Things I’ve learned under quarantine

  1. A “model” is just an opinion with a spreadsheet
  2. Freedom isn’t free
  3. Learned to spell the word “quarantine” correctly
  4. Discovered the website layoffs.fyi
  5. Other people call my regular life “The Quarantine”
  6. Drinks with friends through FaceTime is awesome, because it takes zero seconds to get home afterwards
  7. There’s no need to “pop down to the shop” every day
  8. Eating potatoes works five days in a row, but not a day longer
  9. It’s worth paying extra for better location
  10. I need to move somewhere with a garden

j j j

Kung fu

What sports do you guys do at home? I was looking for something that provides a good workout, and can be done in a flat without annoying the neighbors.

So jumprope is a big no-no, but yoga works.

It’s really hard to get your heart rate over 180 with yoga though. And I’d want to do something I’ve never done before.

I wanted to learn kung fu ever since I’ve seen my first Bruce Lee movie, and kung fu indeed seems to check all boxes.

Starting with a new sport without a class or a coach is hard of course, but there’s nothing that Mamazon or the Internet couldn’t give you. There’s a Youtube video for everything, and here’s a beginner’s kung fu video series:

So I started to copy the kung fu stances and I was like hell yeah, this is awesome, I’m gonna learn kung fu by the time the virus scare is over.

…and then video number two gets wild. It still looks kind of alright, but there’s literally nothing I can do from the exercises. Feels like they’ve skipped a hundred lessons in between, and a decade worth of practice.

Which kind of fits everything I know about kung fu.

j j j

Employers gonna employ

One reason why it’s such a difficult undertaking to run a company is the large number of entirely different tasks you need to do.

Most founders are drawn into the business by the most creative tasks. Creating the product, the brand identity, or the marketing messaging is great fun, at least for the first time around. Taking care of taxes and paperwork, the terms & conditions — that’s only interesting for a select few.

Having to learn a bunch of things in a short period of time can be addictive. And in other times, you need to be frugal and deal with everything on your own. But sooner or later always comes a time, when the tasks you don’t enjoy doing can be simply outsourced.

Outsourcing can mean many things, but it’s usually one of these:

  1. Procurement. You may be able to find a product or service out there, and just buy what you need. Purchasing something off the shelf is usually the simplest and easiest to do, if you can find a product that fits your needs exactly. Unfortunately it’s often prohibitively expensive to do so, or impossible for time constraints, legal or other reasons.
  2. Agencies and freelancers. For things that need to be more custom made, you’ll need to hire someone. Working with freelancers and agencies is a great option to get started, because it’s easy to scale it up and down. You can buy exactly as much as you need: hire someone only when you have more work to do. Without an employment contract or retainer, you don’t need to pay others when you can handle the work yourself.
  3. Employees. One issue with freelancers and agencies is that the people you’d like to work with might not be available when you need them. Hiring someone full time or part time solves the problem — and it also creates a few more, including legal obligations, management and organization overhead.

Of course there are many other options out there, and hiring help is not as black or white as this list makes it seem. To mention two more common options as an example, contractors are a crossover between freelancers and employees, and interns are junior employees with a huge pay cut. The takeaway here is that everything works, as long as you can align motivations, and keep everyone happy.

The long term dream is to be able to delegate everything other than your best work, but for now, start with a low risk task. Start small, and gradually work your way up. Don’t worry if outsourcing the first few tasks takes more time than it saves you. Consider that an investment. It will open the door to ultimately assign everything else to others, saving you all the time you need for even bigger projects.


Yours truly says this, and a bunch of other super smartypantsy things over at the Startups Magazine. We’re going to return the regular programming in the next post.

j j j

Hopscotch scotch hop

Big changes are underway as we speak, Germany for one had to invent the word Einkaufswagenzwang. They use it to express the following:

“You must use the larger wheeled cart in this shop, in order to make sure you keep enough distance from the next person, that way keeping yourself and your peers safe from passing on the virus.”

In London, they’ve introduced Einkaufswagenzwang in our local Marks & Spencer. They’ve introduced many more forms of entertainment in fact, and it all starts right at the door. First you’ll notice big blue arrows painted on the ground, two meters apart, which looks real inviting to play hopscotch.

It also (1) keeps you at a safe distance from other people in the queue, while (2) providing a topic for chitchat while you’re waiting for your turn to shop. We need to wait for others to leave the shop, before being let in you know.

There’s something very charming about living under quarantine and lockdown. When I was in M&S, I’ve seen these two elderly ladies doing their weekly shopping, catching up on life — at a safe distance, keeping the carts in between. They left about the same time when I finished, so I overheard them say goodbye to each other.

  • ‘See you next week darling’
  • ‘See you next week, I’m really looking forward!’

End scene.

j j j

The C-Word

Nobody needs another article about the virus scare, so this won’t be one.

All I wanted to mention is that, together with most of you, I experience mass hypnosis.

It’s a weird state of mind when all you can focus on is one thing. Wherever you go, people talk about the same thing. All TV channels and websites show programming around the same topic.

They wouldn’t even need to push content down. I myself keep refreshing CNN.com until I see the infected-counter show a number larger than the previous one.

As someone who works with numbers and words, the only way I can work is to enter the zone within minutes. I need to rule out and ignore literally everything else in the world and start being productive. Especially in the mornings, I have a good hour before coffee, when I’m as productive as a person can be.

That doesn’t happen now. I wake up, and look at statistics. My brain knows that most of it isn’t meaningful, and it doesn’t even matter.

Can someone please introduce another topic for (public) discussion?

j j j

Secret Power

“I always started a job with the feeling that I’d soon quit or be fired, and this gave ma a relaxed manner that was mistaken for intelligence or some secret power.”

― Charles Bukowski, Factotum

j j j

How We Create Content (Elsewhere)

This blog is a personal feed of magic, where everything happens organically. Sometimes useful, sometimes interesting, other times not so much. Random person on the internet writes stuff for other intelligent people, without much strategy or agenda.

(Maybe this will be one of those more useful posts actually, especially if you’re into content.)

On other magazines and blogs that we run, we think about content in a more strategic way.

That’s always an interesting creative challenge, because content is clay. You can use words and paragraphs to form a piece, and it also works the other way around. The overarching brand will somehow strengthen each individual article, making them easier to be discovered and read.

At my first job in 2000, at one of the first big Internet Portals, we used to have key pieces of content that we called a “Pusher”. A Pusher is an article that’s longer and better than the regular ones, and we knew that every time we posted one, the average number of visitors increased for forever.

The number of visitors on the site always fluctuates – we’ve seen more traffic on workdays and less on the weekends, more in the spring and less in the autumn.

Pushers triggered obvious spikes as people shared the articles organically, but the real cool thing was how they raised the baseline. People were introduced to the portal and kept coming back for more.

Of course content was totally different 20 years ago. There were more readers than blogs to read, so people were actively seeking out stuff. Today it’s the other way around.

Yet, Pushers somehow still work. As soon as you share something that’s really-really good, that will rise the baseline.

This works on blogs, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever drugs the new kids do these days.

Good content is still quite hard to write, so as a creative, you’ll often resort to cheat and steal. On the new blog that I mentioned, we’ve experimented a bit to keep up a weekly posting schedule.

  1. I’ve hired people from Upwork to do research and write posts. (As far as the experiment goes, this was all garbage and we haven’t shared any of that. All money down the toilet.)
  2. We reworked a workshop’s transcripts. (We’ve shared this at least, but it was a huge amount of work. Probably more than writing the article in the first place, and not having a huge backlog of events, this can’t scale either.)
  3. We received a guest post offer (that lead nowhere)
  4. I repurposed previous posts and articles that I wrote. (This worked well, but not extremely scalable for obvious reasons. I don’t write much.)
  5. Hired a PR company to write posts. (This went well, the writing quality is brilliant, and they can work from a list of bullet points to make sure the content is correct. This spares us around 50% of the work. For price, it’s half of what random folks on Upwork charged.)
  6. I wrote some posts as a future book’s chapters, following some of the instructions in the book “How not to suck at writing” – it works but it’s hard work.
  7. We wrote guest posts for other blogs. (This is the best experiment so far actually and something we’ll likely keep up, because working with other editors raises the bar quite a lot.)

There you go, a useful post for Valentine’s Day.

Also, if you struggle with getting started, check out the Most Dangerous Writing App, which deletes everything unless you keep writing for 5 minutes straight.

j j j