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We say this a lot... but we really do love our customers. (And not just because y'all pay us money, though that's a plus.)

Y'all gave us life, almost literally, by building the company's foundation on Kickstarter. (Not to mention expanding it with another Kickstarter.)

Y'all rode it out with us when we started running (and therefore understanding) sales for the first time in brand history. (That was barely a year ago!)

Y'all gave us your opinion when we asked—and in so doing, y'all practically told us how to execute our first product redesign.

Y'all shared—and kept sharing—all of the colorful, ingenious, intricate, imaginative, and crafty things you've collectively written in these notebooks. 

Again, thanks for the monies... it gives us something to work for (very literally). But we understand something now, and it's personal: a huge part of the satisfaction of running a business is actually liking your customers and getting to talk to them and learn from them.    

So we came to this conclusion: when it comes to our blog and social media, the best thing we can show you is yourselves.

 

* * * * *

 

This week, we're creating one way of doing that more directly.

Caroline's exposé here on Ampersand is the first of (hopefully) many. We bet you'll get some ideas, some good questions — and maybe even some inspirations! — from her example in particular.

But we also hope you'll get some sense for what we, as the everyday pilots of this ship, already understand: that the creative people in the Code&Quill family are some of the brightest to ever put pen to paper.

 

* * * * *

 

Here's how we found Caroline:

When we asked if she'd like to volunteer as one of our first exposés, she cheerfully obliged.

The following questions and answers have been gently edited for clarity.

 

1. What is your notebook philosophy?

"I like to have different notebooks for different things. I’ve tried a lot of different kinds, but none are ever 'the one perfect thing' I’m looking for. I have unstarted notebooks waiting for a purpose, and many unfinished ones because they serve a particular ongoing purpose.

I own... A lot of notebooks. Took this while writing something up for @codeandquill.

A post shared by Caroline Amaba (@clineamb) on


"The paper and lines in the notebook will typically dictate to me what it will be used for.
If I find a bigger-gridded one with lots of pages, I think: “Oh, this could be for making dungeon maps.” Or if it’s smaller, I might think “This could be for wireframing digital ideas.” If a notebook has blank pages, it becomes a sketchbook. I usually don’t do ruled paper anymore. 

"I hate spiral-bound notebooks. Yeah, they’re pretty convenient for turning the page back on itself so it lies flat—but sometimes I wanna see both pages and that spiral in the middle is so annoying. And if I have many other things in the bag with it, it’s easy for the spiral to get caught and damaged (which ruins the notebook)."

2. What's your "creative weapon" of choice?

"I typically use pens, even when sketching. Any kind of pen will do, but ballpoint is what I usually can get my hands on. I tend to match the quality of pen to the quality of the paper (nicer pens for nicer paper).

"When it comes to pencils, mechanical is my go-to because they can have such a precise tip. (Also, because no one needs to waste their time using a pencil sharpener anymore… who even still has one?)

"Those are my defaults for writing, but I create in other kinds of media too. I’ve also painted, digitally drawn, lined, and colored."

3. What does being a creative mean to you?

"When I’m being creative it’s just letting my mind loose, writing or drawing whatever needs to come out.

"It’s fine if it’s a mess—often, artistry and creativity happen when you’re just giving something form. I don’t think creativity equates to quality of artistry, either. I’m a software engineer by day and I use creativity all the time when I’m coding; finding novel solutions to problems is a form of creativity that doesn’t necessarily have a visible form aside from its outcome.

"Creativity is pushing to the edges of what you know is possible and crossing the threshold into something new and exciting."

4. What do you do?

This doesn't have to mean your profession!
Do you design, create, build, dance, help, organize...?

"By day, I’m a software engineer at BuzzFeed. I love programming. Computers and technology have always interested me, and sometimes in my off-time I code personal projects. I also have some digital-art projects on deck just waiting for me to dive in. (Oh, and I've written on the BuzzFeed Tech blog about women in Tech and moving from agency work to product work.)

"I’ve recently taking up climbing as an athletic hobby, and I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly. The sport has renewed some of my creative juices. There was a span of time when I wasn’t drawing or painting as much, but now I’m back at those (my most recent “completed” project was paint-penning my climbing helmet).

 

"I also play Dungeons & Dragons. I’m currently a Dungeon Master for two groups: one uses a pre-made module and the other is a homebrew campaign (i.e. a world, setting, and plot of my own creation). The latter is still on hiatus for a bit, but I’ve still been working on the world content because I mean to use the setting for other projects (like a video game, possibly!).

"I also have run a couple of other, not-D&D tabletop RPGs, so my acting and improv skills have gotten some thorough work."

5. What do you do with your notebooks once they're full?

"I don’t think I’ve ever filled a notebook because of the way I use them for different functions, as I mentioned before.

"I’ve filled a number of sketchbooks, but I think those are a bit different from notebooks. I constantly skip pages in sketchbooks because of whatever medium I used on surrounding pages.

"I think I might have completed one notebook, but I keep them all. Maybe not on display like my sketchbooks—but they’re tucked away for later reference in case there's a gem I remember suddenly." 

6. What would you lose if you lost your Code&Quill notebook?

"I haven’t been running with Code & Quill too long just yet, but I’d be pretty upset. They’re great notebooks.

"Also, I'd need to somehow remember everything that happened in my last D&D session, since my Origin notebook is currently being used for my Curse of Strahd campaign (that's the pre-made module)."

See one of Caroline's D&D Twitch sessions here!

7. Why Code&Quill?

(And how'd you hear about us?)

"To be perfectly honest, a friend got served an ad and showed me the link to a notebook which had a grid on one side and a lined-but-notched page on the other.

"I clicked through and immediately thought, 'These would be sweet for D&D.' Then I read that they lie flat, which is HUGE when I’m at the table and I have three or four other books open to cross-reference things.  

"I picked up the Origin for one campaign to use as a session journal. I also got the Monolith, but I haven’t broken into that one quite yet. The Monolith will be used for the homebrew campaign's maps and central notes and not as a session journal."

8. Last Things About Caroline

First of all, here's a whalephant.

Secondly... here's how to hear more from Caroline! Take a look at her Instagram and Twitter profile at the links and follow along once you're there. =]

 

Caroline's (first) favorite notebook was the Origin.
Want to grab one for yourself? Check out our store!

 

Stay tuned for more Code&Quill exposés in the coming weeks!
For now...

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram.

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Trust us, we're serious people.

Maybe not about little petty stuff—who has the time or energy?—but certainly about our work, who we are, and why we're here. 

We're not sultans or kings just yet, but we've come a long way. One bit of advice we'd offer may not sound the part: play more games with your life.

Sure, we like flashing pixels and we grew up shooting our friends online, but this isn't about videogaming, that joyous pastime... for which we no longer have time.

This is about perception: that people are often too fixated on little details because they're not trying (enough) to have fun with daily life.

So even though we're hardly gamers anymore, we find it helpful to see the world and its grand opportunities as a gigantic role-playing game (RPG) — and in the following ways, we invite you to do the same.

1. Figure out your “character build” so you can play accordingly.

In most every RPG, how a given character plays is largely a function of their “build” — in short, how their combination of strengths adds up. Each game defines the available attributes differently, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s use the SPECIAL scale from the Fallout series.

Strength — how much stuff you can carry, how hard you hit
Perception — your ability to detect environmental stimuli or important details
Endurance — how quickly you get tired or “lose your edge"
Charisma — your ability to persuade and win others over, for whatever purpose
Intelligence — your understanding of advanced skills and new subjects
Agility — how swiftly you can move between targets
Luck — your “X factor” that affects nothing directly, but has some effect on everything else

When starting Fallout, players can “spend” their starting points on those 7 attributes in whatever proportions they choose. But you only get so many points! You could max something out at 10 points right from the start, but you’d have very few left to spread among the other attributes. Most times, players favor one or two attributes, but still spread the other points around (no 1s or 10s).

People are assembled much the same way, we’d think. Two stereotypical examples:

  • A computer nerd will have a ton of points in Intelligence, but very few in Strength or Charisma.
  • A linebacker will have tons of Strength and Endurance, but probably not much Intelligence or Agility (anyone’s guess whether he could catch a runaway computer nerd).

Somewhere in the middle, you’ve got the quarterback. Notice that a good quarterback isn’t stacked with any ONE attribute. He’s probably got some Strength to throw long passes, but he needs Agility just as much to avoid getting tackled. A good quarterback also needs Perception to read the field, Intelligence to execute the playbook, and Charisma to rally the team.

How you'll adapt this kind of “personality assessment” for your life varies. But ask yourself, in short: am I a computer nerd, a linebacker, or a quarterback? Then ask yourself one more important question: whatever I am, do I find myself playing a winning game or a losing game?

 

2. Think of every challenge as a game—even if it’s serious business.

When you’re growing up, school is work. But unlike work, everyone is paid equally (i.e. nothing)—and everyone is assessed in some kind of numerical fashion.

In other words, they keep score at school—even if they try very, very hard not to call it that.

They try not to call it “keeping score” because they don’t want students to compete against each other, which inevitably happens when you keep score. And true, students should always focus on the education more than beating the other students. Having said all that, it’s useful to think of important challenges as games with rules, points, and scores—because in the end, that helps you compete with yourself.

Treating education (for example) as a game doesn’t make it any less serious. It just makes it easier to see how to do well.

If your “objective” (how you win) is making a certain GPA, you will automatically know some “moves” are more valuable than others. For example: it’s finals time and you’re struggling with two classes. In one of them, you have to ace the final to change your grade for the better—but in the other, you only need “medium” effort to bump yourself up. Both finals are tomorrow… which do you study for? The second one, of course.

Is that ideal? No. But it’s the smart move (or “play”) for that moment in time. Like the bad round you could have in any game, sometimes making “the smart play” is the best you can do—and gamers realize this faster.

 

3. Take inventory of your equipment.

Once again: in games, this is much more literal. The entirety of your (game) possessions can be shown in a single list—and usually, a game’s total assortment of objects is way smaller than the variety actually available to you on Earth. But “game inventory” still has some useful carryovers to your stuff in real life.

For one thing: if you tried hard enough (or just didn't have much stuff), you could make a single list of everything you own—and that would be (quite literally) your personal inventory. 

For another: pretty much every RPG limits how much you can carry, sometimes severely. In such games, you think frequently about the relative value of things—and you love opportunities to throw away useless crap.

For another thing: in real life, as in RPGs, we use a core group of items all the time and another group of items occasionally... but the rest is probably expendable. (Anyone who’s moved recently can attest to both of these points.)

It’s a useful exercise, therefore, to pretend you’re packing your life into a backpack (or otherwise taking only what you can carry). What would you take? How can you bring yourself to full usefulness with a minimum of tools? How can you condense, simplify, or otherwise make yourself “road-ready” all the time—even if you don’t have to?

One exciting part of simplifying your stuff is that every item you do keep has that much more value to you when it’s one of few things. And functionally speaking, with the whole “life as a game” thing in mind, it makes you feel like you’re more experienced and more prepared for your form of play.

 

4. Make the map, whatever form it takes for you.

If you think about it, nearly every game involves a map of SOME kind. Tons of sports teams will plan plays with an overhead model of the field; most any 3D game requiring navigation has a map screen. Even board games are basically just colorful maps printed on cardboard. Tic-tac-toe is the world’s simplest map game. And so on.

Whatever you game-ify, it needs a map—even if it’s not a literal map.

To show you what we mean, let’s go back to the school example. Your goal is something like a target GPA, or a certain grade on that upcoming test. The first two points on the map are therefore YOU (in one corner) and YOUR GOAL (in the opposite corner). To “draw” the rest of the map, you just need one or more paths from A to B, and then all the obstacles you encounter along the way.

Your main map might be a calendar. You can plot all of your (for instance) assignments and exams on it, then have a full view of the challenges ahead. Point A will always be “Today” and the ultimate Point B will be a big milestone, like the end of the semester—but now, you’ve got your obstacles mapped and you can think backwards from every single one.

Your main map might be something more abstract-seeming, like a journal. In this case, the act of writing down daily entries and keeping notes all together is part of the point for you — and maybe Point B isn’t so well-defined, but you know that each page of progress gets you closer to doing, finishing, or understanding something important to you. Still counts for helping you make progress!

 

We'll be back to expand this list soon! For now...

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram.

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We are younger, tech-savvier types of people. We're "up to speed."

For people who identify this way, it's easier to forget just how fast technology evolves. We take for granted the miracle known as Moore's law — that computing power doubles fast, and that we're living in the age where tech progress takes quantum leaps forward.  

Still... anything can seem slow when you have to live it one day at a time.

Therefore: for some amusement (and perspective), here are 11 of our favorite ways that existing technology blows our minds and makes us wonder: 
Are we already living in the future?

 

 

An App for That

No cash? No wallet? No problem.

Let's say you're wanting Chick-Fil-A breakfast and you're about to drive past one. BUT you forgot your wallet and it's 10:23, so you don't have time to go back for it. 

What do you do?

You might remember that you set up Apple Pay months ago, but never used it (because you're used to paying the normal way). Worth a shot, you think

You step up to the counter. "Do y'all accept Apple Pay?"

"Why yes, we do," they say sweetly. "It'd be our pleasure to take your order."

Crisis averted, you think. I'll take a chicken biscuit and hash browns with a side of social-liberal guilt, please. (Eating at Chick-Fil-A is a dilemma, isn't it?)

 

Hard copies seem like strange purchases now.

The whole notion of "digital copies" was once cutting-edge to the point of being cumbersome (since bandwidth and storage space were both much more expensive). Entire businesses were built on the bare necessity of hard copies—especially of movies, shows, and games.

Remember Blockbuster? They seem like ancient history... but they only went under a few years ago. 

Nowadays, instead of going to Blockbuster, we go to Netflix. But remember when Netflix was exclusively a disc-delivery-by-mail service? Even that seems old-fashioned by now, in the age of streaming.

When's the last time you watched a physical DVD? Even more to the point: when's the last time you bought a physical (music) CD? 

 

Video games are almost rich enough to live in.

Games went 3D in the '90s, most notably with Super Mario 64. The following decade (the 2000s, or "the aughties"), 3D games were too numerous to count—and getting bigger as the hardware for running them got stronger. 

Even then, series like Grand Theft Auto and The Elder Scrolls were boasting huge playable areas (entire cities recreated! 16 square miles packed with stuff!) — which was cool, and impressive, and even fun. But it still looked and felt like a "flat" videogame world, where (for instance) most doors you see can't ever be opened. 

Now, the decade following, games have evolved another order of magnitude. Sure, the "big" games are still large and growing, but the presentation and degree of interactivity are filling out too. In these virtual worlds, you can do more, explore more, customize more, and truly "go play" more than ever before—and many of these games are online, where players share a continuous world which persists even when they're not playing.

It's not quite at Matrix levels of perceived realism, but it IS an alternate reality in which people can choose to spend their time. Speaking of which... 

 

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are happening.

They're still relatively new, expensive, and generally inaccessible technologies (especially AR). Unless you've got a powerful PC and a thousand extra bucks, you won't even have decent VR capability. 

But they are a recognizable example of "sci-fi tech" that's becoming real and mainstream, which will inevitably become more accessible, and which will almost certainly affect the way we interact with the world in the future. If names like Oculus and Google Glass are already widely-known, imagine how big they'll be when everyone can have them. 

To combine points: games like Fallout 4 (one of the huge open-world RPGs) are now being ported to VR, meaning you'll soon be able to wander around huge, semi-realistic virtual worlds with even deeper immersion. (If nothing gets published on the blog this winter, that's probably why.) 

 

You can now get ANYTHING delivered to your house—whether it's groceries, McDonald's, or even a massage.

The first example is actually a practical one—with services like Instacart, you can have virtually all of your normal groceries delivered, and you pay a slight overall markup to save yourself the time and hassle of shopping. (We've written about this in greater detail before.) 

The second example is a magical app called Favor. If you're not familiar, it's a service (in Austin and other Texas cities) that does much what its name suggests: lines up people ("Favor runners") who go and do your bidding for you. It's a way to get virtually anything delivered—even from places that don't deliver and never will.

And yes, the massage thing is real. Download an app like Soothe and you can request for a legit (i.e. certified and background-checked) masseuse to come to your house. They even bring their own supplies and equipment so it's truly thoughtless. 

 

 

Power in Your Pocket

Wireless earbuds exist—and they already work great.

Apple only recently released the AirPods and let us tell ya: they work great. They're light and comfortable, they sound pretty good, they've got good battery life, they charge fast, and they're seamless to use.

Not even 10 years ago, it seemed like wireless, user-friendly earbuds belonged to the distant future, since some of the key features (like battery life and wireless communication) weren't yet ready. But they're here and ready NOW.  

 

 

In typical Apple fashion, the AirPods are designed for intuitive use—no buttons. To pause your music, just pull out one earbud (and put it back to resume). To get Siri's attention, just tap either earbud twice and talk.

One of the "future moments" with AirPods: tapping an ear, telling Siri to remind you something, and having the music automatically resume, all without ever touching your phone. And speaking of Siri...

 

We can TELL our phones to do stuff (including some fairly advanced tasks).

Some of the smartest people on Earth believe that AI could become scary someday, especially as the underlying technology gets stronger. 

Whether we'll reach an I, Robot kind of scenario remains to be seen. For now, we've got a nice balance: we can communicate semi-normally by voice with computers, but they can't yet overpower us and enslave the entire human race as a bionic battery pack

It's useful enough to be able to say "hey, remind me about this" and your phone actually will. But the APIs for smartphone AI are getting stronger, to the point that you can now ask Siri to call you an Uber. 

On the possibility that AI won't become malicious in the future, it's nice to imagine having a robotic butler like Codsworth: all of the convenience and courtesy of a servant, but almost none of the patriarchal guilt.

 

Most people carry around GPS capability that's downright scary relative to 30 years ago.

As Louis C.K. put it, we now have smartphones that could practically call in airstrikes or allow you to stare at the top of your own head from space. Thing is, he's barely exaggerating.

If you could travel back in time 30 years with just one fully-functional iPhone 7, every military in the world would cry themselves to sleep imagining this kind of power. 

Not to mention that you can track the real-time location of anyone with such a smartphone (if you've got the right parental settings, or if those friends have given you permission to see their location). It'd be some creepy NSA-type stuff if it didn't, you know, help keep people from being kidnapped. 

Even more obvious: everyone has Maps and guided directions now. Remember when a TomTom was $1000—or when you printed MapQuest directions?

 

 

Brave New World

You can order a mattress on Amazon.com (with free 2-day shipping). 

We've done this multiple times each at this point, and for whatever reason, it still makes Kevin giddy to think about this:

Buying a mattress, which was once an enormous hassle—involving salesmen, comparison shopping, ridiculous markups, and arranging trucks/delivery—can now be accomplished with literally one click of your mouse.

 

 

It gets better: if you've got Amazon Prime, plenty of mattresses are Prime-eligible, meaning delivery is free and it gets there in 2 days. You don't even have to leave your house; the mattress comes to you.

The cherry on top: you get to unseal the plastic, watch the mattress "self-inflate," and meanwhile try to picture the machinery that compacts and shrink-wraps mattresses. 

 

The same guy who made the mass-production electric car possible (and popular) also builds space rockets for NASA. 

To be fair, Elon Musk is some kind of exceptional... he's either immortal or insanely talented and busy, and we're still not sure which. We'd be envious except that his life sounds mildly terrifying.

Yet still, we live in a time when these things are possible — so possible, in fact, that one person can single-handedly champion BOTH of them as commonplace technologies before reaching the age of 50.

 

Today's kids are already "fluent in computer" and may never see the steep learning curve from adults of years past.

When we were young kids (20+ years ago), there was a slight gap between children and technology. Cell phones were still primitive and expensive; computers were still blocky and slow. iPods and iPads hadn't even been invented and Game Boy barely had color.

When we got to use the computer, we picked it up quick—because we were the first generation of kids to grow up with personal computers at home. But we didn't get to use it all the time and it wasn't so intuitive when we did: no Retina touch screens, no built-in cameras, no WiFi.

Today's kids grow up with computers, like we did. But you give a kid an iPod, and suddenly they have (in their pocket!) many, many times the computing power of your childhood desktop PC. And because it's smartly-built 21st-century touchscreen tech, a five-year-old can use it as fluently as an old pro. 

 

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram.

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Whether we admit it or not, we love human extremes.

Think about common heroes. Many of them are known for being the BEST at something.

Muhammad Ali is known primarily for being the Best Boxer (potentially also best shit-talker).

William Shakespeare is (in English, anyway) something like Original Best Writer, Father of Puns and Innuendo.

Paul Bunyan is Best Lumberjack slash Tamer of Blue Oxen.

You get it. All of them are beast-mode at something in particular, and THAT is what everyone knows. The rest is trivia for cocktail parties.

But what happens to people who are—you know—pretty good at, like, a bunch of things? Do they ever win stuff? Do they ever get famous?

The term for this kind of person is “jack of all trades,” and you’ll often hear the reminder: jack of all trades, master of none.

But most people have forgotten the end of the original proverb. Jack of all trades, master of none—but better than master of one.

Robert Heinlein put it more bluntly and more concretely: "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

At Code&Quill, we prefer to be Jack if we have to choose. Because that way, we’re flexible and ready for more of whatever's coming. Because creativity is (in many ways) about drawing unexpected connections—and a wider pool of experience means more room for connections. (And yes, because specialization is for insects.)

Here’s a case in five arguments: why creative, cross-trained, Jack-of-All-Trades people have it better, in life if not also in work.

 

1. In direct competition, there will always be someone better than you.

For our immediate purpose, an "expert" is someone who chooses primarily to specialize, to deepen an already-deep skill or talent.

Let's be clear: the world NEEDS experts. We're not about to bitch about smarty-pants people when some of them are curing cancer. Plus, there's the tried-and-sometimes-still-true "go to college and get a real job" case for expertise, since experts are likelier to have real-world perks like: 

  • Job security
  • Health benefits
  • Fewer questions at family dinners

But experts—be they scientists, competitive runners, or rock stars—are also putting a LOT of eggs in their one basket. And if what's most important to them is becoming The Best (as is more common for athletes), their margin for success is razor-thin. (Not to mention: think of how much opportunity some people sacrifice to do that one thing.)

Even if you are the bona-fide Best at something in your lifetime, that sacred standing may not last long. What makes a legacy is everything around that monolithic talent, and that's where some of the brightest stars of history have truly succeeded.

 

2. People who combine talents are automatically more interesting.

Now think about the (Dos Equis) Most Interesting Man in the World. A recent example:

 

 

Aside from his pleasing masculine voice and unbelievable good looks, consider this possibility: he is The Most Interesting Man in the World because of his insane range of talents. (It's fun to notice that he's doing completely-separate, unnarrated feats in the ads, like stealing foxes and airlifting grand pianos into the desert.)

But seriously. In real life, some of the most interesting people (past and present) are polymaths, people who were known for a variety of different accomplishments.

Common examples from history include Leonardo da Vinci, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. (The links are Wiki pages... just skim each article intro and you'll see what we mean.)

Contemporary examples include James Cameron, Richard Branson, and—of course—Elon Musk. (Again, just skim the start of the linked Wikipedia pages to feel instantly inferior.)

 

3. Learning many things makes you better at learning.

Stephen Hawking once claimed that "intelligence is the ability to adapt to change."

For adaptation, a larger body of knowledge (i.e. information) is certainly useful for adapting to a larger variety of situations. But equally useful, if not more so, is the flexibility to learn new things quickly—and with minimal pain or personal damage in the course of failure.

Over time, educated people begin to understand the "meta" of learning: that there are certain patterns and rules which govern (or at least describe) all teaching and learning, all forms of skill mastery, all types of subject-matter understanding. We do, in fact, "learn how to learn" at a deeper level.

People being educated process information; educated people process how information works and thus give deeper analysis to each piece of the information with which they're provided.

Sure, expertise is exclusive; if you understand ONE thing better than anyone else on the planet, you might be Grandmaster of that subject. But unless you're a master (or at least proficient) in multiple subjects, you won't be able to explain possible solutions to complex interdisciplinary problems—or even properly describe the problems themselves.

 

4. You don't know (what you don't know) until you have experience.

Here's a simple (and slightly embarrassing) example of what we mean.

Kevin, our Customer Service Chief, likes Mexican food. So far as he remembers, he always has. But for the longest time, he avoided guacamole. One fateful day in college, when he finally tried it, the taste of guacamole about blew his brain out of his skull.

Maybe you're wondering: what was Kevin's silly reason for avoiding guacamole?

Because guacamole looks (sort of) like spinach soufflé, which Kevin has hated all 40 of the times he's tried it from a young age. But only experience could teach him the real, emotional difference between guac and the SS. (One is avocado ambrosia while the other is green demon vomit.)

As oddly-specific as that example might be, it explains a LOT. You don't truly know things (including your own emotional reactions) until you have seen, heard, felt, tasted, or smelled the difference. And then, once you have experienced something, you can speak with authority on that difference because you remember it in a way that's bigger than logic.

Even limited experience—like one bite of a new food—is a kind of pure and unadulterated knowledge. In a small way, even that tiny experience changes you (since you can't untaste or un-experience something).

Best of all, that kind of experiential knowledge can be yours for incredibly cheap: just the time and risk required to take a single bite. 

 

5. Mastery is expensive, familiarity is cheap. Both get stuff done.

Imagine you could be expert in everything. You have an entire encyclopedia's knowledge in your head, and you're proficient or better at every skill imaginable.

Theoretically, you could do nearly anything yourself—even complex, intricate tasks like (A) performing surgery or (B) building a two-story house.

But there's still one problem: you're still just one person who, for all your brilliance, does not have superpowers. You could do any one thing (at a time) well—but you can't do everything well all the time.

In the case of performing surgery: You can't perform (most kinds) of surgery on yourself. (Sure, you could remove your own appendix like this guy had to, but good luck doing brain or bypass surgery on your own.)

In the case of building a house: Plenty of people have built their own houses. In fact, there's a guy who's (almost) finished a whole cathedral by himself. But it's probably gonna take a LONG time—and especially if you're doing literally everything yourself, you probably can't do much else with your life while you're building that house.

For projects of any size and seriousness, there's just no replacing extra hands. Even if some people are "less trained" than others (nurses assisting doctors, foremen directing carpenters, etc.), some things are only possible when people work together.

This is why, in virtually any leadership role, cross-training and communication skills are so important: you have to understand people's jobs AND have the ability to communicate with those people in ways that help them do those jobs, even if they're not specialists in the same things.

Even if you're no longer Expert in Everything—and you're back to being a regular "jack of all trades"—familiarity with a subject means that you can get good help from an expert. And in the reality we inhabit, where you were never Expert in Everything and you'll inevitably need others' help, communication as a skill has power that even omniscience doesn't.

 

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram.

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Hey everyone! Let's jump right in. 

Much of our recent work has been invisible, back-end kind of stuff. (Growth is great, but growth requires infrastructure!) Most of that's still boring, so we'll just mention the parts that affect you. 

But still, we've made strides on the exciting parts of our brand: new products, new partnerships, new content, new chances to win stuff, and more opportunities to cast your votes at our table.

We'll even make it easy—scan this article for this color to see confirmed rumors and upcoming insider detail! 

We're sorry for being out of things. Let's talk about it. 

We're sorry. Really, we are. We feel your pain. 

While selling out of something is a "good problem" for us, please believe us: we'd rather have your notebook to sell you!  

So you're in the loop, here are three reasons this has happened:

  1. We couldn't predict the future (well enough, yet). For one thing, more of you showed up sooner than we expected. Also, some things ran out faster than others because we couldn't perfectly predict how each notebook would sell.
  2. Our manufacturing process takes some time, as does transport from manufacturer to here. When you think about it, even a literal factory needs time to fully build, package, and case thousands of notebooks from scratch. Then, that multi-ton shipment has to travel halfway around the world. In all, it takes a few weeks—even if there's no delay. There's usually at least one delay, like customs (which we can't control). 
  3. We've tried to improve product design over a shorter time. Our Travelers have been out for a while. To be honest, we could have ordered more Travelers made a bit sooner than we did. But we knew we wanted to improve the design—and not just for looks, but to "sand off" one of the few areas of the Traveler prone to defects. Why multiply a weak spot for 6 extra months when a 3-week delay might fix it forever?

 

Here are three things we're doing to help it for the future:

  1. We installed waiting-list functionality on our product pages. Lots of people asked if they could be notified when their notebook of choice came back in stock. We've installed that feature right on each product page—so if it's out, drop in your email and you'll get an automatic notification as soon as it's back! 
  2. We're ordering smarter (and bigger). As we understand everyone's notebook preferences better (and have more people's money to work with), we're ordering larger quantities of notebooks to get ahead of your demand. (At least, until the holidays. All bets are off then.) 
  3. We're continuing to diversify. This year, we started with 10 products for sale. We've recently added two accessories and we're getting ready to introduce more stuff (more below). That should help spread things out... unless you just want everything.

What's In, What's Out

JUST IN! — Scribe pocket notebooks in both gray and white
JUST IN! — MORE of the Monolith-sized Quivers (first round sold fast!)

ON THEIR WAY — gray Monoliths with dual indentation rule

BEING MADE — (updated!) Travelers in both gray and white

RUNNING OUT!white Monoliths with dual indentation rule

What's New

Soooooooo... we're finally stocking accessories. =]

We're now carrying the Quiver, a super-awesome pen holder that straps snugly to our notebooks. (Made by the company of the same name.) It comes in two sizes: one for the Monolith, one for the Origin.

 

 

(The Origin-sized Quiver will also fit the Traveler, BUT you need an adapter for it to work correctly on the softcover. We'll be stocking those soon.)

We've also built brand-new bundles for the summer. We think y'all will really like these collections. No leftovers here—we've got our most popular varieties in play AND we're including the Quiver in a couple choices. See which bundle archetype might match you... if you find a winner, it's 10% off just for being awesome. =]

What's Coming Up

Special Editions. We've been saying for a long time that they're coming back... but this time, we've actually gotten special-edition samples made. 

It's an old-world nautical style... deep navy, with goldenrod accent pages and bookmark. Minimal branding—just our ampersand debossed into the corner of the cover, but without any colored infill. 

Those are next in line for our factory—so start setting aside pocket change! 

(And remember... whenever it's a Special Edition, we make them ONE time. When they're out, they're out!)

 

Custom-made content (in collaboration with customers). When we start conversations with customers, we try to listen and think as openly as possible.

For example, we recently had a handful of people ask: how does our paper respond to different inks? We know our product, of course—but we don't know how it interacts with everything out there. And customers weren't just curious about different fountain pens; they wanted to know about things like watercolor, too. We wanted to have informed answers, but we realized we couldn't get those answers except from people who'd know what to try. 

So we wrote them back. We said: we're curious too. So we'll give you something (either a discount or tester notebook) and ask you to test what you've got. Write us back, send pictures, and we'll publish the results. We're sure others are curious, and you'd be helping them out (not to mention us!).

We've already gotten a couple of reports back, and we'll be putting something together on the blog soon. Y'all continue to impress us with your awesome. =]

 

More contests! In the past couple of months, we've hosted two contests on social media: one asking what it means to be a creative, another showing off your notebooks in their natural "wild" habitats. Both were smashing successes—so we're going to keep doing them!

Our plan is to launch at least one social contest per quarter. So keep your eyes peeled and your wits handy, because there will be more chances to win free stuff!

 

New round of customer-survey feedback opportunities. Along the same thinking, we've seen great results from asking our broader customer base to submit feedback. (You can see the roundup from the first Customer Awesomeness Survey here.)  

We're going to be launching another customer survey soon! We'll want you to participate, so we'll be sure to notify everyone by email and social media when it's on. (Like last time, you'll receive something for your efforts.) 

 

 

What's Left?

Want to ask a question or make a suggestion? Shoot us an email! Your best bet is to write Kevin directly—he runs customer service and the blog. =]

And of course...

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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If you're halfway familiar with your own computer, it's not hard to become a power user. 

"Power users" aren't (necessarily) hackers or CS majors... they're just people who are so familiar with their machine that they don't have to think about using it.

The best kind of work is often called flowThis is whenever you can just do the thing you do, without much strain or mental interruption. In the digital age, it's easier than ever to enter that state of mind—but your computer has to work with you, not against you.

Here we're sharing 17 specific suggestions for sharpening your computer to its smoothest possible experience. (Most of these are free and quick!)  

 

Read the Manual, Silly

You might be surprised at what you can find in your System Preferences.

Lots of details there are personal taste—but these might help you work faster or even think more clearly. Don't feel obligated to the defaults; they're adjustable settings for a reason!

Don't discount the value of small or stock changes. Sure, some of these might save milliseconds. But if you save milliseconds hundreds of times per day, it adds up—and if nothing else, it feels like a smoother train of thought the whole time.

1. Adjust your display. Start with what's painfully obvious: the screen you stare at. Minor adjustments can make a big difference to your eyes. Aside from the settings on the monitor itself (e.g. brightness and color settings), take a look in System Preferences > Display (on a Mac) and see what zoom level you prefer. Using the farthest zoom setting on a Retina display might be great for multitasking—but it's less than ideal if you're reading or trying to focus. 

2. Speed up your keyboard. Oddly specific, but you'll thank us. On Mac, go to System Preferences > Keyboard, then turn the "Key Repeat" and "Delay Until Repeat" ALL THE WAY TO THE RIGHT. For things like Backspace, it makes your keyboard seem so much more responsive. 

3. Re-calibrate your mouse and trackpad speed. You don't win any contest for having the fastest cursor speed in the West—but if you have to drag your finger 8 feet to get the cursor across your computer screen, you've got room for improvement. Make it easy on yourself... cut down on motion where computers make you move most!

4. Try out and practice Apple's trackpad gestures. Trackpads were mostly "necessary evils" until Apple made them smart in the past few years. Apple's gestures make the whole experience seem more 3D, like your laptop can "think about" far more things at once. You can even customize the gestures to your liking.

5. Clean up your Dock. Why cram it with every icon you've got when you only ever use, like, 12 programs? Eliminate noise and clutter. To get rid of Dock icons you don't use, just right-click them and choose "Hide from Dock." Then, if you ever need to find something NOT on your Dock, you're just one quick Spotlight search away (see #8 below).

6. Clean up your Notification settings. By default, nearly any program can ping you—but is that helpful? Notifications matter a LOT from some programs—in this office, we yell at each other if Slack messages go unanswered—but never in a million years will we need to hear from the Game Center. Take control of that noise. Under System Preferences > Notifications, turn off the programs who don't need the right to interrupt you. 

7. Hone your Finder's Preferences. Finder is probably the program people use most without realizing they're using it. But it has Preferences too! You can change which common destinations appear on the left and which don't—and you can also right-click the top toolbar or column header to customize those. (In general: start right-clicking things more and see what you find!) 

8. Use Spotlight search (which now includes Siri). If you're not familiar with Spotlight, just hit Command + Space and type something. The little search bar that pops up is your new best friend. It's simple and fast enough to switch between programs by typing, yet it can also help locate any file in your file system. They've even added Siri functionality recently—so just hold the Space bar a bit longer and you can TALK to your computer. We're living in the future, y'all.

  

Protect Your Investments (and Your Health/Sanity)

Nothing sends a day to Hell quite like breaking your laptop (or phone). 

Most days, you won't notice the next three suggestions. But on the ONE day when (very suddenly) you no longer have a working machine, these little preparations become a huge relief. 

9. Get yourself on the cloud. Handful of ways to do this—the best-known being Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud. All three options offer limited free storage (a few GB) and cheap monthly subscriptions for anything past that. Get your files on a cloud-storage service, then sync up your computer and your critical info is protected against any kind of local disaster—and you can access those files from anywhere there's an Internet connection. It is absolutely worth a few bucks a month.  

10. Buy an external hard drive for Time Machine. Actually set it up. In a similar way, Time Machine is a lifesaver. You'll need a dedicated external hard drive to use it (meaning you can't use that external drive for anything else). But once set up, Time Machine is basically a renewable get-out-of-jail-free card for as long as you keep that drive connected, since it keeps live, restorable backups of your whole computer. Doesn't need to be a fancy hard drive to save your ass!

11. Occasionally use Disk Dictor or some equivalent. Eventually you might wonder: what's clogging up my hard drive? To explain it simply: your computer piles up extra data over time, but it's not programmed to automatically clear it all out. Even if you clean out old files and empty the trash, space will remain filled that you can't explain. Often, you can open up TONS of space just by eliminating old backups (e.g. iPhone backups) and cache files. You can clear that out manually if you know where to look—or you can grab a tiny piece of software like Disk Doctor that does the hard work for you.  

 

Treat Yo'self

12. Download BetterTouchTool (free 60-day trial, pay-what-you-want from $5 to $50 after that). Tiny program, huge impact on your daily computing. BetterTouchTool is like a programmable "shortcut switchboard" that runs below everything else on your computer. Anything you want to do faster, it can manage—whether that's moving and re-sizing windows, skipping to the next track, or even executing terminal commands. Just tell it what you want to happen, then program a shortcut and it just works, all the time. It's a lifesaver even if all you want to do is move and resize windows.  

13. Look into some useful cables and hubs. Never mind the gold-plated BS—don't waste your money on gimmicks. But don't overlook useful articles like the simple 4-port USB hub, CAT-5 couplers, or simple adapters like Thunderbolt to HDMI. You can find most cables you need on Amazon and many of them are cheap—and if keeping an ounce of wire on hand means you're twice as flexible, it's easy. 

14. Find or buy a monitor/laptop stand. We say "find" first because, for most external monitors, you may already have something that works. (In the case of your humble author: my monitor is propped up by a thick book that kinda looks right on my desk.) Other times, it's still worth spending a little, as for something more custom-built like a Rain laptop stand. Seriously, it's amazing how subtle changes—like elevating your screen four inches—can improve your quality of life, but they can.  

15. Try out new keyboards and mice. As we wrote in our very first blog post (awww, it's kind of juvenile now that we look back at it), peripherals matter because you touch them. Look down at your keyboard for a second. This is how you "touch" what's in your computer! Sure, a cheap keyboard and mouse might direct the same info to the computer, so nice peripherals aren't truly necessary—but if you had to touch something for 8 hours a day (don't make it weird), would you rather it feel like "meh" or like magic?

16. Expand with an external monitor. If you had bad vision and got used to it—but then got glasses or laser surgery—the whole world would look better to you. Well, if you want to see more of the digital world, you just need to buy a bigger (or better) monitor! If you're thinking it'll be super expensive, just remember that monitors, like many pieces of hardware, continue to evolve for the market... you can get a simple (but reliable) 27-inch monitor in 1440p for under $300 these days. Pretty cheap for doubling your "seeing space" where you work!

17. Upgrade your chair. Saved (what is probably) the biggest investment for last. As the sage advice goes, invest in anything that goes between you and the ground. You'll save a lot of future pain if you buy good shoes, tires, mattresses, and bras (for those so endowed). Exact same principle with chairs: if you sit there for eight hours a day, it's probably the single biggest thing affecting your back (for better or worse). 

 

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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It's really difficult to celebrate the Fourth of July without noticing its clichés and platitudes.

Yet because everyone is celebrating and carrying on, it's an unpopular time to discuss how meaningless certain "American" phrases have become. 

Strap in, because we're hammering one of them anyway. 

Now, let us say this first: we love America, we wouldn't choose to live anywhere else, and we consider ourselves lucky. Let us add that Code&Quill as you know it wouldn't be possible without some of the opportunities America provides. 

But let us say to our fellow Americans: please think more carefully about "freedom" and what it means. 

It is true, for instance, that there are fewer restrictions on your behavior here. More importantly, there are fewer restrictions on you, as a person—far from utopia, sure, but it's a good spot, overall, to let your freak flag fly. America is a good place to create yourself—and to create whatever living you want in your own image.   

But places like America aren't perfect, and even its freedoms cause other difficulties. The main challenge of societies like ours is reconciling YOUR freedom with everyone else's. 

This isn't just politics; it's culture, creativity, commerce, every way that people interact. Sometimes, the blend can get a little strange here. 

So this week, as we celebrate America's Independence Day, we're calling out six places where freedom "rings" in unusual ways.

 

Enemies can still be peaceful neighbors.  

No matter what kinds of groups someone could call "enemies" within America—whether ethnic, racial, religious, or political—there's one thing that keeps the peace.

Everyone's freedom has limits. 

You are allowed to be and do what you want, within reason. But so is everyone else. If you don't like the differences and can't resolve it peacefully, tough luck. 

Maybe it sucks that some people dislike each other, but that can't be changed. But respectful peace is fair, and it's a baseline everyone can live with (literally). Hopefully neighbors, by becoming more familiar, can eventually become friends.

 

The harshest critics can make the best patriots.

On the subject of "whoa, chill with the freedom"—

Maybe you've seen the opening scene of HBO's The Newsroom, where Jeff Daniels delivers a searing monologue against American exceptionalism:

 

He doesn't "hate" America, despite what some people might say. Towards the end of his speech, he's not even angry anymore; he's sad, tired, disillusioned. He knows America can do better—and he delivers the news this way because it's how he can help.  

 

You're not a businessman; you're a business, man. 

Peaceful trade is a good thing. That means: whenever people agree to exchange one thing for another and then honor that trade, BOTH parties benefit. 

If you think about it, that's magical. Good trades are about as close as we can get to literally making something from nothing. You could even say good trades make the world a better place.

Case in point: we like it when you buy our notebooks, and most of you seem to think they're worth it and then some. You're happier AND we're happier. 

Again, this is business as made easier in America—wouldn't be so doable in many other places. Even better: in places like America, we're sometimes thrilled by trades because of the unique qualities and variety possible in a free market. If you've ever eaten delicious things from a food truck, you have some idea of what we mean.  

 

Freedom is wasted on the free. 

Ever heard the expression "youth is wasted on the young"? You can vary it endlessly and it's usually still true.  

The boundless opportunity, variety—and yes, freedom—of a place like America are delightful things. But they do not guarantee that you'll be happy. As David Foster Wallace observed in "This Is Water," the kind of freedom people chase nowadays often ends up isolating people from others, if not also from themselves. 

More broadly, the "progress paradox" of human history is that modern people, who have more freedom and safety than anyone before, don't know what else to do with it. If you're staving off famine and watching winter approach, you'll be focused—but if you've got a house, a job, and the conveniences of modern life, what's left to worry about, much less fight for? 

 

Equals eventually abide the Golden Rule.  

Everyone knows some version of the Golden Rule. (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is the one we learned as kids.)

It's a little trickier with, you know, law. How do you make fair rules for government? 

A Harvard professor named John Rawls had a good answer, and he called it "the veil of ignorance." It poses the following question: how would you design the world if you didn't know who you'd be within it? 

Sure, it'd be great to be King of the World—but if you designed the world for him and then entered it as anyone else, you'd hate it. Realizing this, you'd probably hedge your bets and make a fairer world, so that you might be happy as anyone.   

In a "collective unconscious" kind of way, free countries can evolve this way. It'll never be perfect, but personal freedom is one of the things we need to even have that chance.

 

 

For most things, moderation prevails. 

Aristotle made a fascinating point about people.

We think of virtues (like courage) as valuable things. More is better, right?

Not always, says the great pontificator. Too little courage and you're a coward. But too much courage and you're Leroy Jenkins (or George Custer). 

If you think about it, it's the same for other virtues. In life, the right amount is a moderate amount: not too little, not too much.

Liberties are no exception. Too few and you live in a police state; too many and you live in anarchy. Freedom, in other words, is like money: everyone needs it to some extent, and everyone enjoys having more of it, but it distorts you if you get too much (or too fast).   

 

 

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Times New Roman, sized at 12 points and double-spaced. One-inch margins on all sides.

When teachers and college professors required a format like that, they were teaching you some of the basics of typography—but not well, and not for the sake of good type.

They had their reasons. Uniform standards are easier; everyone can refer to them. A common formatting style means students can count finished assignments in pages instead of words, which is simpler. And it's probably not fair to expect young students—who are still learning to write—to present their documents like professionals.

But the “standard formats” we use most in school are unavoidably ugly. They're functional prints of work, but they don't look good. Once we've left school, this becomes a problem overnight. As students, we get virtually no practice using smart typography to present our work well for readers.

So when you do have an original document to design, you might be running short on ideas and practice. This week, we’ve got four suggestions for making your documents sharper—including some pointers on how this works on a typical computer.

 

Start Looking at New Fonts

Your first task is to use something other than the fonts everyone knows. Put simply, there’s no way to use an ordinary, uninteresting font without seeming ordinary and uninteresting.

 

Want an extraordinary vessel for extraordinary ideas? Click below to find yours.

 

That (probably) means no more Times New Roman, Helvetica, or Arial for you. No more Tahoma, no more Calibri, no more Georgia. Your computer probably came with lots of fonts, but most of them aren’t good. Even if you identify the few gems among those system fonts (and you should), you’re going to need outside options.

One good place to start is Google Fonts. As they’re free to access, they’re expectably average—but starting here will give you the opportunity to see a large and completely different set of fonts from your own system fonts.

 

As you browse, you can narrow your selections by properties like category (serif, sans serif, etc.), slant, and weight. Then, once you’ve made a few selections, you can make direct comparisons and, in many cases, download the fonts to your computer.

Be sure to check the license and terms of use for each font you download; while most private uses should be fine, you should always double-check what you’re allowed to do with a font, especially before publishing or sharing a document. (This is true for all fonts, not just Google fonts. Check the terms.)

There are plenty of places you can find free fonts, but you get what you pay for—and when you pay nothing, be glad to find anything of value. Eventually, to get serious about your font game, you will have to spend actual money. Prices range pretty widely; some fonts or collections cost $5 while others cost hundreds. As always, it’s a personal choice of fit and affordability—and as always, shop responsibly.

 

Brush Up on the Rules

Like grammar and style, typography is subjective. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few rules.

Writers lose credibility when they use words incorrectly (hence, grammar Nazis). But by the same logic, they can lose credibility (or clarity, or attention) with each typographic mistake.

Typographer and author Matthew Butterick covers the basics quite well in Typography in Ten Minutes and a follow-up Summary of Key Rules. We recommend you read them both; they’re succinct.

Wherever you review, you may notice that the rules break into roughly three categories:

Some are to-the-point mandates; for example, you use only one space between sentences, and that’s that. Don't expect to bend these without looking stubborn (to the people who notice).

Other rules are guidelines of taste and style; for example, don’t go crazy with font selection, exclamation points, or formatting options like bold and italic. 

The remaining rules are technical reminders, like remembering to use hyphens and dashes correctly; while unexciting, these rules can refresh your technical vocabulary and make your writing more precise. (It really is true, for example, that em dashes—these longer, interrupting ones—are underused in most people’s writing, and simply because people don’t know how to type them on their keyboards.)

 

Practice the Basics

At some point, you have to get to work with your new type toys.

Let’s suppose you open a blank document in Microsoft Word, then type out your text—but without changing any of the standard formatting. It will probably look pretty bland.

Some people would slap a title on it, hit Print, and call it a day. But not you. You can spare three minutes to finish it like a professional. It just needs to look good, and it needs to be easy to read. What can we do?

We've made a few quick suggested changes:

  1. We changed the typeface from Helvetica to Equity, leaving the size at 12pt.
  2. We widened the page margins to 1.75 inches on the left and right, narrowing each line of text. 
  3. We gave each line a bit more height—to be specific, each line is 17pt high. 
  4. We've also justified the text, being sure to eliminate lines with single words (widows and orphans). 

Looks better, right? Here's a little more info on how to do it:

— You can change font and justification in the usual places.
— For page margins, check the Layout banner or Page Setup.
— To adjust line spacing, you'll need to find Paragraph settings, which can be accessed from the drop-down menu via Format >> Paragraph. Then, choose "Exact" line spacing and set a specific number; just remember that it won't automatically adjust if you change the font size for text in those lines.  

 

Keep Your Eyes Open

When you realize how much of the world has type on it, you realize how important typography is to our understanding of information.

You also understand more clearly the silent appeal of good typography and how it influences perception—of the writing and words themselves, but also of the person or entity responsible for them.

Since the world is full of type, the world is full of examples you can assess. You’ll find your own themes, but probably you’ll notice what common sense already taught you...

Don’t overuse anything, and definitely don’t use anything trite or cliché.

Design things to say what you want them to say.

Stand out but don’t be too strange.

Perhaps most importantly: it’s worth it to spend some time on polish. Not only does it enhance the work you’ve already done, but it can mean the difference between being noticed or not. That, in turn, can mean the difference between success and failure.

 

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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A few weeks ago, we introduced you to six barriers between creative people and success. 

Afraid to fail—or look like a moron? We explain why you're probably happier taking a risk.

Under pressure from your peers—or even your family? We give some pointers for talking it out.

Not sure it's all worth it? We suggest some questions to help yourself decide.

 

This guidance is courtesy of our friend Dr. Lyle Sussman, former chair of the University of Louisville School of Business and author of numerous books—the latest being Breaking the Glaze Ceiling: Sweet Lessons for Entrepreneurs, Innovators and Wannabes, from which we've adapted most of these two articles (with Lyle's permission). 

 

It Gets Personal

As Lyle recounts in the book's Introduction, he has experience from the trenches of entrepreneurship—but he's primarily an academic, someone who's spent his professional tenure in a university setting.

Lyle expected to retire (in the next few years) without having to roll up his sleeves again. Then his daughter Annie came over for dinner. 

Despite her Masters Degree and stable career, she wasn't happy with her work—and she knew what she was going to do about it. With a friend, she planned to start a business selling doughnuts—even though she had zero culinary training. (According to Lyle, Annie hadn't ever been much of a cook or baker—and neither had Leslie, Annie's business partner.)

Annie said she'd even picked out the name: Hi-Five Doughnuts. 

To say the least, this shocked Lyle—and at first, he was hesitant to believe that this could be a good idea. But Lyle realized that Annie had showed him the true opportunity of entrepreneurship: surviving, if not fully thriving, on the work you actually want to do. Lyle got behind her and offered to help her with a formal business plan, among other things (though, in the end, she never actually needed a formal business plan and thus never developed one).

This article is two things in one: a collection of lessons for breaking through the ceilings that aspirational people face, AND a brief case-study of Hi-Five Doughnuts, which has since seen tremendous growth and success by manifesting the breakthrough lessons Lyle illuminates in Breaking the Glaze Ceiling.

 

Glaze Lesson No. 4

Please note: the very man whose name is synonymous with genius, rather than keep it to himself, proclaimed that "everyone is a genius." Many thinkers in history placed themselves above "common" people, but not Einstein. If you're doubting yourself, think about that. 

Consider, too, the profile of the modern success story. Sure, you can still make bank by getting a ritzy J.D./M.B.A. from a prestigious school, or by being one of those turbo-smart people who answer questions no human has answered before (many of whom have Ph.D.s). As the Joker would say in The Dark Knight: "if you're [really] good at something, never do it for [anything close to] free." 

But notice: nowadays, the rising titans are people who made their names by doing, not just by knowing. Consider that one definition of intelligence is the ability to adapt—book info can definitely help, but there's no replacing personal experience. If you want to get "street smarts," just start working and learn from what happens next.

 

Glaze Lesson No. 5

Fear is a killer. And we mean that almost literally: your fears, left unchecked and unchallenged, have the power to literally kill your dreams. 

We're not just being dramatic. Think about it: how do you kill a dream? How do you remove an idea from existence? Well, in simple terms, you kill whoever holds that dream or idea.

And how do you kill a person? If nothing else, you can just wait for them to die. 

This is all figurative, of course, but it still describes your life. The surest way to kill your own dreams is to wait for them to die. All things equal, YOU are likely your own biggest obstacle.

So get out of your own way. If being happy means risking unhappiness, consider that the alternative to that risk is unhappiness by default—or at least, a longing wonder for what could have been if you'd tried.

 

Glaze Lesson No. 6

There is nothing new under the sun. Most ideas, in the end, are recycled bits of other ideas—because, when you think about it, inspiration can't happen in a vacuum.

Having said that, the best ideas are often novel combinations, or ideas that haven't been seen in a while, or ideas that resonate in the present more than they ever have before. But standout ideas, those we can call 'the best' or 'ahead of their time,' are aberrant and unusual by nature.

Let's put this another way: no matter how smart or capable you are, no one is going to hear you if you sound like everyone else. Practically by definition, people who are impressive and/or memorable stand out from others as unique, as something distinguishable from the mass. Isn't that also practically the definition of weird?

As Lyle clarifies in Breaking the Glaze Ceiling, "weird" doesn't mean "dangerous" or "unstable" — those are their own labels, and for people whom you should avoid. Having said that, you should seek out weird people because they'll give you perspective on what you do—and they might be unusually talented once you get to know them.   

 

Glaze Lesson No. 9

A good idea—or a good business—is greater than the sum of its parts.

Here's what we mean... and let's harken back to grunting-caveman-simple levels of business. Let's say two people agree to a trade: Grog's club for Glag's leg of lamb. The "sum of the parts" is, technically, zero; the items traded owners, but nothing was created in the process. But the trade itself was greater than that zero sum because Grog and Glag were both happier when the trade was done.

Now skip ahead to Times-Square-21st-century stuff again. Think about the best brands in the world, perhaps some of your favorites. Let's say you're really into Jordans. Is your love of Jordans (and your valuation of them) high because they're well-made shoes—or because, to you, they represent something much greater than shoes? 

 

 

Everyone—including you—geeks out over something that most people don't see in that special way. You know that feeling, and you know how great it feels to have it. Air Friend with the Jordans is happier every second he's thinking about his shoes. But you also know what it's like to "not get it," as many of us don't about the shoes thing. 

Here's your challenge: you have to LOVE the thing you do to the point that you win others over. Whatever you're nerdy and irrationally excited about, stop caring what other people think and invite them to join you in some experience instead. A legendary brand doesn't really care if everyone likes them; they just care that "their people" love experiencing what they do.

 

Glaze Lesson No. 11

Quite frankly, you can do it all alone. It's just a really, really bad idea. 

If you want to burn yourself out, this is the way to do it. Even solopreneurs have people they call on for help: outsourcers and contractors, perhaps a personal assistant, even just a personal confidante for venting after a long day.

As we've written about Scrum before, what's useful about working with other people is that you can use one another's skills and ideas to solve problems. Sure, you could figure something out if you bashed your head against the wall long enough... but isn't that a waste when Jimmy over there could teach you in five minutes? 

You can do a lot more with others, and through others, than you'd ever expect otherwise. Don't make life so much harder (or drearier) just by failing to say hello. 

 

What do you do now?

In short? You apply yourself. 

Whatever skills, talents, superpowers, favors, resources, ideas, leads, or avenues you have to take your next steps, take them.  

 

Almost always, you'll have options; you'll have some way to move forward on your dream, even if it's small or slow for now. But the lamest option of all—and the one that will prove most anticlimatic to you, of all people—is to do nothing.

The biggest thoughts you have in a day are probably the things you dream about, the things you want most from your life. If they're your dreams, they've probably repeated themselves thousands of times over. But they're worth noting again and again, and when new thoughts come your way, welcome them for how they might help.

 

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

 

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Today is D-Day, for those of you keeping track. So to stay on theme with today's events in history, we offer a comparison (though most certainly not an equivocation) between that history and our more present struggles. 

 

1. Everyone has, more or less, the same equipment. 

    In War: Everyone has a gun. Some fire little bullets, some fire big bullets. In rare cases, the person’s gun has a plane attached to it. But you get the point. 

    Online: Everyone has a computer. Some are little computers, some are big computers. But they all do (mostly) the same stuff in (mostly) the same ways. 

     

    2. Everyone’s equipment is, more or less, functional by design. They’re working tools.

      In War: Your gun is intended (more or less) to shoot other people who have guns. Whatever else you carry is meant (ultimately) to help you use your gun, or to keep the enemy people from using theirs. 

      Online: Your computer is intended (more or less) to communicate with other people or things who have computers. Whatever else you install is meant (ultimately) to help you communicate more. 

       

      3. This won’t stop you from making your equipment your own—or even having some fun with it. 

        In War: This is my gun. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. When it’s not doing work, it’s one way to have fun—and I want it to look somehow distinct from the others. (If this one doesn’t make sense to you, you haven’t spent enough time in the American South.) 

        Online: This is my computer. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. When it’s not doing work, it’s one way to have fun—and I want it to look somehow distinct from the others. (If this one doesn’t make sense to you, you haven’t spent enough time in coffee shops.)

         

        4. The few things you need are one second away. Everything else is a disorganized mess. 

          In War: Helmet? Check. Radio? Check. Canteen? Check. Toenail clippers? Hell if I know. 

          Online: Today’s work? Check. Music and recent photos? Check. Email and calendar? Check. Last year’s tax return? Hell if I know. 

           

          5. Most things visible to the public are broken—or at least, less than pristine. 

            In War: Lots of anonymous buildings are completely dilapidated. Important buildings (like courthouses), while more likely functional, might look like they’re in rough shape. Everyone sees this disrepair, but no one says anything because it’s just normal.

            Online: Lots of anonymous websites are completely out of date, if not buggy and broken. Important sites (like Reddit), while more likely functional, might look like they’re in rough shape. Everyone sees this disrepair, but no one says anything because it’s just normal. 

             

            6. You’re constantly bombarded with things to worry about, pay attention to, or deal with. (And you can’t ask them to stop.) 

              In War: You’re poised and ready for the next threat. Your eyes dart left and right. You’re not sure when, or from exactly where, but you know more is coming.

              Online: You’re poised and ready for the next notification. Your eyes dart left and right, but mostly to the top-right corner. You’re not sure when, or from exactly where, but you know more is coming.

               

              7. You never really know anyone unless you try. But strangers can still be fascinating—and memorable for a lifetime. 

              In War: You can’t afford to get too attached to people because there’s a good chance that—for whatever reason—you won’t see them again. They’re real people, but for now they’re just a name tag on a uniform, and most times it’s better to keep it that way. Still, you’ll find yourself entranced sometimes by strangers and their stories, and you’ll remember them always, even if you forget the people telling them. 

              Online: You can’t afford to get too attached to people because there’s a good chance that—for whatever reason—you won’t see them again. They’re real people, but for now they’re just a username in some app, and most times it’s better to keep it that way. Still, you’ll find yourself entranced sometimes by strangers and their stories, and you’ll remember them always, even if you forget the people telling them.

               

              8. There’s an entire underbelly that most people will never see. 

              In War: There are far, far more technicalities to war than any civilian can think about. Some of these, like rules of engagement, are simple enough conventions to learn. But there’s also a lot of political brokering that has nothing to do with the usual forces people expect (like ideology).  

              Online: There are far, far more technicalities to computers (and the Web) than any typical user can think about. Some of these, like basic cyber-security practices, are simple enough conventions to learn. But there’s also a lot of political brokering that has nothing to do with the usual forces people expect (like worldwide cybersecurity). To get an idea, read about net neutrality. 

               

              9. The more you understand everything that’s happening, the worse you’re likely to feel about all of it. 

                In War: What person can survive the most extreme of human phenomena—much less become good at it, professionally—without going a little crazy?

                Online: What person can master (one of) the most tedious and technical professions known to man—much less become good at it, professionally—without going a little crazy?

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