Dear Js,

One evening, I was supposed to be playing with you but I was mulling about a problem in my head. To sort my thoughts, I like to draw in my notebook. You came over and said, “Daddy, I want to draw with you.” Okay… I guess that’s that. Here you go, here’s my pen.

At first you scribbled on every page. You flipped to a blank page and drew a spiral. Then you flipped to the next page. You drew another spiral. You did that until you ran out of blank pages. Then you gave my pen back. I gave you a crayon and said, “Let’s draw together.”

I said I’m following your line. Then you traced mine and said, “I’m following your line.” Okay, let’s see what else you will follow. I said here, this is how you color. I drew a car and filled it with color. You drew one light line with your pink crayon and said “I colored it!” I said, “No, that is a line. This is how you color – you color everything.” I exaggerated my movement so you could see. You plucked the courage and tried. WOOSH WOOSH WOOSH all over. You looked at me for approval. I nodded and smiled. You were emboldened! As if you just got the ticket to finally let loose. You colored everything pink.

Then you put the pink crayon back and your finger at green. “This one?” I said, sure – let’s try it. I don’t know if your teachers at school made you afraid to color, or make wild movements that coloring needs. But you slowly shed the fear. You weren’t sure at first. But you stepped back and your eyes lit up and you looked at me, “I did that!”

So I started to draw. I drew trains and you colored. I asked and you told me what their numbers were and where they went. When the drawings took shape, you squinted and realized what they were. You were excited! We were drawing your favorite things… from nothing! You wanted to do more trains.

Then I drew a car. You said you wanted Joshua in the back. Then Julia next to you. I said Julie is little so you can only see the top of your head. Then you wanted daddy in the front. I said daddy’s holding a steering wheel. You got excited when you saw the steering wheel. “UM… UM… I want MAMA in the back”. I drew a head with long hair. You squinted, then smiled and sighed, “Mamaaaaa.” You saw it.

I said it’s time to go potty. You wanted to take the book up to put the picture in your room. It made you smile. It had all your favorite things.

You rushed up, but when you heard me cleaning up downstairs, you said, “Oh, I want to help you clean up.” You came down. And… stood and watched. After a minute you said, “My hands are busy.” You had my notebook opened to the drawing we made in one hand and trains in the other. I said put your things down. Help me clean up, and you can pick them back up later.


You helped me and we went back up together.



"That's how you do it."

“That’s how you do it.”

Today’s lesson is:

Drawing is Seeing

One of the most important lessons I stumbled upon when learning to draw was that it’s not your drawing that sucks. Adults have almost all the fine-motor skills you need to draw. The problem is not your hands, it’s your brain. When your drawing sucks, your drawing is actually perfect — it’s a perfect representation of the sucky picture in your head.

I realized this when I moved from drawing inanimate objects to humans. What makes people hard to draw is not that we have complex features, but rather that our brains have evolved to notice many subtle things – only when processing people. Look at your face in the mirror – it’s very bland, compared to, say, a wave breaking onto a beach. But the smallest changes in your face convey different emotions. For example, try to explain Mona Lisa’s smile.

I used to keep a catalog of body parts to practice drawing in my free time. Eyes, ears, mouth, neck, etc. My goal was to practice until my brain and hands developed a muscle memory for what makes a person beautiful. The feature I got stuck with was the nose. The more I spent time on it, the more I noticed, what an odd appendage we have on our face. A funny stem sliding into a pudgy bulb, flaring into bumps on each side. How could such an ugly thing sit on a face I consider beautiful? I’d step back – see a pretty face. Zoom in on nose – be confused.

Even after a week of drawing noses, I never shook the odd, confused feeling I had of them. But then a strange thing happened. After I drew my latest nose, which I thought was as odd as any other, I stepped back. It was perfect! That’s when I realized – what I thought was strange… was reality. And that meant whatever I thought was a “beautiful” nose… was fantasy. In order to learn to draw a nose, I had to calibrate my thinking with reality, and come to terms with my odd feeling about them.

And that’s why people who take plastic surgery into their own hands always go too far. Unless you have paid your dues beating up yourself and calibrating your idea of beauty with reality, what you think is beautiful really is not. You’ll just chase a fantasy and end up looking like a freak.

Julie, Julie, Julie…

Julie shake! We have a guitar that sings, “Shimmy shake! Let’s all do the Shimmy Shake!” We substituted the words with things around the room: “Bunny shake…!” I shook bunny. “Dino shake!” I shook dinosaur. “Froggy shake!” I shook Froggy. “Daddy shake!” I shook myself. Then mama thought it would be funny to ask Julie, “Julie, shake!” To our surprise, you did…

This meant that you observed us as we went round the room shaking, you picked up what the word “Shake” meant, you connected it with an action you do with your body, and you copied it.

This week in pictures

Daddy mountain

Daddy mountain

Snoopy J

Snoopy J

"I want to have bathtime with Julie"

“I want to have bathtime with Julie”

A Christmas miracle - napping together

A Christmas miracle – napping together

Christmas at the park with mama

Christmas at the park with mama


"I'm batman." God I know your teachers like to paint your face but they're not the ones who have to clean you later...

“I’m batman.” God I know your teachers like to paint your face but they’re not the ones who have to clean you later.

Batman reading cat in the hat:

This week’s funny moments & developmental milestones:
Julie wakes up cute now. She quietly wakes up scoots back sits up looks around. Your new crawling skills are causing you to wake yourself up at night. J opened child proof cap. J worked on Christmas present for me, then after a while got tired and said, “I work some more tomorrow.” (Shit, that means I gotta make something for you too…).

I love working. I just realized this now that we have a Christmas break. Which is a tragedy because I’m not supposed to work. I hate holidays. I want to work. Because, I’ve fired up the engine with pistons pounding, I can’t stop. I’ve created a routine and it’s harder to temporarily change my behavior than it is to keep the routine. I can’t idle. Besides, you kids don’t care if it’s a holiday, a Monday or a Sunday. You wake up every day when the sun rises and with excitement for the day and questions that need answers.

We had a question for you today: Do you know what day it is tomorrow? “Monday!” That’s right. What do you have to do on Monday? “School!” Nope. Not tomorrow. Tomorrow’s a special Monday. You have no school and daddy has no work. “WHY?” Because it’s Christmas soon. We’re going to go to work with mama tomorrow!

Yup. We’re all going. Tomorrow the owner of one of the boutiques mama works at wants to meet with me too. We’re going to talk about the newsletter she wants to produce.

I’ll tell you more next time!

Update: It was a success. We’re in. We all went to work with mama today. J2 went with mama to help the other mamas. You almost latched onto another mom while she wasn’t looking. J you played with me in the playroom. After seeing two moms, we were supposed to chat with the owner together. We did for 2 minutes, then 2 more moms came and mama had to help them. So man this was supposed to be her thing and now I gotta sell the newsletter idea and set her up as the editor. Well, thanks to you letting us have a conversation and being charming, we did it. When mama shows up next Monday she’ll magically have a newsletter to produce.

The main lessons from this? I nudged the conversation into standard diagnostic style – ask questions, then shut up and listen. Then, lead the conversation to where the other person comes to the same conclusion you want, but by herself. (It’s not going to stick otherwise.) Then, using the same words she spilled earlier to express her pain, propose a solution. In this case, I gave two examples: a paid newsletter from Boardroom proving that people read and value information enough to pay for it. What sealed the deal was mama prepared a fill-in-the-blanks template that gives an idea of what her newsletter was going to look like. It’s easier to imagine the final product when you have the thing in your hands. It makes it real.

Having a real product in your hands also has another effect – you know that all you have to do is say yes, and it’s yours. And if you say no, it disappears. (Loss aversion.)



P.S. Achilles update – I have a presentation scheduled for the VPs mid-January. It will be different because the audience is different. Yes, we’re all skinbags so I’ll lace emotion, but what’s important to execs is different. I already have a hook – Leverage. I’m going to title it, “How to crush «competitor»” That pokes fun of the language they use because instead of using our real competitor’s name (it’s obvious because we’re a duopoly), they say “Competitor”. I’m going to open by showing them a picture of our stock history, side-by-side:

I was surprised to find that they track so well

I was surprised to find they track so well

And point out that even with all the variables, different products, different employees, different strategies, our growth is similar. The bottom line is, as much as our marketing guys want you to believe otherwise, when our customers buy, they always consider both of us when shopping. So my question is, how do we break this trend? It’s clearly not by doing anything we’ve already been doing. Running faster or harder will only bring incremental improvements.

We break this pattern by doing things cannot or will not do. One of such things is finding and using Leverage. The Pareto principle. The 80-20 rule (20% of revenues come from 80% of your customers, 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts). Then, I’ll flash Muhammad Ali:

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee"

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”

Then I’ll say, “Do you know what comes after that? Most people don’t know, but the whole quote is, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see.” Also observed by other people, “You can’t optimize what you can’t measure,” “Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.” – Theodore Newton Vail”.

So, what if we had a way to figure out which 20% where we could focus our efforts, to reap 80% return? And stop wasting time on unprofitable things? Wouldn’t that be valuable? Hence, Achilles, systematically find opportunities and weaknesses, and so on…


All I want for Christmas are my two front teeth...

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth…

P.P.P.S. This week, we’re all animals. You said, I’m not J. I’m little mouse. You are a bear (but you don’t eat people). Mama is a whale. Julie’s a raccoon.

P.P.P.P.S. Mama bought pork shoulder to make Pernil for Christmas.