The Time Machine

Numbering notebooks started in 2006 when I started writing in Moleskine’s. Currently working through #71, a Leuchtturm 1917. That’s quite an investment.

Like so many right now, I have spent an unusual amount of time sitting in on webinars covering a broad range of topics. Throw in my steady diet of podcasts and not only do you start to become a fountain of knowledge, but you also begin to spot trends.

One trend I have picked up on lately is the idea of Morning Pages. This daily practice was introduced by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way, which I read back in the mid-90s. Although many of the concepts she recommended did not stick, Morning Pages are an integral part to starting my day everyday.

For the uninitiated, in a nutshell, Morning Pages are sitting down with paper and pen at the beginning of every day and writing for 20 minutes straight. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling or grokking too hard on anything, you just empty your head of thoughts.

I find that some times I ramble on wondering why I am wasting precious amounts of paper and ink. Other times I merely report on the activities of the previous day, but sometimes I actually stumble into an exploration of a new idea or dig deep into something weighing on my mind.

Lately, the pop-psychologists are all highly recommending this practice. I most certainly agree with them, as I have been dutifully writing my Morning Pages almost every day for the past 25 years. I find the practice to be helpful, getting me ready for a productive day ahead as well as helping me see farther down the road.

I wanted to share one unexpected benefit of this practice. Towards the end of each year, I’ll go back and reread the Morning Pages for that year, starting at January 1 all the way to the current date. Usually takes a few days. Sometimes I just scan through the pages, but every once in a while I will uncover a treasure trove of what I was thinking about. Seeing how thoughts, events and actions played out over the course of a year can be enlightening.

But the real benefit is going further back, rereading the Pages from years ago. What was bothering me back in 1999? Who was pissing me off in March of 2016? What battle had I won in the summer of 2006? How did all this play out over the years?

That’s interesting, but what’s even more more interesting is how rereading the events of the day can instantly transport me back to that time. Thoughts and memories long forgotten come back to life, often vividly. I’ve found that not only writing, but also doodles and sketches in my notebooks, do the same thing. It’s amazing how thoughts come back to life.

These aren’t just notebooks – they’re time machines.

There’s the old adage that if you do not learn from history you are destined to repeat it. Some things in life are worth repeating – how did you manage an seemingly impossible challenge the first time around? Or, are you looking to make a change and you can now trace your life back to a particular moment when you found yourself at a fork in the road that led you to where you are today? There is tremendous value is learning from your own experiences and reflecting on them as continue to move forward with life.

Being able to travel back in time while flexing your creative muscles — needless to say I highly recommend you write your Morning Pages. You never know what you might find, that morning or years from now.

Favorite Articles in 2018

Back in 1996 when I worked at The ForeFront Group, we had a piece of software called WebWhacker (the packaging is elsewhere on this site). WebWhacker was designed to pull content down from websites to read later when you were offline. A genius app, until WiFi and mobile devices with unlimited reach became the norm. Google’s Pocket is the modern equivalent of WebWhacker. I use it every single day, sometimes throughout the day when I find things that interest me but don’t have the time to read at the moment. Apparently, according to Pocket I read a lot:

Although this is not a comprehensive list, here are some of my favorite articles I saved to Pocket during 2018:

Where Are All the Female Architects?

A museum grows in Houston

The Rise of Riso

It’s Time to Embrace the Creativity Explosion Advertising Is Undergoing

Soul Of A Subversive

Everything Goes With Everything … 

These are the conversations you need to have as a new manager

Business-Minded Artists and Alchemists Make The Best Advertising

Creative leadership

Why You Need To Pay Attention To Gen X Leaders

TITTER YE NOT by Dave Trott, of course.

Fear is the enemy of creativity

Creatives Are Overworked

I Visited A Shrine For The Patron Saint Of Procrastinators

Is Jeff Goodby the Best Copywriter at Goodby Silverstein & Partners?

Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

A Designer’s Guide to Getting Shit Done

The Curbed Guide to Texas

Stan Lee Knew About Managing Creative People

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple

The Library of Congress Has an Incredible Collection of Early Baseball Cards

R.E.M., in Retrospect

We are verbs, not nouns


Books Read in 2018

I never feel like I read enough, but this year I kept track of the books I read and surprised myself that I got through as many I did. I re-read a few others, like The Designful Company by Marty Neumeier (re-read at least twice!), The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins, The Corporate Creative by Andy Epstein and Gordon Mackenzie’s classic Orbiting the Giant Hairball all before I started my new job at Sysco. Without further ado:

The book that had the biggest impact on me this year was The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin. Through this book, I’ve been able to reconcile my thoughts on Catholicism, Buddhism and Stoicism. Contemplative action.

Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age by Miles Young

Creativity Rules: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and into the World by Tina Seelig cannot be recommended enough. Entrepreneurialism and creativity go hand-in-hand, and Dr Seelig delightfully captures all of the nuance.

The Choice Factory: 25 Behavioural Biases that Influence What We Buy by Richard Shotton

Rise of the Youpreneur: The Definitive Guide to Becoming the Go-To Leader in Your Industry and Building a Future-Proof Business by Chris Ducker

With the arrival of Blade Runner 2049, I decided to read the original story,  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. I enjoyed both movies more than the book, but nonetheless quite an interesting read.

Later in the year I read The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, thinking I would really enjoy it, but did not. Although the premise is amazing, the story meanders, dragging on endlessly. Couldn’t stay awake long enough to read it.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Dear Client: This Book Will Teach You How to Get What You Want from Creative People by Bonnie Siegler

Before the movie came out, I wanted to read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Glad I did. Much better book than a movie. I thought my 14-year-old son would love it, but he got bored with it because he did not understand all the references to the 1980s culture. D&D, Rush – that was me as a 14-year-old.

BadMen: How Advertising Went From A Minor Annoyance To A Major Menace by Bob Hoffman

Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Sleeping Giants (The Themis Files Book 1) by Sylvain Neuvel was a miss. I love giant robots, should have loved this book, but finished it and decided to not soldier on to book 2.

I love the ancient Greeks, and The Song of Achilles: A Novel by Madeline Miller brought the Trojan War to life.

Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Need by Todd Henry

Org Design for Design Orgs: Building and Managing In-House Design Teams by Peter Merholz and Kristin Skinner

I read Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain after Mr Bourdain decided to end his life. As previously mentioned, Part Unknown is one of my favorite programs on TV so I decided I want to read what got his literary career going. Fantastic book. There’s a chapter in the middle that goes into excruciating detail about his everyday life as a chef that every designer should read. Yes, you read that right.

I really wanted to love Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valence outdid not enjoy the writing in the least.

On the other hand, I finally broke down and read Fight Club: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk. Best novel I read this year.

I don’t recommend listening to The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss like I did. Too many near misses while sitting in traffic because I got lost in a thought.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

One Plus One Equals Three: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking by Dave Trott

Design as an Attitude by Alice Rawsthorn reminded me of Bruno Munari’s Design as Art. I cannot think of a higher compliment.


Favorite Music of 2018

As everyone knows, I am a music snob. Below is my list of favorite music released this year. It is not comprehensive and I know many great songs have been left off. But these are songs I listened to time and again, and defined the sound for the latter half of 2018.

The songs are in no particular order, except when I thought to scratch down the song as one I really liked. Gorillaz and Kacey Musgrave hold top honors as 2 of my absolute favorites on the year.

Now, I could have made a Spotify list, but admittedly I do not have an account and do not feel up to messing with getting one at the moment.

Gorillaz – Humility

Kacey Musgraves – Slow Burn


Other favorites include:

Israel Nash – Rolling On

Nathaniel Rateliff – You Worry Me

Low Cut Connie – Beverly

Haley Heynderickx – Oom Sha La La

Caroline Rose – Soul No. 5

Courtney Barnett – Charity

RayLand Baxter – Casanova

Amanda Shires – Leave It Alone

Christine & The Queens – Girlfriend

Neko Case – Bad Luck

Hop Along – How Simple

Mondo Cozmo – Shine

The National Reserve – New Love

Stereo League – Mother Tongue

Leon Bridges – Beyond

Lera Lynn – In Another Life

Jade Bird – The Lottery

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – French Press

Swearin’ – Untitled (LA)

Your Smith – The Spot

The Nude Party – Feels Alright


If you have to look past the dinner table for your heroes, then something’s wrong.

Dr. Joe King, The History of Baseball, Texas Tech University, Spring 1988


These words have been firmly entrenched in my mind since Dr King first spoke them during a round table discussion on the role professional athletes play in our society. A very profound thought that rings as true today as it did 30 years ago.

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think heroes are limited to those who perform amazing feats of strength or courage. Or being defined as one who put the needs of others before their own, even if it is at great risk to themselves. True, those are heroic acts, but heroes are often times so much more, and complex.

In my worldview, heroes show you what life could be like and compel you to be bigger than yourself. They offer inspiration and influence that brings out the very best in us.

A couple of my heroes died this year.

The first was Anthony Bourdain. I’m not a foodie, hate cooking shows, disagree with his politics and cannot condone his drug abuse, but for whatever reason I found him to be endlessly fascinating. I suppose much of the appeal was his attitude. He behaved like a a rock star with this who-gives-a-shit way of living, acting, talking, etc.

Always provocative, always interesting, he showed us the world through his own lens (beautifully filmed)  in Parts Unknown. I do not care much for television, but I have watched every moment of this series, often multiple times,  and relish the stories, the people and the sites. The show opened my eyes on some subjects, my heart on others. What amazing power and what a gift given to the world.

Over the summer I broke down and read one of his books – Kitchen Confidential. About midway through, there is an entire chapter where he goes into painstaking detail about a day in the life of a chef that is thoughtful, frank, key-opening, and full of take-aways, that even a crusty old designer such as myself finds useful.

I enjoy reading his stuff because you could hear his voice, just like on the narration during Part Unknown, as your eyes silently glided across the page. I can only hope my prose is as expressive.

I thought about writing this remembrance in June after he died, but I held off, and as time went past it no longer felt relevant.

That changed this week when Stan Lee died.

As big an influence as Mr Bourdain had on me, it dwarfs in comparison to the impact Mr Lee had. Stories he told, characters he created filled my head with so many ideas that I could probably credit Stan Lee with pushing me into the design business. There was no way I could ever make it in comics – that is one hard way to make a living, and I do not have nearly the talent to be able to do it.

I have most of Marvel memorized from elementary school til midway through high school. Formative years that were heavily influenced by Stan Lee. He helped get me through it and imagine a better, brighter future. Again, what a gift to be given.

There is a lot written about Stan Lee already, and I won’t tread the same ground here, other than to say if you were to look at authors who had the biggest impact on the 20th and early 21st centuries, you would be hard pressed to find anyone whose words and ideas changed the world.

It’s harder for me to write about Lee than Bourdain. As I cobble together the words, my mind drifts back to long, lazy summer afternoons where I’d spend a day lost in the world of the Fantastic Four, or waiting on the front porch at the mailbox on a Tuesday afternoon – because that was the day my Marvel subscriptions would arrive. Or trips to flea markets and comic book shops looking for buried treasures.

I have lists of other heroes: Jack Kirby, David Ogilvy, Paul Rand, Henry Rollins (who, much like Anthony Bourdain, I cannot stand his music or politics, but love him), Charles Eames, Joan Didion, Hunter Thompson, Ernest Hemingway, George Nelson and many others. I could write at length about any of them, but it’s that two of my heroes died this year. Their book is closed, they will not be creating anymore, that I can reflect on their impact.

You know someone had an impact on your life when you come to the realization that you would not be the person you are today had it not been for that other person. That is pretty heroic, isn’t it?

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