altMBA: Week Three

I broke my streak of writing a blog post daily yesterday, but since I was busy launching my first ebook—the Remote Jobseeker’s Handbook—instead, I’m comfortable using that as my excuse. Now though, it’s time to get back on the horse, and I’m going to start by following the altMBA summaries I did for week one and week two with a reflection on week three.


Last week’s prompts were fairly punishing. Let’s go through them and look at what I learned.


The main insight I got from this project was that, as a designer (of any kind, not just in relation to web/interaction design) I should be borrowing more from what’s come before. There’s a lot of hesitation as a designer to do something that could be seen as “unoriginal”, and there’s definitely a lot of people who cross that line—but to discard the notion of borrowing from other things people already know is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

If we can deliberately tap into the human instinct to pattern match—i.e. to take what we see and ask ourselves “what does this remind me of?”—we can give ourselves a very, very powerful tool. I want to learn how to harness this to a greater degree in my work, both as a designer, but also as a manager and leader too.

Speak up. Shut up.

I really enjoyed this prompt—it spoke to a couple of practices that I’ve discovered and used at times in the past with great effectiveness, but encouraged me to take those skills further still. As a result, I’m going be much more deliberate about how consciously I experience other people’s actions and state—with dual goals of explicitly calling out when someone is doing great work (and getting past my own hesitation to speak up in the process), and expanding my comfort zone to also include long, extended, and possibly awkward silences in my interactions with other people, where appropriate.

Choosing to speak up when it’s easier to stay silent is hard. Choosing to shut up when it’s easier to fill the silence is hard. Both of these things are going to require lots and lots and lots of practice.


On the eve of shipping the Remote Jobseeker’s Handbook, it was very thought-provoking to take a step back from my last-minute polishing and deeply explore the constraints surrounding the project—both those constraints that I was deliberately imposing on myself, like shipping timeline, and also those constraints that I felt where externally imposed, or to do with the environment.

By articulating all of these constraints, and allowing myself room to explore the hypothetical effects of flipping all these constraints on their head, I highlighted to myself a number of courses of action that I plan to take downstream to ramp up, now that the project is shipped. Not all of the exploration produced things that were actionable, but even still, it forced me to understand the nature of my project at a level I hadn’t previously reached.


I was feeling drained and overwhelmed at the end of last week, and this week I think it has broken through into what can only be described as pure exhaustion. What’s especially curious though, is that I’m no longer feeling the overwhelm aspect to quite the same degree. Thinking about the notion of comfort zones, I’m feeling much aware that the capacity for doing anything is within me, and it’s just a matter of building a habit of moving past the feelings of overwhelm and stuckness and allowing myself to take action.

In the spirit of “turning pro”, as Pressfield calls it, I feel like taking action in spite of whatever else might be going on in my head is starting to become a reflex. I’m exhausted, to be sure—but I’m also more relaxed and at home in this state than I was. I don’t want that to be an excuse for me becoming this exhausted on a regular basis, by any means, but I’m hopeful that this comfort zone expansion sticks, and I can’t wait to see how I function when I’m not quite as exhausted.

Up next: Week 4

For this last week of the altMBA, my goals are simple:

  1. Do the work.
  2. Observe what goes on in my head.
  3. Trace out the boundary of my new comfort zone.

Let’s see what happens.

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