Transforming Ourselves

In jazz You can spend 8 hours a day blowin through a copper tube and I promise you, after 10 years, that tube will not change but you will be totally transformed. We’re transforming ourselves here. And you can’t do it if you’re not in public. If you can’t make your mistakes in front of people it doesn’t matter.”

Ben Sidran

This was a phenomenal episode of the WTF Podcast.

Listener emails Marc, “hey, you should interview my dad.” Marc says, “I don’t know your dad.” Kid says some more stuff. Marc says, “fine.” And it ends up being a phenomenal conversation (Marc calls it one of the best he’s ever had).

I loved this quote. I’ve fallen in love with “business” because of how much it’s taught me about myself.

(I think I fell in love with Jesus for the same reason… I guess it’s all about me. Maybe why we broke up?)

I said in a recent interview my favorite ever game to play is “build a business with Chase Reeves.” Making something with the goal of earning a living through it engages so much of my stuff… the bits I’m good at, the bits I want to get better at, the bits that are unabashedly me.

And the carrot on the end of the stick is finding out more about me and the people I serve through the things I make.

Now, I can hear how selfish this is. Count the me’s and I’s i’ve written so far. Sense the inward “all about me” gravity.

First of all, I realize I’m extremely prone to an unbalance, an overly “me” orientation. We all are, but maybe me more so than others… my wife will confirm.

Secondly, we gotta become ourselves, get comfortable in our own skin, get to a place where we’re confident about who we are, proud and grateful about the accomplishments and experiences that make up our DNA… we can’t love or serve or make sustainably without stepping into some kind of coherent sense of self.

I’m grateful that business has been both the canvas and the anvil. I express myself on it. It expresses itself on me.

Anyways, I loved this interview and this quote is the lil’ sliver I show you to get into it.

Replace all links to .mp3 with HTML5 audio tag using jQuery

I have a site full of music. When the Yahoo Media Player stopped working I had to figure out how best to convert all these text links to MP3s into playable bits on the page.

I found few things that were helpful, this one specifically. I grabbed the bits I needed, simplified, and came up with this:

I’m real green on jQuery, so i’m sure there are better ways to do this. But this worked for me.

Joseph Campbell on Uncertainty About Our Lives/Careers

If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”

Joseph Campbell

Of course you’re uncertain.

Of course you don’t know which is best of two possible goods.

Of course you’re not sure how to best spend your time.

Can you accept this as a necessary part of the whole thing, of your life and all of our lives, and have a little more fun in the deciding?

Maybe even collect a sense of adventure about it?

Because if you go looking around for the right answer all the time, if you need a sense of absoluteness, if you worship certainty, you’ll never know enough.

The Dot & The Line: Some Gorgeous Screenshots

The Dot & The Line is a classic cartoon. It’s touching, smart and gorgeous. I was searching for good screenshots of scenes from the cartoon so I could ruthlessly steal from color choices because I’m a designer and that’s what I do, and couldn’t find any good ones. So below are screenshots of some of my favorite scenes from the cartoon.

A note on orange: Fizzle was the first identity I’ve built with orange as the main color. Turns out orange is an insane color… the hardest I’ve worked with to date. Put it with black and it’s halloween. The line between neon and mustard is wildly thin. It’s a hard color to work with. Most of the shots below have some sort of orange in it because I’m always curious about how others use orange.

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Geometries: Now begins a series of wonderful geometric shapes. This is the line discovering what he can do.

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Closeness: I love this little sequence showing the cuddling of the dot and the line. She moves close, slides up and around him, and as she does the yellow square changes color… super sexy.

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

The best for last: And finally, my absolute favorite shot is this one.

Screenshot from Dot and Line Cartoon

The “A Little Bit Better” Obsession

Why are you hiding your joke from the audience? Don’t worry about feeding them your punch line a little bit stronger.”

Stephen Colbert, around 13m in

I find myself worrying about making the thing better. I’ve avoided any marketing efforts for Fizzle because I don’t think it’s ready yet.

I do so unconsciously. The thought will never naturally cross my mind to start pushing to get more people in. This is something my partner had to bring up to me.

It’s not ready. There are pieces missing that complete the intelligence of the thing. There are bits that, once created and installed, will make illuminate the artistry of the whole thing.

This is what it’s like to make a thing. A product. A website. A song. To be the kind of person who makes something, who has taste, who wants to please and impress people.

We all sound like this. Every one of us who’s making the thing.

We all struggle with this. Every one of us.

In this phenomenal interview with Stephen Colbert, Stephen shows us how he obsessed over making the joke better, making the punchline stronger, more of a payoff.

And then a mentor said the quote above. Get to the punchline. Cook faster. Don’t worry about making it a little bit stronger.

“A little bit stronger…” That’s where you get lost. Making things a little bit better, a little more flair, a bit more humanity, a little bit stronger.

Fizzle is already an amazing product. Raving fans, people using it to grow businesses that have been stale for years, people inside are reclaiming their creativity and hope, fizzlers are growing so much more confident and comfortable in their own skin as they make their things.

It’s already a good. Acknowledge that. Throw a little party in yourself. Celebrate it. Mark it on the calendar. Put a flag in the ground. Give yourself an honest pat on the back and one of those 100 Grand candy bars.

You’ve done something. You have. Draw up a thoughtful conclusion and end that chapter well before moving on to the next chapter.

Because I’m starting to worry that you’ll never be satisfied with the things you make.

And if they never feel good enough, you have to create your own milestones and throw your own lil’ parties.

Stephen Colbert on Noticing Work You Like

I realized I would show up for rehearsal at anytime, day or night; and I’ll stay for as long as it takes to get it right. And I thought: wow, I’d be really dumb not to pay attention to how hard I’m willing to work on that more than anything else. I’m eager for how hard the work is.”

Stephen Colbert, around 17:40 in

Self Portrait by David Whyte

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

Self Portrait by David Whyte

How To Make Your Audience’s Favorite Podcast Episode

[Setting: two guys in a small room. Large headphones on their head. Pint glasses in their hands with small bits of ice left at the bottom, the remains of a redish drink. One of them doesn’t have pants on. He’s wearing white underwear (“tighty whiteys”) with a napkin over his lap]

“Ah fuck. There’s no way we’ll be OK publishing that,” the one in the napkin said, blotchy red bits on his face, wayward hair strands hanging in his eyes.

“You think?” the other one said, a bit giggly and out of breath.

[end scene]

Do you know what a negroni is? It’s a cocktail. I’ll leave it at that for now, but ask me about it sometime — I have negroni theories, not just recipes.

I run a podcast with two friends. We get together, turn on our mics and tackle some business issue our audience has asked us about.

It’s pretty successful at this point. Heading towards 9,000 listeners per week. (8,800 last week). We have a good deal of iTunes reviews, virtually all 5 stars (141 at the time of writing). These numbers are much bigger than the average podcast and much smaller than the biggest podcast.

What I’m saying is, we have an audience. It’s growing. They like us. And I like them.

I care about our audience. Many of them are brave, trying shit, attempting to work for themselves, looking to create a thing, hustling on the side, sweating towards earning an independent, engaged, fulfilling living.

And, so, I try to make good stuff for them. I try to be smart for them. I try to “curate” and “edit” and “narrative arc” and “climax and resolution” and “intelligent yet accessible” and “takeaway” for them. And by and large that’s what you’ll get out of the episodes of my podcast.

But there are 3 notable exceptions; all three of them involve negronis. (it’s a cocktail. I have theories. Ask me sometime.)

Several weeks ago we recorded at my house. I made negronis for Corbett and I (Caleb had a beer. He tuned in over skype). I made them in a pint glass because we usually sip a Fernet and coke in a pint glass throughout the hour long show. Gotta make it last. So I made it in a pint glass… to make it last.

Not only did it last, it put us on our asses. We recorded episode 16, what I wish I would have known before starting my business, with large cocktails in our hands getting progressively… how do you say?… looser.

“Ah shit,” I thought, “we’ll never get to publish that… i’m pretty sure I said something horrible in there.”

But we published it. And much to our surprise, it became the unanimous favorite of our listeners to date. They said things like this:

…you had me literally laughing out loud.

…I laughed harder at this episode than any other yet. Just as much if not more value than usual, so worth my hour.

…off to solve someones ass problem… [those are] words I’ve never written before.

I was blown away. I couldn’t believe how big the response was to this episode. Much smaller than it is for the big podcasts, but a big response for our little corner of the internet.

“Fuckin’ A, man. They really liked this stuff! I thought for sure it was going to be lame, self indulgent, people would hate it. But they ended up liking it more. Let’s try the negroni for our next one.”

So we did. Chaos ensued.

We poured our cocktails, grabbed our notes, pushed record. Within the first 15 minutes we were sidetracked. I was in control, felt good (felt great actually), and made the executive decision.

“[hand clap, queues the editor in on where edits should happen] BTW, boys, we’re totally turning this into two episodes. We’ll record them both now. Keep going on this thread, it’s good. Then we’ll weave it back into the original conversation.”

So executive. Such decision. That was about 1/4 of the way through the cocktail, the pint of negroni in my hands.

Interesting Fact: Unlike a rum+coke or a Fernet+coke or a gin+tonic or a whiskey+soda, the negroni is equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. All are boozes. It’s a 3x booze drink. This is an important fact when you are a). drinking one, b). drinking one from a pint glass, c). recording things to be published on the internet in perpetuity. End fact.

So we kept going. It went good. It got hot. I took off my pants. I stood up at one point. People were laughing. There were impressions. We actually cried at one point. This was some colorful shit, man.

And that’s where you found us at the beginning of this post: absolutely certain the two hours we just recorded were unpublishable.

But here’s an interesting caveat: we needed these episodes because Caleb was going out of town for a long-ish time. We absolutely needed these episodes, otherwise there’d be weeks without episodes. We weren’t willing to do that.

So we published. (part one, part 2). The second went out last week.

I was nervous. I was worried. I was afraid people would feel like there was very little signal and way too much noise.

But I was wrong, they loved it! They loved them both, especially the second one which goes way deep into wild and inside-jokey territory. I’m flabbergasted.

Here’s what I’m learning from this whole thing:

1. People follow people. Our audience is exceedingly interested in us as people. As one of our listeners puts it, “the most valuable element for me is just hearing from people who are a way ahead on the journey.”

Merlin Mann puts it like this: “people come for the topic, stay for the voice.”

That feels true to me from where I stand, embarassingly giggling at myself wearing a napkin (and also remembering how that felt like the right thing to do at the time).

Our audience seems to be digging us. Us. Not our tips and tricks. Not our “three P’s of personality” lessons. Not our resources and insights. They continually mention how much “value” they get from the show, but they seem to be sticking around because of our personalities, how we look at this stuff, our point of view… no matter how colorful it may be.

2. People like honesty. Between the three of us on the show we have a lot of experience. But we bring out a kind of honesty in one another, a sense of “we’re still developing, figuring out what we want and how to do it.”

Because we allow each other to be developing, to be in process, because we don’t require right answers, vulnerability and honesty have a place to grow. Rawness comes out, and rawness is interesting.

Be honest. Be yourself. Give up on comparing yourself to what the competition is doing. Blaze your own trail. Etc. Etc. Enter your bit here about not being a follower.

Yes, this is trite sounding, but discovering how to be you on a mic or a stage or a blog post or a camera or a canvas is where the fuckin’ juice is; it’s the most important part of your journey. (more on that: 1, 2).

enjoy yourself3. Enjoy yourself. When you get to be honest and vulnerable, when you gain a little confidence from an audience that’s responding well to what you’re doing, you get to have a bit more fun. And people like to watch people have fun.

Do they really? Yes. I don’t know. I think so. Maybe they like it because we’re heading somewhere they want to go too. I should change it to:

3. Have a worthwhile mission and enjoy yourself in the pursuing of it. Maybe the mission part is important. You want to provide what the people call “value.” You want to “help” them with something. Solve some problem. Close some gap. Teach some thing.

I love that in our show we are helping people close the gap between where they are now and where they want to be. I love that we get to teach from our experiences and that we’re in an industry that’s still very much developing.

But I mostly love that there’s so many people thinking about how they could build their thing and work for themselves. It’s a goddam hard thing to do. And I get to sit in my undies and talk with my friends about it and listeners write me emails to silly addresses we mention only on the show and they quote back inside jokes i’ve made in the context of them winning their first client. I love that so much, you guys.

So, listen, I’m the dumbest guy in the room, but if you get a chance to be yourself out loud, to have fun, to be vulnerable and honest, please, for the love of G-d™ rip into it and be generous and grateful and take risks and see how people respond. Life’s too short and it’s too common to regret not speaking your mind.

I have been Chase Wardman Reeves…

(You can find episodes 20 and 21 along with all other episodes of the Fizzle Show and instructions on how to subscribe at »)