Midnight Oil (and Owning a Company)


Lots of people have asked me what it’s like to own a company. Here’s what I generally say:

Making your own schedule is great. Leading people is a wonderful adventure. But at the end of the day, when something absolutely has to be done, you and the partners are ultimately responsible, no one else.

Tonight that means writing code and content until the wee hours of the morning.

Ships as Thousand-Year-Old Tools

I’m in Charleston helping launch the first round of Academy classes. Amidst the craziness of last minute preparations, my wife and I stole a few moments to run out to Sullivan’s Island for a walk by the waves.

As we arrived a huge barge was entering the harbor, and when we left another was leaving.

Ships fascinate me—they are the oldest vehicle of long-distance commerce (and transport of goods) outside of livestock. In an age where technology seems to make every day items obsolete at a blinding rate, it’s somehow comforting to see an invention as useful today as it was 1000 years ago.

charleston-sullivans-island-beach-ships 4

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The Window Seat

Today I had several hours of work to do in a hotel room, so I dragged the desk to the window for sunlight and at least some sort of view (other than beige walls).

It’s funny how we put ourselves in boxes of convention and simply accept things as they are-even when they are changeable.

I’m not sure why I’d never thought about rearranging furniture to create a more conducive work environment in a hotel, but I’ll do it whenever possible from now on.

User Experience Fail: No Ice Cream for You

It’s hard to call any machine that gives you ice cream a failure, but this one is about as close as they come. (Your product shouldn’t need Sharpie scrawled all over it just to be useable).

What’s truly remarkable is that the machine is simple: it only has one lever that goes up and down. Design is a fascinating thing.

And yes, that red dot is an infrared sensor that keeps the machine from operating unless it is covered with precision.

Letters to the Company: Sales, Storytelling and The Iron Yard

When I have the opportunity, I write letters to our company. They are generally attempts to either encapsulate our collective philosophy on a certain subject or remind our team why we do what we do (and why we are who we are).

Recently everyone on the team sprinted (successfully) through an intense marketing push as we approached launch in two cities simultaneously. On some level, everyone felt like they were part of a gigantic sales force, which was both fun and challenging.

When the dust settled, I wrote a letter to our team about sales as storytelling.

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The Boss’ Desk

There’s a lot of psychology around what the condition of your desk at work says about you.

I’m not sure what this means for the CEO of The Iron Yard, but I do know that it puts a smile on my face every day.

(In case you can’t tell, all if the sets in the background are scenes from Star Wars as well.)

Happy 92nd, Papa

Today we made a trip to the mountains to wish my grandfather a happy 92nd birthday. Here he is walking out of his shop after finding a tool my dad and I needed to borrow from him:


The last living member of a 397-man troop, time spent with him is always inspiring. He recounts war stories like they happened yesterday and still works in his shop daily (starting at 4:30am). He also never misses a chance to take a playful jab if you give him a chance. And he still calls his son every day to pray with him. Every time my wife and I see him he asks her how I’m treating her, then looks me in the eye and says, “you’ll have to answer to me if she ever gives a bad report.”

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