Five Years and Thirty Courses Later

After several years of false starts, I finally finished a project for my business and launched it. Now I’m afraid to tell anyone.

If you have been around a while, you probably know that I’ve set off down several paths of self-employment, but eventually balked, changed my mind, and started over. I have hinted at my work in the last year, as I learned to program again, and spent my time immersed in such things as How to Start a Startup, the Lean Canvas, and all things Seth Godin. I was interviewed by the provincial paper at one point, and admitted that I had just calculated what $1B in revenue looked like, by $/user/month. One. Billion. Dollars.

Meanwhile, back in reality land, I still have trouble selling Girl Guide cookies. This is what we call, in the education field, a “gap”. Somewhere between $5 and $1B, I need to learn to put a price on my work and then let people pay me for it.

To that end, I’ve been taking a second set of training programs alongside the Big High Growth Startup ones, and those are the small business bootstrapping approaches. I haven’t committed to one approach or the other, but I became pretty convinced that if I couldn’t finish and launch a $20 product, I was not going to be able to help lead a company that would need $30 – $40,000 a month to cover expenses.

Finally, today, after three years of writing and setting things aside I finished one and put a buy button on it. (Link to the thing in the footnotes!)

The emotional blocks to entrepreneurship have been much higher and harder to get through than the practical ones.

I admit, I feel a little awkward putting this here, in case you think I’ve just become a big-ol’-pitch cheater… because as I said, it is my living room blog… but if you came for dinner at my house, and I had just published something, I would tell you about it. So I’m telling you about it.

That is also the story of why The Practical Dilettante only has five posts this year, in a nutshell. Somehow I lost track of my living room in all of this working… which, if you saw my house, you would know was not just a metaphor. The emotional blocks to entrepreneurship have been much higher and harder to get through than the practical ones. Even this moment, even excited about having built something, I don’t really want to have to tell you about it. I want it to just happen magically, without ever having to say, “Hey, I made a thing”.

But, hey, guys! I made a thing!

As I mentioned in passing much earlier in the year, I’ve been working on a project called Nerdique. It is a pretty major software undertaking, but for our very first product, (and practice run) we created a mini-course called, Take us to Lunch. This is to get our nerdy folks to start taking their lunch breaks as a practice space for taking more time for their fabulous hobbies and side projects. (If you decide you want to get it, there is a discount code of NERDPEEPS that will give you $7 off until October 31. Because it would be extra silly not for me to tell you that bit, too.)

Surfing (Metaphorically)

Woman surfing doing a jump


I have long wanted to learn to surf, although I’m also terrified of it. (There are a lot of things like that in my life.) Please take this post as metaphor-from-a-distance, because watching other people surf has still given me some insight into how my life flows.

First thing, before you can do awesome jumpy tricks like Alana Blanchard up there, you have to choose to go out to surf. If you want to surf, you must first place yourself in the water. I suppose you should probably also obtain a surf board. OK. So. 1) Decide to surf. 2) Obtain surf board. 3) Find a place to surf. Let’s skip this bit, I wanted to get to a different part of the metaphor, and now I’m going down the, “Find somebody who knows how to surf. Oh, wait! How do you pick a surfboard?” rabbithole, and I have a point, I swear I do.

Back up. Let us presume that we are already committed to surfing, and know what the hell we’re doing. Ish. Life: you’re in it. You’ve been in it long enough to have a sense of what’s going on.

Picture of people waiting for the wave with one person in the middle of catching the wave.

See all those bobbers? Still surfing.

Phew. Now, the point.

Surfing has a few stages. There’s the exciting bit (5, below), but there’s a whole lot of

  1. swimming upstream, followed by
  2. bobbing about waiting for a good wave, followed by
  3. some frantic paddling to try and catch the wave, followed by either
  4. missing the wave and returning to bobbing or
  5. catching the wave and riding it to varying degrees of success.
    Which may be followed by either
  6. Arriving on the shore and choosing to return to swimming against the waves or
  7. WIPEOUT!!!

And then, of course, if you’re doing it right, there is the bonfire on the beach exchanging stories with friends part.

Now, it has been my observation that we’ve got this image in our minds of life as and endless process of 2, with very occasional moments of 3. I, myself, have had a life that included a lot of 1) and 2), occasional 3) some 4)s and a couple of 5)s. But whenever I find myself back in a stage 1 or stage 2, I feel like there is something wrong.

I think we need a better story, one with more bobbing about chatting with friends, and one that accepts that WIPEOUT is a possible outcome after catching the wave, even after years of practice.

I also think we need to plan lots and lots of bonfires on the beach.

Let us recap: Swim, Bob, Surf, Rest. Repeat until satisfied. Party on beach.

Who’s with me?

P.S. Also, in my next life, I want to be somebody who does awesome jumpy tricks.

I Don’t Pay for Coffee

Financial advisors hate lattes.

Apparently we can stop all this absurd drinking of our foofy coffees, invest the money instead and at the end of our lives we’ll be gazillionaires with yachts.

Yay, yachts, sometime way off in a nebulous future in which I want a yacht.

Meanwhile, there is this, my standard order:


“I would like a single short Americano in a yellow mug, please.”

The woman who owns the coffee shop usually reaches for the mug before I get to the front, so on the occasions that I want something else, it is disruptive. Yet she is kind, and forgives my whims.

She gives me a beautiful cup of coffee and I give her some money, and then I sit down and appreciate. I enjoy the mug, look at the reflections of the buildings in the cup. I have a conversation with one of my friends who just happens to be there. (It’s a small town. It is a rare event indeed for me to sit and drink my coffee in silence, although equally lovely.) If it happens to be warm, I sit in the sun and take a moment to bask, warm up, and feel the texture of the porcelain. Stir the perfect crema with the tiny spoon. Decide on sugar or no sugar. Sip. Sigh.

Yes, I can make coffee at home. I have a french press and an abundant supply of fair trade, organic, shade grown etc. etc. beans. I have the tea there every morning, and when I have no other reason to go to town, I do the economical thing (and don’t use fuel to get to the coffee shop either.)

But I’m not paying for coffee. I’m paying for there to be a coffee shop. I’m paying my portion of the rent on one of the “third spaces” at which creativity and conversations happen. I’m paying for somebody to know that a yellow mug matters, before I even know it might improve my life. I’m paying to step away from my desk and pay attention to something other than computers and code. I’m paying for accidental connections and vibrancy. And I’m paying for that moment of, “Sip… sigh”.

Something else is going to have to give if I’m going to have that yacht someday, because what I’m spending the money on at the moment is too valuable.