Real Artists Ship – The Difference Between Tools and Art

Steve Jobs was famous for writing on an easel during a 1982 company retreat, “real artists ship”.  This mantra would change Apple forever.  It solidified two things that would define the company for decades to come.


The events surrounding the retreat forced Jobs to focus his team on product delivery.  They had dedicated themselves to creating a perfect machine.  The only problem, like many perfectionists, they had no product.

A product is not a product unless it hits the market.  Before the day it hits the market, it is just an idea.  Jobs recognized this and spurred his team to deliver a product, hence “real artists ship”.

This phrase, Real Artists Ship defined two aspects of Apple that would later make it the United States’ largest company.

1. Apple creates art.  While most computer companies were building machines that would help people work smarter, Apple was creating an experience.  This was evident by their unwillingness to license their software to “clone” manufacturers.  There are two rules to being a company of artists:

  • You must create an experience.  If you’re creating a tool to perform something, you are not an artist.  Art is not about the product.  Art is about the emotions one experiences when they interface with the product.  This is evident in paint, music, and movies.  No one buys a DVD to own a piece of plastic. They buy the DVD (the tool) to experience the emotions of the artwork (the film).
  • Your experience must WOW your audience.  If you interact with a piece of art that does not evoke strong emotions, it is bad art.  A tool simply has to do its job to qualify as a tool.  Art must answer a higher calling.  Art must perform.  It must reach into your soul and pull out something you didn’t know was there.

2. Apple delivers.  The MacBook Pro that I write this article on is proof that “real artists ship”.  A dent in the universe cannot be made by an idea.  It is made through physical impact.  Proof of that is the currently “anticipated” Apple watch.  The idea has made ripples, but without a product on the shelves, it cannot make an impact.  To deliver you must do these two things.

  • Accept your work.  You can always make something better.  This is the plight of a perfectionist.  If “real artists ship” then real artists must accept their work at some point as good enough.
  • Exceed expectations.  You’re only as strong as your weakest link.  If there is a flaw, people will find it.  The only way to get people to look past the flaw is to blind them with fascination.  Deliver art that exceeds expectations and people will be able to look past your shortcomings.

The genes of America’s biggest company share the heritage of it’s artistic creators.  If you desire to succeed in the marketplace, take a page from the Apple playbook and become a company of artists.  Everything you create should be art that delivers.  And never forget “real artists ship”.

5 Reasons Why Natural Gas is the Future Fuel of Choice

When I graduated from college, natural gas prices were at an all time high.  The industry was booming and everyone was saying that natural gas is the energy of the future.  When prices fell by half almost over night, I was still saying‚ “natural gas is the energy of the future”.  It is as true a statement today as it was then.

Natural Gas

My career has been spent in the natural gas industry.  No matter what the price has been, the fundamental economics of natural gas continue to be solid.  Natural gas, more than any other fuel in the world, has all the makings of the best fuel choice for our future.

As oil production continues to decline around the world, we are forced to begin looking into alternative sources of energy.  No other readily available fuel has what it takes to maintain our economy as a whole.  Nor is any other source as abundant.  The kicker of natural gas is that it is domestic.

This is what our future natural gas fueled society will look like.

1. Security – Gone will be the days where the United States is dependent on fuel from hostile nations.  We will no longer need to protect our interests in the Middle East.  The North American continent will be mostly energy self-sufficient.

2. Transportation – 94% of our imported oil is currently burned via transportation.  In the new natural gas fueled society, all our vehicles will run on CNG (compressed natural gas) or LNG (liquefied natural gas).  The stations look and operate the same as traditional gasoline/diesel fuel stations.  These stations currently exist and are rapidly being installed along the highways of our country.  Allied Equipment is the nation’s largest manufacturer of CNG Storage Spheres for these stations.

3. Pollution Drops – With such a drastic reduction in particulate matter, our climate will have a chance to correct itself.  Global Warming will no longer be a threat.  Gone will be the smog of LA.  Air quality will improve and so will the health of the nation.

4. Costs Remain the Same – Thanks to an abundance of natural gas and the relatively low cost of production, natural gas prices shouldn’t exceed the $10 to $15 a Mcf (million cubic feet) range in the future.  This will result in gasoline gallon equivalent prices of an average of $3.00 or less at the pump across the nation.  Many natural gas fired power plants are currently supplying power to the grid at competitive rates.  Increasing the number of these plants will keep electricity prices from rising.

5. We Export – The United States currently will become a net exporter, funneling money from other nations into our own economy.  We are the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas”.  With current Asian demand at $16 a Mcf, the price should only continue to rise. Two new LNG export ships are currently on order and the Panama Canal is being expanded to accommodate these ships.  The United States could export LNG within a few years.

This natural gas fueled society in the United States is a likely scenario as oil production continues to fall, conflict continues in the Middle East, and Americans become more comfortable with hydraulic fracturing.  My personal hope is that my 2-year-old son is able to live his adult life in this natural gas society.

People may think I’m crazy about natural gas.  The truth is, I’m crazy about America.  I’m crazy about our economy, our health, and our security.  For these reasons, I guess you could say I’m crazy about natural gas.

The 1 Trick You Must Know To Remember Names

A strange looking and eccentric woman walked up to me and asked my name.  She said she had a strange ability to remember names.  I was in the middle of a class of 30 people and liked my odds.  I bet her should couldn’t remember names of every person.

remember Names

I told her my name, then promptly moved to a seat across the room. I convinced another few people to move as well.  This way, she couldn’t just remember a pattern of names.  She had to remember our names based only on our faces.

My jaw was just as open as the other 29 jaws in the room when she went around naming each and every person.  First and last names!  Forget the speed reading course we’d signed up for, we wanted to know how to remember names.

What followed wasn’t nearly as magical.  The woman we thought was some sort of psychic, sucking our names out of our brains with a single thought, just turned out to be a retired neuroscientist who understood how the brain remember names.

How many times have you cringed as your co-worker called your new client by the wrong name?  Have you ever avoided a colleague in a restaurant because you simply couldn’t remember her name?  Remembering names is a skill that can benefit both your personal life and have a profound impact on your business life.  I’ll give you one example.

In 2010 I was exhibiting at a Trade Show in Long Beach, California.  Standing at my booth I spied a tall, mustached, bald man walking down the aisle.  His face looked familiar.  I closed my eyes for a moment, practiced this trick to remember names, and yelled out “Jim” just as the man was about to pass my booth.

We struck up conversation. I asked him how his daughter’s college graduation had gone and if he’d purchased the retirement home he’d been wanting in the Northwest.

He was so blown away that I remembered not only his name but intimate details of a 5 minute conversation that we had several years ago.  The ability to remember names lets people know you care about them.  Jim has been a loyal customer ever since.

So here’s the not so psychic trick you need to know to remember names.

The name is not important.  Remember other things around the name and your brain will find the name.

When I met Jim, we were outside of an In-N-Out Burger in southern California.  I’d ridden in a friend’s car on my way there.  He had to move some wrappers from the front seat before I could sit down.  Among the wrappers was a protein bar.  And this is how you remember names like Jim’s.

You remember names by remembering more interesting things that surround the name.  What triggered Jim’s name and story was remembering how ironic I thought it was that my friend just tossed a protein bar in the back seat so he could go eat a greasy hamburger.  I remember the weather, the taste of the hamburger, the seagulls encircling us, waiting for a french fry to fall.

If you want to remember names and let people know how much you care about them, be intentional about soaking in the moment.  When you need to recall the name, simply think of the day, the food, the scenery.  The name will come because the name is entwined in the brain and only accessible by way of the stronger memories you formed about the event.

How could this trick to remember names effect you?

Note:  This post was originally published on November 6, 2013.

5 Reasons Why You Should Become a Blogger

When I decided to become a blogger, it was purely out of the interest to become a better writer.  I had enjoyed writing in my youth.  As an adult, I found myself writing only emails, technical documents, and notes.  I wanted to really write again.  So I decided to become a blogger.

become a blogger

A blog gives you the chance to write for the world, not just yourself.  But I quickly found that it gives you much more than that.  There are intangible values that come with blogging that I never intended to be part of the process.

When people ask me why I blog (because I make much more money leading an energy company) I tell them that they should become a blogger.  I promise that they’ll find the value I find, only when they begin writing.

Since establishing a blog can take a while, I’ll give you my top 5 reasons why I think it is a good idea for you to become a blogger.

1. You have something to share. I have often thought that everyone has done the things I’m doing and I offer nothing new.  That’s simply not the case.  Some of the things I thought everyone was already doing are the things people comment on and shared the most.  Like how I remember names or my 5k playlist, for example.

2. Open a dialogue to expose yourself.  Just as a plant cannot survive when it has not sun light,  you too will not grow when you are not exposed to the light.  Becoming a blogger opens you up to a community of sharing.

3. People are actively looking for what you know. Like millions of others, I find myself online every day looking for what I don’t know.  I’ve learned how to use a schedule to protect margin in my life from Michael Hyatt. I’ve also learned how to make the perfect cup of coffee from Tim Ferriss.  Without their willingness to share, I would not know these wonderful things.

4. You are an expert. The way Tim Ferriss makes a cup of coffee may not be the best way.  While I think he is exceptionally bright, it doesn’t make him the world’s authority on coffee.  It also doesn’t mean that his cup is better than your cup.  What you do well has its own value that can directly benefit others.

5. Writing is a filter for ideas. I’ve heard others say it and I completely agree, I don’t truly know something until I’ve blogged about it.  Writing forces you to get your thoughts clear and accurate.  It forces you to filter your ideas into a concise thought.  You become smarter and more knowledgeable about a subject when you write about it.

When I decided to become a blogger I had no idea what I was getting into.  It is a drive, a passion, an enlightenment.  It is a community, a sense of sharing, and an expression of self.  To truly understand this, you too should become a blogger.

Are you ready to become a blogger?

The Definitive Two Step Process to Stay On Top of Everything

Being successful in the workplace often means having the ability to stay on top of everything.  Most workers are completely overwhelmed by their workload.  The answer to their problems lies in their ability to quickly and efficiently process the onslaught of responsibilities coming at them.

Stay on top of everything

The other night over dinner, as she usually does, my wife asked how my day had gone.  “Surprisingly well” I answered.  I then went into ,probably too much, detail about why my day had gone so well.  “I’ve found a simple two step process to help me stay on top of everything” I told her.

As an executive and leader of my company, I can sometimes feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I often return home at the end of the day completely spent and feel like I achieved nothing.  I have goals and objectives for my company, but some days, it seems I spend all my time attending to the urgent things that pop up.

I find it impossible to stay on top of everything we have going on!

Many leaders can sympathize with this feeling.  Day after day we find ourselves emerged in urgent tasks and requests from employees.  By the end of the week we’ve achieved none of our business goals.  Worst yet, sometimes we find that we’ve forgotten all together what our goals were!

What has my workday go “surprisingly well” is a two step process I’ve developed to help me stay on top of everything.  This is how I do it:

1. Process everything twice daily

2. Track everything in real time

Of course the beauty is in the details.  Here is how I execute this two step process to ensure I stay on top of everything going on with my company.

Process In twice daily – I have an inbox, email inbox, and voicemail.  This comprises what I call “In.” I’ve downloaded Xobni to find out when I receive most of my emails.  I’ve scheduled my processing of in to occur right afterwards.  This ensures that, even though I only check email twice a day, I am responding to people quickly.

Gather your gear – I open my email, currently Mac Mail.  Then I grab my papers from my physical inbox.  Lastly I pull my phone near.  Finally, I launch Nozbe.  This is everything I need to complete the process.  Below is my stand up desk ready to “Process In.”

Stand up desk

Process Email – Here is a screenshot of how I clear my email inbox in less than 30 seconds.

Mail ActOn – I use this app to help me process my email inbox.  With just a few clicks of my keyboard, I can completely stay on top of everything in my inbox.  Using the hotkeys pictured below, I make 1 of 4 choices for every message.  I use only 4 so I can set my finger on the keys and very quickly make decision.  I typically clear my inbox in less than 30 seconds.

1. Trash it – these are emails I don’t absolutely need

2. @Action – these are emails I must take some form of action on personally

3. @Waiting For – these are emails that contain something I can delegate

4. Processed – these are all the emails that I want to save but don’t need to act on or delegate


Enter Nozbe – I open Nozbe and Mac Mail in such a way that they split my computer screen.  I can then open my @waiting for folder.  I add all the new items and delegate them to employees.  Anything still in there that an employee has checked off of Nozbe, I delete or send to “Processed” if the email is still important.  I do the same process with @Action, but I don’t delegate these tasks, they’re mine.

Process Paper – Now expand Nozbe to full screen to limit distractions.  Pick up the first piece of paper and make a decision on it.

1. Trash it

2. Delegate it – Enter it into Nozbe and assign to the appropriate employee

3. Take it on – Enter it into Nozbe for yourself

4. File it – These are important items but require no action

Process Voicemail – I treat my VM the exact same way as my other inboxes.  To stay on top of everything, you have to have a central location for everything.

1. Trash it

2. Delegate it

3. Take it on

4. File it – I typically write down the pertinent information and stick it in the appropriate file.

The most critical aspect of performing “Knowledge Work” is to gather everything together in one place so you can keep track of it all and stay on top of everything that is going on at your company.  This two step process has made my work much more enjoyable.

The entire process takes less than 10 minutes each time.  The peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re able to stay on top of everything is sublime.  20 minutes a day is a small price to pay to become a super productive, organized, stress-free high performer.

Is 20 minutes a day worth it to you to be able to stay on top of everything?