My first tattoo: the design, getting inked, and other thoughts.

It finally happened. After several years of toying with the idea, I got my first tattoo.

Tattoo artist: Fran Tattoos

The design

Six years ago I asked Freakettona—a talented designer and friend of mine—to create a business card for me. Not that I couldn’t just put together a basic one myself with Microsoft Word or whatever, I was just too busy (cough cough, I mean lazy…) to do it.

I didn’t really give her any direction, other than the content—name, job title, phone number, email address and website. On the very first mockup she presented, there was this little logo she designed. She knew I was passionate about rugby, she knew I played the bass guitar, so she thought to create a Māori style bass clef.

I immediately printed up some stickers with that logo. They’re on anything and everything that belongs to me and can be confused with someone else’s belongings—laptops, chargers, adapters, battery packs, suitcases, et cetera. It really helps when both your wife and your colleagues have the same gadgets as you.

This is what you get when you unleash a creative mind, when you don’t try to guide them offering your useless, oftentimes counterproductive “requirements.” I didn’t ask for it. She did it for me, and very soon it became my logo. A visual element that over the years sort of became my non verbal and non photographic representation.

Do tattoos really hurt?

Yes. Saying “no” would just create false expectations. But it’s totally bearable. It’s also true that I did it on my calf, which is, I understand, one of the body areas where the pain is usually less intense. So don’t take my word for it.

Imagine a cat scratching you with a single claw. That’s the feeling. If you’re a cat person you know what I’m talking about.

If you’re not doing it because you’re afraid of feeling too much pain, it’s understandable. But if you’re sure of what you want don’t procrastinate further!

Why “follow your passion” is the worst career advice

I’d like to start this blog post with a quote that you’ve probably read somewhere on the Internet:

Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

Often attributed to Confucius (which doesn’t really convince me—was “career choice” a thing in Confucius’s China?), this statement spread throughout a fairly wide range of sources, mostly from motivators of all sorts authoring self-help books or guest posting on business-themed websites.

As a result, it’s not that infrequent to hear recommendations such as “follow your passions” addressed to those who are striving for a change in their life. Blinded by their perhaps facile world view, people who suggest that the key for happiness lies in transforming hobbies into profit-making machines seem to ignore some of the very basic principles of our society.

Let’s start from the most obvious: most people’s passions, as a matter of fact, don’t fit well with today’s job markets. Most “passions,” oftentimes involving performing arts, literature, sports, traveling and whatnot, lead people to fight for a handful of highly desired positions.

There are quite a few examples that we could talk about. Take professional musicians. There’s no unlimited demand for them. Those who work with their music right now are basically good CEO’s of themselves—they sell their music as a product, therefore doing social media marketing, vlogs, podcasts, online stores, et cetera. Talent is not enough, unfortunately. Most successful musicians I know are better business-people than their less wealthy colleagues, not necessarily more talented.

Another example, much more painful—people in love with writing, who would love to write for a living. People ready to pen any kind of content that might be exchanged for some cash—usually a few cents—without realising they’re trying to make it in a space that is hyper-saturated to say the very least. All for their will to write, without focusing on the impact their content will have on people.

Every time someone shoots the “follow your heart” recommendation, what they’re saying might very well mean “sure, why not, spend your life wasting your time, doing something meaningless, maybe detrimental, maybe even dangerous for the whole world except you.

Doing “what we love” is not enough. What’s the alternative then?

Generally speaking, unless we’ve chosen to live as hermits, we’re part of a community. Something bigger than just ourselves. It might be our family. Our village, town, or neighbourhood. A community that builds around something, from a rock band to an open source software.

As parts of one or more communities, we’re bound to invest our time in activities that fits at least one of the next three categories.

Things we love to bits.
Things that can improve or even change people’s life.
Things that keeps us healthy.

Whether the money comes in from the first, second or third category, it doesn’t matter. What really matters is that you do at least one thing that makes you feel alive, at least one thing that has a positive impact on the people around you, at least one thing to keep you in good shape.

So the point is: Looking for a source of income? It doesn’t necessarily have to come from your passions. Focus on what you can do—or can become good at—that also happens to be valuable to the world.

How I apply this in my life

I try to make it simple. The healthy part is easy—I go to the gym and eat nutritious food. I aim at 5 workouts per week, and cook at home instead of living on Deliveroo.

What do I love to bits? I look at it from another point of view—I’ve worked to make sure nothing in my life makes me feel miserable. I love my job, I love the people with whom I work, I love working out (which fits the healthy category too, so yay), I love spending time with my bass guitars.

How do I improve people’s life? That’s the part that might be tricky. As part of our jobs at Human Made, we’re encouraged to give back to the WordPress community in any way we can. As a non-engineer, I do several things that are not necessarily linear or consistent. Right now, I’m mentoring new speakers for two WordCamps (London and Turin). I’m helping people find the confidence and using the right tools to share their knowledge. Was it my childhood dream? Not necessarily, but that’s not the point. I’m contributing to something bigger than me. I’m having an impact on someone else. It feels magnificent.

Adjust or lose.

If you’re about to leave college, if you’re looking for a job, if you’re in the middle of a change career, don’t just look into your passions. Don’t be the selfish person that does something whether it has a impact on other people or not. Following your “passion” could lead to a life of misery and the alternative can actually be not that bad: something beneficial for others, that you at least don’t dislike, and maybe comes with a real job market connected. And who knows, maybe you’ve found a new passion. They usually change during a lifetime after all.

And if you are already working and at the same time doing what you love, don’t brag about you not working because Confucius allegedly said so. First, it’s a bit disrespectful towards all those people who once had dreams whose path of life brought them to, I don’t know, flip burgers at Five Guys. Second, you sound like you live in the 19th century: you still believe that work is by definition unpleasant and tiring. Third, it fuels unrealistic expectations on how people should invest their time, leading them to give a genuine shot at something potentially irrelevant to the rest of the world.

The product mindset at WordCamp Torino 2017

I’m super excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at the next WordCamp Torino!

I’m speaking (in Italian) about my mindset as a product person. In a nutshell, I’ll share with attendees how I apply my identity as a product person to everything I do.

Saturday 8 April 2017, in the beautiful Toolbox Coworking, starting at 10AM—my talk is at 10:45, in Track A.

My speaker profile
My talk’s abstract
WordCamp Torino 2017 schedule

 

Remote Work & Digital Nomadism: My interview on Merita Podcast

I’ve recently had the pleasure to be interviewed on one of my favourite podcasts, Merita. Giorgio Minguzzi, the host, is a true professional when it comes to using the Internet to grow a business, so I think you’ll enjoy the conversation—as long as you understand Italian.

We chatted about remote work and digital nomadism, particularly focusing on the challenges and dark sides typically connected to them.

Listen here ⬇️, or on iTunes. If you speak Italian and are on the lookout for great growth and marketing advice I’d recommend you subscribe to the podcast.

Another type of digital nomad: the independent musician

There’s no shortage of content about the digital nomad movement out there. But the vast majority of blog posts focuses entirely on people who can afford to travel light, according to the one-size-fits-all claim that “you only need a laptop and an Internet connection to get stuff done.”

I’ve been following Janek Gwizdala for years. He’s not just a terrific bass player: he runs a successful membership site for bass guitar lessons, vlogs pretty much every day, uses social media probably better than most pros. He definitely qualifies as digital nomad. as he never stops to manage his business while touring the world. Performance after performance, flight after flight.

Janek can’t travel with just a carry on. Bass guitars, amps, pedalboards, they’re all heavy, expensive pieces of equipment he must bring with him.

In these three episodes from his vlog Janek discussed about traveling with his bass guitars. Tips & recommendations from one of the leading figures in the independent music industry. Enjoy!

Change

Last week has been dark and unproductive. I had reached a point where I was feeling lost, burnt out.

Yesterday I’ve pinpointed the main reason behind it, I think. Change. I like change, I love experimenting with new things, but recently I’ve probably stretched a tad too much. In just a couple of months:

Home

New flat, with an office space that I didn’t have before. So from now on, the living room is truly a living room.

Town

Downshifted a little bit. First time out of a capital city in the last 13 years!

Gym

Obvious consequence of moving to another town. The gym I’m going to now is full of new equipment and fancy machines I’m still getting familiar with, and it’s much busier than the one I used to go to, therefore I can’t just show up whenever I want. (Well actually… I can, as it’s a 24h gym. I just can’t go whenever and expect to have the whole gym for me!)

Job at HM

Got back into Product full time, which is awesome.

Workstation

From 11″ alone to 13″ + monitor. Still working out how to get the most out the touch bar, but I don’t think I’m alone here.

I’ll update my equipment post soon, or maybe post a new one, yeah let’s post a new one.

Bass

I got a magnificent Fender Precision American Standard:

It’s one of the last on the market as the Am Std line is being replaced by the American Professional (as if it wasn’t professional enough… kind of the Apple-isation of Fender, if you ask me). It’s my first P bass after a while, it’s definitely the best P bass I’ve ever owned, and it’s expanding my playing possibilities even more than expected—put flatwound strings on it, and hello Pino Palladino-esque bass lines.

Add the #BTdrama to it all, which I complained exhaustively about on Twitter. First tweet here:

Add also a new leader for the Free World, which is actively working to replace the word Free with something much more obscure.

It’s all exciting stuff (#BTdrama and DT aren’t, but let’s move on), most importantly it’s all stuff that wouldn’t have bothered me if it had happened more gradually. I probably just haven’t been able to process it in such a short span of time.

The very relaxing weekend that I just had was all I needed. Batteries are fully charged now, and I’m ready to dive into new things from today.

Never forget to prioritise yourself and your health. It is true that we only live once, but that’s not a good reason to overload yourself with too many changes at once.

New Year, New Goals: My 2017 Resolutions

I’ve skipped out on new year’s resolutions for many years. I’ve never even been a fan of New Year’s Eve as a celebration, and as a result, to me, the beginning of the new year has never felt like the right occasion to reflect on the past or find points to improve.

A couple of years ago I decided to participate to this global game. And guess what, it actually helped me stay on track. I tweeted out three resolutions, and at the end of the year I had met two of them, which I understand it is way better than typical ratio of met to missed intentions.

So, without further ado, let’s do it again. Here are my resolutions for 2017.

1. Be more consistent

It’s easy to say “this year I’ll start working out,” “this year I’ll be eating healthier,” but those are typically resolutions that don’t make it past January—any regular gym goer knows what’s the busiest month of the year, and I don’t want to fall in that trap.

I’m not saying I don’t need to start with something entirely new, but I do have to focus on being more consistent with what I already do. Bass practicing, learning to code, reading, blogging, those are all activities that need more consistency than I’ve managed lately.

As a sort of new year’s experiment, I’ve put together and shipped Franz Drinks in less than a day. Nothing tremendously exciting technically speaking: it’s a WordPress website where I post pictures of what I drink, and I didn’t even coded up the theme (for now). Why am I mentioning it here? Because it’s a nice example of something that makes sense only if I work on it fairly regularly—i.e. posting daily-ish, without drinking too much alcohol obviously 🙂

Franz Drinks homepage
Franz Drinks homepage

2. Set clearer goals

As an extension of the resolution #1, I need to have clear short, medium and long term goals to keep the consistency level high. It’s not a matter of motivation though. Bear in mind, I’m not a fan of “motivation”, I don’t think that motivation should be my driving force and I don’t believe that there’s anything out there that is “all about motivation.” When goals are set in stone, everything else is up to me and my discipline.

Why do I keep practicing with my bass guitar? Short term, to keep nailing songs. Mid term, to go out there and get some new gigs after a couple of years of “I don’t have time for this.” Long term, to produce something mine. Why am I learning to code? Short term, to better understand what’s going on in the techiest side of industry in which I’m working. Mid term, to build something mine—just a fresh theme for Franz Drinks, or maybe a new little product. Long term, to be able to perform at least junior dev tasks whenever needed.

These of course are just wide, sort of foggy goals I’m jotting down here to give you the idea.

Practicing, improving, learning without goals is just pointless.

3. Bring people together

Everyone who cares about a community needs to constantly remind themselves the point of it all. Bringing people together.

In the past, I’ve written up massive rants on social media about religion, politics and society, and whilst my original goal was to kick off important discussions, the major outcome I was getting was another one. I was dividing people.

I’m a big believer in sharing thoughts and speaking my mind, but I need to ask myself more frequently what kind of emotions I trigger with any type of post or comment I flesh out. Am I giving people something that will cause unnecessary disputes? Will people feel forced to take sides? If so, I ought to think more before hitting the publish button.

Whatever it is that you’re planning for this year, whether you have ambitious goals or want to transition to something else (and maybe achieve bigger things in 2018—that’s fine too!), take good care of yourself, be happier, be healthier, and give everyone around you a reason to smile.

Happy 2017!

Out of Office, our online event about remote work, is today. Are you joining us?

You’ve probably been there: someone says “I work remotely” and you think they’re all about posting pictures of their laptop next to a macchiato in a hip coffee shop, working from a beach, or—worst case scenario—preaching about some obscure, passive—of course—way to earn the income that unlocks the chance to live that lifestyle.

Whilst that’s not necessarily old news, there’s so much more to remote work: think about productivity, growth, dealing with stress, or onboarding. Curious about how distributed companies, remote freelancers, but even the office worker who occasionally works at home deal with those? Good, because they’re all topics that will be discussed at Out of Office, today, at 4PM UTC.

Out of Office is live streaming online and it’s free

Yep, that’s right. You’ll be able to watch it at your own desk, on your couch (just cast the relevant Chrome tab to your tv if you use a Chromecast), wherever you want.

Reserve your spot now, go to the event page when it’s 4PM UTC, boom, done. Now it’s all about learning and asking questions to our speakers.

Talks & Q&A’s

We’re hosting a pretty nice group of speakers, coming from some of the most influential companies when we’re talking culture and flexibility: if you’re thinking about Basecamp, Toptal, Buffer, yes, we’ve got them all.

Here’s the full schedule:

16:00 – Opening remarks

16:15 – Toptal bootcamp: onboarding with impact, by Jennifer Weinmann (People Operations at Toptal)

17:00 – Productivity, by Rodolphe Dutel (Operations at Buffer)

17:45 – Values of a humane remotee culture: empathy, trust & inclusiveness, by Dino Anderson (Operational Development Consultant)

18:30 – Live Interview with Jason Fried (CEO and co-founder at Basecamp)

19:15 – Dealing with stress in remote teams, by Tom Willmot (CEO and co-founder at Human Made)

20:00 – Closing Remarks

At Human Made we’ve been working hard to put together a strong, BS-free event that will teach you a lot of interesting stuff about something we truly care about. Come watch it and you’ll appreciate.

Join now, there’s still time!

So, want to watch Out of Office? Awesome.

Reserve your spot HERE. Do it now, there are more than 1,000 people who already opted in.

Read more here, and tell your friends on social media you’re joining us. The more the merrier, you know?

Vancouver-Toronto train: Looking forward!

Just a few days and I’ll jump on The Canadian, a train operated by VIA Rail that is going to bring me from Vancouver to Toronto.

I’ll travel 4,466 km (2,775 miles): 4 nights and 3 days through breathtaking mountains, lakes, waterfalls and picturesque towns. Here’s a video that should give you an idea of what I’m about to experience:

Follow me on Instagram to stay updated with my pictures and stories. In the meantime, make sure you check out the #VIARail hashtag!

Where are you based?

Some months ago I watched this TED talk on YouTube. The key concept that Taiye aimed to share is a powerful description of the century we live in: we should be more interested in where people are local rather than where they—or their family, for that matter—are from.

(click here for the transcript)

During the last WordCamp Europe I met so many people. Since it’s a conference where local communities gather in one place, The where are you from? question is a popular conversation opener.

In this occasion, I forced myself to ask everyone I met where are you based? in any instance where Where are you from? would have been a legitimate question. The answers I got have been remarkably diverse: some people told me where they live, some added where they are from, some told me where they have lived in the past, some told me where they’ll relocate soon.

We have no control over the town or country we are from. We have the power to influence and shape and build so many aspects of our life: let’s focus on that.