One my favorite apps, Editorially, is closing down. Editorially was a beautiful tool that made it possible to write and edit documents, compare versions, add comments, and best of all, work with others easily. We've used it often over the last year for site copy as well as working with collaborators on the dispatch. Unfortunately, the Editorially team wasn't able to build a sustainable business model in a world where Google Docs is an entrenched, often free, alternative.
It's always sad when something you love and rely on closes shop. It can also be discouraging. "If a talented team like that can build a helpful product that people love and still fail, what chance does my app, game, service, product, book or project have?
We need a broader definition of success. Brian Eno once said that the first Velvet Underground album only sold 30,000 copies when it was released, but "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band." Inspiration is invaluable and immeasurable.
The work that the Editorially team poured into the product was not wasted. Not only did the tool enable better writing, but the tool and the team served as an example of craft and quality. That example will fuel future companies, books and articles, and thoughtful apps that respect the people who use them. We need more such examples, and more people willing to go out on a limb.
What you're working on may not last or be embraced by millions. There's always the chance it will flicker and fade. That doesn't mean it's not worth the effort, creativity, and heart you're investing in it. You are uniquely equipped to push the boundaries of your craft.
People are watching, too. Friends, neighbors, and even children are observing, often quietly, and learning from your example. Because of you, creating something new is no longer intimidating, strange or out of the question. It's simply another perfectly reasonable option.
The lesson of possibility is long remembered.
Last week's dispatch asked, Have you witnessed or been part of a memorable helpful act?
A few years ago, me and my friends were on the railway station waiting for a train to take us back home from college. Some other train was leaving from the same platform. As the train gained speed, we saw a woman leaning out of a window of the train, shouting and pointing towards a bag on the platform. She passed us in a second. Almost instantaneously, without a thought, I grabbed the bag, ran after the train, reached the window and handed over the bag. She gave an almost tearful smile and went inside. The whole incident happened in about ten seconds, and I couldn't believe I managed such a quick reflex. As I walked back, my friends cheered and people around were looking with smiles on their faces.
I went to college in Dallas, Texas. It is not a town known for its pedestrian friendliness. Walking to class one day, I saw an SUV about to turn left where someone was going to cross the street. Normally, in Dallas, the car takes precedent in this situation, despite prevailing law. Then I noticed the pedestrian had a seeing-eye dog with them. This dog calmly stared down the driver of the SUV. The driver waited for the pair to cross before they made their left turn. I still like to think the dog was thinking, “Look, driver. I’m a dog. I can see. My person and I are crossing the street. Deal with it.”
I was having working lunch with a colleague at a Panera a couple weeks ago. We were sitting next to the door, and I noticed a mother pushing a stroller heading to the door. I popped up and opened the doors for her and sat back down, thinking nothing of it. I honestly don't consider this anything special; it's common courtesy. But ten minutes later, an older woman approached our table, and said, "When you leave, I want you to call your mother and tell her she did a wonderful job raising you. I saw what you did for that woman with the stroller. You're a good man." THIS is a more extraordinary act of kindness in my view.
They called it a snowmegeddon in Portland, Oregon more than 5 years ago. I think over the span of two or three days it snowed 18 inches, with snow rain creating layers of ice. It was so bad that the busses slid and jack knifed cars across the roads, and at one point transportation stopped altogether and people just took to walking in the middle of the road. I had an old 4x4 Toyota pickup truck with newish tires and a lot of confidence. For some reason, many of us had somehow made it to work that morning, but many did not know how they would make it home. One of my co-workers was stressing because she had no idea how she would transport herself and her presents, to her mother's house for Christmas eve, which was across town since her car was stranded by thick ice and snow at home. I remember driving my co-worker Paul home, who would have walked the 4 miles without my help. I then drove carefully across town and found Gretchen in her home, waiting for me, gifts in tow.
We jumped into my pickup and off we went, until we hit a patch of ice that rotated my pickup 180 degrees to the right and then a 180 degrees to the left. It felt like we were snowboarding in my truck, but this snowboard had wheels, and no traction. An out of control, almost, adventure in a flurry of white under the dark sky. I steered back on course and somehow managed up a hill of slick ice, and back down another hill we went. We never knew which direction the snowboard with wheels would go, but through nervous laughter, we made it to Gretchen's mother's house. I had the great privilege of saving co-workers from brutally cold walks, reuniting a family on Christmas Eve, having a winter safari adventure, and opening my time and resources to help where I could in a time of need.
The Incidental Tourist by Chris Wright:
Kids, it turns out, are permanent holiday makers, indiscriminate sightseers. “Dog!” they’ll holler. “Leaf!” And what a thing it is to be able to share this with them, this endlessly interesting world, filled with bus shelters and umbrellas, bridges and motorbikes. What a thing to live in a world where there is no such thing as a bad juggler.
The end is not near by J L Schellenberg:
A deeper perspective in time might also bless us with a new attitude toward daring suggestions in the realm of ideas, which today are often greeted with disdain. I’m thinking of an attitude of tolerant and empathetic curiosity, fed by the desire to affect our limited intellectual capacities in ways that permit us to evolve. This empathetic curiosity would motivate us to understand why things strike someone in the different way they do, while at the same time preventing us from ridiculing or discouraging unconventional forms of enquiry that at first appear quixotic.
Beyond Unplugging: How to Stay Sane Online by Lauren Bacon:
The implication is that good, meaningful lives can’t be lived online–or that good, meaningful lives require stringent use of technology. I don’t believe that. I believe there’s a middle path, where we remain embodied, mindful, connected human beings who use technology fluently and fluidly.
Addicted to Likes: How Social Media Feeds Our Neediness by Maureen O'Connor
Everyone I spoke to about like addiction professed to feelings of shame — then deflected their shame by naming addicts they believed to be even worse off than themselves.
Digital or physical, is there a tool you can’t do without?