Make, Do and Wabi-sabi

I came across two great (and somewhat related) perspectives in a Happy Cog blog post recently, the first being the concept of “make, do”:

Make with your best effort, and do what you can. Don’t let the possibility of what could be deter you from forward progress.

In other words, do your best and ship it, versus obsessing over every little detail, every possibility, and grasping at some unattainable perfection.

Then in the comments, someone pointed to a Wikipedia article on the Japanese world view, Wabi-sabi:

Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.”

Obviously very Buddhist in theme. And beautifully minimalist in practice:

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

As I keep plugging away at my big secret project, it’s great to have these reminders to just ship it, imperfections and all. Chances are the imperfections will either not be noticed or the lack of some “must have” feature (in my mind) will make it beautifully minimalist to some.

Make, do in 2014.

Numbers over people

A lot of the “bullshit” I talked about in my Time and Attention post comes down to folks trying to make money online and build their “brand” (I have no idea why any human being would want to be equated with this word), over doing what’s right for their readers and in some cases what’s right for their business. It’s a fine balance, for sure.

I can relate to both sides of this, having recently transitioned from 12+ years of web marketing (where conversions and click-thru rates are the end-all, be-all in most cases) to a role where I primarily write web functionality requirements and do UX/UI design. I feel like I’ve always had the “customer hat” on though, having spent many of those years fighting against adding pop-ups to our sites, sending out more email campaigns to our majority opt-out email lists, and other borderline spammy tactics that were either “hot” at the time or recommended by consultants.

Andy Beaumont, creator of the site TD;DR (Tab Closed; Didn’t Read), had a nice article on Medium where he touched on this topic in more detail. TC;DR documents the growing (and horrible) trend of overlays and modals that appear by default over the top of pages, encouraging you to like them, sign up for their newsletter, etc. (YUCK.)

Here’s a key quote on focusing on metrics versus what actual people want from a website:

I have tested this design pattern with real people, and a significant portion of them believe that they must do what the box is begging them for in order to close the overlay. These people (remember, they’re people, not “conversions”), are signing up to a newsletter they don’t want. They’re then going to be irritated by it for several months until they work out how to unsubscribe from it. The analytics guru you brought in is walking away with a chunk of your money, in exchange for having pissed off a whole bunch of existing and potential customers.

The bottom line is I think people appreciate when the purpose of the page they are visiting aligns with their needs AND the needs of the site owner. Finding that fine line is a challenge. In many cases it seems like short-term thinking wins out, since it’s easier to implement and easiest to quantify. However, the bullshit just makes it more frustrating for the visitor and in the process sets you and the web back a tiny bit each time.

As Brad Frost said in the CreativeMornings talk I linked up in my previous post, “people’s capacity for this bullshit is rapidly diminishing” — there are so many tools these days to “circumvent the bullshit.” These tactics have a limited lifespan anyway, but the choices we make each day to respect our time and attention can help speed it up even more. Do your part!


Leo at Zen Habits has a great take on the act of living in the moment. He calls it the Stateless Mindset.

It all starts with our way of life:

We are constantly holding information, frustration, ideas, tension, requests, needs, of a thousand different requests each day. Every email, every call, every text message, every open browser tab, every interaction with another person, every task we do … it all builds up in us until we are overloaded.

And turning that into statelessness by treating each moment like a blank slate:

Try letting go of all previous moments, right now. Try making the present moment all there is. When you feel a previous request or idea pulling at your attention, let it go.

From my own experience, there’s certainly something Zen and calming about taking each moment as it is and living in it completely.

Regardless of what it is: focusing on the kids, your work project, the dishes, being on social media, whatever. Do that thing and only that thing. Enjoy it and live it, rather than trying to check off as many todo’s as possible in your brain.

Single tasking FTW.

The Builder's High

Awesome post by Rands over at Rands In Repose on focusing to build something versus being overwhelmed by other people’s moments.

Key quote:

These moments can be important. They can connect us to others; they briefly inform us as to the state of the world; they often hint at an important idea without actually explaining it by teasing us with the impression of knowledge. But they are often interesting, empty intellectual calories. They are sweet, addictive, and easy to find in our exploding digital world, and their omnipresence in my life and the lives of those around me has me starting this year asking, “Why am I spending so much time consuming other people’s moments?

I’ve caught the Builder’s High again over the last week or two. I’ve jumped back into a project I’ve been working on for Eko Wave and made a ton of progress on the site, as well as making headway with Ruby on Rails — something I’ve wanted to do for years now. The rush has been so exciting — seeing the thing I piece together actually work in the wild. I hope I can share it with you all soon.

Have you started a new project recently? Please share in the comments!

My Love List for 2014

Love List


  1. A fluid list of things you want to start or spend more time doing in the new year. For past examples, see 2013 and 2012.

Prior to looking back at last year’s list, I thought for sure I didn’t do well. But I did — mainly due to picking things I was already committed to because they were important to me.

Some things I didn’t quite get to, like the master bedroom makeover (we did buy a new bed frame and do some serious reorganization, so it is much nicer at least.) I also didn’t eat vegetarian for an entire month, but we did eat vegetarian meals much more often. And finally the kids book is something I still want to work on, but it’s also something that is going to be insanely time consuming. Someday.

I did pretty darn well on the rest. I’ll write up a recap of 2013 soon to cover more of the year in detail.

Anyway, since we’re already past New Year’s Day, here’s my Love List for 2014:

  1. Continue to be on top of my priorities & make sure I fund them. No procrastination.
  2. Launch three Eko Wave sites. Two may be coming fairly soon, I hope.
  3. Write more. This will involve journaling in Day One and blogging, which is one of the reasons I just switched to using Anchor for this blog. It’s so easy to add posts.)
  4. Read more, but less noise. I need to re-visit my RSS and content consumption strategy to figure out where I need to be to get the most value.
  5. Exercise more. On everyone’s new year list ever, I suppose.
  6. Drink more water. I am starting out with a daily goal of 64 ounces and working my way up to 100. I’ve been tracking my intake for a month and you’d be surprised how little water I drank in the past.
  7. Keep purging “stuff”. Less is more!
  8. Eat less. Portions are my down fall.

Happy New Year everyone. Please feel free to share your resolutions, love list, etc. in the comments.