The less, the better

For six years of writing I used to believe the more platforms I post on, the better. It wasn’t a very effective strategy.

Yesterday I deleted my Twitter and Instagram accounts, and soon my Telegram channel will be closed. Starting from today I will keep writing only on these three platforms: this website, Substack, and Mastodon.

The less platforms I have to maintain, the more attention I can pay to the writing and not the distribution.

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, seek an opportunity to reduce the amount of projects, errands, and tasks you’re dealing with. Keep three the most important to-dos you have on your list, start with them and drop everything else. You’ll get back to it later after you’ve handled the essentials.

If three is too much for you right now, cut it to one to-do. The less, the better:

  • Doing three projects? Take a break in two, and finish the one with higher priority.
  • Reading three books, none is finished? Pick one, finish it, then move to the next one.
  • Repair works are stuck and it’s all a mess? Stop everything and choose one, for example, fix a kitchen door that’s been out of order for weeks.

When life pushes hard, don’t try to bear it all on your shoulders. Reduce the number of options, select the most important thing to focus on, and after it’s done move to the next most important thing on your list.

One-thing-at-a-time strategy always works, plenty-things-at-a-time strategy—not so often. The less, the better.


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Major deadline

When one of your relatives or close friends passes away, something in you must change. It must break your heart. It must be painful and sad. It must make you think things over.

We became too cynical about death. We take it as something regular, something that doesn’t touch our souls or bother us at all. That’s not OK.

Death is a major deadline. The only real deadline we have in life. The death of a close person is a reminder that you can leave this life at any moment.

Marketing is BS ★

Marketing is everywhere. Someone’s ad is targeted at you when you’re taking shit. Someone is trying to sell you their stuff right now while you’re reading this post. Brands have gone too far playing this marketing game. It stopped being funny. It has become more of a burden.

People are tired of marketing. Badly. Especially of the one that teaches how to live your life, treat your kids, or become a better version of yourself. They say, “You're imperfect. Do this and you’ll become that. Buy this thing and it’ll empower you to do those cool things.” All kind of bullshit like this is ubiquitous. It’s all over the place.

Brands keep selling magic pills when people know it’s a myth. Fuck them.

No surprise we’re so tired of marketing. No one likes to be taken for a fool. People have learned most of the marketing tricks they used to fall prey to. They don’t fall for them anymore. But most marketers are too short-sighted to see that. So they keep pushing.

People don’t want to be manipulated or be taken advantage of anymore. They seek respect, trust, and care. They look for help, support, and understanding. They have always been looking for those things, long before marketing was invented. People want to see they’re heard.

To put it simply, marketing is any communication between a brand and a customer. However, most of the time you don’t even know you’re a customer. Brands simply push something towards you without asking: an email, a message, a call, an advertisement.

You’re no longer taking an active part in this play. You’re an impersonal audience they sell to. You are to watch and choose between Y and N buttons. That’s your role when it comes to marketing today. No one give a shit what you need.

But marketing is not about selling by force. It’s about selling to the right people by fitting their needs and solving their problems the way they expect.

Moreover:

  • Marketing is not about bombarding people with calls and emails. It’s about talking to the right person as if it was a private meaningful conversation with a friend which is in need right now.
  • Marketing is not about deciding what is the best color for the CTA-button or if it should have an outline and a shadow. It’s about finding the right words and images to convey your message, to make others feel they belong.
  • Marketing is not about a bouncing popup-window that appears when you’ve just opened the website. It’s about letting people look through your page and make an informed decision on their own.

We need to remarket marketing. We need to have a clear and honest conversation with people we’d like to see as our customers and clients. That would be a great start.


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How to make a great interview

No one likes taking part in a dull, predictable conversation. No one likes watching boring interviews. But all of us enjoy interviews that accidentally turn into an argument or that make us feel good about ourselves. The best way to do that is to ask thought-provoking and insightful questions such as:

  • What did you feel when your father passed away? How would you describe that feeling?
  • Why you didn’t leave the country after those events? What impact did this decision have on you?
  • What’s your attitude to those who thinks this way? Do you agree they should be…

You got the idea. Thought-provoking questions are necessary if you want your interview to be engaging and memorable both for your guest and your audience. Here’s how they contribute to that.

Thought-provoking questions:

  1. Help you stand out among other interviewers.
  2. May lead to a series of questions and topics you didn’t expect to arise.
  3. Make the interviewee look good or put them on the spot instead.

These types of questions spice things up and put your interviewee on a spot. It shouldn’t necessarily be an open conflict, but it should be provocative and hard to answer right away. Easy questions have no challenge for the interviewee. So this is one way to use those questions: create a small conflict and push the buttons that may lead to a debate.

Though there’s another way to use thought-provoking questions. Put the interviewee in a spot where they can express their opinion and prove their expertise and status. Give them the green light to show their best side. That’s why people do interviews: to build their media platform, to share their ideas with a new audience, and to feed their ego.

It’s totally fine to use insightful questions to make your hero look good in the eyes of their followers. Their answers will also make their audience feel smart, valued, and honored.

Protect your people

Working in studios designers face three challenges:

  1. Toxic environment: time tracking, project managers constantly hanging over your shoulder, endless meetings, and other.
  2. Lack of direct communication with a client. Managers are often a hindrance, not a solution of the problems. Designers act blindly.
  3. Useless and unimportant work. People are thrown on projects and products no one cares about. That’s devastating.

If you’re a leader, a manager, or a CEO, avoid these three things in your team. Protect your people’s time, respect their focus, and feed the motivation.

Keep your pace ★

Writers and designers are afraid of ChatGPT and other AI services popping up all over the place. They shouldn’t be. It won’t leave you out of work unless you do one thing: keep moving.

TV didn’t kill theater. The internet didn’t kill TV. Remote work didn’t kill offices. Those things changed the game, but didn’t kill prior technologies. They just kept going. Nobody likes change, but it’s not death.

AI is yet another tool to your arsenal. It won’t replace you, because it can’t feel and reflect. It runs algorithms designed by… humans. It was designed to replicate and repeat ideas invented by humans. And most of the work today can’t be trusted to AI. Not without a human supervision.

ChatGPT can write a good summary, give some ideas, and spur your imagination. But it can’t create new meanings. Humans exceed AI in innovation. And I don’t think AI will ever come any close to what we are capable of when it comes to creating new paradigms, concepts, and ideas.

Don’t panic. It’s a long-term run. A marathon, not a sprint. Keep your pace and stay in the game as long as you can by bringing new meanings and ideas to the people you serve. It never goes out of fashion.

Be careful with bold ★

I ran into this thread by Andrew Nalband where he shares a technique of marking text bold and color highlights to make it easier to scan the draft. Good point, but he does it the wrong way.

Take a look at Andrew’s draft. You can see words, but they make no sense without a context. What does mean “content” in the middle of the first sentence? How is that related to “presentation” and other words marked bold below? You have to read the whole sentence to understand this text.

Here’s another example. I excerpted a few paragraphs from El Pais article and marked their random parts bold. If you read only the bold text, you won’t get a shit of what’s going on here.

Bold text in the middle of a paragraph is a bad idea. It doesn’t help a reader get to the main idea faster and doesn’t make it easier to skim through. On the contrary, it creates additional visual noise and thus hinders reading.

In the end, a reader has to do the double work: read the whole text and fight the distraction. You wanted to draw their attention to some important fact, but instead you made them read the whole thing.

Fortunately, it’s easily fixable. Mark text bold only in the beginning of a paragraph. In this case, your text will look like my post about failures:

This way you don’t have to jump over the text, all you need to do is to scan the beginnings of the paragraphs. It’s way faster and easier to do.

It’s also more convenient for a reader to digest a piece structured this way. Even if people won’t read the whole piece, they’ll be able to catch the core idea of my post and get what they’ve come for.

How to suck at anything

Twitter is full of threads with “universal solutions on how to succeed in anything”. Well, let me share some reverse advice looking at this question from the other side.

  1. Give a shit what others think of you. Their opinion is all you have to care about when starting a new project.
  2. Multitask whenever possible. Do as many projects as you can at the same time. Time is limited, so try to increase your impact by doing more things.
  3. Scroll your social feed at least two hours a day to stay tuned to the useless shit unknown people brought to you.
  4. Check your inbox every five minutes. It’s important to be in touch ASAP. Don’t miss a thing!
  5. Focus on the outcome rather than the process. Everyone knows that results matter the most in life!
  6. Stay up late for extra work. Nights are the best time for creativity, all geniuses sacrificed their sleep for success.
  7. Eat as much as you want and at any time of the day. The food is just a fuel for the body, so stop worrying about junk food and all that. We’re all gonna die anyway.

If you know more ways to fuck up your life, share the wisdom in the comments.

Know your focus ★

For the past three years I’ve worked with and for various product and SaaS teams. They were from different industries. But all of them had one common problem—bad focus.

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen small teams and products initially aimed at a certain audience transformed in the minds of their founders into humongous, rigid structures. Simply because founders lost their focus.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard these words: “We need to get attention of everyone on our product. Our product should be universal. Our goal is to corner the market and beat those big guys!”

Really? I believe your starting plan was to create a better user experience for a certain segment of the market, rather than corner it. But appetite comes with eating. This rising appetite blinds people and makes them lose the way.

Knowing your focus and saying no to other things is the most important lesson I’ve ever learned.

The lack of focus erodes ability to flex and accomplish your initial goals. In 99% of the cases the focus shifts to money, and here’s why.

Startups are hungry and it’s a good thing. Business should stay hungry. Hunger keeps the mind clear and the focus precise. However, you have to control your hunger and not let it become a starvation. Have a bite once in a while. Starving businesses lose their focus easily.

It’s not long before they start eating anything that comes their way, just to beat this sick feeling at the pit of a stomach. Side projects, little opportunities to make some money on the side, new feature that your customers want to see, a darn dark theme, or a mobile app. That’s how it always starts. The end is never that fun though.

You probably wouldn’t like the idea of feeding your body with crap like chips and coke. To stay healthy, efficient and strong you have to eat proteins, slow carbons, greens, and drink a lot of water, not soda. The same goes for business. You should be cautious about what you’re feeding your product with. The businesses feed with ideas, hypothesis and guesses you take. Take one and go with it. Don’t squander.

Control your hunger and know your focus. Otherwise you’ll end up creating a product that has no market, no demand, and no unfair advantage. All of that is simply because of a bad focus.

Astara: the land of kind people, black tea, and wild humidity

I took these photos a month ago on my winter holidays in Astara, Azerbaijan. I wanted to catch live moments of those sunny days—joyful, sad, peaceful, and exciting at the same time. With this intention I took camera and shoot.

I know that when you wish for something without expecting anything back, it always comes your way. Maybe not when you want it and not the way you want it, but it’ll find the path. That’s how it works. My goal was to show how these people live, what they think, what they care about. I hope now you can see it, too.

Çayiçi. In Azerbaijani it literally means “a man who brews tea”

Asaf is reading the Quran during the memorial service.

Mountains' view. I got lucky to catch a few sunny days in a row which is a rare thing in January here.

Hasan bala (az. balá — child, kid).

Hasan bala is teasing me.

Anam (az. ana — mother).

I regret I didn’t take a proper portrait of that elderly woman.

Tahir, a driver of the cab, is being curious about me. He also writes poetry. After we get to know each other he read us some of his verses.

Tahir’s cab is an old Renault. He took us to the graveyard.

Graveyard is always quiet.

Nuretdin dayı with his granddaughters came by for tea (az. dayı — uncle).

Arzu and her nieces at the orange tree.

Petting local cats.

Pomegranate trees are all over the place.

Walk by the sea with anam and Arzu.

The Caspian was calm, and so was I.