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The smartest people in the world don’t use old paradigms to describe new ones. Maybe I’m painting with a broad brush here, but I truly believe it. That’s something I’ve come to understand, the more I meet with and talk to startup founders. I get pitch emails all the time, people who want me to write about, tweet about, or give them feedback on their startup.

So many of them try to express their ideas by mashing up old ones. It’s like “Startup for X” has become a rallying call, and a fucking annoying one at that.

But it’s just…


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Nobody enjoys it. Nobody likes it. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end, feeling like the quarry.

Nobody likes being hunted by data-loving fast talkers, endless telesales calls or anything else.

When I’m being sold to the way most people sell, I want to scream.

But there is an easy way to make me buy something.

You have to show to me that you understand the exact problem that your product or your service solves in my life and workflow. And you have to be specific about it.

As long as you can demonstrate that you know what it is that I need, why I need it, and why you can actually fill that hole in what…


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I’ve been working in advertising, branding and PR for 15 years now.

I started in this when I was 16.

And if I’ve learned one thing, it’s this.

Pitching is a waste of time.

When a company comes to you and asks for a pitch, they’re doing one of three things:

1. Justifying their choice for the agency they wanted in the first place

2. Trying to look busy

3. Hunting for a deal

In almost every circumstance, the pitch will do more for them than it will do for you. Every ounce of energy you put into coming up with ideas, brainstorming, deck building and coordinating — all of which is unpaid and unbillable — is going to hurt you. It’s going…


Everyone has a jerk inside their head.

You can’t listen to the part of you that tells you how much you suck. You know it’s there, I know it’s there — but if you let it dictate your life, you’re going to lose. That voice is what leads to people shutting startups, abandoning blogs, leaving beautifully written novels unfinished and letting themselves down.

Dealing with the jerk who lives in your mind is tough.

It’s rough, and it’s difficult to manage, but if you can learn how, you stand a chance of accomplishing almost anything.

1. Remember that the small things matter.

That asshole voice is focused on the big things. It doesn’t give…


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This is something so many people fuck up as freelancers and entrepreneurs. You ask them what’s valuable about what they do and they mutter something about stakeholders, ROI and what have you. They don’t know what it means, and neither do you.

That’s because they are not specific about the value they provide.

At the end of the day, your job as a freelancer, writer or founder is to convince people that you and your product are worth spending money on. The way to do this isn’t to pitch it in a bullshit startup way.

That’s why communicating that you’re…


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Have you ever been in a conversation, only to realize that the other person was not actually listening to you? We all have. And we’ve all been that asshole on the other side.

The reason we’re not listening is that we’re waiting for our turn to talk. We’re waiting to put in our 2 cents. We’re acting like a conversation is a competitive sport. We’re trying to think of what we’re going to say next, or we’re just not interested.

But the problem with being obsessed with talking is that we usually don’t hear anything anyone is saying. And we…


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You could make something right now. If you wanted to stop reading, grab a sheet of butcher’s paper and brainstorm ideas, you could probably come up with half a dozen ideas for apps, books or products. Ideas aren’t the hard part, after all — just ask Tom Haverford.

You could build a Wordpress site and start harassing your friends to test the concept. You could start writing op-ed pieces on Medium and put “Founder” or “Author” in your Twitter bio within 48 hours. …


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I’m a believer in reading. I do it early in my day, I do it late in my day, and I do it often. Just for starters, reading involves serious concentration. Most of the brain is engaged when you’re reading. That means that when you’re reading, you’re actively thinking about what you’re reading, you’re processing it at a higher speed and with more retention.

We keep searching for lifehacks and productivity tips and bullshit, but the answer is right there. …


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I’m happy.

I’m happy because when I look in the mirror, I am able to accept who I see. I don’t compare myself to anyone. Not anymore. I don’t compare the way I look, the way I feel, the work that I do. I don’t compare my level of happiness. I don’t compare my achievements.

Because I spent years doing that.

Years, comparing myself to everyone else.

The folks with better clothes, cars, lives, jobs, homes, bodies, hair, shoes. Years, comparing myself unfavourably and hating myself because of it.

It was brutal. And incredibly unhealthy. Nothing makes you feel more…


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When you make predictions, you are making assumptions. And when you make assumptions, you are basically guessing. And the more specific the guess, the more likely it is that you’ll be wrong.

It’s based on a wide range of uncertainty.

There are a lot of factors that go into making a prediction, and the odds of any one prediction being right or wrong are always wide. You cannot be 100% certain of anything that you believe about the path of the events and trends surrounding you. …

Joan Westenberg

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

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