The Startup Student
You, LeBron James and Workplace Buzzer-beaters

Minutes for Mac

A few months ago I read a post on Hacker News about minimizing distraction, focusing on one thing at a time and some strategies for doings so.

I hopped on the App Store on my Mac and downloaded a little app called Minutes, a 99 cent timer that quietly lives on your desktop when its open and counts down from whatever interval you set.

Here’s my flow:

First I get rid of tabs with anything social that doesn’t pertain to what I’m doing. I estimate the time it’s going to probably take me to do something and then I set a timer in Minutes and keep it visible so I can track how I’m doing.

This leads to fun situations like buzzer beaters where I’ve got to race against the clock to get the task done in the time I’ve allotted. 

I feel like the LeBron James of my desk. Except without the Cleveland betrayal, the South Beach penthouse and the entourage…

Get Rid of the Ugly! How to Change the Google Chrome Icon on your Mac

Last week Google officially unveiled their new logo for Chrome. It’s an improvement but still not great. The new Chrome icon looks less like a villain from the Halo series, which is good, I guess.

(Photo: TheNextWeb)

Designer Mario Bieh on Dribbble took the new Chrome icon and threw some of his own flavor on top, which I really like:

Mario Bieh Chrome Icon

(Photo: TheNextWeb)

Bieh linked to his icon files so you too can have this shiny new icon in your Mac’s Dock. Here’s how to install the new icon in place of your existing one:

  1. Download Bieh’s new Chrome icon files here.
  2. Unzip the downloaded file and open the folder called NewChromeIcon.
  3. Click on the .icns file and press Command + i. Leave that open for a second.
  4. Go to your Macintosh HD and click Applications. Find Chrome, click it and hit Command + i to inspect that file as well.
  5. You should now have two long, skinny inspector windows open, one for Chrome and one for the new icon.
  6. Click the inspector window for the new icon and click the icon specifically, like so: 
  7. Press Command + C or copy your selection.
  8. Click the Chrome inspector window with the old icon and select the old, ugly icon.
  9. Press Command + V or paste the new icon over the old one. You should see the changed icon reflected immediately in the inspector window.
  10. Close all windows, restart Chrome once or twice and you should be good to go, the new icon will appear in your dock, in your folders and in your heart.

That should do it. Enjoy!

The Beginner’s Mind: Freedom, Innocence and Ultimate Creativity


(Photo: Garry61)

There is a concept in Zen Buddhism called the Beginner’s Mind. We’re all born with a Beginner’s Mind, a mind without limits, without constructs, without anything or anyone to tell us no. As we get older, go through school, watch TV, learn about people, social cues and whatever else we can interpret in some way or another, we quickly lose our Beginner’s Mind, citing different sources as to why we can’t do things. Zen teaches that by sitting and meditiating, we can achieve a Beginner’s Mind again. This whole concept is pretty interesting. 

We go to design school, for example, to learn how to be an designer or an artist but all the design school does is tell us that there are certain techniques or ways to do things and there are other things that you shouldn’t do at all.

On the other hand, learning from others - or schooling - can teach us how to do things well. Learning from others can teach us what made them successful or what made them fail. This also puts up walls around our creativity and our path going forward, in whatever we do.

In thinking about how I do things, especially for the first time, rather than making a mistake, I’ll take someone else’s work and use it as a template of my own. My resume right now is someone else’s resume without their experiences - mine inserted. The’re walls to avoid failure, no matter how small.

We dress like the people we admire because we think it’ll bring us closer to what they’ve done to make us admire them. We buy guitars to think we can play like our favorite musicians when the skill to play is inside of us, not in the tools we own.

A mentor and good friend of mine has said to me a few times, “Zack, no one knows anything.” He mean this to be mean. He said this because, collectively, no one knows anything concretely. One person’s advice clashes with another person’s advice. What worked for someone didn’t work for someone else. Since no one knows anything, everyone knows everything. 

As a collective, we have a Beginner’s Mind. As individuals we don’t.

How I’m Hacking Information Consumption

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two years thinking about how I and how we consume news and information. Put simply, consumption is a cluster fuck. 

Here’s a sample of our current habits:

  • Some people check a set (or growing) number of websites religiously, going to the web page directly and skimming for interesting, eye-catching headlines
  • Some people use RSS readers to consume news and content all in one place
  • Some people use Twitter and/or Facebook to follow the people and brands that they care about
  • And some combine aspects of each of these to find some happy medium
  • Or we give up all together

None of these have worked for me. I’ve built and re-built, designed and re-designed my perfect news reader and even prototyped a few. None are what I’m looking for.

There are a lot of startups emerging with of giving you exactly what you want from the areas that you care about. The funny thing about recommendations and relevancy is that there’s no right way to do it. Some of these upcoming products will work for some and others will work for other people.

Regardless, I’ve given up on RSS. I won’t rely only on Twitter and checking every website I want to read leaves many that fall through the cracks.

Here’s what I’m currently doing:

  • I’ve started using
  • I’m sorting all of the sites that I read into sections according to the volume daily of publishing: Low, Medium and High. Low volume sources push <10 updates per week. Medium volume sources push plenty of content, probably <20 updates per day. A high volume source is any source that would make an RSS reader not worth using. Gizmodo, ESPN, Hacker News and the New York Times are examples of high volume sources.
  • I’ve turned off any notifications that Medium or High volume sources have published updates because all in all likelihood they’ve pushed plenty of content since I last checked
  • I’ve kept on notifications that Low volumes sources have published new content
  • For high volume sources, I only subscribe in one way ( vs. Twitter vs. Facebook)

If you want to look at how I’ve sorted my the web sites I read most often, you can visit my page.

I’m curious about how you organize and consume the content that’s important to you. Any tips or tricks you’d like to share? What works? What doesn’t?

The Best Things in Life Almost Don’t Happen

I tend to measure learning on three different scales. One is the general yearly scale (“I learned so much more in 2010 than I did in 2009”), another is the birthday scale (“I learned more in my 20th year than I did in my 19th year”). The last one is the time since an event, like Startup Weekend or the Tahoe Tech Talk.

Looking back over the last couple of weeks, I’m blown away by 2010 as a whole. So much has happened, from making an immense amount of new friends and establishing a great mentor network, to releasing My Reading List and Beeline RTD for the iOS, putting together a team, learning to trust them and realizing a hell of a lot of goals, I’ve done a lot.

Most of this has happened since Startup Weekend. Even more has happened since Tahoe. Inspiration is an all-the-time thing now and I couldn’t ask for more. I’m surrounded by inspiring, intelligent people who push me, make the think and challenge me.

The best things in life almost don’t happen. I’m a firm believer in that.

I’m very proud of 2010 and hope to continue 2011 with the momentum from last year.