and keep track of how long each task takes using a tool like The Rainbow Spreadsheet.

One of my colleagues wisely suggested offering the people we hoped to invite some money to help with the cost of transportation. With our new allowance in hand, we started calling customers we hoped could help us test the new product.

What we found was that while the cost of transportation was certainly an issue, the crux of the matter was people simply couldn’t afford the time it would take to travel to our office and back.

Our solution: if they can’t come to us, we’ll go to them.

Use the technology the user is most familiar with

Inherent in a user’s ability to use your product is their familiarity with the device with which they interact. Most people who have a computer in Uganda have Windows PCs because that’s what they can afford. I knew tossing a Macbook in front of our users would not only be intimidating, it could also have been offensive.

Another key difference between these two platforms is the keyboard. The average typing speed of the people I’ve observed is approximately ¼ the speed of my Canadian compatriots. Putting an unfamiliar keyboard layout in front of someone can dramatically reduce their typing speed even further. It was important that we try to maximize the familiarity with the input device as much as possible.

Even then, having a similar keyboard might not be enough. Our first test participant, who normally uses a USB keyboard and mouse hooked up to a tower PC, struggled to avoid touching the Windows laptop’s trackpad while typing. Since we were testing product in his office, we were able to circumvent this by connecting his own keyboard and mouse.

It’s also important to note here that most people I’ve observed using computers in Uganda use the pointer to click from field to field. This isn’t always the case, but is definitely a consideration to keep in mind when designing form fields. Fields should be obvious and large enough to make it easy to click from one to the next.

Record locally ‘cause you can’t trust the cloud

There are many options for recording each test session. While working in North America, I’ve found Lookback to be extremely simple to use and generally very reliable.

One of the downsides to not testing with my Mac is the lack of a native Windows app for recording and uploading videos to Lookback. The Lookback app for Mac records the videos locally and then uploads them in the background. On countless occasions the upload has been disrupted due to an interruption in the network connection. Each time, the upload continued as soon as the connection was reestablished.

Lookback suggests using their Chrome extension and self-test links to record tests on a PC. While this is a reasonable approach, the videos must be uploaded immediately. Otherwise, you’ll lose them. I learned this the hard way.

In Uganda, Internet connections are generally unreliable. So much so that Ensibuuko has established a relationship with Airtel allowing them to provide customers with a dedicated APN (Access Point Name). The APN connects the customer’s computer directly to the Ensibuuko server at Airtel. While this provides a more reliable connection, it also limits the connection to the single server. This means the client device can’t connect to other servers such as Lookback’s.

Our solution to this was to tether our client’s device to my iPhone which has a 4G connection through MTN. While this allowed us to perform the test, the connection was still far too slow for the upload to finish in a reasonable time. The instructions provided by Lookback state that uploads will resume if a connection is lost. Evidently, this does not include lost connections caused by putting the device to sleep.

Unfortunately, we lost one of the two user tests we performed yesterday. Next time, we will record the test locally using the Windows 10 screen recording tool. While we will certainly miss many of Lookback’s features such as syncing the screen recording with a video of the user captured through the webcam, it will ensure we never lose another recording again.

Be Prepared

All of this has caused me to remember the motto I learned as a young Boy Scout: Be Prepared. From having fake profiles prepared ahead of time to ensuring Webpack was running to having a backup recording solution saving our test sessions on the local machine, there are so many ways in which our user tests could have been performed better. Thankfully, we’ll have plenty of time to further improve our process over the next few months of the project.

Stories from the first week and a bit in Uganda

It’s been just over a week since Andrea and I landed in Uganda. My mind is still processing the innumerable observations I’ve made and thoughts I’ve had since arriving in our new temporary home. At this rate, I expect it will take a lifetime to fully comprehend everything I’ve witnessed just one week in.

During an unexpected layover in Brussels, Belgium, we visited Grand Place and enjoyed some fine Belgian chocolate (sadly, no waffles). The next day, we finally found ourselves flying over the Mediterranean Sea and the Northern countries of Africa. Upon landing, a sea of signs—set in Arial—directed us to the customs counters. A few minutes later, we were officially on Ugandan soil.

Standing amongst a throng of drivers was Tonny, holding a sign with “Pat” scrawled in blue pen over his head. Tonny drove us from the airport in Entebbe to our apartment in the Kololo district of Kampala, stopping at the local KFC for our first meal in Uganda. Not exactly authentic African cuisine, but it was just what our hungry bellies needed.

The next day, Tonny brought me and Andrea to Kamwokya Market, a strip of small shops offering local produce and groceries like matooke, posho, beans, and more. We passed on the meat this time around (though the men manning the meat shops did trick me into giving them an inappropriate hand signal), but explored behind the main row of shops where, under dim lights and sketchy scaffolding, we purchased some of the best produce I’ve ever eaten.

We brought the food home and cooked our first somewhat-authentic meal: posho and beans. Posho is a porridge-like substance that becomes somewhat firm and is eaten by hand along with a “sauce” made up of either beans or meat and veggies. It was absolutely delicious.

On Sunday, Tonny brought his girlfriend to our place to show Andrea how to cook matooke. The four of us shared dinner and stories. Later, Tonny’s girlfriend offered us a tray of eggs. They were also very delicious.

Monday was my first day at the Ensibuuko office. Before heading in to meet the team, Corey and Jamal—two Canadian developers who arrived a couple of months before me—took me out for breakfast to update me on the status of the project and to give me a lay of the land. The team, though junior in experience, are full of vigour and drive and are starting to gain some momentum on the rewrite of the product.

On Wednesday, I joined several members of the team to celebrate the birthday of one of our developers, Fredrick. We had a great time sharing drinks and laughs as Fredrick wore the ceremonial sombrero (yes, it was a Mexican restaurant).

Fredrick & Corey
Fredrick & Corey

The rest of the week was spent familiarizing myself with the product, getting the dev environment set up on my computer, and introducing the team to product briefs. Harriet, a computer science grad hired as a documenter prior to my arrival, has been unofficially promoted to Product Manager in Training and has been doing a fantastic job.

On Saturday, Tonny took me and Andrea to Kabaka’s Lake. We walked around the lake and found ourselves in an area far more poverty stricken than the district of Kololo. The lake itself seemed to divide two completely different worlds; fancy apartment buildings and hotels on one side and tiny shacks and free-roaming livestock on the other.

We walked from the lake to Mengo Hospital where Andrea is now volunteering. The things we saw along the way had a tremendous impact on me. The level of poverty was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, yet perhaps even more striking was the fact that not a single person we interacted with that day asked for our help. Instead, we were met with friendly smiles and handshakes. And of course, several people commented on my beard.

At this point, I’m still processing the things we saw that day. To walk through an area like that is a privilege I don’t take lightly. At times, it was all I could do to hold back tears. My heart breaks for the people who live in that environment every day, from the toddler who grasped Andrea’s hand in wonder to the men and women who have lived this way their entire lives. I am so grateful that the work I am doing with Ensibuuko has the potential to at least begin the process of helping people living in poverty begin to find financial security.

What am I doing in Uganda?

This week marked a major milestone in my life: for the first time ever, I left the continent of North America.

I’ve long had an interest in travelling and spent a good chunk of the last decade flying and driving all over my home continent. From Burns Lake, BC to Atlanta, GA and many places in between, each city brought exciting new experiences and memories I’ll not soon forget.

As great as each of these trips has been, ultimately the foundations of North American cities share more in common than they differ. Consistently paved roads, clear and legible wayfinding, generally solid infrastructure, and — well — safe drinking water.

None of which can be said of the city where my partner and I are currently staying. While paved roads exist most are dirt, street signs are often non-existent, electricity turns off for seemingly no rhyme or reason,1 and the water is best served post-boiling.

This city, for those who missed the news on Twitter, is Kampala, Uganda.


Home to ~1.5MM people, Kampala is the largest city in a country of over 37MM. For a bit of perspective, the population density of Vancouver — Canada’s most dense city — is 5,492/km2 while Kampala’s clocks in at 7,928/km2.

Of course population density isn’t the only difference between these two cities. However, when you also consider the state of each city’s infrastructure, cultural differences, and overall quality of life, it becomes clear that we aren’t comparing oranges with oranges.

Not to mention the rest of Uganda, both urban and rural.

All of this is simply to point out one simple truth: Uganda is unlike any country I’ve ever been. And as a designer that both excites and scares the shit out of me.


A couple of months ago, my friend and colleague Boris Mann introduced me to Ed Levinson. Ed is an angel investor who has has been traveling to Uganda every January since 2011 to run umpiring training camps for Kampala’s little league teams.2

Through this experience, Ed “[became] interested in the educational and entrepreneurial aspects of international development” which led to a relationship with Ugandan founders David & Gerald. Their startup, Ensibuuko, provides cloud-based banking software solutions to microfinance institutions.

These institutions — Savings and Credit Cooperatives and Village Savings and Loans Associations — serve sub-Saharan Africa’s 500 million unbanked individuals. Unlike a bank, which in Africa provides its services at rates unaffordable by many people, these microfinance institutions aim to provide people the ability to save and borrow money when doing so with a bank is cost prohibitive.

Like many other aspects of Ugandan life, these institutions lack the infrastructure commonly found in North American financial institutions. Ensibuuko aims to provide that infrastructure and to do so in a way that is native to Ugandan culture.


As a product designer, it is my job to uncover the jobs for which a customer will “hire” a product. Through a discovery process that involves user interviews and discussions around business models and strategy, I try to help founders and product managers understand what their customers need and design solutions to bring that value to the customer. Perhaps I am a bit naive, but I believe a significant portion of our collective understanding comes from a familiarity with North American culture — people, for the most part, work roughly 40 hours a week and are looking for ways to save time and get more done, faster.

Now two days into my time here in Kampala, I realize none of that familiarity applies.

And so, it will be my job to figure out how to apply best practices of product design to the problems Ensibuuko aims to solve. My hope is that the processes and methodologies I’ve learned over the last decade will help. User research, design sprints, job stories, prototyping, and user testing are the tools I intend to use to discover how to design a product for the Ugandan people. I’m sure I’ll have some missteps. Perhaps I will find it difficult to translate processes and skills I cultivated in North America to an African context. My goal is to write and share the lessons I learn along the way for those who will surely follow in my footsteps.

  1. Of course there are reasons, I’ve simply yet to discover them. 

  2. When I graduated from elementary school, we were asked what about our career aspirations which were to be announced during the ceremony. My choice was “Major League Umpire”. 

Creating product shortcodes for Shopify

This past month I had the wonderful opportunity to design and develop a Shopify theme for my friends at Rye 51. While a case study will be forthcoming, I wanted to share one aspect of the site’s development that really got my gears turning.

One of our goals for this project was to allow Matt and his team the ability to publish weekly collections featuring interviews and other editorial content. Out of the box, Shopify allows you to display collections of products with a collection name and description followed by a list of products. While this is perfectly suitable for common category collections, for custom collections we wanted to include images of and links to products throughout the long-form editorial content.

Inline Product
Rye 51 can add products directly to a collection description by adding a simple shortcode

To accomplish this, I employed the help of Culture Kings’ Shopify Shortcodes library to create a product shortcode. Using Shopify Shortcodes is pretty simple:

  1. Install the Shopify Shortcodes library.
  2. Create a shortcode using the naming convention shortcode-NAME.liquid in your snippets folder.
  3. Replace tags such as {{ collection.description }} with {% include 'shortcode' load: collection.description %} in your collections.liquid file.
  4. Add [shortcode] to the description field in your Shopify admin.
  5. Watch the magic unfold.

The Shopify Shortcodes library comes with example shortcodes for FlexSlider, FontAwesome, and YouTube. Looking at these will give you an idea of how the library parses information passed through a shortcode. The basic structure is something like:

[shortcode-name attribute='value']

To create a product shortcode, I started by creating a file in the snippets folder called shortcode-product.liquid. The shortcode I want to provide for my client should be simple, so I’m going to use the product’s handle (or URL slug) in the shortcode, like so:

[product name='product-handle']

To pass the name attribute to your shortcode snippet, we’ll need to capture it near the beginning of the shortcode-product.liquid file:

{% capture productHandle %}
    {% include 'shortcode-render' render:'name' %}
{% endcapture %}

Now, I can use {{ productHandle }} in my snippet to pull in the shortcode’s name attribute and use it to assign product:

{% assign product = all_products[productHandle] %}

From here, it’s just a matter of using the attributes available through Shopify’s product object to display the product’s title, image, and URL.

'<h1 class="title">
    {{ product.title }}
</h1>
<a href="{{ product.url }}">
    <img src="{{ product.featured_image.src | product_img_url: '1024x1024' }}" alt="{{ image.alt | escape }}" />
</a>'

You can add other attributes, such as a float to allow the product to appear on either side of the text or to add more content. I’ve used this same method to create image galleries and fancy block quotes, as well.

Shortcodes are a simple way to give your clients the power to create even more engaging experiences for their customers.

A tale of two days

On April 24, 2016, I quit smoking. Unlike most who take up the habit young, I started in my late twenties. It was a stupid decision to start, bolstered by my arrogant belief that I could quit whenever I wanted. Turns out, quitting is tough.

My first attempt to quit was on a drive home from Vancouver to London. Stuck in a car for four days straight was the perfect situation to quit, however my willpower wained about a week after I got back to Ontario.

I’ve tried to quit a number of times since; sometimes trying the cold turkey approach, others with the use of nicorette gum or over-the-counter e-cigs. Each time I would either quit for just a day or two, or at best reduce my intake by about half for a few days.

Sometime before April 24, I purchased a Kanger SUBOX Mini from a small vape shop in Gastown called Vaporologie. While in the shop, one of the other patrons pulled out his phone to show me an app which tracked when he had quit smoking and how much money and time he’d saved since.

I returned home with my new toy, pulled out my phone, and downloaded the Quit Now iPhone app. It’s a simple app that tracks the days since your last cigarette and offers insights and encouragement along the way.

There were some false starts in the early days, but the pain of having to reset my quit date in the app grew stronger each time.

When friends of mine and I went on an incredible two-day hike to camp at Greendrop Lake in Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park, I made the decision to not pack my cigarettes. It was a gruelling 6km hike across four boulder fields and partway up a mountain to get to Greendrop and by the time I got home all I wanted was to relax and have a cigarette.

I went downstairs, lit the cigarette, inhaled, and filled my tired lungs with that sweet, sweet nicotine.

That was on April 24, 2016 and it was the last cigarette I smoked.


Until yesterday, that is.

On August 10, 2016, I got to spend the evening with my globetrotting, skydiving brother for the first time since Christmas. His team are in town this week for an airshow in Abbotsford. Rob and a couple of his buddies came by for a couple of drinks and to see my new neighbourhood. Not long into the visit, someone suggested we head downstairs for a smoke.

And that’s when it happened.

I asked for a cigarette.

It had been 6 months since the last time my brother and I smoked together. A lot of our deepest conversations over the last few years were with cigarettes in hand. The last time (and the first time in nearly a decade) I saw my father smoke was when he, my brother, and I were standing outside of the funeral home having just carried Mom to the hearse.

I can’t blame my brother because I asked for the cigarette. I asked because I wanted one. I had been wanting one for 108 days. I just hadn’t found the opportunity for rationalization until I’d had a shot or two of whiskey in me and my little baby brother next to me. But he didn’t offer, I asked.

After a second cigarette following a walk down to the beach, I went right back to my vaporizer — a new Sigelei 213 I purchased just last week on my 101st day — and have not felt the urge to smoke since.

Last night I sat down, told my partner, and once again felt the pain of resetting my quit date again.

That was on August 10, 2016 and it was the last cigarette I smoked.

A tale of two days
On the bright side, I didn't pay for what I smoked yesterday, so I'm still up $1,034 ;)

Quick and dirty method to observe and capture user tests

During the last phase of a product design sprint, or as part of any product design process, you will want to test and validate your assumptions and design solutions with real customers. Often, you will want to bring your customers into your office in order to perform these tests, but won’t want everyone involved in the project to be physically present in the room while the test is taking place. Complex and expensive systems have been built to allow teams to observe a user test remotely in another office, but you can replicate this experience while also capturing the test to review at a later time with tools found in most modern offices.

This approach will work regardless of the device you are designing for and is made possible through the use of Lookback. With Lookback, you can record user tests of mobile and desktop apps and websites while also recording the user’s facial expressions and eye movement as they use your prototype. These recordings can than be shared and discussed amongst your team and referred back to throughout the design and development of your product.

Though Lookback only supports native mobile testing of Invision and Marvel prototypes or native apps with the Lookback SDK installed, you can record tests of mobile websites or prototypes built with other tools. To do so, connect your device to your Mac via USB and with QuickTime or other screen mirroring application stream the view from your mobile device to your Mac. While you do lose the ability to do eye tracking, you can still record facial expressions using the FaceTime camera on the Mac.

What you’ll need

The setup

To start, download and install Lookback onto your Mac. If testing an Invision or Marvel prototype, connect either service to Lookback and download the appropriate prototype viewer onto your mobile device. If testing a native app, install the SDK.

If testing a mobile prototype or app, connect your device to your Mac via USB and use QuickTime or another app to mirror the stream on your Mac.

Open Lookback on your Mac and the app or prototype you wish to test. You should see a video stream of the user and either the desktop app or site or the stream of the mobile app.

Testing with Lookback

Then, turn on AirPlay on your Mac and select the Apple TV located in the office from which your colleagues will observe the test.

The video of your user and the product you are testing will both be streamed to the TV where your team is observing and taking notes. For bonus points, stick an earbud in your ear and have your team call you on speaker phone so they can prompt you with questions they would like you to ask your test subject (protip: if you’re observing, try not to cause the person administering the test to break out in laughter over your fart jokes).

That’s it

There’s not a whole lot more to say. With a clever application of Apple’s AirPlay and the tremendously useful Lookback testing suite, you can easily observe and capture user tests at the same time.

If you have tips or tricks for capturing and observing user tests, please let me know on Twitter.

Just write and publish

I have two blog posts in draft form sitting in nvALT at the moment. One is about my time mentoring students at Red Academy. Another is about the hiking and camping trips I’ve taken over the last year. Add to that another half-dozen ideas that have been percolating in my head for far too long and it all adds up to feelings of disillusionment, discouragement, and discontent.

It’s never been easier to publish writing online. Hell, it’s never been easier to publish just about anything online. It’s not a technical challenge I face. It’s a psychological one.

Truth is, those same feelings apply to a number of areas in my life. I do not feel that I’m living up to my potential, nor do I feel a true sense of what the limit to that potential is. It’s not a matter of talent or inspiration or even time. It’s a matter of discipline. And discipline is born of routine.

In 2013, Julie Zhuo made a commitment to herself to write once a week. Her first post — a denunciation of January — has absolutely nothing to do with her article about Imposter Syndrome that brought her work to my attention. Nor did it have anything to do with the lessons she’s shared from her career on Facebook’s product design team. But that article set her on a path that has enriched not only her own life but the lives of thousands upon thousands of designers around the world, yours truly included.

I have long dreamed that my work would have that kind of effect. That the words I transmit over these wires would impact people the way countless others’ have impacted me. But I’ve allowed fear and doubt prevent me from even trying.

Two weeks ago, I attempted and failed for the second time to complete Shawn Blanc’s Focus Course. Despite the fact that I designed his website and had access to the content well before it was published publicly, I neglected to take advantage and allow it to cause the type of change I’ve witnessed it cause in others. It’s not that I haven’t had the time. With no kids, no pets, and an enviable work/life balance, I have no excuse.

Back when I was recording the Hundred Down podcast, one of the key things that kept me going was the accountability and encouragement from our listeners. Their support combined with that of two good friends gave me the strength to lose nearly sixty-five pounds in a matter of months. When I gave up, it had been several months since we had recorded a podcast. I had secluded myself to a windowless basement apartment and settled in for a long winter.

Save for popping up to post the ocassional offensive joke on Twitter and, more recently, share my experience working with HabitStack, I’ve still been living in hibernation.

While my team and I have been growing and building awesome products, I’ve been silent about the mistakes we’ve made and what we’ve learned from them. While I’ve been learning about and practicing design sprints, I haven’t shared my experience and how this wonderful tool can help people in any industry solve really tough problems.

That’s not how I envisioned my life would be. That’s not why I’ve spent over 10 years publishing my thoughts online. I did it so I could find a community of like-minded people who just want to create something amazing and learn from those around them.

It’s not January, but like Julie I think it’s time for me to make a resolution. I resolve to write and publish something — anything — once a week. It might not be good and it likely won’t be well-received. But if I don’t start fucking up now, then when?

Hiring HabitStack

After publishing my Q1 review of my 2016 goals, I was able to sit down with Scott Ward from HabitStack to discuss my strategy and progress to that point. After an hour of conversation, I realized that Scott was able to provide exactly what I needed in order to achieve my goals: guidance, scrutiny, and accountability.

I made the decision that day to personally hire Scott to coach me towards achieving my professional goals, with the hopes that once my Q2 goals had been realized, I could potentially convince Brewhouse to continue paying for Scott’s services. When I communicated this decision to the team, the response I received was even better than I’d hoped:

The company would hire Scott to aid the leadership team in setting goals and tracking progress across the entire business, starting with the leadership team.

Though this meant that I had to wait a couple of weeks before we could kick things off with Scott, I was excited that we would be working on this together. Though team had spent some time back in November setting individual goals and the leadership team business goals for 2016, we had not yet put a system in place for measuring our progress on a quarterly and monthly basis nor established the weekly habits needed to make the necessary progress.

Our team is still working on refining our 3–5 year “big dream”, but the fact that we’re working on it together makes me feel really good about sharing my Q1 review. I believe that through this experience, we’ll become much better at defining and measuring goals throughout our entire business, allowing us to improve the areas where we are struggling and celebrate the areas where we’re succeeding.

Quarterly review of my goals for 2016: Q1

Last November, I attended a seminar presented by HabitStack founder Scott Ward in which he explained the difference between two types of work. According to Scott, work that is urgent has a deadline and a perceived risk of loss, whereas transformative work has the potential to permanently raise the business to a new level. Neither urgent nor transformative work is necessarily more important than the other. However, for a variety of sociological and biological reasons we have a natural propensity for favouring work which is urgent.

What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower 34th U.S. President

Scott argues that trying to circumvent our natural bias towards urgent work in favour of transformative work is a lost cause. The mental energy and discipline required to consciously choose transformative over urgent work is too high of a toll for our lizard brains. As such, the solution to the problem of how to focus on transformative work is to make it urgent.

Yearly Goals

This past January, I did something I had never done before: I set goals for what I want to achieve professionally by the end of the year. They are:

  • Reach $300,000 in design revenue at Brewhouse
  • Add 1 product designer to our team
  • Attend 1 leadership conference
  • Attend 1 design conference

I set these goals because they all speak to what I hope to accomplish here at Brewhouse: to build the city’s best product design team. To do this, I need to continue growing as a leader and set goals to grow and improve the team.

I set this year’s revenue goal based on what we were able to achieve last year — $121,500 in design revenue from May to December 2015 which, extrapolated for the time I wasn’t here, works out to $182,250/yr. Because our design team doubled part way through the year, our capacity to generate revenue through design doubled as well. Therefore, $300k in design revenue for a year is absolutely an achievable goal. This goal also sets us up to achieve my second goal of adding another product designer to the team. $300k will pay for 2 salaries for the first two or three quarters as we build our nest egg.

The latter two goals are geared more toward my own professional development, in the hopes that by improving my knowledge and understanding of both design and leadership, I’ll be better positioned to achieve the primary goals.

Of course, setting goals for the year doesn’t solve the problem of turning transformative work into urgent work, and that’s where goal-chaining comes into play.

Breaking it Down

During the seminar, Scott recommended setting quarterly and monthly goals which together form the habits that will help us achieve our yearly goals. This is where I believe I fell short.

For Q1, I set the following quarterly goals:

  • 19 design iterations
  • 2 design sprints
  • Research conferences for Q2–Q4

And the following monthly goals:

  • Meet with 1 less experienced designer in the community
  • Meet with 1 more experienced designer in the community
  • Write and publish 1 blog post to brewhouse.io

As you can see from the following screenshot, I did not do very well at following through with my quarterly and monthly goals:

Q1 Goals

See all of those red lines? Those are goals I failed to achieve. That’s right, I missed almost every single one. I believe there are two key reasons why this is:

  1. The connections I drew between my monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals were tenuous at best. Some yearly goals aren’t represented at all in any of these lists.
  2. In an effort to set appropriate expectations, I believe I failed to set enough goals to ensure I gained and maintained momentum.

Because there were so few monthly goals, I found I wasn’t checking in on my Trello board as often as I should have. Because I wasn’t engaging with the list of goals, I wasn’t considering them to be urgent.

Now What?

The first question I asked myself when planning for Q2 was whether or not I needed to adjust my yearly goals. Can I still reach $300k in design revenue this year? Will I be able to hire another product designer by the end of the year? Or, am I completely fucked?

After a great discussion about this with Adam Saint, I realized that I could still make this work. It would require some rethinking and refactoring of my strategy, but overall I believe I can still achieve the goals I set for myself this year. It won’t be easy, and will require more planning and discipline than I exhibited during Q1, but it is possible.

To start, I’ve added more monthly goals. “More monthly goals?” you ask? “But, you couldn’t even accomplish the three monthly goals you set last quarter!“ You’re right, I didn’t. However, the hope is that by adding more goals, I’ll be more diligent in checking in on my monthly progress and thus more engaged with what I hope to achieve. And, should I be successful in completing these new objectives, I should increase the likelihood of achieving my quarterly and yearly goals.

Q2 Goals

Also, I plan to reach out to Scott Ward as soon as I publish this post to get his feedback and also secure his coaching services to improve my goal setting process and to have someone outside of Brewhouse I can be accountable to.

And with that, I am off to write that email.

Update — Apr 7, 2016

After reading this post, Scott offered the following response:

I think your analysis is almost right. You did have too few goals, but I wouldn’t recommend adding more monthlies. To finish off the goal chains, I’d recommend adding weekly goals that contribute to your monthlies. Those short deadlines give you the urgency.

I totally understand what Scott is saying here. By setting weekly goals, you not only create an even greater sense of urgency, you also get the satisfaction of constant small wins. My friend Shawn wrote about this last year:

When we see that we are making progress — even small victories — then it strengthens our emotional and motivated state. We are happier and more motivated at work. And [therefore], we are more likely to be productive and creative.

He then asks us to consider the inverse, where we begin to feel like cogs in a machine. As much as I love working at Brewhouse, there are days where this rings true. Not all the time, thanks in large part to our constant, iterative product design and development process. But, when I’m not dedicated to a project and am spinning a lot of plates, I can sometimes feel like I’m playing a neverending game of whack-a-mole.

Scott and I plan to chat about this over coffee tomorrow; I am sure I’ll have lots more to share over the next week.

MySpace

The time when I was first becoming acquainted with designing for the web coincided with the dawn of the MySpace band. An industry once controlled by a select few who had, over the years, entrapped hundreds if not thousands of artists into unfathomably hostile record contracts had finally been unshackled from its tyrannous overlords, allowing anyone with a pirated copy of Pro Tools to turn their three-song EPs into global rock and roll tours.

This was not unlike my own experience of the web which, from the time I was in secondary school, had granted me the ability to make what I wanted and share it with the world. My pirated copy of Photoshop and a few lonely evenings and weekends introduced my ideas and personality to more people in a month than the total population of my hometown.

My own nascent musical proclivities, and later an opportunity to swindle some free studio time from a buddy of mine, allowed me to record an album of charismatically Christian choruses to publish in that god-awful Flash player for anyone with a web browser to hear. And that led to some shows, and some friends, and some opportunities to practice my also-nascent craft of web-making with some MySpace artist profile designs.

I don’t know if I even own the hard-drive that once housed those early PSD files. Maybe one or two out of a dozen or so would be worth spending an hour or two recovering one day. The rest could rot in ferromagnetic hell for the rest of eternity for all I care.

But it’s the memory of those early struggles that is as familiar today as any day since. It’s where I first learned to never, ever, ever do critical work in a web text field (Tom was way too popular to spend his time implementing autosave); where I could no longer rely on ImageReady’s auto-generated rollover JavaScript to change my fancy menu links on hover for me; where I experienced my first client-relationship clusterfucks.

So it was not without some feeling of nostalgia that I read this evening a quote from Frank Ze, recently shared by Mandy Brown (in a beautifully written piece sharing her thoughts on the world’s transition from text to other, more modern mediums):

Regardless of what you might think, the actions you take to make your Myspace page ugly are pretty sophisticated. Over time as consumer-created media engulfs the other kind, it’s possible that completely new norms develop around the notions of talent and artistic ability.

This rings true to me. As my friend James Shelley once pointed out, the technology we create in turn creates us. My time designing and building MySpace templates for bands and songwriters introduced me to the skills I needed to learn so I could create my own future. It taught me that I need not be a victim of a system that rewards conformity and demonizes individuality, and that even your best friends can forget to pay an invoice on time.

There was no post-secondary syllabus with “Client Tomfoolery 101” emblazoned on a title page. My local library didn’t have a book explaining just what the fuck a spacer.gif was. I had to learn these things like everyone else who had uncovered the secret of View Source: through trial and error.

I believe young designers need this opportunity to experiment, to make mistakes on a smaller scale and learn from them so they are prepared when they’re pushed out onto a larger stage.

Occasionally I am asked how to get started in this industry. The truth is, no two paths are alike. But, I do believe that what separates those who make it and those who fall by the wayside is an understanding that it’s ok to make mistakes, to fudge a project or two or ten, to make something ugly in order to understand what it takes to make something beautiful. Character is developed not from the avoidance of falling down but from falling down and fighting your way back up again.

Our first design sprint

This past week, the design team at Brewhouse experimented with a process new to the three of us called a Design Sprint. Developed and popularized by the design team at Google Ventures, the design sprint takes a product’s stakeholders and those intending to design and build it through a 5-day design process encompassing 5 phases: understanding, diverging, converging, prototyping, and testing. Each of these phases ebb and flow through any product design process, but the 5-day design sprint allows designers and product owners to quickly and efficiently prototype and test a design solution.

Before embarking on the sprint, we set out to accomplish three goals by the end of the week:

  1. To gain a better understanding of running a design sprint as outlined by teams like Google Ventures and Thoughtbot.
  2. To attempt scheduling the standard 5-day sprint within Brewhouse’s standard 4-day client work week (we generally save Fridays to work on administrative tasks and activities intended to improve our knowledge and skill sets).
  3. To design, prototype, and test a new interface for the newsletter builder in Goodbits.

We did not successfully complete all three objectives.

But, it was not a complete failure, either. We did improve our understanding of design sprints, especially the purpose and approach to the activities associated with each phase of the process. We technically did schedule the 5-day sprint into four days. And, we did make significant progress in our understanding of the problems we need to solve with the Goodbits newsletter builder.

In the spirit of transparent collaboration, I want to share what went right and what went wrong so that those on our team and those in other product companies can learn from our experience.

First, the good

Up until May of this year, Brewhouse had marketed itself as a Ruby on Rails development shop. When I was hired, the company began to build up the design side of the business. It was thought that we’d make do with just me handling all of the design work until just a few months in when it was clear the design business was growing faster than anticipated. In September, we hired Lee to help with design, but it wasn’t until this week that he and I had a real opportunity to collaborate on a project.

As well as collaborating with Lee for the first time, this was also my first full week working on Goodbits. While I had been involved in discussions and have made small contributions to Goodbits, I had not yet had the chance to dedicate an entire week to our own product. I also relished the opportunity to work with our product manager, Mark, on our own product rather than a client project.

Practice makes perfect

Reading through the details of the Design Sprint exercises, I was struck how they felt both familiar and alien at the same time. I have years of experience researching, sketching out different user interface ideas, prototyping and building products of various sizes and levels of complexity, however I would tend to start generating ideas with pen and paper and move rather quickly to wireframing in either Keynote or Photoshop as quickly as possible.

In the design sprint process, sketching ideas by hand is the primary means of coming up with multiple possible solutions in a short period of time. Exercises such as Mind Mapping and Crazy Eights are intended to help us get to the heart of the problem and propose as many solutions as possible.

It was great seeing the various options that each of us came up with. However, it wasn’t until we had completed a few rounds of this process that we realized we had missed the Storyboarding exercise to refine the ideas we were brainstorming.

During this phase of the sprint, I found my own ability to sketch ideas paled in comparison to both Lee and Mark. I also noted that my frustration with my limited output caused anxiety that I was unable to contain. Not my proudest moment during the week, but I hope by acknowledging it I will be able to improve my output for our next sprint.

By practicing the activities that make up a design sprint, we were able to gain a better understanding of the purpose of each activity as well as improve our ability to critique and collaborate on our ideas. By the next time we attempt a design sprint, we should be more comfortable with each activity and more efficient moving through each phase of the process.

The importance of documentation

Though it was not one of the goals we had stipulated at the outset of the project, we did use the sprint as an opportunity to test a new tool, Paper by Dropbox. We used Paper as to document our ideas and decisions throughout the process. Overall, it was an excellent experience.

Having our assumptions and solutions derived from the sprint available to us as we embark on building out our ideas insures that we won’t be scratching our heads when a we need to explain a particular decision to the developer responsible for implementation.


As stipulated in the goals we established before the sprint, we were able to gain a better understanding of the activities involved in the design sprint process. The ideas we developed during the sprint are far stronger than what any one of us could develop on our own, and I believe Goodbits will be a better product as a result of the thinking we did during this sprint.

Then, the bad

There were two fundamental flaws in our approach to our first design sprint.

Scheduling

Scheduling our first sprint into a 4-day schedule was a mistake. Our team had never completed a design sprint together, and thus spent considerable time understanding each activity and its role in the process. I believe as we gain a deeper understanding of each activity, we will develop the ability to move from activity to activity far more fluidly.

By scheduling the 5 phases of the design sprint over a 5-day week, each phase experiences a natural beginning and end. You can show up to the office, begin the day’s phase, and be more relaxed knowing that you won’t have to switch mental contexts until the day is done.

The cognitive expenditure of switching from phase to the next in the middle of a day proved to be rather taxing on us. This is likely exasperated by the fact that the process was new to us, but I’m not sure that’s entirely to blame.

As each phase of the process builds upon its antecedent, it is important to carry each phase through to its natural completion. There should be no lingering doubt that the goals established for each phase were successfully accomplished. By scheduling each phase down to the minute, not enough time was left to reflect as activities were being completed, causing us to rush through decisions just to keep moving forward with the process. Many activities were only half finished or worse, ignored altogether.

Though we had scheduled our activities down to the minute, interruptions throughout the week caused our forward momentum to become inert. I bare much of the responsibility for this — I accepted requests for meetings at times when I knew I was meant to be focused on the sprint. Back when I was a freelancer, these interruptions could be mitigated by the fact that I was working alone more often than not. When two other people are waiting for you to wrap up a podcast that was rescheduled to a time you were all meant to be prototyping, it can be tragically debilitating to progress.

There were several times I felt I was being brought back up to speed on discussions I had missed. Perhaps this could have been mitigated by better documentation, but that too requires either further resources to be assigned to the sprint or a slow down in productivity on the part of those participating.

The elephant is the room

The room where we engaged in this week’s sprint was our company board room. Brewhouse works in a loft apartment which has been converted into an office. Our board room is a dark, narrow room with windows looking out at a brick wall two feet away and a sliding door which acts as a somewhat ineffective white board.

But worst of all are the chairs. Due to Brewhouse’s disdain for meetings, a decision was made early on to purchase chairs which would act as a deterrent from spending too much time in the board room. However, if collaboration is a value that we care about at Brewhouse, we should care about designing a space that best supports our collaborative efforts. There were many times we simply wished not to be in that room, even though the actual work we were doing was both challenging and engaging.

What’s next?

This week I plan to schedule a retrospective on our initial design sprint, so we can do it again the following week for another area of Goodbits. I want this process to be ingrained in us to the point where it becomes routine, so that the output of our work is of the utmost quality.

A tribute

A tribute

After an incredible 65 years of life, 44 years of marriage, 30 years of motherhood, and 4 years of fighting for her life, Mom passed away on the evening of July 7, 2014 at 11:38pm. The family was home and able to say goodbye before she passed, and she left peacefully knowing her husband and three children were with her.

Mom was an incredible woman. Her strength and love were the foundation of our family, and her compassion for those around her shone through everything she did. She graced the world with her creativity and passion, and stood for those who could not stand on their own. Every time I cut a peanut butter and jam sandwich into four little squares, when I’m walking to my car and realize I’ve forgotten something inside, and when I see someone in need, I’ll remember her. She was good to her family and to the world.

Visitations will be held at A. Millard George (60 Ridout Street South, London, ON) on Thursday from 2–4 and 7–9pm and the funeral will take place on Friday at 11am. Relatives and friends of the family are encouraged to attend.

Thank you to all of our friends and family who have been walking this journey with our family these last four years, and a special thank you to Linda, Phil, and Dr. Chawla for their compassionate care. Your love and support has meant the world to us.

A second set of eyes

I’ve been working as a professional designer for just over 6 years now. I started at a small studio where I had the opportunity to work alongside gifted designers who helped me develop my skills. When I struck out on my own as a freelancer, I did so partly because I wanted the freedom to work on projects of my own choosing rather than having them handed down to me. While my independence certainly made the work I did much more interesting, it also left a bit of a gap in my design arsenal: a second set of eyes.

Working with the team at Perch gave me the best of both worlds—an interesting design challenge to sink my teeth into, and a team of talented and knowledgeable people who could provide a thoughtful critique to my work. While I was the only person in the company with “designer” in my job title, each team member played an integral role in how the product came to be designed.

Now that I’m freelancing again, I realize I bore easily. This has been both a blessing and a curse working in this industry. A blessing, because it’s forced me to take on multiple types of projects working in a variety of mediums, all of which have helped me become the designer I am today. A curse, because sometimes that boredom is derived from my own work; I can only look at the same design element for so long before my natural instinct is to want to look away and move on to the next thing.

Sometimes a project is expansive enough to allow for this type of hopscotching between sections. A mobile web app I’m working on right now has a plethora of views and interaction states to sink my teeth into, which means if I find myself stuck on one part of the app, I can whisk away to another section and come back when my mind has had time to unclog itself. But, if when I return my brain is unable to work through the muck, I’m left to my own devices.

Freelancing is a lonely life.

But, I’m slowly starting to work my way out of my self-imposed bubble. I’ve recently asked a couple of friends if they would look at things I’m working on, and their input has been invaluable. As someone who tends to take pride in his independence, I’m slowly learning that swallowing that pride and asking for help is of utmost importance, both to me and my clients.

If, like me, you find yourself alone, banging your head against the desk as a deadline looms and a design solution is seemingly miles out of reach, perhaps reaching out to a trusted friend (or random Internet person) will help bridge the gap.

Please help my friend Carly win recording time

Last April, my friend Carly Thomas invited violinist Noah Battaglia and myself to join her for a live-on-the-floor music video our friend Edward was filming. The song, I’ll Find an Ocean, just made the first cut in local radio station 98.1 Free FM’s “Under the Covers” songwriters’ contest, bringing Carly one step away from a huge $4000 recording package prize.

The voting system is annoying (requiring voters to create a new account on their WordPress-built user management system), but if you would be so kind as to take the time to vote for us, I would really appreciate it.

Goodbye, Vancouver

I moved from London, Ontario to Vancouver, British Columbia a little over a year ago to join Perch as the Sr. UX Designer. In that time, I have designed 3 versions of the app1, watched us grow from a team of 4 to a team of 8, and been part making what I believe is a new beginning in the way we experience communication.

The past 16 months have been amazing, but like all good things my time at Perch is coming to an end.2 Two weeks have gone by since I handed in my resignation, and my last day will be September 27.

At the end of the month I will be driving back to Ontario to spend time with my mom who has been battling cancer for some time now. My friend Ed will be joining me for the ride, my first time across Canada.

What will I be doing when I get back to Ontario? Good question, but not one I can answer at this time. What I can tell you is that it won’t be anything I’ve done before.

I have two special announcements for those in the Vancouver area. First, I’m having a party at my place Friday night. I know this is the Internet, but I still think you should come. Email me for the time and location.

Second, because my little Mazda 3 Sport can’t tow a trailer, I need to sell my furniture. There’s a bed, a sofa bed, and a patio couch listed on Craigslist that, I think, would look so good in your place.

I did not expect I would leave Vancouver so soon. I’m really going to miss working with Danny, Steve, Ian, Lance, Adam, Edward, and Pete. I’m really going to miss the amazing friends I’ve made. I’m really going to miss the sushi.

But, don’t fret. I’ll be back to visit soon.

  1. With numerous iterations in between. 

  2. If you’re a designer who would love to work with an amazing team on a product that has the potential to change the way the world communicates, you should get in touch

Juggernaut Joe’s 40th Jubilee

I bought this shirt when I was fat. It was too small for me, but I couldn’t put it back on the rack. At the time I was toying around with the Paleo diet, and thought I’d be able to wear it in a few short months. I didn’t stick with the diet at the time, so the shirt remained in a box in my storage locker.

My in-suite washing machine had been broken for a few weeks, and I was running out of clean tees.1 I hadn’t thought about it in almost a year, but as I pulled the green article out of the box my eyes widened with excitement.

I might be small enough to fit into this thing.

I put it on, and immediately felt the warmth of self confidence emanating from my chest.

Jaugernaut Joe's 40th Jubilee
My moobs are shrinking!

It’s the moustache that does it for me.


Episode 30 of my podcast, Hundred Down, is up. I drop a big announcement a few minutes in, about which I’ll have more to say here in the next a week or so.

  1. White. Whine. 

Perch in the App Store

Though it is technically a 3.0 release, in our hearts it’s our true 1.0. This is just the beginning of a vision we’ve been running towards since day one.

There are a non-trivial number of video communication apps in the wild, each with their own user experience wrapped around a basic concept: connecting people over distances of any size through video. The experience that we’ve created was built with the same goal, applied to a new context, resulting in a new experience. I’m really excited to see which of our ideas work, learn from the ones that don’t, and discover new problems and opportunities along the way.

If you have remote workers on your team, if your company works from multiple locations, or if your office would benefit an easier method of connecting two spaces within the office, I would love for you to give Perch a try. If you work from an office and have kids at home, try setting up one Perch Portal at your desk and another in your kitchen. I think you might like it.

Of course, I’m not a very good sales guy, so I’ll leave you with someone who is.

Download Perch for free on the App Store

I need a survival kit

Every week I listen to the latest episode before posting it to Hundred Down. Admittedly, our show isn’t particularly professional, but I do care that what is said on the show is—at the very least—tasteful.

A week ago, the guys and I recorded one of the most revealing episodes we’ve ever done. After recording it, I felt an intense inner pressure to protect myself from what was said. I didn’t want to hear it again. I didn’t want anyone else to hear it, either.

Usually when I talk about feeling down or being alone, I do so in a light-hearted way. Most of the time I feel pretty ok, and making a joke out of personal misery helps make it not seem so, well, miserable.

It took me an entire week to finally strike up the courage to listen to what we had recorded. But as I sat and listened to a guy break down, I felt comforted. It wasn’t that I looked down on the guy, but rather that I felt I wasn’t alone.

Now, of course I realized that this guy speaking to me through my earbuds was me, but the experience reminded me of two very important truths.

First: having some form of documentation of your pain to look back on allows you to realize that in life you are always moving forward. How you feel in any particular moment does not determine how you will feel in the future. As I sit here writing this today I feel so content, so genuinely happy, that I don’t recognize myself from even a week ago.

Second: other people in this world feel the same pain, sadness, loneliness, and fear that I have felt, and one of the best gifts I can give them is the comfort that they, too, aren’t alone in all of this.

To give you a sense of how strongly I agonized over this: I reached out to a few people I admire and asked what they felt about publishing something that was personally revealing for public consumption. The responses I got were both helpful and mixed. Were I to follow some of the advice I received I would not be writing this down and I would not be publishing the episode.

But as I listened again to the end of the show, I couldn’t help but wonder whether right in that moment, even if completely subconsciously, I could foresee the internal struggle I would face:

What I want to make clear is that I know I’m going to get into a funk again. I’m going to get into this place where it’s dark, and it’s gloomy. But in the meantime, I want to focus all of this time and all of this energy into putting together a survival kit.

This episode and the 27 that came before and the two or three dozen that come after will form the foundation of that survival kit. And my hope is that anyone who may be struggling with their own weight and/or self-image issues might find it a helpful tool in their kits, too.

The hardest ten

Losing weight is a mind fuck.

About four years ago I lost sixty pounds. Starting at 275 lb, I ran, lifted, pressed, pushed, pulled, fought, and calorie-restricted my way to 215 lb. It was tough. I was dedicated.

I had a really hot girlfriend helping me out.

Once that fell apart, I let myself go. As one friend-of-a-friend put it, I was putting on my shield. In a matter of months I gained back those sixty pounds, and then a few more just in case.

For three years I lived my life in that shield. I clung to it. It defended me. I embraced it. It saved me.1

On January 2, 2013, I started taking off the shield. On January 14, I started telling my story and documenting it.

In nearly 8 whole months of losing weight professionally2, I have discovered one fascinating benefit to be the ability to examine just how long it’s taking me. I have never kept good records, but recording the show has resulted in a trail of crumbs that allow me to look back on my journey. Where in the past I didn’t have the information to analyze, now the podcast has become a deep cove of revealing thoughts and stories and statistics about myself.3

Through this lens I have come to a harsh discovery: I’m in a rut.


By June 14, 2013, I lost 52 lb. I remember exactly how I felt because I can hear it.

It took me 164 days to lose 52 lb. That works out to 3.15 days per pound. It has been 66 days since I reached the 52 lb mark. In 66 days, I have lost somewhere close to 20 lb. Unfortunately, these have been the same three or four pounds lost and gained and lost and gained over and over again.

This morning I weighed myself and the scale read 234.9 lb. That means that in 66 days all I have accomplished is less than one pound per month. That’s 33 days per pound.

What the fuck have I been doing?

Even by listening to a few small snippets of the past few episodes of the show, it’s obvious I’m not doing well. I’m struggling to get over whatever’s holding me back. I’m making excuses for laziness. I’m pushing back against the system — no — the friends I’ve asked to help me out.

It’s a repeating pattern in my life, and one of the main reasons I don’t like asking for help.

I’m an addict. Addicts hurt the ones who try to help.

Watch any episode of Intervention, and you’ll see just what addiction does to someone. It makes them violent against those who love them. It turns angels into demons, saints into sinners, beauties into beasts.

And I’m one of them. It’s embarrassing to admit it, certainly even more in a place so public, but my hope is perhaps that by admitting it I can begin to heal.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m in some dire need of professional help. I have not stolen, or physically hurt anyone. There are certainly people whose addition has worn them down to the point where they are incapable of healing on their own. I am not one of them, though my heart breaks for them.

I have the mental, physical, financial, and social capacity to fix this. But, again, I can’t do it on my own.

So there it is. Getting from 50 to 60 lb has been hard. Hell, I’m still not really there. And there’s a hell of a long road after that.

But as I take a few steps back, giving myself space to accelerate in order to push beyond my own inadequacies in an attempt to achieve something I know I can achieve,4 I’m asking that perhaps, just maybe, you might come alongside and give me a bit of a boost.

Just, try to keep your hands off my bum.

  1. Even as a post-Christian, I’m still looking for a saviour. 

  2. The show has a net worth of -$96. We made $50 off the one ad we ran. I gave it directly to Bill to say thanks for all his work editing the show. 

  3. One of the more disgusting revelations I’ve come across is how easily I fascinate myself. 

  4. Winded, right? I’m working on my writing. Any and all suggestions from English Majors currently on their 3rd break during a marathon 14-hour Starbucks shift welcome here