Dumb mistakes I’ve made as a podcaster: polished is better than perfect

Done isn’t better than perfect. Done isn’t good enough.

Polished is better than perfect. Polished means you’re paying attention. Polished means you’re not rushing it. Polished means no multitasking* because if you do, you’ll let too many oversights through the gate of the publish button.

By all means, ship your work. Publish something. Start talking to us and show us what you know. But don’t keep us waiting while you wait for perfection to arrive from Amazon.

Here’s a few mistakes I’ve made as a podcaster. I’ve made these mistakes because I worked too fast on too many tasks at the same time.

  • I uploaded today’s episode of the podcast to YouTube with a clip of my screen recording a song I wanted to use for the intro.
  • A guest told me not to publish the video version of our conversation. A week later, I made a trailer for Twitter, Instagram, and my newsletter, using clips from the video version of our conversation. (So sorry, U.)
  • Episodes 19, 20, and 21 have/will have sloppy audio quality on my end. I’ve forgotten to run test recordings of me and my guest before starting the show. (Some have told me that audacity could help with this, but I’ve yet to look into it.)
  • I want to use this Blockhead beat as my podcast intro, but copyright exists. Thinking I could get away with it, I uploaded today’s episode with the song at the beginning. The episode isn’t on Apple yet, and I’m thinking it’s because I’ve used the beat without permission. I’m stubborn and I don’t like using stock music for anything I make, so I’ve sent Blockhead a cold email asking if I can use the track.
  • I’ve dwelt on mistakes longer than it took for me to see and fix the mistake. This is the worst mistake a creator can make. There’s few mishaps that take more than 5 minutes to fix. But you’re not careful, you could spend hours sulking over something you forgot to do. Don’t sulk. Fix it and move on.

Make stuff. Break stuff.

Fix the stuff you broke.

But don’t dwell on it. You wouldn’t cry over spilt milk, nor should you cry over a misplaced apostrophe, a broken hyperlink, or equipment left unplugged.

Because here you are, making stuff instead of not making stuff.

So please, go make stuff.

*I’m writing this while waiting for today’s episode to re-render. I don’t listen to my own advice that often.

On the bright side, I’ve yet to forget to press RECORD an hour into an episode. I shudder to imagine what I would do if that happened. I wouldn’t get out of bed for weeks if that happened. So, let’s make sure that never happens.

The Penguin Latte Podcast #17 – Marketing as Self-Expression with Arielle Kimbarovsky

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Are advertisers evil? Are marketers the scourge of the earth, hell-bent on stealing our attention and selling it off to some nameless corporation? Yes, and no. It’s every good marketer’s job to capture our attention. And advertisers get paid to understand what makes people want to buy things. But to call either evil would be like accusing your grandma of being a Satanist (unless she really is one). The best marketers get us as excited about products and services as grandma makes us excited about fresh chocolate chip cookies.

In this episode, I speak with one of the most delightful and creative marketers I’ve ever met: Arielle Kimbarovsky (@ariellekimbar on Twitter). Arielle Kimbarovsky is the head of social media and marketing for M1 Finance. Her spec work portfolio (got it right that time) is full of an exuberance that reveals her eye for color choice, words that evoke powerful emotions, and stories impossible to forget.

If you’ve listened to my episode with Robbie Crabtree, then you know how much I value communication. Design is a form of communication. Some of the most difficult problems I’ve had with the blog and podcast were to pick the right words, color choice, shape, and names for titles. What you say matters less than how you say it. This episode serves as an opportunity to learn how to express yourself through multiple mediums: painting, writing, talking, music, video— nearly all the topics we discuss relate to communication. We also discuss reading, being introverted, taking breaks, being yourself, and thinking big. It’s a wide-ranging conversation full of possibility and delight.

So, please enjoy my conversation with Arielle Kimbarovsky!

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Watch on YouTube

This episode is brought to you by my weekly newsletter, Hey Penguin. Hey Penguin includes tips for improving yourself through creativity, plus a bunch of extra goodies like drafts of blog posts, art I’m digging, letters from my audience, and previews of podcast episodes. Sounds good? Click here to subscribe and get the next issue delivered straight to your inbox.

PS: Does The Penguin Latte Podcast remind you of the excitement of fresh presents on Christmas morning? If so, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts/Itunes. It takes all of 60 seconds (or 120 seconds if you’re feeling extra spicy). By leaving a review, you’re making the podcast 1% better. So, if 500 of you leave reviews, the podcast gets 500% better (if I have my math right). Plus, I love reading all of your juicy comments.

Thanks so much!

The Penguin Latte Podcast #16 – The Wizard of Speech: Robbie Crabtree on Mastering The Spoken Word

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“Virtually everything you do, on a day to day basis, is public speaking.”

Communication is everything. The way you speak to yourself and the way you speak to other people is as important as breathing. Your words can either help you get to where you want to go, or they can lead you to a place full of misery and regret. I’ll remind you again because it’s so important. And I’ll even bold and italicize the word for your convenience.

Communication. Is. Everything.

Today I’m excited as all hell to be joined by a master of communication: Robbie Crabtree (@RobbieCrab on Twitter, personal website here). Robbie Crabtree is a trial lawyer with over 9 years of experience handling some absolutely devastating trials. Domestic violence, murder, child abuse, whatever horrible aspect of the human condition you can imagine, Robbie has dealt with it.

At the heart of Robbie’s work is the art of storytelling. Robbie knows how to craft an interesting story out of anything. And I seriously mean anything. He can make a story about your bar mitzvah as exciting as a day at Six Flags.

Robbie Crabtree is also condensing his 9 years of speaking experience into a premium online course called Performative Speaking. Performative Speaking teaches people how to speak in a way that’ll keep any audience on the edge of their seat no matter what you’re talking about (even bar mitzvahs). I can’t imagine a better person than Robbie to put on a course about public speaking.

The Keys to The Universe

This is very *meta* episode. Listening to Robbie speak made me a better podcaster. But even if you’re not a podcaster, YouTuber, or don’t believe that your job has anything to do with public speaking, make no mistake: the world is paying attention to the way you communicate with it. There’s no such thing as a job that doesn’t require effective communication.

There’s gems buried in this episode that might not be apparent the first time around. For example, why did Robbie talk about Yu-Gi-Oh, of all things, in one of the most emotionally difficult trials of his career? Why did Robbie ask me what time it is (even though he knew the answer) halfway through the episode? What is it about Jack Butcher that makes him such an effective communicator, while using so few words? And what’s the key distinction between public speaking and giving a speech?

You’ll have to listen to find out.

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Watch on YouTube

This episode is brought to you by my weekly newsletter, Hey Penguin. Hey Penguin includes tips for improving yourself through creativity, plus a bunch of extra goodies like drafts of blog posts, art I’m digging, letters from my audience, and previews of podcast episodes. Sounds good? Click here to subscribe and get the next issue delivered straight to your inbox.

Solve or signal?

Are we building to signal how many bricks we’ve laid?

Or are we building because we see a problem that needs solving?

Measurements are necessary, of course. The architect needs to know the proper amount of all the materials and the cost of each.

But we always have the option of turning measurements into signals of our influence.

A friend of mine pointed out that we shake our heads at anyone who flaunts their income. But when we see people we like signaling how much they’ve earned off of their products, we let it slide. We become enablers of the behaviors we shake our heads at. Because they’re doing it “holistically.” They’re sharing their secrets to success in under 280 characters. To us, we feel like we’re part of their journey. Because if they can build something with only a few viral messages, so can we, right?

As creatives, as builders of remarkable things, we have a choice: solve or signal?

Some fundamentals of personal branding

I used to believe that personal branding is personal.

It’s not.

Personal branding is tailored. It’s tailored to the subjective experience of whoever engages with your work.

Everyone perceives the world in their own way. And your audience experiences your work in their own way, as well.

Alice reads a blog on productivity because she wants to learn how to get more work done. But Joshua reads the same blog as Alice because he’s a productivity fiend. Not only is Joshua looking for ways to be more productive, he’s seeking the hottest productivity tricks to share with his friends. Same product, different experience.

Personal branding isn’t exclusive to the entrepreneur, or the YouTube star. Personal branding is the feeling you get after eating your favorite meal. It’s not about the actual work while it’s happening to or around you. Because that’s when you’re actually in the thick of it, and you’re not aware that there’s magic happening. But afterwards? After you’ve complimented the chef? After you’ve left an unusually generous tip? That’s when you know you’ve experienced something remarkable.

And as an artist, or an academic, or a well-groomed professional, you have a personal brand. You have a stamp. You have a footprint to leave behind. “This is the work I’ve done for you. I’m proud enough of this work to put my name on it.”

You can do personal branding even if you don’t leave your name on it. Consider the work of an anonymous Japanese chef. Anyone who eats this chef’s curry udon, without knowing the chef’s name, knows who cooked it. The branding is in the hard-work of delighting the customers after they’ve finished their meal.

Do you think about an actor’s performance after the credits roll? That’s personal branding.

Do you think about the taste of the first sip of your morning coffee, when there’s no more coffee left? That’s personal branding.

Personal branding is how your readers think about your blog while they’re daydreaming.

It’s how your audience geeks out about your work behind your back.

It’s how they’re spreading messages (good or bad) about your work through social media and emails.

But you don’t “create” a personal brand. When you lean into yourself, you create a body of work which becomes an obsession for your fans. This is why artists sometimes respond with, “I don’t know, it just sort of happened” when asked how they got the ideas for their best work.

No great works of art are made by force. They “just sort of happen.”

Your true fans are those who obsess over the work that “just sort of happened.” And when you have thousands of those kinds of fans, that’s when you know you’re good at personal branding.

Personal branding is about showing up, uncensored, unfiltered. But that isn’t the same as offensive or rude. It’s about adopting the mindset of the professional who doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

If you’re dealing with impostor syndrome, or self-doubt, please consider scheduling a chat with me. I’d love to help you get unstuck so you can make work you’re proud of, and share it with folks who care.

What’s next?

Not next month. Not tomorrow. Not even the next hour.

What will the next moment be about?

Will you dedicate this next moment to worrying about next month, and tomorrow, and what might happen an hour from now?

Or will it be about the next moment?

I redesigned my homepage

Here’s the before and after.

(Note: I don’t have a “before” photo. Just imagine a page full of text and hyperlinks.)


rd 1rd 2rd 3rd 4

Thanks to the generous folks on Twitter who reached out to help me. To summarize their advice, say what you need to say in respect to the constraint of the viewer’s attention.

Not the constraint of their time. No, that’s a reversal of roles. Attention is the constraint. Attention signals to us what is and isn’t worth our time. Attention comes from the stories we tell ourselves. It’s easier to get someone’s attention when your messages already match their story.

Often, that story is, “I want (or, I want “this”) to be more (or less) _____” It’s easier to convince someone to eat a banana when they already believe that bananas are worth eating (being hungry helps, too).

By working on this (I still am), I’ve learned that design has two parts.

The first part is addition. What can I add? How can I use this tools to make something new?

The second part is subtraction. I made all these things, but now it’s overwhelming. What can I subtract, piece by piece, until only the essential is all that remains?

Whenever I work on something that matters to me, I’m always reminded of these words from T. S. Eliot.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.


Help I’m being engaged at!

The comments section is the most under-leveraged asset.

It’s not a place to test out your new emoji keyboard.

It’s a place to say, “hey I really like what you said. Let’s take this even further.”

Did someone take time out of their day to write a comment that’s more than three words long? Return the favor.

The comments section is not a place to shortchange empathy, either. The problem isn’t “thanks for this, I needed that.” That’s fine. You said exactly what you wanted to say. The problem is, “if I respond to this, how many more followers will I get?”

Every time I write an essay as a response to a comment, I’m surprised at how surprised people get. It’s sad, actually. How many people are crying out for someone to hear, see, and work to understand? To have someone say, “I sort of get what you’re saying, but could you go further?”

The stereotype of the desperate salesperson has been replaced by the value hound. Sub-for-sub. Free subscribers. You follow me, I follow you. Oh, I see. You’re trying to engage at me, rather than with me.

Being engaged with. That’s what delights us, surprises us, makes us miss you when you’re gone.

Seen, heard, understood.

Eye contact.

Everything that you need to know to succeed at this

The list is shorter than you think. It’s simply everything that you need to know to succeed at this. You can let out a sigh of relief now. “Oh! thank goodness I don’t need to read every business book published in the time it took me to finish saying this.”

It’s not every word in every self-help book.

It’s not every episode of every business podcast.

And it’s not certainty not every strategy to manage every piece of information in all those self-help books, podcasts, newsletters, and articles you’ve consumed in the last eight hours.

Many of us in the self-improvement world call ourselves minimalists. We might say that we approach life with a “less is more” attitude. And yet we’re maximalists with our information.

We have…

Books. Other people’s notes about the books (in the form of blog posts).

Podcasts. Other people’s notes about the podcasts (in the form of twitter threads).

Strategy. Content. Content creation Strategy.

Digital Data Management. Courses about Digital Data Management. Strategies about marketing our courses about Digital Data Management.

Even further, we’re neither maximal nor minimal about feeding the dog (or ourselves) since planning our Digital Data Management Course marketing strategy is more important. Dinner can wait.

The way out of this trap? Selecting. Filtering. Ignoring. Seeking the signals in the noise. Choosing a craft to practice, and then practicing it.

And the list of everything that you need to be? Much shorter, too. As short as one word.


Open to the possibility that this doesn’t apply to that. The possibility that what’s guaranteed today might not be guaranteed tomorrow. The possibility that more information is not the answer.

Derek Sivers said it best:

If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs. — Derek Sivers

Thoughts on how to make newsletters better

Getting better at a game means getting better at thinking about how to play the game. It’s called meta-gaming. Even Monopoly can be meta-gamed.

If you’re a newsletter writer, it’s likely that you follow a lot of newsletter writers on Twitter. And so all you see is newsletter meta-game. This is the best platform. No, this platform is better. This is how you standout. No, that’s not how you standout anymore because now everyone is doing that. Newsletters aren’t dying. No, newsletters are dying and if you subscribe to my newsletter I’ll tell you why.

It’s as if all these newsletter writers are writing for other newsletter writers.

Your readers probably aren’t other newsletter writers.

To avoid the trap of newsletter meta-gaming, here’s a few simple questions.

Why should your readers keep reading your newsletter?

What would your readers say to their friends about your newsletter?

What’s cool about your readers?

What makes your readers different from their readers?

How can you be sure that your readers don’t become a commodity?

Remember your readers, and they’ll remember you. That’s all that matters.