The Return

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It’s been almost a year since I last posted, which is a shame because I was going pretty hot and heavy for a while there.  So, what happened?

I got a job at Videology, running the User Experience & Design team, so I took some time off from blogging, and then a little time off turned into a year come and gone. It’s that simple and it’s not.

Anytime you start a new job there is a period of intense learning, where you’re trying to absorb as much as possible, about the business, about the people, your responsibilities, the process, the politics, and all the ins-and-outs.  I remember this feeling of utter confusion about not understanding how to schedule a conference room, staring at Outlook thinking, “this has to be easier than I’m making it out to be.” It wasn’t, it was obtuse.  And that’s part of being in a new job too, the little obtuse things that become second nature over time.

So, during that intense period I took an intentional break so I could focus on getting up to speed, and it rolled into, high intensity at work and leaving little room for wanting to do anything else other than relaxing for a bit before passing out.  And because I wasn’t blogging full force it dropped completely to zero instead of being okay with one good solid post per month.

So, after a year I’m back.  Why?

Well, quite frankly, blogging is something I’ve always had a passion for, I’ve been trying to do it for a long time and while the job hasn’t become any less time consuming, nor any of the other responsibilities in my life, I decided that it was something worth spending my time doing, even if it is less frequent.

My run at it a year ago was a mix of posts around product, user experience and then a few about me, my thoughts, my family, whatever.  Just my ramblings.  I got good feedback on both sides of the fence, for those focused around my work passions and my non-work passions and so I’ve decided to split my one blog into two.  From the onset it was always the intention, but I thought it would be easier to gain a large following with one blog than splitting focus to two or three.  I also read somewhere that you shouldn’t spread yourself over different topics and rather laser focus into one.  It’s probably good advice for someone whose ultimate goal is to monetize and create a business around their blog, but for me, now, it’s about giving myself two different outlets.

This blog, will be the outlet for posts like this, spilling my thoughts out onto the page, the place where I’ll write up my opinions on movies, comics, games, and I’ll probably write random posts about my family or crazy thoughts that I just want to throw up somewhere.  I imagine I’ll be posting here more often and I also have no expectation for readership.

My new blog, which I’ll be launching next week will be over at  This blog will be focused on product, user experience and leadership.  I’m committing to one solid blog post a month in 2018 and all my business focus blog posts from this site will be moving over there.

I’m excited for this new direction and I have a lot of posts built up from slacking for almost a year. First up, 2017 year in review.  Then I plan on writing out some of the lessons learned from my first year at Videology, but am unsure whether it will be more stream of consciousy over here or more business speak as my first entry over on productslice.

Rapid Prototyping

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From The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz, “Your best is going to change moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.”

I haven’t read the book, but the four agreements get posted all over social media.

I caught a nasty stomach bug, but luckily I have a great backlog of content I love to share.  It’s like movie day in elementary school. This talk by Tom Chi is very good and has actionable suggestions surrounding rapid prototyping, UX, and customer interviews.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

Video: Tom Chi on Rapid Prototyping & Product Management

Trepidation and Pushing Through

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My post yesterday on How To Define Your Product Vision took longer than most of my previous ones. I knew what I wanted to say and my personal process of focusing around a central goal in order to allow for clarity and more directed conversations but even so, I wanted to say a lot, make it concise, interesting and actionable.  That’s my goal with any instructional post I make and it was the first of it’s kind, so I had some trepidation.

A similar stall happened with the post I wrote on Habits. It was day 5 and I was stuck. I know it’s one of my weaker posts thus far. Not because the content isn’t valuable at a high level, but because it’s not directed or actionable enough. I decided for that day and for this mission of getting something out, it would have to do and I added a post to my content calendar focusing more on how to create better habits as well as a look at the book Hooked and how habits are associated with product development and viral loops in todays market.  So, through that painful, 2 hour back and forth about what to write and getting something up, just 5 days in to this experiment came some very positive learnings both about this exercise and the expansion of existing content.

In whatever you’re doing, be open to that learning.

I attended a webinar yesterday about goal setting led by Michael Hyatt. It was very high level, but the one thing that stuck out to me was a concept I’ve been trying to put into words and up to this point have been unable to. It’s been on the tip of my tongue.

Fear, uncertainty and doubt are three emotions that sneak up and keep you from moving forward for a variety of reasons, but in feeling those things as you’re doing something new and it means you’re probably on the right track. That is not to say that you should blindly go forward. You need to put systems in place to learn as you grow and adjust course, and the faster you can adjust the better the end outcome will be.  My post on Evolution was centered around that concept.

2016 was my best year yet in regards to goal setting.  I accomplished more and grew in both personal and professional capacities to a greater degree than ever before. Even so, I want to do even better in 2017 and that was the impetus for attending the webinar. I encourage you to do the same and keep learning and revisit those things that you already know really well from time to time. It’s likely you’ll pick up something new or a concept will spark a new idea off of old information.


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Had a great meeting today with Phylly from Way Out Visual and I realized it’s already the twelfth and I haven’t let anyone know that this site exists…aside from word of mouth with friends. It’s been on my list, but I keep putting it off, day after day, with the priority being the writing. Well, that and the fact that then it would really be out there, rather than this pseudo corner of the internet thing I got going on.

So we discussed some strategies and she’s going to help me get out there starting tomorrow via social. On my own I’ll be writing a killer blog post and then following 0 to 100 in 3 days challenge from Pat Flynn. I’ll report back here, and share my learnings over the next few days.

It’s been a while since I’ve reported on the incremental improvements. If you look now you will find an About and Contact page. They should be chock full of…nothing, but they are there.  I’ve also changed the formatting and presets to make everything a little more presentable. I shifted from using the SumoMe pop-up to scroll box which asks users to join the newsletter when they scroll a certain percentage down the page.  One of my buddies was having issues where the pop-up wasn’t showing but his screen was being obfuscated with no way to exit out.

Till tomorrow.

Starting Hard vs. Starting Easy

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If you haven’t caught one of my previous posts on the subject yet, I believe deeply in the idea of just starting. It’s the first part of a simple formula. Starting + consistency = results. We’ll talk about what to do with those results towards the end of the month, but now the question is, how do you start?

There’s a saying by Mark Twain, “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, that’s probably the worst thing you’ll have to do all day.” Basically, do the hardest thing you have to do on any given day first and then go down the list in reverse order, leaving the easiest tasks for last.

Then I read this blog post by Michael Hyatt, recommending that you do the easiest task first. For some of the very same reasons that I stated in my first post, in regards to forcing myself to write a post every day in December, Mr. Hyatt states that it’s about starting (Motion), getting some quick wins (Emotion) and Momentum.

In the end I think whether you tackle the most difficult task first or the easiest task first depends on a few factors.

  1. The size of the project. This could mean complexity or time, but if you have a massive project in front of you starting with a few quick wins and getting the ball rolling is a good strategy.
  2. Your expertise. Are you the expert? Kick ass! Dig in and knock out the hardest thing first.
  3. The scope of your day. What do you have on your plate for the rest of the day? Is a 3pm meeting looming that could go over, leaving you little time at the end of your day for a big-think project or do you at least need one cup of coffee under your belt.  Plan around your day. In fact plan the night before if you can.
  4. Your level of motivation. Some days you wake up ready to kill it; ready to take on the world. Don’t lose that magical momentum. It’s a gift, don’t waste it on easy tasks that will still be there after you’ve run your brain through the ringer.

With this blog I decided to start easy and ramping up the difficulty as days go by. Sending out the first string of emails, posting on Instagram and Twitter, all starting this week. The things that I’m definitely less comfortable with, than writing a few hundred words on strategies and learnings that have worked for me. I needed the momentum of starting and the backlog of content to feel like those things would be more successful, whether that’s true or not.

On the other hand, when I was working on a new feature for the website at my last job, I would often start by making a prototype of the most complex functionality as a placeholder, feeling like if I could get that piece working first, everything else would simply fall into place after that. If I couldn’t quite get it working I would then shift to easier tasks, and often times the roadblock I hit would become clear as I tinkered mindlessly. I like to call this the Don Draper effect.

“Just think about it, deeply, and then forget it. An idea will…jump up in your face.” – Don Draper

Of course, if I still had issues, then I could always reach out for help.

And, even though I shouldn’t have to state it again, I will. It doesn’t matter which path you decide to take as long as you just start.


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There is a stigma in business of asking others for help. You’re hired for a job and in that moment you feel as if you’re expected to know every facet of it, and if you don’t they’ll see through the illusion…that you don’t know what you’re doing.

This expands beyond first jobs as well and into planning your future or diverging into a new career completely. More than likely (99.9%) there’s someone that’s done it before and will have valuable insight for you, but still you feel as if you have to go it alone.

Where does this all begin? This idea that we need to know it all and do it all on our own?

My family and I went to a holiday extravaganza at our local high school today.  There were booths to decorate cookies, color holiday drawings, make hats, sudo-stockings out of paper bags and Santa was there. One of the projects was to build a little tool box, with pre-cut wood, nails and a hammer. My son was struggling, trying to hold all the pieces together, position the nails and swing the hammer at the right angle. I watched and tried to offer help in as minimal way as possible, positioning my hand on the table so he could butt the wood up against it and give him some leverage, but even this was too much. He wanted to do it by himself.  And he did, and I am very proud.

But it made me think of all the times that I was struggling and help was there and I didn’t take it because I wanted to do it on my own, whether from pride or stubbornness or perhaps a want to get credit for the whole job instead of sharing the spotlight. Why was it so important to do it all by myself? Why was it so importnat for my son?

There are so many resources available to us, especially in the connected world we live in, to accelerate our learning and ease our path to the goals we set for ourselves. One of the best ways I’ve heard it expressed is in reference to professional athletes. Once they hit the big time do they sit back and say “I got this.” No.  They continue to look to the coach to help them refine and better themselves. Sometimes they have multiple coaches helping them with different parts of the physical attributes they need to hone while also having coaches that can help with visualization and mental challenges we all face.

Being the best you can at whatever you choose to do takes hard work and determination and as I’ve said multiple times now, starting followed by consistency, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. You have to have that internal drive to push yourself, to do your best, and to keep going, but find a good mentor, find an online community for support, or find a coach and you’ll up your chance at success.

“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.”
– Pete Carroll, football coach


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Saw this post on Instagram:

There will be days where you’re not motivated.
But the motivation comes after you show up.
Don’t start with the motivation – start with the doing.
– Sean McCabe @seanwes

I am such a fan of this line of thought.  In the past I would let my thoughts and underlying fears create a state of paralysis by analysis. During the time at Grumble Games there were days where I had no clue whether we were doing the right thing and hours later, talking about adjustments or whole pivots to what we were doing we’d be in the exact same spot we were before but with hours gone.

If you’re having trouble starting, or finding the motivation to push through, just start doing something. For me that often is writing. As I wrote about yesterday, I approach problems through a flow of stream of consciousness and break things down from there.  Sometimes that’s enough.

If it’s a design I’m struggling with, free sketching helps, or just building things in Photoshop with no real end goal in mind other than to get thoughts onto paper.  Spending 20-30 minutes just playing is often times enough to kickstart the idea train and lead to an extremely successful day of work.

If it’s something I’ve never done before at all, which is the tallest order, setting aside a clear set of time to do research followed by a break and then digging in to first steps has been a very successful tactic for me.  The first time I had to create a product roadmap I had no clue where to start and I avoided it until the very last minute, then spent a night throwing it all together. Since then I’ve used the research, break, first steps method and it always creates the momentum needed to drive me forward. Remember the best way to eat an elephant…one bite at a time.

One last thing, if you know deep down that you’re going to put it off until the last minute, don’t spend the hours fixated on the fact that you’re not working. All that will do is stress you out and kill the productivity you could be having later on. Go to the beach, or play video games, or read your book and let yourself be. It’s risky, but if all else fails creating misery for days leading into a cram session does you no good.  And to be honest, sometimes that pressure creates amazing things.

In regards to the quote, I’m a big fan of the seanwes community and the information they provide about making a living online. I highly recommend checking out and the podcast (I listen on iTunes).

Follow me on Instagram @mspotten for posts about my life, my family and inspiration.

Writing Habit

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An important part of my process as I face any problem is writing. I typically write out the problem, stream of consciousness style, then break it into a bulleted list and in turn create talking points or an action plan from that.

But, since I decided to take writing more seriously and create a writing habit I’ve found that this process has become even easier. Writing has helped me to plan out this blog, create the basis for the content and also, like yoga helps to clear my mind.

There are many benefits to starting a writing habit. At a very minimum, being able to communicate clearly and effectively through writing gives you a leg up in the business world. Writing out what you know about a topic increases your confidence and decreases anxiety. Starting a project with writing helps you to anticipate points of failure and alternatives that may be more effective or trigger additional avenues of thought.

When starting a writing habit, I recommend setting aside 10 minutes and writing whatever comes to mind. No agenda, just write.  At first 10 minutes will seem like a long time, but as you become more comfortable just putting words to paper it will fly by.  After you’re comfortable with 10 minutes, bump it up to 20 or set a word goal (ex. 1,000 words a day), and when you’re in beast mode, set aside a day a week to write down the topics you’re going to write about every week, which will lead to a more directed method to the madness.

There are a ton of sites dedicated to how to start a writing habit, just do a Google search, or Bing, or AskJeeves, your preferred search engine. I personally like this one, simple and to the point.

Also, if you’re looking for reasons why writing can help your business, this podcast over at seanwes has a ton of value. I agree with a lot of it, but feel like starting and layering in your business strategy is completely acceptable, because the important part is starting and staying consistent, whatever form that means for you. Have a plan to evolve (as I wrote about yesterday), but start.


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In my vision for this site, I stated that I want to help people build better things, specifically creative based products, but feel these lessons can be applied more broadly.

And I still believe that to be the case, but after consideration I would restate it as such:

Give insight on how to build better creative products.

I anticipate doing this through personal lessons, book and article suggestions and guest writers.

Going off the theme of this post, that’s one type of evolution; evolving my vision to be more concise and direct.  But, the impetus for this post came from a stream of writing exercise in which I was trying to get to the root of why my posts didn’t feel as tied together towards that vision as I would like and how to resolve it.

Through that exercise I established that a key function of this blog at it’s onset is to invite you, the reader, into the journey of creating something from step one as well and the struggle was how to balance that with posts full of the depth that I consider valuable. This blog will evolve, serving as a roadmap for growth (and missteps), like the great Pat Flynn as well as building towards Reduce User Friction and the other pieces I wrote about in my post on strategy.

Allowing your product to evolve and in some ways show you what it’s intended to be is a freedom you have to be open to. Your path is not a straight line, there will be twists and turns. This does not mean following your vision blindly.  It does mean, if something doesn’t feel right or if something’s not working as you expect, step back, take a breath and identify the gap.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford

Henry Ford’s quote about people asking for faster horses is thrown around quite a bit in reference to trusting your gut. Trusting your gut is an essential skill for entrepreneurship and leads us to have a better idea of what to test and the questions to ask, but eliminating customer research and following your intuition blindly is irresponsible. Take those assumptions, get out there and test them. That could mean observing people using similar products, split tests or running a survey. Depends on what you’re hoping to find.

As I get this further along I’ll share the user research and testing towards fine-tuning and optimizing this site.

Evolution – Belief: Optional / Participation: Mandatory

The Unexpected

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Today I had a plan. The day was open, with one meeting, one small task to complete and 5-6 glorious hours where I could focus on writing blog posts, getting the site closer to the style that I have envisioned in my head, send out an email finally inviting people to see the wonders that I have so far bestowed upon the internet.

I had a plan, and a checklist, created the night before and ready to attack the day.  And then the day started.  Run, shower, pack lunches, get the kids to school and head to my coffee meeting.

Meeting was at Order and Chaos, a cool little coffee shop in Baltimore, the brainchild of Planit, an advertising agency. Has a great vibe and great coffee. Check it out if you’re ever in the area.

By 10am, my inbox is flooded with emails, which is unusual for that early. Most of the emails are quick replies, but two are opportunities for work and they also happen to be quick turnaround projects that must get done today.

So, priorities shifted and things moved from today to tomorrow and so there is less done on the site than I had hoped, but I still had to post for today and I made sure to keep one other small win on my list so I felt the sensation of forward progress.

Part of the idea of consistency is to stick to it and make time every day to do a little more, but sometimes that’s just not going to be possible. Sometimes you’re going to miss a day or a weekend or a whole week. Truth be told, coming back after the longer breaks is going to be harder than the sixth day in a row you’ve made progress.  It’s going to be a lot harder. Remember, don’t break the chain (if you can).

In relation to building products there are two things that this makes me consider.

Iteration from good enough to pretty damn sweet.
When I worked at Millennial Media we used to have to come up with new creative concepts in order to reel in the big clients. Games were a big hit and once we would sell one, we’d sell a dozen. Getting the first one out the door was always a late-night, stress induced situation, running through QA, fixing bugs, manipulating pixels and doing it all over again. But then we had our base and from that point every time we released it I required that it be a little bit better. Whether that means running a little faster or adding a feature that we couldn’t get in the first time or whatever, it just had to be a little better, until it was a true V1.  Then we’d take that and templatize it and make it so we could build it just as quickly as our basic units.

Engineering is unpredictable.
I plan on writing a longer post about this in the near future. If you’re in a company that is still using a tactical product road map, I highly recommend switching to a goal based product road map and stop promising dates further ahead than the current priority. Give a basic idea of what’s coming next, but focus on delivering value and not hitting dates. More to come.

In addition to this fine (longer than anticipated) post, I also implemented the basic SumoMe package…so as you’re trying to leave (at least for today), you’ll get a popup asking you to sign up for my list.  I’ll be updating it tomorrow, probably to a paid package, if I can’t get the look feel I want from this free version. See, little bits of progress, just like those games we made at MM. It works and it makes me feel good.

“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.” – Oscar Wilde