No More “Buts”: A Lesson Illustrated With Shoes

This pair of shoes is from Fluevog. They are effing gorgeous and they cost $319. Not Christian Louboutin prices, but not cheap either.

In the past, when sharing the light of Fluevog (glory-be and hallelujah!) with shoe-skeptical friends, I would immediately follow the price range of the shoes –  which is approximately$200-500 – with “But they’re made in small batches, by workers paid fair wages, using eco-friendly methods, and it’s a small brand, and the designs are so unique!”

That phrasing – “They’re $319. But!” – automatically puts me in a weak stance, one of justification and defensiveness. It sends out “Please approve of me and my decisions!” vibes. I own Fluevogs. I know they’re worth it. I’ll catch a sale if I can, but I have no problem ponying up full price. And I don’t need to justify that decision to anyone else.

This applies to a surprising number of things. The price of plane tickets, when explaining it to your non-travel oriented friends. Or, say, the price of your services (writing, design, coaching…what-have-you) when talking to a prospective customer.

Take out the “but” entirely. Try something like this instead:

“They’re $319. They’re made in small batches and are well-constructed, by workers paid fair wages, using eco-friendly methods. The shops have amazing customer service, the shoes are still designed by the man who founded the company, they’re super comfy, and they’re generally pretty freakin’ awesome.”

Doesn’t that sound so much better? Doesn’t that feel better to say, by approximately a metric ton? It can still sound needy and “approve-of-me”-y, but it doesn’t have to. The words don’t make it sound that way, your tone does; and you can pay attention to & start to catch yourself when you use that tone or send those vibes – stop that!

Your decisions are your decisions. Don’t wait for someone elses’ approval, especially if you know it’s the right choice for you. Set your prices. Buy the plane ticket.

Or the shoes. (I plan to, as a matter of fact.)

You might want to take a look at this post from Sandi – A Castle of Her Own Making – in which Sandi makes me blush a deep red & I answer some questions.

The Power of Pretty

Wanting something to look good often gets a bad rap. Should you buy the plain thing or splurge for the pretty? If you splurge on the pretty, are you going to feel like the extra money was a waste later?

In Making Ideas Happen, the authors talk about aesthetics & the idea that attraction breeds loyalty. The book relates a tale of Bob Greenberg and his “admittedly obsessive” morning routine of prioritizing and creating action steps. A certain kind of paper must be used, a certain brand of fountain pen (only Pelikan brand, a larger one with blue ink and a thinner one with brown ink), and so on and so forth. It seems totally absurd to an outsider, but the little details of his approach keep him engaged with his system and feeling loyal to it. The design of tools, especially something you’re using on a regular basis, can affect how eager you are to use them.

The authors hit on something that I find a key thing to consider when talking about the aesthetic of tools – aesthetics doesn’t just cover visuals, it’s a whole experience of engagement in all your senses. Aesthetics draw you in; they make something an experience & not just a use. Of course you’ll use something that’s more engaging! & why should you feel shallow about it?

The section on aesthetics in Making Ideas Happen closes with an assertion from Donald Norman – someone that I’ve never heard of, but who is apparently a “usability guru” – that “attractive things work better”. Donald related a tale to a journalist about testing out color monitors when they first became available commercially, because he wanted to see if the price increase was justified. Quoth the book, emphasis mine:

“I got myself a color display and took it home for a week,” Norman recalled. “When the week was over, I had two findings. The first finding was that I was right, there was absolutely no advantage to color. The second was that I was not going to give it up.” In her analysis of Normon’s findings, Postrel explains, “The difference lay not in ‘information processing’ but in ‘affect’, in how full color monitors made people feel about their work.”

In other words, the aesthetics of the tools you use to make ideas happen matter.

And here’s an example from my own life:

You’ve probably heard of Evernote – without going into intense detail, it’s sort of a cross-platform note-storage system, where you can store pictures, text notes, PDFs, etc. under certain categories, and have it sync from your computer to the online account to your iPhone or Android.

Since I’d got a new phone that could actually do something like that, I decided to give Evernote a go again, as I hadn’t found it very useful with just a computer. It worked. That’s really all you can say. It did what it was supposed to do, it did it all right (although, I had trouble with the Android app, actually), it didn’t do anything more.

And then while browsing around yet another “cool apps” list (I spent at least 5 hours doing that the first week I had my phone, eesh), I found a mention of Springpad. It looked like a similar service, with a few differences in tools. Very cool differences, I might add, but this isn’t the post to go into detail – just check out their website.

But the key difference? Springpad seemed to have actually hired designers. You can set a specific background for your home screen that appears across all platforms, pick specific colors for specific notebooks, and organize visually. Everything looks fabuous.

This is all aesthetics. All “shallow” features. But the thing is, the experience & engagement of it took using Springpad from being a task to being fun. And that, in turn, made me more organized. The aesthetic engagement turned me from a user into a raving evangelist. I’m ready to go sing the praises of Springpad on a street corner. (Maybe during SXSW.)

The moral of the story?

Next time you’re waffling, not knowing to go with plain-and-functional or costs-more-but-pretty? Buy the pretty one. Merge form with function. Refuse to feel bad about it.

Video Post: Excellence, not perfection

In which you can tell I’m really excited, because a. my hair is still wet (and my face still red, apparently) from the shower I got out of 20 minutes before, and b. I’m waving my hands around like some kind of terrible cheerleader. I also mention time travel and Aretha Franklin. Check it out, and ignore my cats in the background:


Sandi and her customer love hours – during the month of February, she gave away 28 hours of coaching in honor of the Customer Love challenge. Pretty amazing, right?! Go check her out, for serious.

(Also, I realized when I looked it up after recording this that “deva” is in fact pronounced “day-va” and not “diva”. Oh well. Transcript under the cut.)

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I Don’t Care How Smart You Are.

By most peoples’ definition, “intelligence” has a very narrow meaning. I am intelligent in several ways, some of which are “typical” intelligences (very fast reader, good memory) and some of which are not (good at arts and crafts). However, my parents drilled it into my when I was a child that there were so many more important things than being intelligent, and that being intelligent does not make me better than anyone else.

At the time, I just found the repetition annoying. And then, I simply didn’t think about it for several years. Recently, though, I’ve come to be intensely thankful for being taught this at a very  young age. I’ve come across a few people (not you, if you’re reading this, so don’t worry) who clearly think that their intelligence is their single defining attribute, and treat anyone they perceive as less intelligent with condescension and a hint of contempt.

Aside from being really obnoxious, it’s sad. I feel like saying to them

Do you really think that being intelligent is more important than being a good person?


Do you really think that being intelligent means anything if you do everything by the book?


There’s nothing else you love about yourself more than your intelligence? Your smile, your laugh, your ability to give a great compliment, or to look on the bright side of things, or your dogged perseverance? Because I see so many more important things to you than intelligence.

What’s more is that these people go by the standard definition of intelligence – that it’s something inborn, you have a certain amount at birth and that amount is set for the rest of your life. It never gets any higher or lower.

So they’re so proud of something that they had absolutely no control over (as far as they’re concerned). To paraphrase Anya, “That doesn’t make you better. It makes you luckier.”

Redefining Intelligence

What is being smart, anyways?

Most people today will say, oh, that’s having a high IQ. Newsflash: having a high IQ means you’re good at taking an IQ test. Does it have any meaning outside of that?

What about being good at school?

That mostly measures your ability (and patience, oh gods, the patience required) for memorizing information by rote & then repeating it exactly the way the teacher instructs you to. Not to mention, most schools today focus on math and science, leaving other subjects by the wayside. What if you suck at math, but you can paint like Picasso? Chances are, you won’t be considered intelligent.

Even within math and science, there’s different ways to fail. I hate chemistry, but love biology. I’m fabulous at geometry (visual-spatial thinker here), but not so hot at advanced algebra. What counts and what doesn’t?

All the rules are arbitrary when it comes to intelligence.

I would argue that “intelligence” should be redefined as “curiosity and the will to learn”. Your curiosity and will to learn will get you much farther than any inborn trait. And these traits can be fostered and grown throughout your life.

(For more interesting reading/listening on the subject, check out this TED talk and the theory of multiple intelligences.)

5 Qualities That Are More Important Than Intelligence

Of course, I’m sure there are others. But here’s my top 5:

  • Creativity. Creativity, as an attribute, suffers from some of the same ideas that intelligence does. Creativity is not something that some of us are born with, and some of us aren’t. It’s the ability to have original ideas that have value, and it’s something everyone is born with. (If you don’t want to or can’t watch the video, the pertinent information is that a vital part of creativity is divergent thinking. Sir Robinson mentions a study in which 1,500 kindergarten age children were given a test for divergent thinking, and 98% of them scored at a genius level for divergent thinking.)
  • Gumption. Defined as 1. “initiative, resourcefulness” and 2. “courage, spunk”.
  • Kindness. And…
  • Compassion. I would hope for obvious reasons. The world would be a better place if we were all kinder and more compassionate. Can the same thing be said for intelligence?
  • Adaptability. Being a genius by mainstream standards won’t get you anywhere if you can’t adapt to new situations, environments, and people, and adjust your responses accordingly.

I don’t care how smart you are. It doesn’t interest me. I want to know why you do what you do, I want to know what makes you happy, I want to know what your goals and ambitions and hopes and dreams are, and how you plan to get there.

What do you think is more important than intelligence?

Help Yourself.


I’m not much for most commonly quoted maxims. I usually find them trite & annoying, to be honest. However, there is at least one which I often find myself experiencing firsthand & fervently agreeing with. And that is:

(adjusted for a polytheistic POV, of course)

“The gods help those who help themselves.”

So simple, so true.

Help yourself.

You can’t not do anything and expect your life to drastically change. Or for it to do anything at all.

(Except stay exactly the same.)

Help yourself.

You can see this as an scolding lecture: “You’re so lazy, you just need to help yourself!”

Or as a freeing suggestion: “Life is a buffet. Help yourself.”

The choice is your’s. What will you choose?

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