I’m a sucker for an Apple product announcement. Yesterday’s event inaugurated the Steve Jobs Theater at the new Apple campus. The theater looks stunningly gorgeous, as you would expect from the world’s most prominent design-centric company.
“There’s lots of ways to be, as a person. And some people express their deep appreciation in different ways. But one of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there. And you never meet the people. You never shake their hands.You never hear their story or tell yours. But somehow in the act of making something with a great deal of care and love something’s transmitted there. And it’s a way of expressing to the rest of our species our deep appreciation.” –Steve Jobs
A lovely thought. To express your appreciation for all you’ve been given by others, “make something wonderful, and put it out there.”
Do your part for humanity. Make good art. Be a craftsman of your work. Give your full attention and your best effort to whatever has been entrusted to you.
Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone on this day ten years ago during his 2007 Macworld keynote.
I remember watching the recorded keynote later at home on my beloved first Mac (the adorable white iMac G4*). I sat enthralled watching Jobs masterfully and with obvious glee unveil the never-before-seen features of this new device. I gasped along with the audience at touchscreen scrolling and pinch-to-zoom. I recognized immediately that this device was indeed the breakthrough device Jobs was pitching it to be.
The video of that keynote is worth rewatching even if you’ve seen it before, and it’s definitely worth seeing if you’ve never seen it. It’s embedded here along with a fascinating oral history of what led to the moment.
That moment is a turning point in technology, but also, in many ways, in our culture. We take it for granted now that a powerful computer with access to all the world’s knowledge and all of our most treasured photos and favorite songs can fit in your pocket. Before January 9, 2007 that possibility would have seemed far fetched.
But Jobs’s keynote was remarkable as a form of presentation art as well. That moment was peak-Steve Jobs. The preparation for and execution of that keynote has become legendary. Jobs was in his element. He knew he had the substance—a once-in-a-generation product that he knew would change everything**—and he brought all the powers of his charismatic style to the moment.
The change sparked by the iPhone is remarkable, and its influence on its competitors and on technology and culture at large is undeniable. The world viewed through the prism of the iPhone generation looks different now than it did ten years ago. Better in many ways. Worse in some.
It was a triumph of engineering and design. And a triumph of imagination.
What could appear—what can even you bring to life—that might alter the way we can improve the human experience over the next ten years?
*I still have this Mac tucked away on a little used desk in my home. I don’t power it on. But it’s still beautiful to look at.
**January 9, 2007 was also the day that Apple officially dropped the word “Computer” from the name of the company. Jobs knew Apple would never be the same after that day, too. It went from being an iconic, but second-tier computer maker to the most valuable and influential company in the world.
I have used Habit List to good effect in the past, but I’m thinking a shiny new tool might rejuvenate my commitment to routines that make my life better.
John Gruber of Daring Fireball recommended Streaks recently. I took a look, and it looks ideal for what I want to do—track my follow through on just a few key daily habits. It has a gorgeous and simple design and looks like a fun app to use.
Not an hour after I purchased Streaks, I saw on Twitter that the app just won a design award from Apple today as one of the best apps of the year.
I’ll give Streaks a go and try to revitalize some habits and revitalize my commitment to living a more excellent life.
I’ve been an iPad guy since the first version was announced in 2010. I loved it immediately and used it mostly for reading, but also for writing.
It was just supplemental, though, to my iPhone and the two iMacs I had—one at the office and the other at home.
The home iMac is old now and sits unused. I use my iPad mini for most of my computer tasks away from the office. It’s a great device for reading, and it’s so good as my presentation device. I use the iOS Keynote app and a VGA adapter to connect the iPad to a projector, and I use my iPhone as the remote. It’s a lightweight, minimal, and rock solid presentation setup.
The iPad mini is also the device that I do a lot of writing on. But that’s where the mini falls short for me. The screen is just too small. I pair the iPad with an external Bluetooth keyboard, but the canvas I’m writing on seems too constricting. The screen is too small for me to write comfortably. Inserting a cursor in the right location and highlighting text can be frustrating. I find myself writing less away from my office iMac just because it’s not as enjoyable to write on the tiny iPad mini screen.
I was intrigued when Apple introduced the new, very lightweight Macbook last year. The form factor is gorgeous. The screen looks impressive, and I was eager to try the new keyboard design. But the computer seemed a bit underpowered. However, I imagined its second iteration might be my dream writing machine.
When Apple introduced the 12.9 inch iPad Pro last fall, it seemed almost comically large to me. “Who is going to want that?” I wondered.
And now, even Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft’s former head of its Windows division, has written that the iPad Pro has become his primary computer.
I appreciate the simple elegance of iOS versus OS X. There’s less to fiddle and fuss with. There’s less distraction and a more focused environment. It’s a truly modern and mature operating system.
And now, with the most powerful computing power ever in an iOS device and a screen bigger than the entry level Mac laptops, the iPad Pro may be my ultimate computing device so far. It’s at the top of my wish list.
Our living room right now: We are not moving. We just had our floors repaired after our water heater died and tried taking as much of the rest of the house with it as it could.
We’ve been in this house for thirteen years. In spite of the hassle of fixing the floors, it’s worth it for the delight of seeing this floor look like new again.
But now I’m loving the stark emptiness. I’m not eager to have our furniture and stuff returned to where it was.
Of course, it’s not a museum piece. We live here and need somewhere to sit.
Or do we?
The photo above reminded me of this famous photo below of a young and newly rich Steve Jobs, who was so loath to possess anything of merely average beauty that for a while he lived with just this Tiffany lamp and his stereo in his living room:
No worries. We will not be living like Steve. But we will use this opportunity to rethink what goes back in. If it’s not useful or beautiful to us, it really shouldn’t make the cut.
A dock came with the first couple of iPhones. There was one in the box with my iPhone 3G in 2008.
It was a nice touch and gave the phone a home, a more definite sense of place. And it was more of an incentive to just put it away when you got home.
But docks went away as an Apple option eventually. Third party solutions have been available, but there’s been nothing from Apple in the Lightning connector era.
But last week Apple announced a new dock to fit all the Lightning connector devices. That’s the iPhone 5, 5s, 6, and 6 Plus. Apparently, even iPads will fit.
I ordered a couple as soon as I saw them available and got them this weekend.
Here’s my wife’s iPhone 6 (sporting the new red Apple leather case I just got her for Mother’s Day) in the new Apple dock:
The dock is very simple and offers a minimalist, elegant alternative to just laying the phone on a nightstand or desk. Even with the case on the phone fits perfectly onto the dock. It’s easy to connect one-handed, but it’s not so easy to disconnect without using two hands.
The dock itself is barely there, with just enough of a form to fulfill its function. No flourishes. Nothing unnecessary. Classic Apple design for even a lowly phone dock.
“A place for everything, and everything in its place.” This new dock is a simple way to fulfill that declutterer’s mantra and give your iPhone a place to call home.
The new, much-hyped biography, Becoming Steve Jobs, was released yesterday, and my pre-ordered copy was on my porch when I got home last night. This is the rare book that I’m choosing to purchase as a physical book instead of an ebook. The advance praise was sufficient enough and the topic is one I find fascinating. I’m thinking it will be a keeper.
The book explores how someone who seemed so insensitive and reckless at the beginning of his career could end up as THE visionary business leader of our time. I just started reading it and came to this passage in the prologue:
“We can learn as much, if not more, from failure, from promising paths that turn into dead ends. The vision, understanding, patience, and wisdom that informed Steve’s last decade were forged in the trials of these intervening years.”
The greatness of the company that Steve Jobs fashioned in his last decade would not have been possible without the failures and shortcomings of his first couple of decades.
I’ve been fascinated recently by those who have turned adversity and failure to their advantage. We all seem to know that facing difficulties and enduring setbacks make us stronger and better. Yet we resist even the thought of coming up short or of taking on hardship.
Maybe we all should regularly and intentionally fling ourselves into the teeth of surefire heartbreak and dismal failure just so we can grow and learn faster.
Cook, an Auburn University graduate from Mobile, Alabama, has always come across to me as a genuinely good guy. Very smart and driven and hard-working, of course, but a regular, unassuming nice person who just happens to run the most impressive and wealthiest and coolest company in the world. As a fellow southerner and a delighted Apple customer, I especially enjoy hearing Cook’s southern drawl as the voice of a company that’s changing the world like few others ever have.
Cook earned his reputation at the company for his brilliant corralling of logistics and resources to build a staggeringly robust sytem for manufacturing all those iPods and iPhones and Macs. Steve Jobs was the product visionary and shaper of a uniquely innovative company culture, but it was Cook who was resonsible for making sure those dreams could be made and shipped.
Cook will never match Jobs as a cultural icon. But that doesn’t seem to be his aim.
Here’s Cook on lessons learned from Jobs:
Steve felt that most people live in a small box. They think they can’t influence or change things a lot. I think he would probably call that a limited life. And more than anybody I’ve ever met, Steve never accepted that.
He got each of us [his top executives] to reject that philosophy. If you can do that, then you can change things. If you embrace that the things that you can do are limitless, you can put your ding in the universe. You can change the world.
That was the huge arc of his life, the common thread. That’s what drove him to have big ideas. Through his actions, way more than any preaching, he embedded this nonacceptance of the status quo into the company.
That is great leadership. Clearly, Cook and those who worked with Jobs were infected by his approach, his “nonacceptance of the status quo”, his razor sharp focus on transformational ideas and products, and a relentless commitment to constant improvement.
And, with Apple, as with all great organizations, it keeps coming back to culture.
Here’s Cook’s response when asked about conveying the Apple culture within the company:
I don’t think of it as systematizing, but there are a number of things that we do, starting with employee orientation. Actually, it starts before that, in interviews. You’re trying to pick people that fit into the culture of the company. You want a very diverse group with very diverse life experiences looking at every problem. But you also want people to buy into the philosophy, not just buy in, but to deeply believe in it.
Then there’s employee orientation, which we do throughout the company all over the world. And then there’s Apple U., which takes things that happened in the past and dissects them in a way that helps people understand how decisions were made, why they were made, how successes occurred, and how failures occurred. All of these things help.
Ultimately, though, it’s on the company leaders to set the tone. Not only the CEO, but the leaders across the company. If you select them so carefully that they then hire the right people, it’s a nice self-fulfilling prophecy.
Apple recently has allowed the media more access to it’s top people than I can ever recall. The interview with Cook is thorough and interesting throughout and well worth reading whether you care about technology or not.
Thompson lately has been putting out a consistent stream of thoughtful analysis of Apple especially and of the direction of technology in general. In his most recent post about the Apple Watch he points out that most critics base their pessimism on how new technology will fare in the world as it is rather than looking imaginatively at the world as it might be.
He offers this:
For all of the changes that have been wrought by technology, a huge amount of our daily existence really hasn’t changed in a very long time. Consider keys: in my bag I have several pieces of metal, hopefully unique, that unlock doors or start up machines that run on controlled explosions. It’s positively barbaric! Money has improved a bit – cash is certainly a very old concept, although credit cards are more modern – but the idea that we physically hand someone access to a huge amount of money (i.e. our credit cards) without even thinking about it is odd. We operate lights with switches, print disposable tickets for everything from airplanes to concerts, and pack identification from a whole host of authorities, including the government and workplace.
It’s increasingly plausible to envision a future where all of these examples and a whole host of others in our physical environment are fundamentally transformed by software: locks that only unlock for me, payment systems that keep my money under my control, and in general an adaptation to my presence whether that be at home, at the concert hall, or at work.
He then goes on to explore how wearable devices can take a central role in such a future. And Apple is differentiating their device by making it desirable, aesthetically and emotionally, as well as remarkably useful. It’s not just a smart watch, there is also a good bit of art to their watch.
Apple’s focus on fashion is part of the plan to make their watch a cultural hit and not just a geek fetish. And widespread adoption would be necessary for all the parts to come together to make wearable technology more than just a fad for technology enthusiasts.
Reading Thompson’s post reminded me how much my family enjoyed using Disney’s MagicBands when we visited Disney World more than a year ago. These colorful bracelets unlocked our hotel room door, served as our tickets to enter the parks, managed our Fast Passes for rides, and were used to pay for our meals and souvenirs at restaurants and stores throughout the Disney resorts.
As much as I love good technology, I’ve been reluctant to get excited about Apple Watch. I have been imagining its primary function was to enable notifications to work more seamlessly. It seems to be a notification delivery machine. Literally. And I am anti-notifications. The fewer interruptions, the better.
Yet, a watch that would connect with my life in an abundance of helpful ways, the way the Disney MagicBands did, would be one that would earn a central role in my life the way the iPhone has.
There’s a long way to go before the infrastructure is in place to create such a connected and wireless world. But selling lots of Apple Watches would push that vision forward faster.
It’s hard for me to vividly remember the pre-smartphone world. The iPhone was a niche product with no app store, weak processing power, super slow internet, and a high price tag when it was introduced in 2007. Those who, at the time, saw the world as it was, dismissed its chances. But look at the world as it is now.
Consider the world as it might be from this point on. How will wearable technology and the infrastructure interacting with it look five years from now?
Since reading Thompson’s post, I’ve been browsing the Apple Watch options online, the sizes and band choices, and imagining wearing a watch again for the first time since 2008. (My favorite at the moment: Apple Watch Sport, space gray, black band, 38mm.)
It may be a year or two before I pull the trigger. I’m not a knee-jerk early adopter. The sweet spot of form and function and a robust ecosystem for these devices is surely at least a couple of iterations away. But I think it’s coming.
I took a day off today. My kids are on spring break, and my wife is out of town for work. Daddy-daughter day included plenty of play time, a trip to the movies (Spongebob… meh), dinner out, and a grocery run. Yet, somehow, I was able to take in the entire live-stream of Apple’s product announcement event this afternoon.
Kind of like wearing a favorite UGA shirt on a football Saturday, I put on my Daring Fireball t-shirt and pulled up the event on my Apple TV to cheer on the possibilities that would be unveiled. Apple is great at these carefully choreographed events, which are filled with sharp product videos and occasionally genuine surprises. I’m a complete sucker for them. As a fan of both great presentation dynamics and Apple products, these events are right in my wheelhouse.
Today’s event was expected to be about the new Apple Watch. And it is a fascinating new product category that may ultimately change the way many of us use technology. I’m in wait-and-see mode as to whether I will ever want one.
But what I’m still thinking about hours after watching is the new MacBook that was unveiled. It’s lighter and thinner than the 11″ MacBook Air (which my wife has and we both love), yet it has a 12″ retina display and all-day battery life. Plus, it includes new engineering for a flatter, more fluid keyboard and something Apple is calling a “Force Touch” trackpad which responds to how hard you tap. There’s a bit of trade-off in that the processing power of this new MacBook is not as robust as what you can get in a MacBook Pro. This is not the machine for those doing regular heavy lifting like video editing and Photoshop.
This new MacBook, though, looks like the ultimate writing machine. The form factor seems like they’ve finally hit the sweet spot for portability and features. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling famously said a few years back: “The MacBook Air changed my life.” She felt it was the ultimate writing tool because of its size and performance. This new MacBook improves on the Air in many ways, but especially with the HD screen.
And you can see the convergence across product lines for Apple. If an iPad married a MacBook Pro, this is what their offspring would look like. This MacBook is a bit like an iPad that runs Mac OS with a killer keyboard attached.
My personal Mac is an old iMac that’s more than six years old. This new, svelte MacBook has jumped to the top of my wish list. And Space Gray? Yes, please. (Guess I need to start saving. That hot water heater we had to replace today did not help…)
The iMore crew has a good summary of the features and a glowing early assessment from their time giving the new MacBook a go in the hands-on opportunity after today’s event.
It’s Apple Watch week with Monday’s event approaching rapidly and many eager to see just what the final details will be.* And the Jony Ive press tour continues. (Has Apple ever granted this much access to Ive or any of its top people? This is a new era of openness in Tim Cook’s Apple.) Here’s a profile in The Financial Times and a bit about Ive’s view of the big picture of design?
I would hazard a wild guess that 19th-century neogothic ecclesiastical architect and designer Augustus Pugin is not frequently discussed in Cupertino, but Ive invokes his name to discuss the moral purpose of design. He chooses his words carefully. “This is difficult to describe and it could be misinterpreted very easily, but there is a sense of almost serving your fellow humans. While people might not be able to articulate why they care and why they prefer one thing over the other, I really think that most people are very discerning.”
Some may take it as self-serving or hollow or PR, but I take his claims of serving humanity with design and with Apple’s creations as wholly sincere. And refreshing. Of all companies, Apple can most likely claim adherence to a standard beyond mere market economics and pursuit of profits. Maybe it’s easy to proclaim such lofty motivation if you represent the richest company in the history of the world.
It does seem the leadership at Apple are uniquely obsessed with making truly great products, products that offer remarkable value to their customers. And, yes, they make a lot of money by selling those products. But that is likely the key to their success. Focus obsessively on the creation and continual refinement of transformative products and trust that the humans they’re designed for will respond with delight and with a willingness to pay a premium for designs that resonate, whether those humans know exactly why or not.
What’s the gift we can give in our work? How can what we create and the experiences we deliver serve a meaningful purpose beyond putting food on our tables and paying our bills?
If you consider your work as a way to serve humanity, to make life even a little better for someone, you can transform a mere job into a calling. Tasks you previously took for granted, or undertook half-heartedly, become almost sacred and imbued with new energy when you instead see them as part of your gift to the universe, your legacy in the service of humanity. And your work likely will rise to new levels of excellence and accomplishment.
*I haven’t worn a watch since 2008. I’m assuming I don’t want an Apple Watch. But I’m also smitten by delightful technology. I’m a pushover for uniquely great things. I will be intrigued to see how this new device is being pitched to a generation that doesn’t see a watch as a necessity any longer.
I’ve been immersed in Walt Disney recently. I’m reading a biography which is giving me a better appreciation of the impact one dynamic person can have on an organization and ultimately on society.
And then today I found this article linked from ToolsAndToys.net. It’s a piece by Rolly Crump, a former Disney Imagineer who worked on Disneyland projects like the original concepts for It’s A Small World and The Enchanted Tiki Room. He shares some great insights about what it was like to work with Walt. (Disney refused to let employees, or anyone, call him “Mr. Disney.” He insisted on being addressed by just his first name.)
In all the stories I’m reading about Walt, he comes across to me as a kinder, gentler Steve Jobs. Both men had charismatic personalities that could bring out the best work in others. No one could out-dream them. Their ideas were bigger and bolder than anyone else’s.
Walt was not actually an artist. (He didn’t even draw the original Mickey Mouse. He just came up with the concept and the personality and the voice and got Ub Iwerks to do the drawing.) And Steve was not a computer engineer or a designer. (It was Woz who made the original Apple computers. Steve just figured out how to sell them.) But both men saw possibilities others didn’t. They asked for more, for better, for the seemingly impossible. And they got it more often than not. With their ideas and their drive and their communication skills, they sold their dreams and impressed their high standards on those who worked with them.
Here’s Crump talking about the way Walt would generate and improve ideas:
In designing for Disneyland you definitely worked more as a conduit for Walt’s ideas. He directed what you were doing, and his direction was far superior to your own personal ideas. His ideas were way ahead of yours—you had to play catch-up on that, and then you had to kind of read subconsciously what it was that he wanted and the direction to take. Walt would come up with an idea, and that idea would explode inside of him. It would get better and better. So when you showed him something, he would take what you did to another level. And when you gave it back, he’d take it to yet another level.
So many Steve Jobs anecdotes sound like that. His ideas were a few steps ahead. Go bigger. Get it done sooner than anyone thinks possible. Give it more “wow”, more “cool”.
Walt called it “plussing”. He would take an idea and “plus it”, make it a little better. And it was constant for him. He was relentless in plussing everything, from a scene in a movie to the way a cast member interacted with a guest at Disneyland. (Here you can listen to a recording of Walt talking about plussing and why he loved Disneyland more than his movies.)
Jobs and Disney must have had a sharply tuned sense of discontent. What most of us would accept as okay, they would ask for better. And the results are what make Apple and Disney the icons they have become in our culture.
Maybe most of us are too timid, too content with good enough. What if you asked for better from yourself and from those you work with. What if you plussed your life as relentlessly as Walt and Steve plussed their creations?
I enjoyed Walter Isaacson’s massive, authorized biography of Steve Jobs. It was a big bestseller when it was published in 2011 so soon after its iconic subject died. The book was filled with sensational stories highlighting Jobs’s infamous temperament, and it was a decent history of the early days of the technology revolution. (Though, the author didn’t always seem to get technology.)
But the book seemed like a missed opportunity. Isaacson was granted access to Jobs in a way no other writer had been, but the “why’s” weren’t explored nearly as well as I had hoped. For such a thick book, it was surprisingly thin on takeaways, other than knowing I didn’t want to be Steve Jobs or to work for anyone like him.
I was hoping to see more into the day-to-day life of one of the key business innovators of our time. How did he structure his day? How did he spend his time? Why did he think so differently? How did he grow from such an idiosyncratic and often childishly cruel young entrepreneur into arguably the most dynamic and successful CEO and technology visionary of our generation?
My favorite writer on all things related to Apple, John Gruber, just posted on Daring Fireball about a new biography coming out later this month: Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. It looks like exactly what I was hoping for in a Steve Jobs biography. From the book’s description on Amazon.com:
Becoming Steve Jobs answers the central question about the life and career of the Apple cofounder and CEO: How did a young man so reckless and arrogant that he was exiled from the company he founded become the most effective visionary business leader of our time, ultimately transforming the daily life of billions of people?
The authors interviewed key people from Steve’s life, including his wife. Gruber read an advanced copy and raves about the quality of the book while calling it “an essential reference for decades to come”.
Pre-ordered. Hardcover. (That shows how high my expectations are. I’m thinking it’s a keeper, one my kids might want eventually.)
The New Yorker profile on Jony Ive I posted about yesterday is rich with detail about the primacy of design at the world’s most valuable company. It’s such a long feature it took reading it over two days for me to finish it.
I’m struck by the near sacred status of design at Apple. The design studio seems to be the axis of action for the entire company. Instead of analyzing markets and matching products to the greatest profit potential, Apple enables the design team to dream up products that delight them and allows the time to let those ideas mature and to refine them meticulously.
There’s art AND science involved. Jony Ive clearly is THE taste maker. His eye and his raw, unfiltered intuition–his gut–are determining the way our world will end up looking and working.
Yet this story also highlights the precision Ive and his team apply to every iteration of every possible idea they explore. From pencil sketches of random ideas to intricate measurements of the angle of corners on app icons, these designers explore the possibilities with detail and depth and care that set their final products far apart from the rest of the industry.
A former Apple designer was quoted in the article on the reverence for design within the company:
when a designer joined a meeting at Apple it was “like being in church when the priest walks in.”
Apple has made design its driving force and built its culture accordingly. Every organization has a pecking order of its values, whether that order is intentional or not, spoken or simply implicit in the way the leadership focuses attention and resources.
It’s worth revisiting regularly what you and your team (or family) should value. What is most important and will make the biggest difference in your work? Is that getting the attention and respect and resources it deserves?
This New Yorker profile of Apple’s design chief, Jony Ive, is a fascinating look at not just the man, but also into the mysterious, vaunted design lab he orchestrates inside Apple.
Design has moved to the forefront of our culture in a way it never has been before, and Apple and Ive are at least partly responsible. Simplicity and clarity and utility and beauty are more valued in consumer experience than ever. My eyes and my sensibility feel a bit insulted now when I come across sloppy, ill-conceived design, from a web form that looks like it was made in the 1990s to the clunky user interface on the self-serve pump at a gas station.
Apple has made design a distinguishing feature of both its software and hardware products. And as the cultural and corporate juggernaut of our time, it seems to be raising expectations for what we should expect from not just our products, but from experiences as well.
It ultimately comes down to caring. Who cares enough to fully inhabit the user’s experience of a product or service and make it is as intuitive and as delightful as possible? Here’s Ive from the New Yorker feature:
“At the risk of sounding terribly sentimental, I do think one of the things that just compel us is that we have this sense that, in some way, by caring, we’re actually serving humanity,” he said. “People might think it’s a stupid belief, but it’s a goal—it’s a contribution that we can hope we can make, in some small way, to culture.”
The whole, very long article is well worth reading. And it makes me even more aware of the potential to design my work and the experiences I create with even greater care.
We have daily carry items. Everyday I put my keys, phone, and wallet in my pockets before leaving home. Now, most of us have daily apps, phone apps we use every day. These are the apps that stay on your home screen or not too far from it.
I’ve recently begun using Pedometer++ to track the number of steps I take each day. It only works with iPhone 5s, 6, and 6 Plus. The app design is simple and bright, and its function is basic: it just tracks how many steps you take in a day and the number of floors you may have climbed.
You can set the app to list your current steps on the little red badge on the app icon making it unnecessary to even open the app if you just want to check the number.
It makes me want to walk more. I love seeing the steps number go up. I’ll even make an extra effort to put my phone in my pocket at home, even in my pajamas, to make sure steps don’t go uncounted.
It’s a free app, but ads appear at the bottom of the display. With an in-app “tip”, you can support the developers and get rid of the ads. Yes, for me, to both.
This is a tiny little tool that is tweaking my routine and my consciousness in a healthy way and merits its use as one of my daily apps.
Most gift-giving gatherings this time of year have a bit of an absurd quality to them. Family members make wish lists for each other of exactly what they want, and there’s an implied understanding that you need to stick with the list. But, then, what’s the point? You could avoid the hassle and all just buy yourself what you want, right? (Or save your money and just have great conversations.)
“What do you want for Christmas?” you’re asked. “Surprise and delight would be nice”, I want to say.
But surprise and delight is hard. Which is why most gift-giving moments feel more like an obligation as we stay safe and simply get what everyone asks for. The fear of the clunker gift is real, but it’s a risk worth taking to keep hope alive for moments of genuine surprise and delight. Caution is the devil, right? That caution may keep you from being the one giving unwanted gifts, but it will also keep you from doing something remarkable, like offering genuine surprise and delight.
Our 13-year-old nephew is 13 in the best way anyone can be 13. He’s smart and kind, but he’s kind of cool, too. At family gatherings he tends to disappear and avoid the awkwardness of close quarters with all the relatives as best he can. (I did that, too, when I was a teenager. Okay, I still do that now sometimes.) You’ve got to work to get him to talk at meals, and he’s not quick to smile. You’ve got to earn the smile.
But he loves playing guitar and lights up when he’s talking about music. He’s taught himself how to play, and he’s pretty good. He’s become really focused on all things guitar, playing in seemingly every spare moment and regularly listening to cool music. (We share an appreciation of John Mayer, and I’ve earned a cool point or two just from that.)
His hero, though, is Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters. Grohl is the man. My wife and I found this out while talking with him at Thanksgiving. We were curious and wanted to know what gets him excited, what he’s into.
Well, when it came time to find a Christmas gift for him, we didn’t even check his wish list. I started wondering what a 13-year-old guitar-playing Dave Grohl fan might enjoy. After some online searches, we stumbled across a print of a great Dave Grohl quote. We bought it and framed it and wrapped it for our nephew’s gift.
At our family Christmas gathering last week, we were going around the circle watching each person open a gift. When my nephew’s turn came, my wife and I watched eagerly as he unwrapped our present. He held up the print and began reading the quote, with a bit of a quizzical, “What is this?” kind of expression on his face, as if he was bracing himself to summon a polite response to a random, cheesy, unwished-for gift. Then, when he read to the bottom of the quote and saw “Dave Grohl”, his expression transformed, and his face lit up with what clearly was surprise and delight.
He smiled at us and said something about Grohl being a hero. He kept that unforced grin for a moment, and we knew we had done it. Success! Surprise and delight. And we were as delighted at the giving of a thoughtful gift as he was in receiving it. Probably more so.
It could have bombed and left us and him wishing we had just gotten him a DVD or an iTunes card. But it was the moment of the season for us so far.
Trying to put yourself inside someone else and divine what might delight is hard work and has low-percentage success. Most people don’t know what would delight themselves, even. Henry Ford famously said that if he asked people what they wanted they would have said “A faster horse.”
Apple is the behemoth it is now for its market-defying commitment to create products that trump conventional wisdom and delight in their details. They do not poll customers or rely on market consultants to determine what to make next. They don’t ask for a “wish list” from the market. They aim for awesome. What would delight them to make? And what would put smiles on the faces of their customers?
Whether it’s in giving gifts to family and friends or creating products and experiences in your work, aiming for surprise and delight will pay off and reward the effort required. Or not. You could crash and burn.
But aim for awesome, people. And cheer on those who forsake their caution in the attempt to create a remarkable moment and give a gift worth talking about.
One of my favorite and most used apps, Day One, is on sale now through December 26 for only 99 cents. It’s normal price is $4.99.
If you’ve been holding out because you think five bucks is too much to spend on any app, here’s your chance. But, really, an app that brings value to your life is easily worth a few bucks, especially considering the silly things we all waste money on that bring no value in return.
Day One, of course, is a journal app, and it’s lovely. It reduced the friction that kept me from ever sticking to a journal habit and actually made it fun to chronicle my life. I treat it like my own private Twitter, that no one sees but me.
As I’ve been looking back over the year recently, Day One has provided a delightful way to remember what has happened and what has mattered most.