Chris Gonzales

A World Without Advice

Paul Jarvis ponders what would happen if all the advice in the world simply vanished:

I got to thinking about all the times I’ve been happy with accomplishing something. Every single time it happened because I just wanted to try something and thought, “What the hell, let’s do this!” I didn’t ask anyone first. I didn’t consult a mentor, advisor, oracle, or listicle. I just jumped in head-first. […]

Experts aren’t necessarily better than people starting out, they just know how things work and can do some tasks without thinking. They are able to think several steps ahead. If I asked a carpenter how she would build a house, she would only be aware of steps she has to think about. Not the thousands of steps her skill takes over and does for her subconsciously.

Many (myself included) are guilty of sitting around and consuming advice, getting little dopamine rushes and feeling like we’ve accomplished something even as we immediately dive into checking our inboxes and feeds for the 100th time today.

“Oh, I’ll definitely use that information later.” Except you never do, because you’re too busy binging on the internet instead of working. The one real piece of advice I keep coming back to is that nothing beats honest-to-goodness taking action if you want to succeed or do anything of worth.

Will you?

Product Photography on the Cheap

Álvaro Serrano — Product Photography on the Cheap

You know how product images online are often the item with a white backdrop? Álvaro Serrano has some tips for achieving this effect at home at minimal expense (assuming you have basic photography gear lying around):

There are several ways to achieve this look, the most obvious one being shooting them in an actual studio with proper studio lighting and a solid white backdrop. Luckily, if you don’t have access to a studio or lack the financial means to rent one, there are other alternatives you can use to get about 90% of the way there without spending a dime. All it takes is a little improvisation and some clean-up work in post production.

The end result, I believe, stands up fairly well to scrutiny.

Some clever tricks in here.

As I mentioned to Álvaro on Twitter though, another alternative is to simply get a Foldio2. My friend and Tools & Toys editor-in-chief Shawn Blanc picked one up and the results aren't bad:

The Focus Course

The Focus Course

Yesterday, my friend and mentor Shawn Blanc launched his biggest, most ambitious product yet: The Focus Course.

This guided, online course is designed to, over the course of 40 days and at your own pace, help you become not only a more focused person, but also someone who is more productive, more diligent, more clear-headed, better at time-management, and even more creatively imaginative.

Over the past 11 months, Shawn poured himself into this project, spending thousands of hours writing, researching, and designing the course. Watching the whole thing come together was inspiring, to say the least. If you've been struggling with focus or productivity, I urge you to check it out. It may just change your life.


As of this writing (Wednesday, June 24th, 2015) the course is celebrating its launch with an introductory price of $199. Next Monday, on June 29th, that price will go up to $250. There are also a bunch of awesome giveaways you could win for signing up during the launch.

So, get to it!

Ben Brooks on Negativity

Speaking of Spoken (hmm), I have to give Ben Brooks kudos for sharing this story about the impact of negativity on his life and work, and how he's still recovering from it. It's one of the best things I've heard on Spoken yet.

I've transcribed my favorite bit (it's about ¾ the way in):

There might be different people reading my site now. I'm sure there are, and I hope there always will be. But those people simply replaced the people who left because the negativity left, and that, I am fine with because I'm happier now, and I think that shows in my writing.

Spoken.co

Spoken.co

A few days ago, Cameron Moll — the guy behind Authentic Jobs and Structures in Type — unveiled a new service he co-founded: Spoken.

As they say in their intro post, it's “Like Instagram for audio.” You record and publish short audio snippets (up to 4 minutes each), ideally to share stories and experiences using that most intimate form of communication: your voice. I was immediately intrigued by this idea and rushed to nab the /chris handle, which I can tell you is the first time I've ever been able to do that. I look forward to being able to post from my iPhone and iPad, since those are my primary devices. (I've heard an app is in the works.)

Until then, I've been enjoying many of the posts (snippets? shortcasts?) I've come across so far, including:

And that's really just the beginning. I hope the Spoken network takes off, because I think it has some serious potential. If you're already into podcasts, it's a natural fit. Go check it out.

P.S. I recorded my first track earlier today, but I'm not 100% happy with it. Might scrap it and do another. Either way, once it's done I'll link it up in a follow-up post.

How I'm Holding Up on My 2015 Resolution

This morning my friend Patrick Rhone published a short piece called Right Speech.

In Buddhism, Right Speech is one of the precepts in The Noble Eightfold Path. In short, it is to abstain from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter. It is to consider carefully and mindfully what you say before saying it — weighing how it furthers the recipient of the message. If what we say does not further understanding, come from a place of compassion, or has no true purpose, it should not be said.

I have been bad at this lately.

The post is an apology for his own negativity, but whether he knew it or not, it was something I also needed to hear.

As some readers will remember, I vowed at the beginning of 2015 that I would “Eliminate as much cynicism and negativity from my life as possible.” I did a good job of it for a while, but lately I've fallen back into some old habits, both on Twitter and in my personal life (particularly the latter). I knew from the start I would be prone to falling off the wagon now and then, but I've found that each time I react negatively to something it gets harder and harder to get back on. I take this resolution quite seriously, so it's time to give myself a little kick in the ass with some public accountability.

This post is two things:

  1. My own apology—to myself, to my friends and family, and most of all to my son, who my behavior influences most.

  2. It's also another request for any of you to call me out if you see me behaving against my resolution. I mean it. I once sent Marco Arment a gentle reminder when he was being negative about something, and I hope someone would do the same for me if the roles were reversed.

Half a year left to go for my resolution, and hopefully a lifetime of optimism beyond that. Let's do this.

Lessons from Instant Articles and Apple News

A few weeks ago Jim Ray launched a new blog called Flicker Fusion that I've been enjoying reading. The first article was about Facebook's Instant Articles feature:

Consider that a reader is just as, if not more, likely to get to your page via an app like Twitter or Facebook, with its own chrome, than the built in browser. Those positioned elements are only taking up valuable screen space and replicating functionality the reader already has built-in. Simplify your pages, reduce overhead (both cognitive and bandwidth), prepare them to live outside of browser.

And yesterday, he tweeted from @_flickerfusion:

The lessons from Apple News are the same as Instant Articles: be lean, nimble, ready to publish everywhere.

Publishers, take note.

Federico Viticci's Overview of iOS 9

Federico Viticci's Overview of iOS 9

As every Apple nerd on the planet is more than aware of, today was the big WWDC 2015 Keynote. Loads of interesting things were announced, including OS X El Capitan (I'm still not sure about that name, but moving on…) and watchOS 2.

As a full-time iOS user though, the announcement of iOS 9—particularly the iPad productivity enhancements coming with it—were easily of most interest to me. I would explain more about these new features myself, but Federico Viticci already has it completely covered.

He sums it up nicely in the “iPad and Multitasking” section:

As someone who uses the iPad as his primary computer, the productivity and multitasking features announced today seem spectacular. The iPad was at an inflection point — still failing to convince some tech circles of the benefits of a tablet — and the changes coming with iOS 9 are a reassuring sign of Apple's commitment to the uniqueness of the device. With Slide Over and Split View, Apple isn't trading off the inherent simplicity of the one-app-at-a-time model for more complexity: they're adding an option for those who, like me, want to work with an iPad and do more at once.

I love that Apple is acknowledging how great the iPad can be as a primary device. Hopefully more 3rd-party developers take note and stop treating the iPad like a second citizen.1


  1. I'm looking at you, Squarespace. Managing pages and site design is still a joke on iPad. How about a full-on iOS app for such things? I still don't understand why something like that doesn't exist and yet Portfolio and Note do. 

The Note

Shawn Blanc shares a handy writing productivity tip, amongst other insights into his process:

500 words ago, I lied to you. I said my writing begins at 7:30 every morning.

The truth is that my writing for this morning began yesterday when I put that note on my desk. That note is my topic for the day. That note is the single most important element of my personal productivity system. Because that note is the single most important thing I have to do today.

In a sense I'm reminded of Ernest Hemingway's method (scroll to page 6 of that PDF) of keeping the writing momentum going from day to day:

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. [...] Always stop when you are going good and donʼt think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.

Relay.fm Adds Two New Shows to Get Excited About This Summer

Relay.fm's Two New Shows, Summer 2015

My friends Stephen and Myke at Relay.fm have been killing it lately. Not only have they managed to nab Mac Power Users from 5by5, but now they're adding two more great shows to their lineup:

  1. Reconcilable Differences — Wherein Merlin Mann and John Siracusa (!) “prod at each other’s backgrounds as fans of technology and pop culture, filling in holes, arguing minor differences, and generally teaching each other about the things they both love.”

    This podcast has been a long time coming, and I'm pumped to see it becoming a reality.

  2. Cortex — A show where Myke quizzes CGP Grey of YouTube fame about his methods, workflows, and time management.

"All the great shows" indeed.