10 Tips for a Prosperous Life

Nick Offerman’s Netflix comedy special, American Ham, is fantastic.

In it, Offerman organizes his act around what he calls 10 Tips for a Prosperous Life. While the act is hilarious, it’s also insightful. Each of Offerman’s “tips” clearly bring him joy and fulfillment.

I think everybody should have guidelines like this for their own lives. This got me thinking about what mine should be. Here’s my first crack at a list:

  1. Have a Growth Mindset – It’s important to have high self-esteem. But that doesn’t mean you can’t improve. Try to get better every single day.
  2. Master a Craft, and Practice it Regularly – Find a challenging, meaningful activity that fulfills you and do it regularly, whether at work or in your free time.
  3. Nurture Close Friendships – Close friends are there for you when things go wrong. Casual friends? Not so much. Take the time and effort to develop close friendships. And no, your spouse or significant other doesn’t count.
  4. Strengthen Your Willpower – Willpower, self-discipline, grit. Whatever you call it, the ability to do things that are hard, even when you don’t want to, is critical. The good news is that willpower is a muscle. You can strengthen it by practicing. Do so.
  5. Focus on Habits – Unconscious habits drive about 40% of what we do every day. Some of those habits are positive—you don’t think about brushing your teeth before bed, you just do it—but some are negative. More importantly, if you have to actively think about doing things that are good for you or avoiding things that are bad for you, it’s far more likely you’ll make the wrong decision (see #4). Learn how to build the habits you want and eliminate those you don’t.
  6. Be Direct, but Kind – Say what you think. Speak truth to power. Be candid. But learn how to do it with kindness. Aggressive and passive-aggressive are extremes that both get you into trouble.
  7. Admit When You’re Wrong – If you’re like me, this happens frequently. Admit it, apologize, and move on.
  8. Don’t Tolerate Abusive Behavior – Abuse can come in many different forms. Whether it’s verbal abuse from a family member, a boss intimidating a coworker, or something worse, you shouldn’t put up with it.  Stand up for yourself and for others.
  9. Get out of Dodge – Nearly every country in the world takes more time off than we do, and many of them are far more productive. Take frequent vacations. They’re good for you.
  10. Have Fun – Laugh. Drink a cocktail. Crank up the music. Make time every day for having fun.

Good Enough

Regardless of what you’re working on, knowing what’s good enough is critical.

If you’re a busy parent cooking dinner for your 2 kids after a grueling day of meetings, healthy, palatable, and quick is probably good enough. If you’re a chef at new restaurant on opening night and you want to stay in business more than a month, then the food better be delicious. If you own a Michelin Star restaurant and command top-tier prices, then everything—the food, the service, the decor—had better be perfect.

Most projects fall near the middle category, but most people manage them towards one of the extremes.

Know your good enough and strive to hit it.

Data-Driven Pattern Libraries

It’s far easier to lose weight by eating better than by exercising.

Even if you run five miles a day, you’re going to get fat if you subsist solely on cheeseburgers, candy, and soda. Bad inputs undermine hard work.

The same is true when designing products.

Good designers look at popular designs as sources of inspiration for their designs. To a designer, the entire web is one big pattern library.

Indeed, most “formal” pattern libraries include examples from popular sites. What they rarely include, however, is any data analyzing those patterns. Some patterns actively help users, but some are barely usable. This is probably because designers have been confusing pattern libraries with style guides and design systems for at least as long as they’ve existed.

We need more data-driven pattern libraries. The folks at GoodUI have made some great strides in this direction. The web needs more projects like that.

 

User Stories

Most user stories are total shit.

As a user I want to create an account so I can access the application.

No real user has ever said something like this, because no real user has ever wanted something like this. Nobody actually wants to create an account or access an application.

People want more time or more money. They want to feel more in control or more connected. They want fulfillment or food in their bellies. They want to solve the real problems they face every day. They want concrete, significant improvements in their lives.

If you’re writing user stories like that, stop fucking around. Identify who people are and what they really want. Real user stories sound like this:

As a Boston professional, I want a casual, work-appropriate shoe I can wear when it rains heavily so I can look good without getting my feet wet or sacrificing comfort.

As designers and developers, we shouldn’t accept user stories that look like the first example. They lead to crap software and horrible experiences for users.

Connecting

Every tech pundit with half a brain “knows”.

Technology was supposed to bring us closer together, but it’s actually driving us further apart. Phones used to be tools for connecting, but they’ve become crutches that distract and separate us instead. AI was supposed to automate and streamline our lives, relieving us of mundane chores and freeing us to spend more time on things that matter. Instead, it’s removed and trivialized the little personal interactions that make us human.

They “know” it. You “know” it.

But few pundits have suggested any realistic solutions. Fewer still have bothered to to reflect on the ways technology brings us together.

So as 2019 starts, here are a few ways tech has helped me actually connect:

Group chat – An ongoing group chat with some of my best friends has kept me sane through work stress, personal challenges, and every day gripes. Never underestimate the power of a timely gif to cheer somebody up.

Work – I knew when I made the decision to stop freelancing full time and join GetHuman that the company was special. Little did I know that this group of technologists would become my second family. This year we became profitable, streamlined our product process, and united around a shared vision we’re all passionate about. My colleague Jeff Whelpley has chronicled many of these successes in detail, and his blog is well worth reading. But many of his posts boil down to this: creating technology and working with technology brought us closer together, and we can’t wait to see what this year brings.

Instagram – In 2018, it seemed like Instagram succeeded in all the ways that Facebook failed. My Facebook feed is full of so much bullshit I don’t even bother to open Facebook anymore. But photos of my closest friends living their best lives? Instagram is getting it right. Here’s hoping Facebook doesn’t run it into the ground in 2019.

100 Words a Day

At the end of every year, I do an annual review. I reflect on the year, review my accomplishments, and set new goals for the next year.

I used to love writing, but in the past few years I’ve found countless excuses not to write. So this year, I’m eliminating those excuses.

In 2019, I’ll be writing 100 words a day, every day.

Some days I may write more, but I’ll never write less. I’ll write about product design, UX, personal development, and anything else that seems interesting or relevant.

I’ve set several other goals for 2019, and no doubt I’ll be discussing many of them in detail in future posts, too.

 

How to Use Dwell Time to Unlock Better Conversion Rates

Note: this is an excerpt from a new article I wrote about Dwell Time for Speckyboy. See the full article here.

Over the past few years, landing page design has become an industry in its own right, complete with an abundance of tools, courses, templates, and “hacks” for getting it right.

With bottom lines hanging in the balance, savvy designers and marketers keep a watchful eye on conversion rates. But even the best landing pages typically convert less than 40% of visitors. With so much riding on conversion rates, you’d think analytics tools would do a better job helping designers improve landing page performance. Yet, out of the box, tools like Google Analytics are completely inadequate for understanding why pages are converting poorly.

Bounce rates and demographic data tell us almost nothing about what a user is actually doing when they visit your landing page. Instead, we need real, actionable insights.

Dwell time—the amount of time a user spends on your page—is the key to unlocking this information and increasing your conversion rates.

Read the rest of this article on Speckyboy.

How to Stay Motivated When Things Get Hard

The last week of January is just about the time when all those New Year’s resolutions start to get really challenging.

The cheer of the holidays has worn off, the days are cold and dark and short, and it’s difficult not to feel well and truly exhausted.

Those new behaviors aren’t quite habits yet, and the motivation we felt for doing them in the first place can start to wane.

So how do we keep our motivation up? Here are 5 ways to maintain motivation when things get hard.

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3 Tips for Hacking User Acquisition in Any Business

Last week, a colleague asked me how I think about brainstorming new user acquisition strategies.

While the answer depends significantly on the context of the business at hand, there are a few universals that apply to nearly every situation.

Here are 3 tips for brainstorming a new user acquisition strategy in any business.

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5 Reasons Why Growth Hacking is Even More Important in 2018

Around late December and early January, I like to reflect on some of the big lessons of the past year.

One of the things that’s stood out to me most over the past few weeks is that growth hacking will be even more important in 2018 than it was in 2017.

Why? Here are 5 reasons you should add growth hacking to your marketing mix—or increase your efforts—this year.

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