Creating a Podcast: When ‘Ideas’ Is What You Do

I have been told many times that ideas are cheap... 

I get it! I know of at least three people who “created Facebook” before Zuck did. I know of two people who had an idea to use technology to rent out their bedrooms. I can think of more than a dozen people who have had clever ideas for apps that someone else brought into the world before they did. Inarticulated and under-developed ideas are cheap. For me, ideas for products and businesses are a framework for thinking about society and culture. For example, I’ve recently become obsessed over a type of customer relationship management system that could be utilized by the hosts at our current campsite. The company through which we had booked our dwelling manages accommodations within campsites throughout Europe. Everything is managed centrally, and the hosts—the people who actually know the site—have virtually no ability to manage a reservation. The end result is them having to apologize for not being able to do something for disgruntled guests far too often. However, I’ve imagined a whole new process, system, and implementation that would reduce the dependence on a central booking system, empower the hosts to do more, and cause us guests to have a better experience. 

You’d be well within your right to suggest that I do something about this; why don’t I build it and solve the problem? What’s more interesting to me is that this company, and many others like it, are happy enough to hobble along with their current systems and processes. Why? Ideas are birthed from a belief about the world and the way it should, or could,be. Someone had the idea to run the company as it is; when you look across the hospitality and travel industry in general you’ll find so many (oh. so. many!) businesses running with the sort of processes and technologies that suggest a belief about their world, and the people they’re intending to serve. In trying to solve this problem with a new solution, we can explore the potential differences in ideology, and that’s what is most interesting to me. 

Some ideas are dismissed or ignored simply because they haven’t gone through the process to become more valuable. Something like a diamond in the’s still a diamond but its value is not clearly understood until it has been cut and polished. Just because an idea remains an idea, doesn’t make it inherently worthless!

Last year, after realizing that all these ideas weren’t really leading to me launching any products, my wife wisely encouraged me to explore where I could put ideas to use. Step 1, enroll in a masters program that would facilitate the exploration of technology’s impact on society (a group of ideas that I’m deeply interested in). Step 2, find an output (such as a podcast which, with any good fortune, could draw people into those ideas and result in at least someone doing something with them). Step 3, teach! 

Step 1 is underway; I’ve completed the first half of my masters in cybercrime and digital investigations, and am scheduled to finish it by 2020. After that, I look forward to pursuing a PhD. 

Step 3 comes in waves and various iterations. Professionally, I look forward to teaching at a university one day, but for now I am becoming more intentional about taking a Socratic teaching approach in as many appropriate places in my life as possible. 

Step 2 is what this post is about; starting a podcast that explores ideas and finds a space in this world to unpack them. 

Last year I launched a six series test podcast called ‘The Natecast’. It was a fun project which combined some storytelling, interviewing, and observation to create a sometimes long, sometimes short podcast. I’m now working on Season 2, which will bring the test podcast into something more refined and consistent. 

People say they are an ideas person too often, I think. It’s the person who sits in a meeting, constantly throwing out ideas like it’s Halloween and their ideas are the cheap candy bought from the grocery store, who give ‘ideas’ a cheapened place in the world. But, if I were to be honest, I’ve been that person far too many times. I have ideas coming out of my wazoo (perhaps you do too), but I haven’t done anything with them...I haven’t developed them into real ideas, they’ve just sat as kernels of an idea. 

So, here’s my big idea to unpack ideas, I’m creating a podcast which explores big thoughts (otherwise known as ideas) and unpacks them from the perspective of a wandering quasi-academic (I’ll be a full-on academic one day) who has the privilege of being connected to some brilliant people, and the advantage of calling anywhere his family and books are home. The podcast is currently in production and will go live this fall. But it won’t be just this podcast, there’s another super-duper-top-secret podcast I will be producing in the works, and this crazy idea of hosting “Ideas Nights” in local cafes (to be captured for The Natecast, of course). 

I think ideas matter but have become cheap. I want to change that. There are many brilliant minds who have already been using books, podcasts, blogs, and video to share their deep, important ideas—I am joining their ranks to help weed out the bad ideas, find the good ones, and refine them so they shine!

This blog series will capture the process and share what I’m learning about podcasting. If you find this blog and want to connect, please get in touch


Two Questions for a Remote Worker

I wrote this really clever piece a couple years ago about the tools one needs to be an effective remote worker, a term that has since come to be far more than a buzzword to me. I wrote about how important it is to find a nice small computer, have a stable mobile connection, and some good headphones to block out the extra noise. At the time, we were staying in this beautiful village north of Lisbon in Portugal. It was a happy season, but the contract I was engaged with had me travelling with increasing frequency, I was becoming less of a remote worker and becoming more of a remote dad/husband.

Over the following two years, which basically brings us to today, I’ve had long periods where the work didn’t flow nearly so frequently as I’d have liked it to, and periods where I’ve spent far too much time pursuing various projects away from where we were as a family. I’ve settled into a couple great contracts at this point, and find myself with more room to breath and reflect on my life as a remote worker.

There are two questions I didn’t properly ask myself when I first began this journey as a remote worker. I’ll even confess that after two years, I’m only now just beginning to answer these questions in a meaningful way.

What am I hoping to gain as a remote worker?

What am I willing to give up in order to be a remote worker?

When I think about what I was (and still am) hoping to gain, it’s obvious enough to say freedom and autonomy are the top reasons most people (including myself) would choose to work remote. There are practical reasons too, many people work from their houses or villages to avoid the commute into a big city. Still, others do so because they long to have the concentration afforded by having no one other than your cat around to bug you.

For me, my wife and I wanted to bring our children to various cultures and cities so they might become enriched by the diversity, exposing them (and us) to the rich tapestry of people and ways of life. Also, how amazing is it to learn about Ancient Rome while exploring modern Rome?! I’ll also confess to a romanticised idea of sitting in cafes around Europe and writing world-changing policy documents and communications. But, I wasn’t yet willing to give up the regular opportunity to work directly–face to face–with co-workers and clients. I also wasn’t ready for the constant battle of trying to hobble together all the elements of a good work station. And so, even as we have been travelling as a family, I’ve continued to do additional travel by myself in order to network at various events, and have the opportunity to build relationships with clients, partners, and industry peers. If I’m honest, there’s also a healthy amount of FOMO (fear of missing out) involved, I just can’t imagine missing the safety meetup of the decade. What if there’s a potential client that I’d never have met if I wasn’t at that event which might require me to travel 6 hours on a train for a 2 hour meeting? And there’s that meeting in two days, makes sense just to stick around here for that event too, I’m already here, right? It’s this thought process which lead me to becoming more of a remote dad/husband.

In a statement of personal reflection, I gave up the wrong thing.

Deciding why you want to become a remote worker is for some a luxury. Many remote workers do so for reasons entirely more practical than for the freedom to travel or work from an ideal work space. For some, it’s not even a choice; perhaps they haven’t the ability to move to where the job is, or they have mobility issues which preclude them from the opportunity to co-locate with their colleagues. Perhaps this great gift of modern connected technology has given people more options to work with great companies, regardless of their circumstances. But, for those of us who are taking advantage of the perceived luxury of being able to work from anywhere, the question of why is more nuanced and ought to be given careful consideration. One ought to consider if their motivation to work remote is realistic given their means, their opportunity, and their ambition. One also ought to consider what they have to offer as a remote worker so they can avoid taking more than they give, whether it’s to the company that’s afforded them the opportunity and trust to work from a remote location, or the culture in which you visit.

But I think the question of what you’re willing to sacrifice is possibly an even more important question, and one that is super hard to answer when you’re on the cusp of making your what’s in my travel bag video.

Side note, there are over 180 million what’s in my bag videos…

Working remotely can be amazing! I have incredible memories of sitting at a seaside bar in the South of France, working away on my laptop in the warm spring sun while my kids play in the sand 10 meters away from me.

But I also have a lot of memories where I’ve stayed up for 1a for a meeting with someone on the Canadian west coast. Or wasting half my day looking for a cafe with WiFi. Or finding a cafe that will allow me to plug in my computer to charge it. Or, when I’m incredibly lucky, finding a cafe that has both WiFi and power outlets. If you’re freelancing, you often have to decide between taking that meeting with a potential client on the same day that you were going to hike the Alps, or miss going out to the pub with some friends you’ve met while travelling because there’s an opportunity to join a meeting that’s entirely focused on something that you want to advance in. Often, you find that you need to sacrifice the endless opportunities available to you, wherever you are, or an opportunity to advance your purpose and career (not to mention earning potential).

But, I paint a dim picture and I don’t intend to. For me, I’m learning that I have to sacrifice some of my career ambition if we’re to continue travelling. I have a couple excellent clients, and it’s enough to be working with them, and giving them my professional best. I want my children to remember being in the French Alps with me, not being in the French Alps while I was somewhere else.

When I ask myself the first question, what am I hoping to gain as a remote worker? The answer is clearer to me now, I want to further my understanding of various cultures and witness the changes (good and bad) to these cultures in this time of incredible and rapid change.

As to the question, what am I willing to give up in order to be a remote worker?Quick career advancement. This is actually a really hard one for me, not because I’m an insanely ambitious person, but because I have so many ideas for various companies, and how I’d lead those companies. But learning and gaining these experiences are better investments for me. As for my wife and children, I want to have this experience with them, and I want my kids to grow up understanding different cultures in a far richer way than they’ll be able to by watching YouTube videos or following interesting people on Instagram (although that too can be valuable). This is an investment in them!

My mother and I are doing a research project together, we’re looking at what makes remote workers successful, and we’re learning a lot of really valuable things (you should check her blog out). We just finished a trip through Europe where we visited several co-working spaces in Finland, The Netherlands, Germany, and England. One of the things that really stuck out to me, as we met with remote workers, is how loaded this designation is. One thing is clear though, work is changing, and for those of us doing the remote working thing, it would be wise of us to see ourselves as late pioneers. To be sure, there are people who have been working remotely for far longer than Yonder has been talking about it. But the reasons why people are working remote, and the sheer number of people doing it now has so dramatically increased that there is a ton of learning to be had right now. Some of us will do it well and bring incredibly valuable best-practices that will help the whole business community. Others of us will crash and burn, either because it wasn’t the right thing for us or because our managers/clients failed to provide the support and direction needed to be successful. This too is incredibly valuable. So, be observant and share what you’re learning along the way.

Are We Moving to Ireland?

No, but it's a good bit of click bate, right?

Episode six starts with this question between Crystal (my wife) and I. 

The past two episodes have been a little experimental (well, pretty much every episode to date has been) and I have some thoughts regarding these experiments. 

Experiment One - Long Podcast
Episode Five was nearly an hour long. Many of the podcasts I really like are longer and I wanted to try and produce something with more content than the previous ones had contained. While it was nice to let the conversations air, I think it was too long. People listen to podcasts on their commute or while working out. I think 20 - 30 minutes is optimal, and that's what I'll be focusing on mostly.

Experiment Two - Remote Production
I did the narration and production from my room in Brussels for Episode Six. I used my Share MV88 to capture narration and, ultimately, it sounds juvenile. The reason this is an important experiment is that I want to find a way to move quicker while travelling. I don't like the audio quality of Episode Six but I love that I was able to produce it on the road. I'm going to continue to experiment with remote production for Episode Seven. 

Would love any feedback that you have! Thanks for engaging in this with me, I really appreciate it. 



The NateCast Ep 5 - Lübeck, Cocktails, and Working from Beaches

Podcasting has taken over my life and I record everything now. In the biz, it's all called "tape." I now have hours and hours of "tape" and my mind is swimming with how to use it. 

I last released a NateCast at the end of October. With only 4 episodes released, it was a little too early to suggest the end of season one so, I simply have to own the fact that I went into the classic over-thinking mode. Too many ideas prove just how invaluable ideas, without action, are. Nevertheless, we're back on track and I offer to you, the fifth episode of The NateCast. 

My plan is to release another 10 NateCasts over the coming 10 weeks and then I'll conclude season one in the early part of January. While I'm trying not to get ahead of myself, I've some big ideas for changing things up in season two. More on that in the coming weeks and months. 

A couple things, podcasting is, I believe, a really valuable and important evolution in media. It really is a grass-roots medium that is very nearly ready to become mainstream. If you'd like to support the work I'm doing, check out my Patreon page. I'm also beginning some work on a new podcast which will focus on the tech industry but from a family perspective. If you're interested in getting involved, please get in touch via the contact page

Lastly, this episode contains a couple of interviews. The first is with Ricci, the owner and bartender at Torrios American Cocktail Bar in Lübeck, Germany. The second is an interview with my mom, Roberta Sawatzky. You can hear more about the work she's doing on her blog, If you like what you're hearing, would you consider leaving a review on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts? It really helps with getting The NateCast some exposure. And, of course, sharing it always helps too!

As always, I love getting feedback!



Bring Value

I’m working on a podcast right now. Because of this, I’ve been listening to a lotof podcasts, watching a lot of vlogs, and reading a lot of blogs. Some have been so much fun to consume while others, not so much.

I’ve been working through what, to me, is the difference between good content and bad content. I’m not talking about style and taste; it’s okay that we might disagree about what we like. The world is big enough for many different flavours and styles. But regardless of a style, I believe there is a question we should always ask when we’re about to publish anything. It’s a question a publisher or record-label might ask — but in a world of self-publishing, we have to ask this question of ourselves.

Does it bring value?

There can be different types of value, and I think those might be tidily wrapped up with three qualifications:

Does it entertain?

Does it inform?

Does it inspire?


I feel like this should be qualified with an ‘at least’; does it at least entertain? Too often, I find myself watching something because I have nothing else to do. I crave noise so much that I’m willing to just stare at a video or read something of zero value, just to avoid doing nothing. The problem is, the way our brains are wired, we really don’t ever do nothing. But we do need time to have unstructured thought so, just sitting and staring at the sky might feel like we’re doing nothing, but that nothing time is critical for our brain’s development. Entertainment is great, but even entertainment for the sake of entertainment should be limited. In this, I’d liken it to a meal from some fast food joint vs. something from pretty much any French restaurant around. Sure, a fast food burger will give us the thrill of taste and will fill our bellies, but it will do little more good than that; and perhaps a lot of bad. When you’re consuming something, is there at least some lasting value in the entertainment? Did you actually laugh, or just comment that something was funny? Did you tear up because you felt something, or did you comment that something is sad?


If it can be both informative and entertaining, we’re off to a good start. But just because there’s information provided, doesn’t mean that you are any more informed than you were before. Simply knowing something is completely different than possessing information that you’ll be able to use in some practical way. Sticky information is rare in a world where we can quickly Google anything we don’t know. The ability to convey information — even if it’s over the course of time — and make it stick is a rare and special skill.


If you’re going to ask me to give my time to consume something you’ve created; or, if I’m going to ask you to give your time to consume something I’ve created, are we both going to be better for it? There is a lot out there that is intended to suck us in, but we need more that inspires us to go out. I know a lot of people who watch those cooking clips — you know, the ones where they time-lapse some gorgeous hands chopping and stirring and flipping… but they seem content to just watch the videos and never even try to make what they watch and then share, much less be brave enough to try something new. Content of great value inspires us to action!

One of the core values of the Ink & Feather Collective is to always bring value. It’s hard work! There so much content that would be so much easier to produce by replicating or stating the obvious, but we would just be adding noise, and no one needs that. Through our work, we hope to inspire others to think about the value of what they’re bringing to the world. Let us all commit to lessening the amount of twaddle we both create and consume and turn up the threshold of what is worth our time.

Dutch "Gezelligheid"

There’s a lot going on right now. I’ve begun Ink & Feather Collective, I’m close to releasing the first episode of a podcast I’ve been working on, I’m doing some really interesting safety compliance work with an American company, and we’re travelling around the world with six kids (currently in the Netherlands). 

Some people comment that our life is interesting – and I agree – but we’re doing all this because we believe the world is changing and the opportunity to help shape the next phase of our societies will depend largely on an understanding of other cultures, not just our own. My wife and I wanted to be exposed – and to expose our children – to more than we would have been sitting comfortably back home in Western Canada. We wanted to engage culture and see how we might learn from the people we would meet throughout Europe (for now). Everything we’ve done so far has lead us to what we’re doing right now, but I want to be more intentional about sharing what we’re experiencing and learning. 

I’ll avoid writing to much about Ink & Feather on this blog, but, if you’re interested, you can follow our community’s musings here.

For those reading who might not know us personally, or be up to speed on our life, here’s the quick update in a single paragraph.

We have six kids, aged 3 - 13. We have spent most of our lives in the Okanagan Valley, on the west coast of Canada. In 2015 I accepted a role with Facebook and we relocated our family to Dublin, Ireland. Prior to moving to the Republic of Ireland, I had a spent quite a bit of time travelling the world as part of The Walt Disney Company. Travelling by myself for work was great and eye-opening, but often lonely. The opportunity to go exploring as a family was too good to pass up. So, after leaving Facebook, we decided to put all our stuff in storage and begin an open ended exploration of Europe. We first visited Portugal and then France. Now, we find ourselves in south-east Netherlands, near a city called Eindhoven.

As part of the upcoming podcast, I’ve been searching out great customer experiences and crafters of all things delicious and fantastic! Today, I’m sitting in one of my favourite cafés, Lucifer Specialty Coffee. It’s here that I first learned of the dutch word, gezelligheid. There’s not a great English translation so, the best I can do is warm or cosy. It’s more than that though, it involves the way a host welcomes you into that space. It’s hospitality within a wonderful space. It’s how I would describe many – if not most – of the dutch people we’ve had the privilege to get to know. We noticed it first in the Dutch we met while staying at a campsite down in the south of France. In fact, that’s why we decided to come to the Netherlands, we met some friends who offered us the opportunity to stay in their house while they go on vacation. 

We’ve been here for just over a week now and I’m completely taken by this country. There’s so much going on here and I can’t help but feel Eindhoven will soon be a city most other cities are watching.

But, for today, I’m mostly thinking about gezelligheid. How does this become such an important part of a national identity? 

Joshua, the first to introduce the word to me, talks about how Dutch people just want to come home and relax. He suggested it was a form of laziness, but I suspect it’s more than that. I wouldn’t describe the Dutch as “lazy” at all! Joshua is a great example of a passionate Dutchman who is insanely interested in a particular topic (coffee, in his case) and goes deep into the subtext of it. 

I met another guy this weekend at the Feel Good Market. I didn’t catch his name – I regret this greatly – but he is a character, through and through. His market stand consists of at least three BBQs; all unique and smoking of promise. He had a large moustache and reminded me of a Dutch intelligentsia. His BBQ racks were lined with fresh buns and various kinds of sizzling meat. As he worked the coals, almost in trouper fashion, he pitched his offerings, not that anyone present was going to need too much convincing. 

Or just down from him, another man sang the praises of his wife’s homemade jalapeño cheddar sausages. “You’ll never try a better sausage in all your life!” he confidently stated. 

There’s a lot of pride in this country, but not a vague, nationalistic pride in something intangible.  It’s the rich and charming pride of the designer and crafter; in the results of a job well done. Mix that with the warm hospitality – the gezelligheid – and you can begin to see how the world benefits from the Dutch. 


Service Please

So, I’ve an idea for a Podcast, but I need some help! Here’s the premise:

The service industry is far more diverse and interesting than many people realise (or remember). For those in the industry, this podcast will show solidarity for you who are on the frontline of business while also providing inspiring and interesting stories. For those who are now beyond the service industry (or somehow managed to skip it altogether), it will be a reminder of what your frontline employees face on a daily basis; hopefully offering business leaders inspiration to pay more attention to their frontline.

The working title is Service Please - Stories From the Frontline.

Currently, I’m working on writing the pilot but need some folks currently on the frontline interested in doing an interview with me.

Additionally, I’d like to better understand these cities: Kelowna, Vancouver, London, and Brighton (for now). If you, or someone you know, gets these cities better than most, I would like some help from you too.

For anyone willing to help me with the first few episodes (or episodes after that), I’d be most appreciative. So appreciative, in fact, that when we next find ourselves in the same town, I’d love to buy you tea, coffee, or beer.

Interested, send a message to

A Support Manifesto (of sorts)

I'm currently working on developing out some further offerings for my company. In doing so, I'm spending a lot of time thinking about my "why". Below is how I'm thinking about! Thoughts, challenges, and reactions are greatly welcomed!

As long as companies and their customers can keep the lines of communication open, products and services will meet the needs of our ever-changing global societies. This becomes a larger challenge than might have existed for many businesses throughout history who dealt directly with their costumers, face to face, on a daily basis. For larger companies, though, who might have operated at a national or even international level, technology has provided a way for these companies to connect with their customers in ways never before been possible. 

We believe that this connectivity is critical to helping companies be successful, not just today, but in a decade from now. We believe that this sort of business mindset helps the economy better connect with humanity and will allow for more of the best parts of humanity to be found within more of the best companies, rather than very clever companies guessing and speculating what humanity needs and wants. When this happens, we believe that products and services end up dumbing down humanity and they put our economy at risk of becoming too consumer focused, and we believe this is a bad thing. 

Our work allows us to work with the top companies in the world, helping them connect with their customers and engage them in conversation about how their products and services are helping them live better, happier, and more productive lives. Likewise, the customers can speak to the company, giving voice to their joys, frustrations, and ideas.

We are global because business is global. We’re inspired by the local barkeep, the ever-evolving artist, and the barista who knows your name and your drink.

Becoming A Remote Worker

I realized this week that, without really thinking about it, I joined a growing society of people who travel around the world, working from unique “offices” (read: the beach, a surf hut, the desk you poorly constructed to watch your children swim in the pool while writing a policy document...) while experiencing and engaging in new cultures. I've always envied the people who do this; mostly singles and seldom family people. But, here we are in Portugal – I'm working from a surfing lounge – with six kids, a wife, and a dream of doing this for at least a year or two. Perhaps we'll find a new home while we travel and we'll settle in but, in all likelihood, we'll travel to half a dozen countries over the next two years before settling into something more normal.

I've been a “laptop hobo” for many years, preferring the white noise of a hipster coffee shop to the potential monotony of an office, but I've always had a home study or office desk to be based out of. I don't yet know what this adventure will entail but, as we get started, I thought I'd share five tips on becoming a remote worker.

  1. Get the Right Tools (and keep them minimal) - Seriously, keep it light! There is an allure in having a lot of technology, and it's easy to go a little crazy (check out Woz's bag!). Make sure you've a good roaming plan on your phone (or go unlocked and get a local SIM). Get a light laptop (seriously, do you need all that power?!). I prefer the overpriced yet incredibly simple and elegant MacBook. Be sure you can jump into conference calls whenever you're needed, or others will quickly become frustrated with your workation; you really don't want that!
  2. Ensure You've the Right Job - We tried to do this a couple years ago; well, we kind of tried to do this a couple years ago. We moved into a friends beautiful cottage out on a lake and I setup shop in the garage. It's was a lovely rustic setup and I couldn't have been, more excited. At the time, I was working as a CXO for a great startup (Two Hat Security) hellbent on saving the internet from trolls and toxic users. At the beginning, the remote work was working well enough but, as the year went on, I was required in the office more and more. The result was spending my weeks in town and then returning to the cottage on the weekends. As lovely as it was, I wasn't so much a remote worker, I became a remote dad.
  3. Become a Pilgrim - My friend Corey wrote a paper about the difference between a tourist and a pilgrim. It's excellent and you should ask him if you can read it. Basically, tourists consume and pilgrims preserve and absorb. If you're going to become a remote worker in a foreign land, you can't just expect to consume a culture and become better for it. That's like saying that binge watching Friday Night Lights will make you a better American football player. Rather, seek to preserve the culture and blend in as best you can. When you can't blend in, be honest about it and allow the locals to teach you what it means to be local.
  4. Be of A Like Mind - If you're looking to do this solo, feel free to skip to the next tip. For those of you looking to travel with a partner, friend, or family, be ready to experience significant disruption to normality. You can read all the Lonely Planet books you want but nothing can prepare you for your first adventure in a non-English speaking country where things are just different from what you're used to. If you're prone to suffering high volumes of stress in your relationship when challenged by new things, consider working on that first.
  5. Adventure & Purpose Await You - People have been asking us recently why we're doing this. There are a couple of easy answers but they'll end up being lies if we don't actually take up living while we're exploring. It's incredibly easy to find a monotonous routine within a completely different culture. For example, we've now been in Portugal for 3 days and we've completely lived in this one stretch of land between the beach and our villa. It's a great stretch, but it's what you do when you're on vacation (or you've created an entire community within this small area). It's unlikely that we'll learn to live within this culture if we don't find a community to engage with while we're here. That's scary though, especially as we've no easily identifiable place to start building this community from. Within the next couple weeks, we'll rent a vehicle and begin to expand our boarders. As we do this, we'll hopefully find a place to actually plug in. Perhaps it will be through a language school or maybe through a surf school. Perhaps we'll find a church to attend or some community group which meets regularly for whatever reason. The point is, adventure and purpose aren't found by hiding, they're found by living and being bold. My wife's friend recently sent her a quote. Beautifully illustrated, it says, “Be you boldly”. When in a new culture, that needs to be lived out carefully as sometimes our boldness becomes arrogance in a culture yet unknown to us. But, assuming you carry with you the heart and humility of a pilgrim, boldly go and become a cultural ambassador for both the cultures you've already learned about, and the culture that you're now a remote worker within.

4a Wake Up Call

I've been travelling quite a bit of late. In the past, I'd fight the desire to go to bed early and suffer waking up at 4a as little as possible. The past few trips, I've stopped fighting it and embraced this arrangement of the body instead.

It's by no means a perfect rhythm yet, but here's what my morning looks like.

Although I set my alarm for 4:30a, I wake up naturally just before 4a. I know that many have written about the importance of not looking at your phone right away but, when I travel and am away from my family, the first thing I want to see is if any of them sent me something during the night. I normally then give them a call (I don't know how people travelled away from their families before things like FaceTime). 

I try not to check Slack or email at this point of my morning, although I'm still working on this discipline. My faith is important to me, however, in the last year, I was too quick to get going to work and allowed my quiet time of reflection to become a far too infrequent part of my morning. Getting up at 4a gives me all the time I need to spend time reading, thinking, and praying. Although, I'm still fighting the urge to get going as though everything else is more important; like I said, not yet a perfect rhythm. 

A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to spend some time with my sister who is a certified fitness trainer. She walked me through two excellent workouts that I can easily do while travelling. It's been a struggle to consistently keep this as part of my routine but, with so much time in the morning, even when I talk myself out of it, there's still plenty of time to talk myself back into it. If I got up any later, I'm afraid this discipline would be the first to be dropped.

So far, I'll have spoken to my wife and children in various mixes (one of the funnest parts of having a big family) and had my first cup of coffee... okay, let's be honest, I'm drinking at least 3 cups of coffee before 7a. 

Lately, I've been getting into reading a newspaper over breakfast. I remember seeing the other businesspeople doing this as they ate and always held this as a slightly romantic, if not antiquated, activity. There's something important about digesting the world's events in more than 140 characters, though. I'm still not sure which paper best suits me but, when in Canada I've been reading the National Post and when in Europe I've been reading either The Independent (Irish) or The Guardian (UK). I've never gotten into reading digital versions of the newspaper, but I'm considering subscribing to a couple to see what it's like. 

By 8a, I've accomplished a lot on the personal front. I've probably delved into a few work topics already too, if I'm honest, and I'm ready to engage on the work front. I feel like I can approach the day with my eyes wide open. 

There are other elements that I'm exploring during this time as well. For example, it's 6:30a at the point I'm writing the first draft of this post. The sun is just starting to rise, and I find I'm able to write more leisurely. I also intend to look at changing the time of my workout to after-work as a means to create a buffer between work and personal time. As I intend to begin my MBA soon, my evenings are going to need to be focused on schooling, and I need a way to ensure I can fluidly switch modes. 

With this new routine, I've struggled to stay up past 9p. Some nights I've not made it past 8p. Ideally, I'd like to make it until 10p, thus allowing an hour before I go to bed to turn off everything and enjoy the stillness of the evening with my wife. 

I've still a lot of work to do to refine this schedule, and I'd love to hear about other people's routines (please share yours with me). I'm a very free thinking person and have struggled with the thought of creating so much routine but, the older I get, the more I realise that routine gives me freedom. So, I'll keep on pursuing this and see where it leads.

Business and the Creative Thinker

Many years ago, I decided I would pursue the life of an artist. I believed that through creativity, I could influence people and make the world a better place.

At some point on this journey, I became a business person; quite by accident. I didn’t intend to sit at this desk nor carry around a constant connection to the work I’m doing (my phone). I didn’t intend to sit across the table from people and invite them into a company or expel them from the company. I was hopeful never to have to look at a spreadsheet nor learn the term “deck” as a regular way of talking about how I might communicate to a group of people.

I fully intended to inspire people by creating abstract works of art which beckoned to one’s heart and imagination. I hoped to hear acclimates proclaiming my genius with a pen or a piano. When I’d write, I’d write about worlds yet unknown to the reader and of characters who would perform amazing feats; I would sing intricate melodies interlaced with haunting counter melodies and dissonant harmonies.

Yet here I am. Yesterday, I had to let someone go and tomorrow I’ll be making an offer to a brilliant young lady from India. I write policies and create decks while preparing meeting after meeting to help bring a product into the world.

I’ve deeply struggled with, what has felt like, the betrayal of who I was created to be.

But a year ago, a friend and client told me that he valued me for my “contrarian ways”. He told me that I saw problems in a unique way and approached them with an equally creative resolve.

When building the safety and support teams at Club Penguin, we hired bohemians rather than call-center employees. At Two Hat, we found cultural ambassadors to man the task of building the world's most comprehensive list of bad words. Within the various businesses I’ve had the honour to consult for, we’ve stripped the problem down to the problem which had previously been unknown and reimagined what it would look like if we built something completely different.

We’ve created artful culture; developing a theology of how people sustain an economy while helping humanity find it’s relationship to God.

I’ve decided this week that I will be pursuing my MBA, a sure sign that I’m accepting my fate as a business person. I’ve also decided though that I will not hang up my hat as a creative, but rather I’ll commit to a newly discovered canvas to paint on.


Lesson 1: Learning a Melody

I grew up taking piano lessons. My piano teacher may be the greatest influencer on my life outside of my family; she was (and remains) amazing!
I’m not a perfectionist but I like to revel in the good moments while growing easily frustrated when I loose my way. In piano, this manifested in how I would approach a new song. There might be a beautiful melodic line and I would want to hear it, or rather play it, in it’s entirety. If, at any point, I messed up, I would want to go back and start at the beginning so I could hear it all together. This isn’t how you learn though. I needed to keep on going or stop and fix the part which foiled me. Likewise, when I’d finally get the problematic line correct, my tendency was to completely freeze whence I approached the next section; I struggled to anticipate what was coming up next.

Lesson 2: Serve, then Return

I wasn’t a huge team-sport kid, I preferred sports like tennis and golfing.
My father started teaching me tennis when I was around 10. Our family loved going to any number of beautiful public parks in Kelowna where we would seldom have to wait for a court to free up. Learning to serve was a real challenge for me and it took many weeks of practice to get even 50% of my serves to go where they needed. When finally I was able to get the ball to the right place, I was so excited that I often found myself lost in pride while completely neglecting to get into position for the return. Often, this was how I’d loose a match in my early years; I’d be too excited about the first play to anticipate the next.

Life is a series of complicated melodies and difficult matches. We don’t get to put a hold on too much nor do we get too much time to revel in our success. It’s the accumulation of all the little things done successfully in sequence that create the big wins. And it’s the times we stop to master our challenges which produce the ability to play out an entire event with finesse and skill.



There's an old adage that goes “the customer is always right!”

...until they're not and then, dear support rep, it's your fault for not helping them see the fault of their ways at the point of purchase.

Customer Service is tricky business!

Most people's first job is going to be either some form of grunt labor or working for minimum wage in retail or food services. Mine was guest services at Bedrock City, a Flintstones themed park, in Kelowna, Canada. The goal for most people is to get out of there before becoming a permanent fixture. People don't want to spend their life serving others.

Why? What's wrong with serving others?

The word service itself has it's issues. We use it to talk about servants for the relatively wealthy and we use it talk about the public servants which run our countries. In both cases, whether we feel they're an accurate way of describing what really happens, the idea is that service is about uplifting or supporting a person or group of people to achieve more. What if anyone in customer service took this belief about their role?

Imagine coffee shops where the barista is there to do more than simply make your coffee or someone in a clothing shop actually striving to help you find the best possible clothing for you. Imagine if this was done with pride and not from a place of being in a lesser important role. What if the relationship became symbiotic rather than some remnant of an aristocratic society? What if the service industry became a skilled industry and people trained to become the greatest servants they could become? Not to serve the more important but rather to help their equals thrive because they had the best support in every situation.

As I think about the teams I've helped build and some of the amazing companies I've worked with, the greatest moments have been when we cared more about those our company was serving than about our own success. Incidentally, these were the moments when our company seemed to be the most successful as well. Success seems to happen most when you're focused less on it and more on what you originally set out to do.