The other day, I sat down for a meeting with an entrepreneur looking for a marketer and content writer. A mutual friend had put us in touch, and before our session, I had provided him with a clear breakdown of my fees and estimates. We met up at a cafe and shared some coffee to discuss his project.

He gave a long pitch about his startup and how it was both synergistic and disruptive. All was well.

He spoke about changing the world and using social responsibility to have a broader impact outside his product area. All was well.


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I would rather do one single thing every day, and do it well, than be the most productive person in the world.

Because quality is my north fucking star.

The most important part of what you do should never be quantity. I publish a lot because I want to. But my focus is on quality.

I’m trying to make sure that what I do is done to the best of my ability. That’s what matters more than anything else.

Quality isn’t set by your competitors.

Quality is set by you. It’s set by you determining what you will and won’t stand for. What is and isn’t…

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We draw circles around the things that we believe we can control, and as the boundaries shift, we keep trying to draw and redraw the same overlapping circles, desperate to keep everything in its place. It turns into a manic and futile exercise. So many things are out of our sphere of influence. We are vulnerable to the choices of our friends, our families, our customers, our investors.

And while we can make our own choices that can shape these relationships, ultimately — we cannot come near to controlling them. …

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I always used to ask myself, which dreams should I follow? Which ideas and concepts and burning desires should I make my life’s work? That question kept me up at night. But it was always the wrong question…

The thing is, you can take on almost any challenge, and you can follow almost any dream. Even if it’s in a small way, even if it’s writing as a side project instead of becoming Stephen King, even if it’s creating small pieces of useful software instead of revolutionising AI.

But what you can’t do is follow everything, all at once. What…

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I think we have it thoroughly mixed up. We have an emphasis on being bigger, and we hold it up as the universal goal that everyone should aim for. Whether you’re a writer, a founder — growth seems to be it. And if you aren’t pursuing growth, you’re wasting your time, or you’re wasting someone else’s.

I don’t think that’s the correct emphasis.

Nobody would call a Michelin star restaurant a failure because they don’t expand into hundreds of franchises and branded frozen meals. That would be growth, but it would be at the expense of the craft that gave…

I had breakfast in a Surry Hills cafe, and I ordered avocado toast.

What arrived was avocado toast smothered in layers of sun dried tomatoes, shredded radishes, nuts, seeds, micro greens and dukkah. You couldn’t even see the bread.

They’d taken a perfectly good, delicious, simple food and overwhelmed it with so many additions that they’d lost the heart of the dish. It was almost as though they couldn’t stand by the heart of it and the taste of it; they had to embellish it.

I would have been happy with just avocado, a drizzle of olive oil and a…

I understand why people ask this question. We’re in a weird place right now — people have reached a point where they are so distrustful of traditional investing, and so exposed to alternative investments. The question seems relevant, and the media seems to be focused on this question. And yet…

In reality, the question is not relevant. I’ll try to explain why.

First, if your goal is to make money, if your goal is to turn a profit, and if your goal is to do any of that reliably and predictably — walk away. …

I want to start this off by saying — I get the value of money.

I do.

I didn’t grow up with much of it.

I’ve lived for extended periods where I was flat broke and on the brink of losing everything. I’ve survived on 99c microwave noodles and day-old bread, when I could afford to eat anything at all.

It taught me exactly what money is worth.

But it also pretty clearly showed me what it’s not worth. It’s not worth living a life that feels like you’re trapped and cornered. It’s not worth the trauma of being ground…

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I believe that the only thing you can count on, the only true measure of your worth, is your word. When you give your word, when you lay it out, there is no turning back. There is no changing your mind. And there is no getting out of it. When I started Studio Self, I knew I wanted to build a business where I was known for mindfully giving and keeping my word.

Last week, I had coffee with a Fintech founder, who asked about the kind of press coverage I guarantee.

I was perfectly happy to say that press…

Photo by James Discombe on Unsplash

When people ask me what my long-term vision is, I do not have an answer.

I know I want to look after my family and help them thrive. I want to do the work I love until I stop loving it and then find something else to do. And I want to make sure that whatever I do, I try my damndest. That’s honestly about it.

There’s no 5-year revenue goal. Studio Self doesn’t have an exit strategy. Turning 40 is 8 years away, and I have no fucking clue what that will look like. Here’s the thing — I…

Joan Westenberg

Chaotic good. Award winning creative director & writer, ft. in Wired, The AFR, SF Chronicle, Junkee. founder / ✨ She/Her.

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