December 31, 2020No Comments

The anti-New Year’s resolutions (Updated for 2021)

I suck at New Year's Resolutions. Most of them are boring which is one reason we don't really stick with them.

According to some statistics I didn't fake myself, about 70% of all people abandon their New Year's resolutions already at the end of January. It makes sense. Most of these resolutions are unattainable and the majority of them are just plain boring. Things like, "work out a lot, be healthy" or other crazy goals are just too easy to break as they aren't specific enough.

Now, I don't know about you but if that sounds familiar I might have something for you.

I tried New Year's resolutions myself and always failed horribly. I think the problem was that I focused too much on certain things I WANT to do and then life just happened and boom the year was over.

Now what I do instead is writing an ANTI to-do list which is kind of like a resolutions list, but more focused on the negative aspects I want to avoid in my life. It's like calling myself out and building a system around my mental state rather than focusing on goals that are too easy to dismiss.

If I can avoid doing things I don't want, I automatically attract the things I do want.

It also feels easier for me to focus on specific negative aspects and then avoid them, rather than focusing on a vague goal like "be healthy." For example, it's easier to just cut alcohol from my diet. It's more specific, and it focuses on the negative part I want to get rid of. In turn, I'm more healthy automatically.

Some of these points are more actionable, and some are just little learnings and reminders I want to focus on more in 2021.

1. Stuff is just stuff. Avoid it unless it helps me create. 

I grew up in a fairly poor family, we never had any money. And this is in my head all the time, even though I worked hard for what I have right now. But when I spend money on a nice camera or something else, I always start regretting it, even if I know I can afford it. I try to be extra careful because I fear being on welfare again.

I know it's a good thing, but also bad because it makes me enjoy certain things less. But to enjoy my life more, I put certain rules in place, and one of them is: If I spend money on equipment that helps me create or experiences such as travel, it's NEVER wasted money. Another exception might be stuff you could consider as assets or that help you live a healthier life (such as sports equipment).

Some people ask me: Is your camera worth all the money? Yes it is, without question. It might have been expensive, but it helps me to create. It might be not an asset in itself (as it will lose value over time) but the value I gain from using it for my work makes up for it 100x.

The same goes for travel or paying for experiences that will be with me for my entire life. But otherwise, I try to not waste money on useless stuff, things that just sit around and look nice.

2. Stop being jealous

This is a hard one. I wouldn't call myself jealous, but sometimes when I'm uninspired or unproductive I get jealous and angry at other people who have it figured out more than I do. The thing is, jealousy rarely makes you better or brings anything positive. Both professionally and especially privately, jealousy is the thing that ruins relationships.

It shouldn't hold me back from admiration for what other people do, but jealousy has absolutely no place in my life. I think there is a thin line between admiration and jealousy. It's easy to tip from one into the other without noticing it.

"You’re offended when you fear that it might be true." - @naval


3. Stop being offended & taking things so seriously

Yes, some things in life are serious and not everything is always fun. But taking life too seriously and being offended at everything isn't making my life better. And I'm saying this more for myself than anyone else, because you have all the right (and opportunities) to find offense in things as much as you want. But for me, by being offended I'm not doing myself a favor. It sucks being angry, grumpy and miserable all the time.

Even if things suck big time, I usually try to make fun and focus on the good things. Every time I get offended I usually ask myself why it happened and how I can fix it, rather than blaming someone else for offending me. It's a simple choice that makes my life so much better. I choose to be not offended.

As Marcus Aurelius already said: “You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”


4. You know nothing. Avoid assumptions.

I know nothing. The moment you meet someone for the first time you know NOTHING about that person. Nothing about their past, their struggles or their childhood. We're horrible at mind-reading and assuming what the other person thinks or means, yet we still keep doing it. We like to put people into categories because it's easier for us to think that way. Even if we think we're the smartest person in the world, making broad assumptions is usually the most unproductive way of thinking.

It doesn't mean there are no evil people in this world, and surely some people just want to see the world burn. But I strongly believe in always giving the benefit of the doubt. That means I try NOT to jump to conclusions and always give people a chance to clarify their behavior even if other people have already jumped to their conclusions. Just reading the news, most people read only a headline online and already made up their mind.

We live in a world where we value feelings over facts, and while this seems very human, it's also extremely dangerous and may be counterproductive in many cases.

5. Stop trying to be friends with everyone

It's just impossible. Get rid of one-sided relationships and toxic people in your life. Give them one or two chances and then leave. I've spent years trying to be friends with certain people or wondered about "why don't they like me" until I found out this isn't about me, but about them. Don't run after people for too long. Move on, stop trying to befriend everyone.

I learned that the older you get and the more "successful" or happy you are, the more people will hate you for that. Some people dislike happy people because they're jealous and miserable themselves. I'm sometimes that person myself. And that's okay, it's not your problem. Move on.

In Adlerian psychology (written by Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychotherapist) there's this concept of "The delegation of tasks" in which he describes how you can identify "life tasks" and assign them to either yourself or someone else. One of the ways to achieve happiness is understanding what is your tasks and what is someone else's task. If someone doesn't like you, it's simple: Who's task is this to figure out? In many cases, it's the other person's problem/task, not yours.

6. Stop making excuses

I love making excuses because I'm a master procrastinator. The reasons I make excuses is due to many reasons, but mainly because of FOMO (Fear of Missing out) or because I'm just bad at taking risks that aren't necessarily calculated risks.

And that applies to a lot of things. Shutting down a project, quitting your job or not leaving your hometown you hate so much. One of the tricks that helps me is usually to ask one simple question: "Will I regret quitting my job or taking this risk when I'm 60 years old?" Usually the answer is no. I might regret it in the short term, but in the long-term I'd probably regret more staying at my shitty full-time job than quitting it.

7. Stop blaming others around you for not getting what you want.

I'm getting better at this myself. I used to always blame other people. I didn't tell them in their face, but I did it silently. I'd blame my boss for not promoting me, I'd blame my friends for not reaching out, I'd blame other people for making me feel miserable.

But in reality, it was rarely their fault. Blaming others is easy and if I think hard enough about it, I can ALWAYS find a reason to blame other people if I don't get what I want. It's easy to play the victim, I did it countless times myself. It's classic child mentality – if you don't get what you want, start crying and screaming loudly. Make sure your parents look like fucking idiots in the Toys "R" Us store for not getting you that Lego castle you believe you deserve so deeply.

In recent years, I learned that every time I silently blamed someone else, I could've just easily looked at myself and fixed it right there. The reason I didn't get a raise at my job was because I never asked. It goes back to Nr.4 in this list. It's easy to make assumptions, jump to conclusions and then blame someone else. It's also convenient.

I learned that if I feel there is something unfair, I can openly and respectfully talk about it. Some things I fixed within hours where I was silently being grumpy about it for over a year! Isn't that crazy?

8. Give less fucks

I've written about this recently right here. I'm trying to give less fucks and manage my "fucks" better. Maybe it's a sign of getting older but it kind of relates to Nr.5 (not trying to be friends with everyone). Giving less fucks simply means deciding what affects you and what doesn't. It doesn't mean being an asshole, but putting your energy where it's worth it.

With that said, I think this quote by Marcus Aurelius is quite fitting:

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil.

But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own - not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me."

9. "Strong opinions, loosely held"

I try to remind myself of this every single day. It's important to have strong opinions and educate yourself as much as possible. But it is as important to not make your opinions a fact that you can't stand up for. People who know me know that I have strong opinions, but they also know that the moment they give a good counter-argument, I'm the first one to give up my opinions and change my mind. It's not always like this, but I try.

I believe very strongly in this attitude. Have opinions, share them, make yourself heard. But be open to challenge your own viewpoints. Strong opinions, but loosely held means that you have to remove the ego. Some of the biggest thinkers and wisest people in history have followed this principle.

This quote by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon brings it to the point:

“Be stubborn on vision, flexible on details."

I wish you all a wonderful new year! Stay awesome and keep rocking in 2021. If you enjoyed this article, feel free to forward it to your friends.

Yours truly,

March 12, 2020No Comments

Who am I trying to impress?

I ask myself this question regularly. It's a preventative measure to help me avoid getting side-tracked.

Humans are wired to seek approval from other people. We want to feel accepted. We want to be part of the inner circle. Even if we think we're immune to it, we still fall for it. It's survival instinct.

Unfortunately, this desire to be accepted can take you on the wrong path without you even noticing.

To stay on course, I ask myself this very simple question: "Who am I trying to impress right now?"

If I like the answer, then all good. But if I don't like the answer, I need to change something.

Early in my career (and it still happens), I put so much energy into impressing certain people, for the wrong reasons. Whether it was industry leaders I wanted to accept me, peers I was trying to compete with or my own family and friends, I was always seeking external approval. I spent so much energy just chasing one or two people's acceptance, I eventually forgot why I was doing it.

The desire to impress isn't always negative. It motivates us to get better, to take care of ourselves. But asking this one question, regularly, has helped me stay on my path: Who am I trying to impress, and why?

December 16, 2019No Comments

My new secret company

Building portfolios has been a big part of my life and career for 15+ years now, from the dozens of times I’ve re-designed my own portfolio, to the countless times I reviewed portfolios as a creative director or at events, to the company I run today.

To me, a portfolio is the centerpiece of my work as a creative. It’s where all my projects come together to tell a story. It’s a place for me to reflect on what I’ve done and decide where I want to go in the future. My portfolio is my little home online, one I can fully own and design the way I want, compared to a sea of social networks that force me into their structure.

I ultimately declared my love for design portfolios almost six years ago when co-founding, an advanced portfolio builder and community for like-minded designers.

Since then, helping creatives build their best portfolio has been on my mind every day. We made it our responsibility to not only build the tools, but to also dig a little deeper. We sought to understand why creatives are building a portfolio, what they aim to achieve with it and how we can help them reach their personal goals with it.

We started asking simple questions such as:

Why does someone need a portfolio?

What makes a great copywriter portfolio in comparison to a great illustrator portfolio?

How does a portfolio change over time?

Who are the people reviewing portfolios, and how can we make it easier for them to find what they are looking for?

Does seniority within a field change the way a portfolio is designed?

We quickly learned the vast differences between how creatives approach their portfolio, from art directors to UX designers to creative directors, copywriters, makeup artists, illustrators and architects. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so we made it our mission to understand everything we could about each industry and build tools that help them reach their goals.

As a result of our learnings, we started sharing portfolio advice on and poured all of our knowledge into, making it one of the most advanced and loved portfolio systems on the current market. The Semplice community has become known for building beautiful, unique and often highly customized portfolios. Over the years, we learned that the typical Semplice member has a solid foundation for how web design works and enjoys the challenge of building from scratch.

While we kept adding more advanced features and streamlined the platform for our specific power users, we discovered there was demand from another group of creatives. In contrast to the regular Semplice member who loves to own and customize everything possible, these creatives dreamed of having a beautiful portfolio, but without the hassle of technicalities and self-hosting.

For those people, it seemed the only other option was a template. To me, they deserved more than that. So along with my team, we aimed to give them something better.


You’re now either completely surprised or not surprised at all. But let me explain everything in detail so it makes sense.

I’m happy to announce that I’ve joined Carbonmade as partner and co-CEO, which essentially means I’m fully committed to the vision and product. Together with my partner, Jason (who co-founded Carbonmade and has worked on it since 2005), we spent the past 1.5 years quietly rebuilding the entire portfolio product from scratch. We re-branded the platform and soft-launched it just a few months ago.

It’s been a humbling (and rather sleepless) experience combining our knowledge to build this new platform, and I have to admit I’m quite proud of what we’ve done so far. And as always, this is just the beginning. is the answer to where I left off above. It’s a fully hosted portfolio and media platform to build a personalized website, literally within minutes. It’s for those who want to get a site up as fast as possible without worrying much about technicalities, or settling for a one-size-fits-all template.

We built the new Carbonmade 4 specifically for photographers, motion designers, graphic designers, illustrators, makeup artists, architects, copywriters, concept artists – any and all creatives. There is no lengthy set-up. You just sign up within a couple seconds, drag & drop some work and when you’re ready to go live, you go live.

But before this turns into me writing how amazing Carbonmade is, you might just try it yourself. You can expect me writing about it much more in the future, consider this the intro.

So how does this new venture affect Semplice?

I’d be lying to you if I’d say it doesn’t affect Semplice, because it does. The good news is, it affects it in the best way possible as it helps us sharpen the mission for both companies even more.

Both Semplice and Carbonmade share a common vision yet differentiate themselves through mission and execution. They’re both products that live on a spectrum rather than opposing sides.

We will focus on making Semplice the most powerful and advanced portfolio platform, ensuring it’s the select tool for those who push it to the limits with customizations and unique layouts.

At the same time, we’ll make Carbonmade the most accessible and easy-to-use portfolio platform, enabling many more creatives to build a beautiful portfolio and get hired without the need to code or be technically literate.

I will personally continue to work on both products equally as I’ve done over the past 1.5 years, and I’m more than excited about what’s to come.

November 5, 2018No Comments

The best work I’ve ever done

What's your favorite project you’ve worked on? What’s the best work you’ve ever done?

I am often asked some form of this question in interviews, and I always struggle with it. I can never think of an answer I won’t cringe about later. Not only do I feel awkward and self-indulgent answering questions like this, but I am also rarely satisfied with my own work.

I’ve worked on plenty of enjoyable projects and I’m proud of the work I do overall. I share a range of my projects and speak positively about them in my portfolio. But narrowing my career down to one “best” or “favorite” project implies that I’m totally happy with it, and I never am. It feels like I’m saying this is the most I am capable of doing. That I’ve already done the best I can do.

It seems many creatives feel dissatisfied with their own work. An overly critical eye and imposter syndrome tend to be part of the job description. But why are we most critical with ourselves?

Early on in our career, it’s the difference between our talent and our taste. Like someone who has a beautiful image in their head and can only draw a stick figure, it can be crushing to see the gap between our ideas or taste and our actual talent.

As Ira Glass puts it, “For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.”

As a young designer, you know what good design is, but you can’t seem to create designs that live up to that standard. As you keep working hard and growing in your career, you close that “gap” and your taste and talents start to align.

Yet now that I’m more seasoned in my career, this self-critical nature still comes down to the difference between my vision and the execution. Perhaps it is perfectionism at play, a weird form of pride in itself. I can see everything I intended to do versus what I actually did. I see the things missing that I meant to include. I notice all the parts where the image in my head doesn’t match the final result.

While the viewer may notice these shortcomings, it’s more likely they don’t. After all, they don’t know exactly what I intended to do. They only see the final result. Or maybe they do notice and that’s fine too. That either helps me improve or, at this point in my career, I choose to trust my taste and talent.

Still, I don’t think I will ever be 100% satisfied with my work. To me, that means I’m being complacent. That I’m not challenging myself enough. Despite our world's obsession with it, I’m not striving for the very best. I’m only striving for better.

Instead of letting the self-doubt stifle me, I let dissatisfaction drive me to keep creating. I compete with myself to do better than the last time. I like to think my best project is my next project. This way I am motivated to see what’s ahead, rather than looking behind.

September 17, 2018No Comments

Online vs. offline friendships

Most friends I’ve talked with make the distinction between an online friendship and a “real friendship.” They believe that only an offline friendship qualifies as a legitimate, meaningful relationship.

They recognize online friendships may exist, but assume they ultimately lead to a “true” offline friendship in the physical world. They’re a means to an end.

I disagree. I believe that online and offline friendships are not only inherently different, but should be respected as such. Even if we’re talking about the same person. An online friendship does not always to translate to the same relationship offline, and vice versa. Some friendships are just better offline, some are better online. Some of them are exactly the same offline as they are online. And some wonderful online friendships just don’t need to be forced into the physical realm, even if conventional wisdom may suggest otherwise.

Likewise, a friend with whom you have great chemistry in “real life” may not be so compatible with you online. I have friendships where the vibe in person is amazing – we get along and it’s fun – but as soon as we take a conversation online (text messaging, for example) our relationship is full of misunderstandings and frustrations.

 A couple of my longest and closest friendships are online. In many cases, we’ve never met in person. These friendships function so well that there is just no reason to introduce them into real life, especially if both parties agree on it or even lack the interest in doing so.

Some might argue that intimacy cannot exist in the same way for online friends due to the lack of body language, for example, and that may be true. Online friendships are a different kind of relationship. But that doesn't necessarily make them lower in quality than offline friendships.

Friendships can exist on various levels and in various worlds. An online friendship might not lead to meeting in the “real world,” but that doesn’t make it less real.

September 6, 2018No Comments

2 Years and 200 Articles Later

On September 6, 2016, we launched this blog, finally giving a home to all the articles I'd been sharing on Medium and in my weekly newsletter. Two years later, we’re still going strong. In honor of DESK’s second birthday, we collected some of our favorite articles and highlights from the last two years.

Since DESK went live, we've published more than 200 articles and launched four article series. We interviewed 21 companies for our How to Get a Job at X series. We talked with designers from 15 different countries for our Design Around the World series. We shared our best advice about freelancing in our Freelance Life series. We wrote about moving to NYC as a designer, and shared everything we know about building a great design portfolio. And a lot in between.

Designing the blog was a surprising challenge, which you can read about right here. But I couldn’t be happier with how it’s worked for me over the last 24 months, and I still love the design with its subtle animations and thoughtful touches (thank you, Lu and Stefan!).

Here are just a few of our top articles, interviews and DESK highlights from the last two years.

1. Design in Nigeria ?? featuring Dá Design Studio

This was our first interview in the Design Around the World series and remains a favorite. Damilola and Seyi’s no-bullshit, eloquent thoughts about design in their country were eye-opening and inspiring. This interview certainly set the bar for the dozens of interviews to follow.

Read interview

2. The Truth About Design Titles

I wrote this one quickly as a lighthearted jab at the self-important titles and terms we toss around in the design industry. Apparently, it struck a chord. The article sort of blew up on Twitter (at least by my standards) and is still one of the top-read pieces on the blog. Glad we can all laugh at ourselves.

Read article

3. How to get a Design Job at Nike

We’ve featured so many fantastic companies in our How to Get a Job at X series, but Nike was a personal win for me. Of course, I love the Nike brand and everything they create, so I was curious what it takes to get a dream design job on their team. Better yet, I heard from a designer who got a job at Nike thanks to this interview. That validates the months of hard work it takes to get even a single interview published in this series, given the busy schedules and layers of corporate approval it often takes. Worth it!

Read interview

4. The Startup That Never Started: Lessons from .Mail

Nearly a decade after attempting and failing to launch my own mail client, I finally wrote about the experience. We often hear that more than 50% of startups fail, but what about the ones that don't get off the ground in the first place? The .Mail story chronicles the slow dissolution of an idea, from the initial excitement and promise, to the struggle and panic, to the disappointing and painful end. It felt good to finally share this story and realize all the lessons I learned from it.

Read article

5. The Only Way to Do An Internship

Got a bit of backlash for this one, so it’s worth mentioning as a highlight. In this article I share the best advice I know for getting the most out of a design internship. Unpaid internships are a big topic of discussion in the design community right now, so mentioning them in this article caused quite a stir. My opinion is that you should never work for free unless it’s on your own terms. But in my personal experience, it pays off to do everything you can to get your foot in the door, then work as hard as you can once you’re in.

Read article

7. The Slow Decay of a Designer

A reflective piece about the disappointing trajectory of a typical design career, and how climbing the corporate ladder can mean losing what we love to do. When the definition of success means ultimately becoming a manager, what are we sacrificing, and are we OK with it?

Read article

8. The Hottest Websites from the Late 90s

This was a fun one. My good friend Rob, founder of FWA, walked us through the best websites from the 90s – back in the good old days of Flash and background music. These were the early days of the internet, when everything was new and revolutionary. Visiting some of these sites still makes my heart beat faster.

Read article

8. Not Knowing Is Power

The Information Age has become the Too Much Information Age, with news and data and updates and notifications coming at us from every direction and device. This article begs the question: Are we meant to know everything?

Read article

9. Obsessed with the Best

Inspired by an episode of Black Mirror, this article looks at our obsession with a five-star existence. Our curated lives feel quite hollow when given the reality: A life of second guessing, of obsessing and ultimately, one of dissatisfaction.

Read article

10. The Imposter Syndrome

This topic has been covered countless times, which only speaks to its relevance. Every creative feels like a fraud at some point in their career, a truth which should help cure the feeling itself. Knowing that everybody feels incompetent makes me feel a lot less incompetent. This article covers other ways I’ve learned to become more confident in myself and my career.

Read article

It’s motivating to look back and see all we’ve written in the last two years. I never thought of myself as a writer, but I suppose all the writing I’ve done says otherwise. I’ve been focused on my work lately and even took a long break from my newsletter, but reading through these articles again reminds me why I started writing in the first place. I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog. I could do it without you, but I lost my Myspace password and it would be a lot less rewarding anyway. Here’s to another two years and beyond!

November 22, 2017No Comments

The Turning Point

We’ve all come to the point where we’ve had enough. Enough of a specific relationship, job, habit, feeling. The “that’s it” moment, when it feels like something’s gotta change, or you won't be able to go on any longer. So you break the habit you’ve been trying to break. You escape a painful relationship you’ve suffered for too long. You quit your job to pursue a dream.

Unfortunately, it often takes an extreme event to trigger that moment. You get hurt, or your hurt someone else, or you lose something important, and suddenly everything is clear. You know undoubtedly that you need to change, and so you do. But what if it didn’t require something bad to spur something good in our lives? What if we could skip the “last straw” moment entirely and still reach the same positive results?

It’s a question Cesar Kuriyama, creator of the “1 Second Everyday” app, has always pondered. On the NTMY Show podcast, Cesar recalls when his friend’s uncle died of lung cancer. It was what finally made his friend decide to stop smoking. He put down his cigarette that day and never picked it up again.

“I’m obsessed with how you get someone to go through that transformation,” says Cesar. “To trigger that without actually hitting rock bottom first.”

The question is tough, because why would we change if we didn’t have a strong reason to? What’s motivating us? Perhaps if it’s not a specific event that triggers a transformation, then the change needs to be internally driven, instead of external.

"You see yourself approaching that line in the sand, and so you turn around."

Some people have strong personal standards. They know who they are, who they want to be and what they deserve. Others have less clearly defined boundaries. Without that internal guide, it’s easier to become complacent or resigned to a situation or habit. You draw your line in the sand only after you’ve already crossed it.

If you already know who you are and have clearly defined what you want for your life, those moments of change come easier. You see yourself approaching that line in the sand, the line you don’t want to cross, and so you turn around. You change by a calculated decision, rather than in sheer desperation.

Create a clear line of sight and you’ll always have a goal to measure against. That goal will propel you forward. It will keep pushing you, changing you, so you don’t find yourself stuck in a place you don’t want to be.

Years ago, I wrote down my Big List, which includes everything I want to do or learn or experience in my lifetime. I carry it with me everywhere and check it regularly. Is what I’m doing right now supporting any of the items on the list? If yes, keep going. If not, change something immediately. I update and cross items off the list regularly. Sometimes I remove items entirely, if I’m no longer interested in them. My Big List keeps me on track and reminds me who I want to be. It helps me change before I’ve gone too far down the wrong path. It helps me avoid the "that's enough" moment.

But still sometimes I'll pass my line in the sand before turning around, as so many of us do.

Perhaps this is who we are as humans. As children, we touch the hot stove and burn our fingers — even after our parents warn us a hundred times not to do it. We touch it anyway because we need to experience the pain to learn; watching or believing someone else isn't always enough.

As wasteful as it sounds, maybe sometimes we need to hit rock bottom first only to grow.

Have a fantastic week,

November 7, 2017No Comments

When the pendulum swings back

I’m a big believer of what I like to call The Pendulum Dynamic. Simply put, many things around us can be explained by the simple movement of a pendulum that swings back and forth. Being an optimist, I believe the pendulum swings back a little harder in the progressive direction every time it recovers from the last swing. Regardless, I believe it keeps swinging back and forth, whether we like it or not.

Today, I want to look at how the pendulum swings back and forth between large open online communities (Facebook and Twitter) and small, private online communities (which can even exist within these large platforms). But first, I want to point out that I’m not an expert in this field. This article is more of a personal observation based on conversations I had with friends and recent reading that encouraged me to think about it.

The Grand Social Experiment that is the internet has changed rapidly over the years. In its early years there was nothing even remotely similar to the massive open social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube that would eventually take over. While the Internet has always been about open access to information and knowledge, at the time it mainly consisted of gated and anonymous communities in its very beginning.

I still remember the time of IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and the vast amount of bulletin boards (online forums). What the majority of these online communities had in common was that they were mostly anonymous and invite only. Most IRC channels you wanted to be a part of were only accessible if you knew someone in it and received an invite. The same applied to the majority of bulletin boards which had an open registration but still manually approved your membership, meaning you just couldn’t jump in everywhere and join the conversation. It was hard to get into these gated online communities and I certainly wasn’t a fan of it at the time.

The anonymity had its pros and cons. The positive part was that discrimination based on pre-existing biases just wasn’t there, at least to a certain degree. All people could judge you on was your profile picture and your online handle, both of which you could control yourself.

"The anonymity gave members reason to be their best, most honest version of themselves — or be their worst (trolls)."

If your forum handle was “Eagle10” (fairly generic) and you contributed with smartly written articles on the forum, no one gave a shit about how old you were, where you came from or what your religion was. People in these communities were simply judged based on contributions such as their writing and their ability to have a civil conversation. If you broke the rules, forum moderators would be quick to give you a temporary ban or remove you entirely from the forum (I’m not a big fan of that kind of moderating). Each forum had its own rules, some more casual than others.

The anonymity in these online communities gave members reason to be their best, most honest version of themselves — or be their worst (trolls). Conflict and the sharing of controversial viewpoints was highly encouraged as long as people did not resort to mindless trolling or breaking the basic rules. I’ve seen many heated discussions in these IRC chats or bulletin boards, yet none of them escalated to what you see on Twitter or Facebook today. At that time it all felt kind of unreal, like a game. It was cyberspace, the wild west of the World Wide Web.

One of the many negatives of anonymity was the fact that you had zero credentials before joining a new community. Since your real identity and all your real life accomplishments were not part of your anonymous online persona, it was kind of like starting over, collecting new status points in a new online currency. No one would believe you if you said you were a doctor, until you shared your opinion and slowly built trust in your online persona. But the saddest part of anonymity online is the fact that nobody can hold anyone else accountable. It brings out the worst in people because there is no consequence for our words or actions.

What I’ve described was the time when the pendulum was swinging very far in one direction. The anonymity of the Internet, and specifically of online communities, around the early 2000’s was too extreme.

All of this changed when the masses could finally access the Internet and Facebook came long. Facebook was one of the first social networks that required you to use your real name and strongly recommended using a real picture of yourself. Gone were the days of anonymity. Enter the time of real accountability and human connections.

While Facebook started off as a gated community (invite only) it soon opened its gates and so did many other networks. Online communities significantly changed as the majority of large social networks became accessible to everyone. Millions joined with a fresh internet connection every year, creating billions of profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and so on. Slowly but surely, the pendulum started swinging in the other direction. Online handles faded away. Real profile pictures and real names became a common sight. These were true open social networks and transparent identities.

"The internet isn’t a parallel world anymore, it’s an extension of our real life."

Most online communities now require you to use your real name. Now, it seems that only trolls use a fake name and fake profile picture; what seemed pretty normal before has become something sketchy today. The internet isn’t a parallel world anymore, it’s an extension of our real life. It has become one of the primary places we do business today, and nothing is more important than trust when doing business with each other. Trust requires us to show the real person behind the avatar.

Our online persona slowly merged with our real self. We became the same person online as we were in real life, or at least we liked to think so. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat taught us to share like we’d never done before. We shared the same thoughts, information and feelings that we previously only shared in closed communities — plus a whole lot more. The Internet became our primary medium for discussing politics, current events and even deeply personal information. We felt as if nothing could happen to us; being vulnerable and showing our true self online was the right thing to do. At least until now.

Now, I believe we’re at the breaking point. The pendulum is swinging back. People are slowly retreating into gated and more private communities. Folks are putting their Twitter profile and Instagram profiles on private. They are joining invite-only Slack communities and only engaging in conversations on Facebook if they’re in a private group. We want safe, meaningful and respectful dialogue that replicates our highly curated offline conversations. Yet even then, we're careful about sharing any controversial opinions, because our real names are now attached to them. The open dialogue that used to define social networks is dead. Welcome to the age of self censorship.

In a way, we failed at managing our own expectations. With the loss of anonymity we were promised an extension of our much valued democracy, where people can safely share their opinion and where public dialogue is encouraged. To our surprise, we found the opposite to be true. We take everything personally and we're easily offended if someone (most likely a stranger) expresses an opinion contrary to ours. We are overly fragile and see conflict and friction as evil. We aim to be fair and democratic, deferential and agreeable at the same time but we fail horribly at it. We’re afraid of saying something that could possibly offend someone around us, so we keep our honest opinion to ourselves. And if we do venture to express our opinion online, we do so in a nicely packaged passive aggressive fashion, which helps no one.

While it seems like it’s people who have changed drastically, I believe people have always been the same. It’s our environment that has changed. The reason we felt less offended back then was because the internet was anonymous and we could hide behind our avatars. We didn’t take words online personally because no one was attacking us personally, but rather our ideas. And even if we felt a strong attachment to our expressed ideas, we were still slightly detached from our online characters. The real us and our online selves were not the same person. Today, they are.

Now we seek safe spaces that mimic our offline, highly curated friendship bubbles. We wish for a respectful place to share our opinion without the backlash of someone attacking us on a personal level. Private and curated communities work so well because they’re usually made up of the same people as you, sharing roughly the same opinion. Everyone is agreeable by default.

It’s a nice temporary fix, but I don’t know that it’s a good one. One of the reasons your Facebook comment sections are fairly civil is because Facebook does a great job at creating artificial, private communities within your friend groups. Friends that are all agreeable because they share interests and political views. Facebook knows that if they’d open it up it would be a shit show — similar to what Twitter is right now, a shit show.

This is our defense mechanism, we take a step back and hang more with like minded people. Sadly, it’s also a step back for diversity of thought or any open dialogue that involves different viewpoints. When the pendulum swings too much in one direction, it is bound to swing the other way. The question is how far back it will swing, or whether we can find a good spot in between.



Header Photo by Kunj Parekh on Unsplash

May 29, 2017No Comments


8:00 AM - My phone buzzes on my nightstand. Dozens of notifications scream for my immediate attention. Good morning, world!

8:01 AM - Oh shit, it’s Rachel’s birthday. Good thing I’ve already drafted a poetic paragraph about our friendship and Facebook automatically created a photo collage of all our good times together. I quickly post it so she knows how much I care. Facebook encourages me to wish 20 other people a happy birthday so I do, sending smileys and well wishes to faces I vaguely recognize.

8:03 AM - I see Tom posted a cat video on Rachel’s wall (how very 2015) which reminds me I haven’t RSVP’d for his housewarming party on Friday. Damn it! He already asked me twice about, not directly of course, but with a “poke”. I scan the events invite list and select “maybe.”

8:04 AM - Cooool, looks like Rachel did a birthday dinner last night and I wasn’t invited. I like the post to make a point. Sam posted a picture from his rescue dog’s Instagram account so I put three heart-eye emojis underneath (she doesn’t get many likes despite dozens of #dog hashtags, so I try to help where I can). Guess it’d be weird if I don’t like the pic of his newborn baby so I do that too. Double tap after double tap I catch up to where I left off last night.

8:07 AM - I can’t avoid emails any longer. I scroll through them quickly, something about the quarterly planning meeting and rotten risotto in the office fridge. There are invites to this meeting and that status call, subject lines like “just checking in” and “thoughts?” and “let me know ASAP.” Tom texts asking why I responded “maybe” to his party invite so I quickly change it to “yes”. I may be lying down, but my blood pressure is up.

8:10 AM: An email excitedly announces that 10 LinkedIn connections have new jobs! Looks like James finally left his agency gig for that shady healthcare startup. LinkedIn says I should send my congratulations and “endorse” them for skills. I tap the corresponding buttons bc who knows when I’ll need them to return the favor. There’s a group email about the Q2 report due EOD today and Lynn has already replied-all three times. Maybe that healthcare startup is still hiring...

8:14 AM - It’s barely morning and Meg from HR is sending messages to the “Happy Hour!” Slack group asking who’s in for drinks after work. My manager said I need to improve my team player skills, so I should probably attend. Sigh.

8:18 AM - Now another Slack message about who’s doing what for the Q3 planning meeting. Tom replies with a GIF from “The Office” (this is 2017, Tom) and I add a “laughing so hard I’m crying” emoji reaction. Just doing my part for the company culture we all value so much.

8:20 AM - Just got six snaps from Tim, who was obviously at Rachel’s birthday dinner last night. I tap through dozens of snaps and reply to each one with a selfie. The dog-face filter masks my anxious expression.

8:25 AM - Another email, this time from the IT team asking me to answer 48 questions about the company’s new infrastructure by end of today, on top of ten 360 peer interviews due at the end of the week. HR wants feedback on last month’s company retreat and team building exercises, and the survey doesn’t allow me to respond “awkward” to all questions. I’ll probably answer my 360 reviews tonight instead of going to happy hour.

I’m exhausted.


The piece above isn’t exactly how it happened. But it’s inspired by real events and based on personal experiences. I’m sure you can find yourself in this story to a certain degree as well.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. About how technology and the systems we design force us into completely unnatural social behavior. Most of these things didn’t exist 30 years ago because we either didn’t care, or because we simply couldn’t keep track of it anyway.

But today, we need to be reminded of everyone’s birthday. Everyone’s job anniversary, everyone’s friendship anniversary and even the most trivial things. Most of these social interactions are completely unnatural. I would even go as far and say that most of these forced social interactions are completely artificial, empty and are contributing nothing but anxiety on both ends.

As humans we used to live in tribes with a limited number of people around us. And you might have heard about the Dunbar’s number which suggests the limit of how we, humans, are able to maintain stable social relationships with other people. The number averages around 150, which is how many people we can have a stable and good relationship with (meaning, we know the person and how she or he relates to everyone else in the group. Of course this number is a bit lower or higher for some people).

But looking at our current social networks, apps and especially work environments, this number is well beyond 150. Generally there’s nothing wrong with it because you can still maintain your close relationships with this core group of roughly 150 people, and everyone else is just a passive part in your life.

However, the issue here is that most of these social networks, apps or even workplace systems treat every person in your extended network as equally important and therefore demanding your attention and social maintenance. The expectations are high and these systems essentially encourage or force you to maintain a completely unnatural amount of social relationships, even more so when it comes to the depth & detail of which you're required to maintain them.

My point is, maybe we don’t want or need to celebrate that yearly random Facebook friends anniversary with virtual balloons. But having it right in front of us makes us feel guilty so there is this subtle pressure to acknowledge it with a click on a button. After all, feelings not expressed through a virtual reaction don’t exist right?

And maybe we don't want to participate in every team bonding/happy hour event at work without losing any "team player" points in our quarterly 360 review.

I don’t think I want to go somewhere specific with today’s article. Just talk about it, give you a little nudge to think about it and draw a conclusion for yourself. And don't get me wrong, I don’t see technology as the evil here.

The evil we’re left with is a feeling of never being a good enough and constantly running behind. We’re left with a depressed generation suffering from a lack of self worth and low self-esteem, tangled up in an endless search for self-assurance while making our personal happiness dependent on external forces & systems we can’t really control.

But with this, I leave the thought with you (: As always, in case you're on Twitter @vanschneider I'd be curious to hear your opinion.

Have a wonderful week,

// HEADER IMAGE BY: Xavier Sotomayor

May 25, 2017No Comments

100 Weekly Emails and 30.000+ Readers later

I honestly would have never imagined that I will ever get here and write this article to you. Today is a special day as it is the 100th Edition of my weekly email I started almost two years ago.

Today, 100 weeks ago I decided to challenge myself and write a weekly email to you every Sunday night (well, sometimes a few days later I admit that).

When I sent out the first weekly email I was anxious but excited. I think on the first day around 30 people signed up, close friends and family mostly. I didn’t have much expectations but I wanted to do this for myself first and foremost. After all, writing for me is an extension of thinking and sorting my thoughts.

Now, 100 weeks later more than 30.000 people signed up and I’m still writing every week. I have to admit, there have been weeks I struggled to sit down and write and on others I couldn’t decide what to write because there was just too much to say.

There are tons of things I learned from writing these articles. Here are some of my favorite learnings:

Lesson Nr.1

I completely underestimated the work to promise a fresh new article every week. It would probably be easier for me to do some reporting on current events or news, or just share some links or write a diary style article (which I sometimes ended up doing). But sitting down for a new unique article every time did stress me out at times. To write consistently every week needs some serious planning especially if it's not what you do for a living and there are other things I need to work on.

PS: For some reason I started this blog on the side as well to write even more.

Lesson Nr.2

Un-Subscribes don’t matter as much as them seem. I noticed that my own expectations to this weekly email became higher and it kind of took the fun away from it. I remember the moment a couple thousand readers already subscribed to this email list and I closely monitored everyone who unsubscribed.

I have to admit it was dragging me down and I felt like I couldn’t make everyone happy at the same time. But even this was a learning phase I had to go through. In the last year I never looked at my unsubscribes again and started to even encourage people to unsubscribe. Because honestly, why force someone to stay on an email list? You either enjoy reading or you don’t. I even started removing inactive subscribers myself every other week. (for example, if someone hasn’t opened my last 10 emails I will remove the email from the list)

The only metric I look at is the open rate, how many people actually open my weekly emails, read them and click on links or engage in any other way. This usually tells me if people enjoyed it or not. I'm definitely invested in keeping a healthy email list, but I'm not obsessed with monitoring who unsubscribes after a certain email was sent.

Lesson Nr.3

The boredom comes fast. After writing this weekly email for a fair amount of time now I also noticed how easily I get bored with one specific format. You might have noticed I tried to mix it up a few times, rotating between unique and specific articles, diary style emails or even including some of my readers questions and answering them here. I don’t think I have fully figured it out yet, but one thing I know for sure is that I want to keep writing and keeping it real, authentic (gosh I dislike this word) and fun!

I want to take this opportunity to THANK YOU for your support and simply the fact that you keep reading every week. There is nothing more beautiful to hear from friends that I made it into their weekly Monday morning routine with this email. A little thing to get you started into a fresh you week.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! The last 100 weeks have been unreal and this little community here is my absolute favorite thing. Thank you for being part of it.

I also have to giggle a bit every time I get an email back that says “This was your best article yet” because it only shows how different each reader interprets each of my emails. For one it might be the worst article yet, an for some it might be the best. But trust me, every week since I’ve started this weekly email it is harder for me to hit the “SEND” button. Even if I try and force myself to keep it casual, I still struggle to hit the send button most of the time.

I’m still reading EVERY SINGLE reply I get back via email, even if I sometimes won’t be able to reply, or it might take me weeks to reply. I appreciate you, your thoughts and your feedback. I'm listening and even if I miss to reply, your voice is heard and does influence future emails or articles.

I promise to keep writing here every week and if I’m overly motivated, I will put it on my blog where I started sharing even more articles. My goal is to keep this email list more private and “rough”. Shiny interviews and articles will go to my blog from now on, more personal and rough thoughts will go on this personal email list.

Oh, and here are some of my personal favorite articles from the past 100 Editions:

Thank you so much for reading once again and your love and support. I wish you all a wonderful new week,

PS: In case you are not on my weekly email yet, you can always subscribe right here. Every Sunday night (or morning, depending on where you are in the world).

Yours truly,


May 16, 2017No Comments

Tokyo Diary Part 1

I have to admit I haven't posted in a while here, well, only a couple days really. But my excuse is that I’ve been traveling around Japan with little to no Internet. But today, I’d like to take the chance to share with you a couple of the things I've seen over the last 2-3 weeks.

For this article, I’m choosing more of a diary style format. Makes me remember of how blogging really used to be 10 years ago. Just writing, straight from the heart without making it feel like a perfect "piece" or calling it an "article". Just thoughts, from me, to you.

I arrived in Japan a little over two weeks ago and I’m absolutely in love with it. I’m staying in a friend’s apartment in Ebisu which is pretty close to Shibuya, the city center. As you can imagine, coming straight from New York a 13-hour time difference hits you pretty hard. I spent most of my first week running around Tokyo getting familiar with the city and making the most out of my jet lag.

In the 2+ weeks I’ve been here, I can already rank Tokyo at least on the same level as New York on my list of favorite cities in the world, closely followed by Barcelona. To describe Tokyo as briefly as possible, I’d say it’s a clean and organized version of New York. It’s massive, but everything works smoothly.

This is the subway train plan in Tokyo. Pure madness, but also kind of beautiful.


Compared to New York, the subway is clean, fast and on time. You also have reception on the train, underground. Everyone is extremely polite and respectful. In the last two weeks I haven’t heard one car honk, compared to New York, where you can barely count to 10 before you hear someone honking.

Me exploring the city.

The food is delicious. I haven’t had a single bad meal yet and I’ve had Japanese, Italian, American, French and Israeli. I’m obsessed with Japanese sweets. My goal is to try most of it before I leave the country, and yes, I’m fully aware that I’ll have to postpone my beach body goal, yet again, to next year.

Here are a couple more fun facts and observations from Tokyo:

  1. The majority of people I see wear these white medical face masks. I’ve tried to understand why, but so far I’ve heard many reasons. Some people wear them because they’re sick and they don’t want to spread germs any further. Others wear them to avoid getting sick, even though they’re healthy. Pollen and allergies is a big reason. Air pollution is too. Although, according to my research, these masks are pretty useless when it comes to air pollution. Some wear them to obscure their identity, and some wear them because it’s simply a fashion item. Fact is, a lot of people wear them but probably all for different reasons.
  2. Tokyo, and Japan in general, speaks almost zero English. I did expect that I wouldn’t see people speaking English on the countryside, but I was surprised to learn that people (even young ones) in Tokyo don’t speak English. Or at least, they might not want to. For a massive city like this, it hit me by surprise, but you will get along just fine.
  3. Tokyo and the rest of the country still runs on cash. Most restaurants and other shops don’t accept credit cards, which is kinda surprising as most of the country seems very modern to me. On top of it, using cash doesn’t seem to be very compatible with the Japanese obsession with hygiene (nothing worse than touching coins full of germs).
  4. More than 80% of all households and pretty much all public bathrooms in Japan have the so-called “super toilets.” They’re essentially a toilet and bidet in one. Gotta appreciate a clean butt.
  5. Process, process, process. There is a process and rule for everything. I thought it couldn’t get more strict than German, but Japan is extremely organized and lives on rules. It’s very interesting to observe all the little details. I think for me it's interesting to observe, but if you live here or are born here I can imagine it being quite extreme for some of us who're not used to that much procedures. I mean, I even feel bad in Tokyo for crossing a small street where there is no designated crosswalk. (people just don't do that here). Same goes with crossing a street as a pedestrian when the light is red. In New York you cross anyway, as long as there is no car you're fine. In Tokyo, no one does it. The rules are there to be respected, not to be broken, even if you might think a certain rule doesn't matter that much.

Another thing I’m absolutely obsessed with is the architecture, especially contemporary architecture. There is so much of it. I’ve been hunting down new buildings every day and as you might have noticed, my Instagram is finally active again. I'm planning to put up another article just talking about architecture with some images and a little architecture tour.

Let’s talk about shopping. The city is a dream for those who are into fashion, or anything really. Most places also offer tax free shopping which makes it even more worthwhile.

The best areas to shop in right now are Ebisu, Shibuya, Daikanyama, everything around Jingumae and Kita-Aoyama. The best way I’ve found to shop is to explore based on the “brown” pockets you see on Google maps. Those are usually the nice streets filled with interesting things. I’m thinking about another article that only focuses on good stores for shopping; it would be just too much to list them all here.

Last week I had the opportunity to go sightseeing on the two islands Teshima and Naoshima, both filled with dozens of museums and beautiful art. I will be sure to include the best of both islands in my architecture/art article.

The Teshima Art Museum

After seeing the two islands, we went to a brief trip to Kyoto which was even more beautiful and had a more traditional feel compared to Tokyo. After that, a quick trip to Gifu to check out the Site of Reversible Destiny, a hidden gem far away from the city.

I’ve been traveling with a Japanese friend of mine and have learned a lot about the culture (thank you, Ayaka) while traveling to more countryside destinations and staying at traditional ryokans. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese hotel you could say, but more like an Airbnb with an active host that might even cook for you. I quickly learned how incompatible my body is with traditional Japanese houses. I kept bumping my head and had a hard time sitting on the floor eating on tables that are about 50cm high. I’ll admit that I’m not the most flexible person, so that was a big challenge for me.

Overall I’m in love with Tokyo and can easily imagine living here for a little bit longer. Luckily I still have 10 more days to stay and hope to share with you much more over the course of next week. Watch out for another article soon, diary style again. And of course, the two articles, one about shopping and one about architecture. 

Talk to you soon again,


April 20, 2017No Comments

How to Survive as a European in NYC 

In 2011, my partner and I moved to New York. Straight from Austria without knowing what to expect. It was not only my first time in New York or the US, but the first time I ever crossed an ocean.

Since then I fell in love with the city. But I noticed a lot of small little things that are very different compared to Austria or Germany where I grew up.

Here is what I learned:

1. Walk as if you're on a mission

To survive on the sidewalk and not bump into other people follow these simple rules:

a. Walk two times faster than you would normally do. Pretend you are overly confident and imagine you are going somewhere. You’re not just walking, you are marching towards a goal, you’re on a mission!

b. Hold a “latte to go” in your left hand, and your iPhone in your right. You can pretend to be on a call or just check your Tweets. You don’t need to look at the street in front of you, just keep your tempo and crowd will take care of you. It’s like magic. The moment you look out for other people or turn around, you will bump into someone.

c. Never stop walking, ever. It’s like a highway. If you just want to stand around doing nothing go to Times Square. Real New Yorkers don't go there.

2. Don’t smile at people, unless…

Don’t smile at people on the street. Unless you are interested in “BUY GOLD CHEAP NOW!!!!” or people trying to change your religion. Avoid eye contact at all times. In the streets, and especially on the subway. While I find New Yorkers are generally very social and approachable, there seems to be a different set of rules on the subway train. Eye contact in a bar is totally fine, but on the train please mind your own business.

3. All doors seem broken at first

Doors lock and unlock the opposite way compared to Germany or Austria for example, which takes some time to get used to. In Germany you usually turn your key away from the direction of the lock to unlock a door. In NYC it’s exactly the other way around.

4. The subway, aka the Fight Club

The majority of people in New York are very polite and helpful. But when it comes to getting on the train from Brooklyn to Manhattan, they show no mercy. And no, not even the lady in her 80’s will make a difference. She needs to get on the train, and she will get on the train.

Being polite and letting other people on the train means missing five trains and never getting anywhere. So when it comes to catching a train, throw away your European manners because all that counts is YOU being on the train.

5. Magnolia Bakery?

The hyped Magnolia Bakery is expensive and I don't think it's even good. And no, I never watched Sex and the City 😛

6. Tip your friendly staff

How complicated can it be? In Austria, tipping is voluntary and you usually only do it if your experience was beyond amazing. And even then, you just round up a few cents. In New York you should always tip at least 15–20% for food or riding a taxi. Technically it makes sense because service people in the U.S. rely on the 20% to make a living. The service fee is not included in their salary, like it is compared to most European countries.

Dining with 6+ friends means tipping is usually included on the final check. I know, it’s weird. That just means you don’t have to tip, otherwise you will tip 40%. Happened to me a lot. You would also assume that dining as a party would mean you get separate checks. But no, that would be too easy. Have fun going out with a group of seven friends for dinner.

A little trick I do is: On the check, they usually show the taxes below the final amount which is always 10%. Just take that amount, double it, and you know how much you need to tip.

7. McDonald's

I went to McDonald's maybe two times since I've lived in New York and got sick every time I went there. There is a huge difference in quality between European and American McDonalds. I had one of my first dates with my girlfriend in McDonalds in Austria, and I did not consider that a bad spot to pick for a date.

8. Heating madness

The heating system in most apartments is madness. Unless you are rich, or lucky to get an apartment in a new building, your heating essentially works at random and out of your control. That means, waking up at 3 a.m. sweating (even though it’s winter) and just leaving the windows open because there is no way to turn off the heating.

In most old buildings the heating is essentially controlled by one party in your building. In most cases that's the person who lives in the ground floor. So unless that person isn't freezing, you won't get any heat yourself.

9. Hey, How are you?

Instead of just “Hi” or “Hello” like we say in Austria or Germany, here in New York people say “Hi, how are you?”.  That might be confusing at first, but you get used to it.

The trick is that you simply reply with, “I’m fine thanks, how are you?” Then the other person will say exactly the same and now you can FINALLY start your conversation, for example ordering that latte to go.

The important thing to know is that no one really wants to know how you are. Saying “how are you” is just a greeting, so you better not answer with how much of a shitty day you had, because that's awkward. No one really gives a fuck about how you are.

10. Paying with checks?

You pay with checks (cheques). For example your rent. Yes, checks. That old paper thingy we got rid of in Germany ages ago. But for some reason, signing a check each month and ripping it out of my checkbook makes me feel like a grown up from the 60’s.

11. They measure stuff in feet & toes.

Don’t even get me started on Fahrenheit. Even after seven years, I still don't understand any of it.  I have, however, converted one or two people to the metric system. SUCCESS!

12. Health is a luxury, apparently

When you go to the doctor in NYC, even if you have health insurance, you need to sign a paper that says, “Whatever you diagnose me with, I might have to pay for myself because my insurance might not cover it. But no one knows  just yet." In Germany it would just say: You’re covered.

PS: Health Insurance in NYC means everything except mouth and eyes, because thats apparently not part of your body. Yes, dental and vision plans are different from healthcare. I think we might be spoiled in Germany.

13. NYC makes you stronger

You’re sick a lot in the first year? That’s normal, your body is just adjusting to all the germs and dirt. At least that’s what my doctor told me.

14. I’m on drugs

Drugs are awesome. While in Germany or Austria you can’t get anything without getting a prescription. In NYC you can buy pretty strong pain killers, etc. right off the shelf. And with that I mean 200 tablets family packs for less than $10. Oh the possibilities!*

*I need to make sure to clearly tag this as irony. Drugs are not awesome.

15. Cockroaches

Before moving to NYC, I did not know that cockroaches can grow to that size, nor did I know that they are almost indestructible. I lost many good, heavy books to killing cockroaches in our apartment last summer.

16. Bed bugs

I also did not know what bed bugs are, nor that they can shut down entire neighborhoods within hours. Please don't Google it, just believe me.

17. How to yellow cab

If you want to get a classy yellow cab from Manhattan to Brooklyn, first stop the cab, enter it, and THEN tell the driver where you want to go. If you just open the door and say “I’d like to go to Brooklyn” chances are high that the cab driver will suddenly act like an alien that doesn’t understand english. If you are already in the car, they have to get you to your destination, by law. Most of them are just lazy.

18. Cash only!

Some very well established restaurants are “cash only” but have their own ATM inside the restaurant. YES! TECHNOLOGY! (I learned that the reason are credit card fees, and some restaurants just don't want to pay them, so they force you to pay with cash. Makes sense, to some extent.)

19. Find a laundry place

Until I moved to NYC I didn’t know that having a washer and dryer, or even dishwasher, is a luxury. Taking your clothes to the laundry service in your neighborhood is pretty normal. Most apartments either don’t have the space for a washer, or they don’t have the pipes to support them. Our bathroom certainly does not have either one of them. You can barely fit two people into it.

20. The best pancakes!

I never expected that I would wait three hours to get pancakes for my Sunday brunch. But then again, what pancakes wouldn’t be amazing after a three hour wait?

21. Food poisoning

I learned that when you go to restaurants, there is a piece of paper on the outside that has a letter on it stating it’s health rating according to the government. A is the best rating, B you might consider going there, C I have yet to see myself.

Going into a restaurant without a rating or “Rating Pending” means doing so at your own risk. I learned this the hard way with my first bad food poisoning in my first year. But then again, my stomach wasn’t ready for NYC I guess. In Austria there might be bad places, but you would be able to tell right away from the outside, no rating needed.


When it snows, they call it BLIZZARD here in NYC. And when it’s windy it’s called a HURRICANE and it always has a cute name, such as Jonas, Tiffany or Pancake storm. In Austria, we just say “it’s snowing."

Now you might say, but Tobias, most of the things you mentioned above seem to be negative. Why do you live in New York?

Because it’s my new home. It’s the best city I ever lived in. New York is amazing. The people are driven, friendly, passionate and diverse. There is this feeling of energy on the street I haven’t found in any other city yet.

It’s a magical city and for everyone downside there are ten things more amazing about it.

I even wrote a book on How to move to New York. It's for those people who seriously consider moving to New York and walks you through all the details you need to know. From finding a job, calculating cost of living down to all things visa and getting settled in your first New York apartment.

Have a fantastic week,

April 4, 2017No Comments

How to Move to New York: The Guide

The time has finally come. I'm excited to share my first ebook with you.  ?

This book is the first I've ever written and it's meant to answer a question I receive on an almost daily basis: How do you move to New York City?

Let's Go to NYC is a step-by-step guide to help you move to New York from outside the States. It covers everything, from finding a job, calculating the cost of living, getting the right work visa, finding an apartment and planning for all the little details that come up when settling into a new city.

Th ebook isn't so much a city guide nor is it about personal stories, but it's about everything that I wish I would have known when I first came to New York. My goal was to write a book that I would have loved to purchase myself.

To get a quick chapter overview, go to:


For those who don't know about me and my story, here is a little intro:

A bit over six years ago I decided to move to New York City. I was born in Germany but lived in Austria at the time, where I ran my own design studio. Like many who moved to New York before me, I packed my bags without a plan but with big dreams. Fast forward to today and I’m still living and creating in NYC. 

As you can imagine, moving from a small town in Austria to one of the biggest and most expensive cities in the world wasn’t easy. One of many obstacles I had to overcome was the language barrier, because my English wasn’t great. On top of that, the only traditional education I had was high school, and I dropped out at the age of 15. I knew without a degree it would be harder for me to enter a new country known for its demanding immigration procedure.

But I did, and it was worth it. I learned a lot from my move to New York and even more in the years I’ve lived here since. Now I’m sharing everything I know with you, with the hope of making your move as easy and enjoyable as possible (in case you ever dreamed of living here, even if just temporarily).

Most of this information is available in some form on the internet but it’s either scattered, outdated or written in complicated language that is difficult to understand. In this guide I’ve provided all the information you need when planning your move, collected in the simplest form possible. No bullshit, no fluff. 

A few fun facts behind the book

1. It took a year to write it and it ended up being a little more than 150 pages long, but I ultimately managed to cut it down to just 106 pages. I wanted to keep it short and snappy, so it's an easy reference for you.

2. I didn't do all of it myself; I had a wonderful team who helped me. My editor Lizzy who basically saved me from the occasional depression (thank you for that). Then my designer/illustrator Lu who worked with me on the beautiful city illustrations of Manhattan & Brooklyn. And then of course, my lawyer friends who helped me go through the information multiple times to make sure I don't spread any bullshit. It was a big challenge, especially given that U.S. immigration law is changing constantly. So please, always consult a professional, especially when it comes to visas.

3. I designed the ebook myself in InDesign, for those who are wondering. I first started with a pretty fancy layout (I'm a designer after all) but slowly realized I needed to simplify to make it work for ebook reading on a Kindle, for example. The cover is inspired by those classic pink, green or grey legal forms you probably know. As romantic as it might sound, moving to New York will essentially come down to filling out forms, hundreds of them. I've always had a little obsession with forms, so it felt right.

A few words on the price

I thought long about the pricing of the guide, especially considering it took me almost a year to finish and the hard work of a couple more people. I settled on $39 which is a little more than two cocktails in New York ($15 each). This might be expensive for some, but ultimately it will save you hundreds of dollars in the process. Please do NOT purchase the ebook if you are NOT seriously considering moving; it would be a waste of money for you.


Check out the FAQ section on the Let's Go To NYC website. And please do forward this page to anyone who you might think is interested in moving to New York. 

In any case, thank you so much again for supporting my writing. All money that will be made on this ebook (well, at least what's left after taxes) will be reinvested in this blog, which I currently keep alive independently.

Stay awesome & keep creating,

March 13, 2017No Comments

“Because we’ve always done it that way”

 I've been thinking about this topic a lot the last couple weeks. I've seen it happening with bigger companies, smaller companies or even in politics.

I even recently caught myself saying this exact phrase after someone asked me why we do certain things at my company. I replied with: "Well, we've always done it that way." And in this moment, I felt the stupidity of my answer. I couldn't fully justify what I just said.

Sure, sometimes it can be a legit answer. Tradition isn't anything other than "Because we've always done it that way." There is some kind of peace in consistency, keeping it the same and doing it the way it always has been done. We're creatures of habit, after all.

But I'm beginning to think these seven words are what's wrong with pretty much everything. Just because we've always done it like this doesn't mean it's the best way of doing it. We've become a slave to rituals when we have no idea where they originate from.

You might have heard about the story with the five monkeys. It's a simplified story about a research project G. R. Stephenson performed in the 60's on a group of monkeys.

Disclaimer: The story below is highly simplified. It's been told many times, and chances are high that someone on the internet tried to debunk it. In any regard, I think it's a perfect metaphor.

Here is how the experiment went:

1. Start with a room containing five monkeys. In the room, hang a banana on a string and put stairs under it. You don't need to wait long and a monkey will go to the stairs and start climbing towards the banana.

2. Now, as soon as the monkey touches the stairs, spray all the monkeys with cold water as punishment. After a while, another monkey gives it a try with the same result – all the monkeys are sprayed with cold water.

3. Next step, turn off the cold water. If, later, another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it even though no water sprays at them.

4. Now, remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new ape sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his horror, all of the monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be punished.

5. Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.

6. Again, replace a third original monkey with a new one. The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four monkeys that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

7. After replacing the fourth and fifth original monkey, all the monkeys that were sprayed with cold water have been replaced.

Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs, but no one really knows why. All the original monkeys who experienced the water-spraying punishment have been replaced.

What we're left with are five monkeys who know that they can't touch the banana, but they don't really know why. Because that's the way it's always been done around here.


Now of course, this study is supposed to be a metaphor for humans. We live in times of complex structures, both organizational and political. And in many cases, we justify specific behavior with: "It's always been done that way."

Not many of us question WHY, and even fewer of us try to challenge the status quo. Because all we know is that we're not allowed to go close to the stairs and eat the banana. We don't know why, but we conform to these unspoken rules.

Having learned "the rules" we accept them without witnessing any personal experience that either confirms or denies the existence of them. In the end, we become resistant to change simply by submitting ourselves to unjustifiable rules.

I personally like to remind myself of the monkey story every other week to make sure I know why I'm doing certain things.

It's of course OK to follow protocol if there is a particular reason behind it, but if the reason is simply "Because we've always done it that way," there might be a huge flaw in the system that no one is aware of.

Keep creating & have a wonderful week,

March 6, 2017No Comments

Best of The Week, March 6th

Oh wow, what a week! Same for you? Tell me something new & exciting! This is one of those weekly emails where instead of sharing you one article, I share with you a couple things to get your week started the right way, just to mix it up a bit.

There is just too much to talk about for this week, and I want to share it all with you. Maybe one of those things catches your eye

Nr.1 - The new "How to get a job at Company X" article series. First up, Airbnb.

Yessss, I'm currently in the process of writing a new article series on my blog about how to land a job at Company X. And with company X I mean a list of companies I admire and you asked for.

Starting the series, in just this moment I published "How to get a Design job at Airbnb". I hope you will enjoy this new article series and get some value out of them.

Any companies you want me to cover? Send me a quick tweet!

Nr.2 - Shoe Dog, the story of Nike by Phil Knight

I just finished the book called "Shoe Dog"* written by Phil Knight, Ex-CEO and founder of Nike. I enjoyed the book so much I had to share it with you here. I picked it up and couldn't put it down anymore, often reading it for 3-4 hours in one sit down. Phil Knights writing style is almost poetic and calming. And on top, the whole story of Nike is just madness and highly inspiring. And even if you're "put off" by Nike due to the "sweatshop scandal" a couple years ago, I'd recommend the book even more because it also talks about just that.

Nr.3 - 8 Tips to stay on top of your freelance finances

As part of my new "Freelance Life" series I write together with Nika, we published another piece of, this time talking about some tips & tricks to stay in control of your finances. Even as a non freelance these little nuggets might be helpful to you. And if not, you probably know a struggling freelance, feel free to forward it to them (:

Nr.4 - The Anxiety of Alone time

Another article we had in the pipeline, written together with the lovely Lizzy now on my blog. To sum it up, here is one of my favorite quotes from the article: “In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.”

I'm pretty sure you may be able to relate.

Nr.5 - Currently reading: Sapiens

Right now I'm reading a book called "Sapiens"* which essentially goes through the most important milestones of human history, but does so as brief and factual as possible. It's another one of those books I just can't put down. I will probably be done with it by end of this week & will catch up with a short review.

What else happened?

- I made the jump. Signed up to my first week for HelloFresh. (If you're curious too, use this link to get $40 off, this helped me make the jump too). Hello Fresh is like food delivery subscription, but you still cook yourself. Never tried it before, I'll report back.

- I looked at new InEar headphones. Found these for $999 and wondered holy shit, how must they sound? Obviously I didn't buy them but opted for the $99 version instead. Will let you know how I like them.

- After heavy back pain lately, I'm now trying a standing desk setup at home. (My Instagram story from today shows a picture of that self made mess)

- I started running again last week. I feel like I live in a 50 year old body.

Thank you very much once again for reading and I wish you a wonderful new week and a Happy Monday.

Stay awesome,

February 17, 2017No Comments

The Future of This Blog

Hey friends

I'm Tobias, you probably know me or some of my articles if you've been reading this blog for a while. I wanted to give you a quick status update on how things are going.

My writing has been around for a while now, but this blog is fairly new and I can tell you I LOVE writing for it every single day. It's next to my weekly Sunday email, my main medium to communicate with you and express myself.

It's hard to put this blog into a category, but looking at the last couple of months, most of the writing on here is about design, productivity and self improvement.

My ultimate goal with this blog is to create a platform and archive of articles that talk about design & making things, but from the perspective of a maker, not a writer.

It's one of these things I dislike the most about the majority of design magazines or design blogs out there. Most of them are owned by publishing empires and articles are written by random self-proclaimed "journalists" with zero insight into the design or maker community. They're mostly trash, they're fast food.

This blog should be the opposite. Real people working as real designers or makers who also happen to write articles and share knowledge once in a while. The goal is to share a healthy mix of philosophical articles and articles that are a bit more about the nitty gritty of being a designer or maker. For example articles about great Typeface resources, or how I edit my pictures for Instagram.

Over the past weeks you probably noticed how I'm experimenting with the content on this blog. There are also now multiple contributors sharing different kinds of articles. For example Lu started sharing our monthly portfolio inspiration articles, and Nika and I are planning on publishing a whole new series on being a freelancer in the coming weeks.

And then there is Lizzy, who just published an article on the beauty of wasting your ideas.

With all these articles our aim is to cover a fairly large field of interest, but still targeting you, the individual reader who is probably some sort of designer or creator (even if not, I'm glad you're reading). I believe that being a designer is a lot more than just being interested in colors, typefaces and shapes.

In the end, this blog is meant to motivate you and inspire you. It's meant to lower the entry barrier for people who like to get into design, become better at design or simply just want to create their own products.

I'm constantly working on new improvements for the blog, little code adjustments and little design tweaks. And more recently, adding guest writers I personally collaborate with to give you even more content to enjoy & inspire.

If you like to support this blog, all you have to do is just sharing it with your friends and hopefully it provides some value to them. As of now, this blog will remain advertising free and if this will ever change, you will be the first to know.

Stay awesome,

February 2, 2017No Comments

There’s enough to go around

This blog exists for two reasons. One, because I love writing. It helps me process my thoughts, form my own opinions and communicate them better.

Two: I believe that people, including those within the creative community, could stand to help each other out a bit more.

Humans have this idea that if others get ahead it means that we have to fall behind. If a coworker or close friend becomes successful, we become anxious. If we receive important information or learn a valuable skill, we keep it to ourselves so we can get a leg up. We instinctively look out for ourselves and often pursue our own interests at the expense of others. As if there’s a well of good fortune that might run dry before we get to it.

Letting others stand in the spotlight does not mean we sit in the dark. If the people who surround us are happy, we will be happier. When we choose to share knowledge and kindness, we receive greater joy than when we keep good things to ourselves. Jealously and fear, on the other hand, only hold us back. This is no revelation; we all know it from experience.

I do not pretend I am not privileged. I do believe that sharing my knowledge, my skills and my ideas with others can be a small start to pursuing equality, at least within this niche circle of my online friends. When we speak of privilege and tangible resources, where consequences of imbalance are greater and can even mean life or death, the solution may not be so simple. Sharing what I know about design may not save lives or fix injustice, but it might help someone else grow and be better in some small way.

In my writing and in general, I strive to be useful. I live by this rule. Often I am qualified to do little else but offer help. So I try to help, however small the impact may seem. I hope that my musings on life and work and happiness can open a door to conversations we may not typically have in this community. Conversations that lift you up so you can do the same for others, for those inside and outside of your circle.

There is plenty of good in the world to go around.
We just have to share it.

Have a wonderful week,

January 15, 2017No Comments

My Personal Story of Becoming a Designer

One of the questions I get the most is how I became a designer. To be honest, my story isn't really something you want to follow and it's everything else but romantic. But let me tell you the story as good as I can remember (it's a compressed version).

At 15 I stopped going to school. I was a troublemaker in school and constantly at the edge of repeating the class due to horrible grades.

I think generally there are many reasons for it, but one of them was that I grew up in a rather "poor" family, well financially at least. I'm not taking this as an excuse, but let me give you some more context.

We just moved from Germany to Austria into a tiny village. And besides having little money, this of course made me & my family the perfect outsiders. I mean, just imagine this German family with a strong German accent moving into a tiny village on the Austrian countryside. My nickname was essentially "Nazi" or "Piefke", which is a slightly friendlier version of  calling you a Nazi. Getting insulted & called this way was kind of part of my childhood there, but I eventually got used to it. It also started to get better once I learned the proper Austrian dialect so I could hide the fact that I'm from Germany.

Probably one of the first pictures I took in my life. My mother, my two brothers and my sister. And of course, the house we grew up in in the middle of fucking nowhere.

I figured early on that these kids are just being kids and have no idea what they're actually talking about. So I mostly just ignored them. Yet, I do believe all of this made me become someone who always rebelled against something.

I rebelled against everyone, especially teachers who also loved to make fun of me. Ultimately, this influenced my grades & willingness to be part of any system that I increasingly started to dislike very much.

Another reason might be the fact that my father passed away very early on and I grew up without a father figure who could guide me in the right direction. But honestly, I still try to deny the truth of that. I'd say I was pretty okay with not having a father. I did have the best mother I can imagine. But still, rebellion was deeply ingrained in me, and my single mother very much supported that.

At the age of 15 I didn’t really know what to do. My main interest was skateboarding and being outside. I loved skateboarding because in the skateboard community no one gives a shit where you're from. Everything that counts is that you skate. Skateboarding is the ultimate sport for outsiders. You don't rely on a team and other skateboarders are usually also outsiders who can't deal with arbitrary rules or organized team sports.

Like I mentioned, my single mother was busy raising us four kids. I still don't know how she managed to do that. We struggled to pay for the books we needed for school, so you can imagine going to a more fancy school wasn’t even an option for me. Besides that, it was clear that "school" wasn't where I will stay for long.

But still, a couple friends of mine went to a college highly recommended by my high school teachers, otherwise “I wouldn’t be able to make it in life” they said.

I decided to give it a try. But my grades were so bad I had to do an application test first, which I of course failed at and got declined from entry into the school.

My only alternative was to join a special school made for the so called “trouble maker kids”. The school seemed promising with the hope to find a job after just a year or two — At least that’s what I thought.

After about 4 weeks at this school I just stopped going, it was horrible and I felt like a criminal for just being there. I mean, I thought I was a trouble maker, but this school was a whole different level of teenagers I could not identify with. The teacher told me that if I drop out now, I will never be able to make it and won’t find a job in the future. Staying true (or dumb) to myself, I said fuck that, and dropped out.

At the time I had a high interest in everything technical, I loved taking computers or other devices apart or repairing them. This mainly came from my passion for playing computer games such as Half Life, Counterstrike or Warcraft.

Me, around 2003. Damn, beardless, naked.

So I figured, maybe I can do something with computers? My new goal: Find a job in the IT industry, some sort of apprenticeship maybe? At the time there were only about 2–3 companies in my country who hired apprentices for these kind of positions. I sent an application to each company.

I never heard back from any of them. I mean it makes sense, I had absolutely nothing to show. I was devastated.

At the time, I had to move out of my mothers apartment. She simply couldn't afford us four kids anymore and I was now an annoying 17 year old.

I honestly don't even know how I survived the first couple months, but I think I had about $500 available from savings that helped bridge some time. These $500 mostly came from child support. Because my father died early on, the government in Germany helps single mothers with a little bit of money until the child is 18 years old.

My new apartment room was $250 a month. So I figured I can survive about 2-3 months if I make sure to only eat instant noodles for 99 cent a package. I was also in front of the computer most of the time, so my body didn't really need much. Internet and instant noodles, I was so low maintenance, it was almost funny to watch. But I didn't care, I was playing computer games and hanging in IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channels most of the time.

After I did some research, I found out that there is a program led by the government that hires you as a “fake apprentice”. It pays you about $150 a month and basically bridges the time while you’re looking for a real job. It's like a welfare program for young people who never even managed to get a job in the first place.

You have to show up every day eight hours a day and they do weird team exercises with you, help you with writing application letters and stuff like that.

Most people who end up there come from much more troubled backgrounds, kids on drugs or with really serious family issues. I was certainly not one of them, well, unless you count my Internet addiction as a problem. My plan was to get out as soon as possible. If I would stay there, I would probably get into heavy drugs myself.

I finally found an IT company who said they promise to take me on as a real apprentice after a one year unpaid internship (while I still stay on the government program for $150 a month).

I obviously agreed and started working at this company as a "computer scientist" intern. Or let's put it simple: Work as a second level support person fixing blue screens for "old people" (for me at least) who can't use a PC.

Unfortunately that company went bankrupt 10 months later, right before they promised to hire me full time. I quickly found a new internship at another company, but they kicked me out ofter 3 months. I found another one, they also kicked me out after 2 months internship.

I first got into design because of computer games. I designed websites for my own Counterstrike clan or clans of other friends. I loved it!

Then, I found another company, but this time they promised me to take me on as a real apprentice and pay me $350 a month in my first year. Unfortunately they said, it's not a computer scientist apprenticeship and I have to learn software engineering.

That was fine with me, I was just happy to finally find a job.

One and a half years later I was almost at the end of finishing my software engineer apprenticeship. To successfully finish your apprenticeship you have to do one final exam  at some government institution, otherwise it’s not official and not valid. I failed the exam and decided to not repeat it. You had to pay $1000 for the test, and I simply couldn’t afford it. Did I ever mention that I really suck at exams in general?

My old boss told me that if I don’t repeat the test, everything is for nothing and I won’t be able to find a new job.

At the time the company I worked for also threatened to let me go because I was such a horrible engineer, which I can't even disagree with. But because I was already teaching myself on the side how to design (Photoshop & Dreamweaver), I convinced them to give me a chance and find a role in marketing for me. My interest was mostly print & web design so marketing seemed like an obvious fit. I was very thankful that this company gave me this opportunity, for the first time someone treated me like a normal person.

Some of my first professional design work. Here some interface/software design for the healthcare industry.

Fast forward a couple months, I decided to take a huge risk and quit the job anyway. It just didn't really work out, I was unhappy and depressed. But within a very short amount of time and lots of responsibilities I learned a lot at this company. Mostly because they pushed me a lot to learn myself. My boss (who wasn't a designer) would say "Design this marketing folder" and I would just do it. I was the only designer there for a while, so I literally designed everything. The software, the marketing materials and even the door signs in the office.

After I quit, I had very little savings left and needed to apply to welfare for the time being. That looked familiar to me. If you would have asked some of my non-existent friends, they would have told you that I’m crazy for quitting my job and going on welfare. Welfare works fairly well in Austria if you had at least 10 years professional experience, which I didn't have. So for me it wasn't really paying the bills.

Because everyone told me I won’t be able to make it as a designer without proper education, I tried to apply at a university to study design. As you can already guess, I got declined because my work wasn’t good enough and my portfolio was lacking "traditional drawings". I also didn't had a high school degree and I lacked pretty much all requirements.

So I started to apply at some more design agencies for a traditional design job, no one got back to me, which made sense. It was a hard time for me, I essentially had zero education on paper, no portfolio and just quit my job. I was an idiot.

Then I found an educational program provided by the government which would cost me about $2000 but promised to train me as a designer within 10 months. It would also give me a certificate (if I make it) that is validated by the government, exactly what I needed I thought.

I took all my savings, borrowed some money and joined the program. I never spent this much money in my life so far. Everyone around me told me that I NEED to do this for my CV, otherwise I can not prove that I’m a certified designer.

The program lasted 10 months, I barely showed up 3 months which was the minimum required to receive a “Participated” confirmation. When I was there I felt like I was back in school, with arrogant teachers telling me how much I suck and that I will never make it as a designer. I was easily the youngest there as well, most people there were in their 30's. I had a hard time to connect with people. Everyone was just trying to find a standard job, but I really wanted to design some cool stuff. The whole thing was too much like school, too theoretical for me with weird tests I needed to pass every two weeks.

So far everyone always told me what I cant do, but never what I can — I don’t blame anyone, I didn’t know better at the time.

During the 10 months where I was supposed to be at the program I started to work on a lot of side projects to build up a little portfolio. Deep in my gut there was this feeling that I CAN do it, even though everyone else was telling me the opposite. I knew I wasn't a bad designer, I just needed to find the right opportunities.

The moment the program ended, I knew I have no more options available. I was back on fucking square one again. I did some research and found another program offered by the government, but this time it was a program that teaches people about business and marketing while paying them, but with some strings attached.

At that time I was in full survival mode. The requirements for the program was that they will pay you for 10 months $500 each month if you deliver a fully written business plan within the first 3 months, but also commit to attending 70% of the marketing & business classes they provide. The goal: Make you a business owner after one year.

If you don't attend 70% of the classes and don't finish your business plan within 3 months, you will get kicked out the program. That was the deal.

I applied immediately - All I saw was $1500 for three months. Fuck the business plan, fuck the classes. I joined the program, attended roughly 70% of my classes for three months, never wrote a business plan and then got left  the program. But I still cashed in the $500 for each of the first three months. And I can tell you, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I didn't write a business plan, but I had the business in my mind. I knew what I'm going to do.

These $1500 plus some of these classes eventually pushed me to open my own studio. So after all, the program achieved what it was meant for. I opened my own business after 3 months, rather than staying 10 months.

While attending some of these business/marketing classes I also met some other people who planned on opening their business. Two of them became my first clients, because they needed a logo and a website. The first website I did I charged $400 for design, coding and everything. The second project was a logo for $150. The third was a print magazine for $300.

My "Studio" website around 2008-2009 - A few years after I went freelance.

In between I did dozens of projects for free to build my portfolio and just try to "get in". From there the rest is history, all I did was working day and night as hard as I can. It was a slow, painful but steady process. But somehow it didn't feel like that most of the time because I really enjoyed it. It was fun.

I did went into a little bit of bank debt the first few years, but luckily I recovered. The good thing in Europe is, if you have no money, banks won't give you any credits anyway. So the system is set up in a way that you can't really go much below zero.

In the first years, even well before I started my apprenticeship as software engineer, I loved designing the most random things. I was part of many "GFX forums" where I designed banners for peoples signature. I designed Clan websites, icons, Winamp skins and probably re-designed my own website every second week.

Luckily my burn rate was very slow. My apartment/room was $250 a month. I never went out, so the rest of the money I spent was on food. I mostly lived on instant noodles (99cent for 6 portions) or other frozen instant food.

I also remember eating McDonalds for one year straight. (the quality of McDonalds in Austria is surprisingly good by the way, and it's cheap!)

The reason why I wanted to tell you this story is to show you how I became a designer. At least for me, there was no perfect way and my path couldn’t be more weird and unromantic. Don't follow it!

In the end, everything that counted was that I trusted myself. Or let’s say I was too stupid to know what is right or wrong anyway. For me the obstacle became the way and the art of not knowing how to do things “the right way” helped me to think differently.

I'm very thankful for all these programs offered by the government and everyone who did support me. No one owed me anything and I'm very happy that I met people who did trusted me, especially that first company who let me design their marketing material. They kept me alive and especially the last one helped me take the jump and open my own studio. Ironically, opening my own studio was the only path that worked out for me, even though I'd have never thought that this is what I want.

My story shouldn't be a template for anyone. Everyone has a different path, there is no right or wrong way. But I hope this story gives you a little perspective and maybe helps you with some of the decisions you are facing today.

Thank you for reading & keep creating,

January 11, 2017No Comments

The Imposter Syndrome

People ask me all the time: Do you ever feel like a fraud? Like you’ve fooled everyone into thinking you know what you’re doing, but you’re actually completely unqualified? Do you ever feel guilty you’re getting paid for the shit you’re putting out into the world?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Strangely enough, the more praise I receive and the bigger projects I get, the more I have this feeling. It’s more pressure, higher expectations I might not be able to meet. I could receive 100 compliments but hear 1 person say, “You don’t deserve this,” and that’s the person I choose to believe. I’m like, “Right?! I was just thinking the same thing. Thanks for confirming it.”

And you know, a lot of people have written about this, but I feel like it can’t be said often enough. Imposter Syndrome is something that affects most of us. It affects us on different levels and it’s an issue we all deal with. Even those you might look up to.

The thing with the imposter syndrome is that it scales depending on where you are in your career. In the beginning your self confidence might be very low, so feeling like a fraud is fairly easy because you have very little experience to back up your feelings. I felt like a fraud the moment I started out as a designer, but I thought it might disappear once I got more experience.

But the problem is, the more “successful” you become, the more it makes you feel like a fraud. The stakes become higher, more people are looking at you and you will be surrounded by people who simply don’t like seeing you being successful

That’s why I always say that when you’re young and just starting out in an industry it’s the best thing that can happen, it’s so much easier to fail and do stupid things. There are no or few eyes on you which makes it easier for you to experiment. The more “successful” you get, the harder it will be because all eyes are now on you, and people are just waiting for you to fall and call you a fraud.

So basically, if you’re suffering from the Imposter Syndrome, you’re generally fucked.

On the up side, the fact that so many people talk about feeling like a fraud makes me feel it less. If some of the best designers and artists I know think this way, then maybe I’m actually better than I think. Or maybe we’re all just really good at faking it. Either way, we’re in it together. And this article is simply about recognizing this fact.

I’ve given this subject a lot of thought (judging by the amount of self-help books on it, we all have) and I’ve found a few ways to ease this debilitating feeling. Maybe they’ll be helpful to you too.

First of all, own it.

I’ve read a lot about the imposter syndrome and how it might hold you back. The problem is, most people (including myself) see themselves as a victim of the Imposter Syndrome and render themselves useless. Some even try to get rid of it, treating it like a sickness that can be cured. Maybe the one thing I learned myself is that the imposter syndrome is here to stay and if I make it part of myself, it can’t stop me anymore.

I even dislike talking about it now because I feel like it’s such a cliché thing to do. I don’t want any special snowflake treatment from other people just because I suffer from something like the Imposter Syndrome. This isn’t the solution. But the solution is to just fucking own it, accept the fact that you’re feeling like a fraud, but so does pretty much everyone else around you.

Keep a “Feel Good Folder”

Let me give you this small gift: You’re allowed to be proud of your work. I know, I know. We’re supposed to deflect compliments. We’re not supposed to actually LIKE what we make. That would be self-centered and delusional, right? Fuck that. You’re a human being who put a little life into something new. You created something, and other people might even appreciate it.

Take these tiny wins, the compliments or moments that give you a secret surge of pride, and save them. Write them down and put them in a place just for you. This is your Feel Good Folder. You’re allowed to look at it and get energy from it any time you like. It reminds you that you do have talent. Maybe. Just a little.

Talk to people you trust

Like I said, it seems that every creative person feels like they’re faking it. Ask your friends. Ask an older, wiser person you respect. Ask your designer hero. Chances are, they feel the same way you do but just don’t always talk about it. We are all more alike than we’d like to admit. And if we are all frauds, then none of us are.

Admit you don’t know

There is nothing more liberating than calling yourself out or admitting you don’t know how to do something. Then your dirty secret isn’t a secret anymore. You’ve been found out, and that makes you free. Admit you don’t know and promise you’ll figure it out. Then figure it out. Most people won’t lose respect for you, because they can relate. Say “I don’t know,” and you might encourage others to open up and offer advice – or maybe they’ll admit they don’t know either. Either way, they now know you’re not as smart as they thought you were, and you’re still alive. Who’d have thought?

I remember one of my previous NTMY podcast episodes with Simone. I asked her how she deals with insults, people making fun of her and Internet trolls in general. She simply said: “I always make sure to be the first one who laughs at myself." That kinda stuck with me because it’s such perfect advice. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Put your head down and work

I’d say “stop comparing yourself to other people” but that’s easier said than done. So instead, just get to fucking work. Put your Instagram away for a few hours, take a break from Dribbble and focus hard on your own shit. The more you work, the more you improve your skill. When you’re wondering if your work is as good as someone else’s, you are wasting time you could spend on getting even better. This is a lesson I learned from Katie Rodgers on The NTMY Show. Listen to her episode about feeling like a fraud, and how she makes amazing art despite it.

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

- Stephen King

Share praise generously


For some reason, it’s easier to drag others down than to lift them up. For some reason we think by dragging someone down we come out at the top. Rarely does it work like that.

Work harder to be kind. Never hesitate to encourage others by telling them you admire their work or a specific skill they have. Every time a sincere compliment enters your mind, say it out loud. That person may offer to teach you that specific skill you admire. They may praise you in return. Or maybe they’ll file your compliment in their Feel Good Folder, and you’ll never know much those simple words meant to them. This world of insecure people could use more positivity in it, so be the first person to share it something nice if you really mean it.

I know this from myself, I sometimes hold back on compliments because I’m thinking that the person on the other end is crazy successful and probably doesn’t really care or gets compliments all the time.

But to be honest, that’s not always the case. The moment you are “successful” people rarely just reach out to you just to tell you that you’re doing a good job. They usually only reach out to either drag you down, or because they want something from you. But real genuine compliments without any strings attached are actually pretty rare.

But going back to feeling like a fraud. I feel like one, multiple times a month. I’m drowning in self doubt and if you do too, I just want to let you know that most of us are. It's part of the deal.

But what I learned is that I won’t let the imposter syndrome dictate my life. And it also shouldn’t dictate yours. Never. And the best way to counter it is to work, put in the work and feel good about what you accomplished, regardless of what other people say.

Besides that, I think a certain amount of self doubt is healthy. If I stop feeling like a fraud one day I probably also feel like I just stopped growing.

Have a fantastic week & Stay awesome,

January 10, 2017No Comments

The cake is a lie

There is something interesting happening to us as we grow older, something that hinders us from personal growth, or limits the ability of companies to ensure constant innovation.

Protecting the Cake

Think of all the things you own as “your cake” —  the money you make, your apartment with all that great furniture and all the cool gadgets you might own. Even your personal image to a certain degree, not just physical goods.

Those things make up your personal cake. It’s a great feeling having this big tasty cake in your life right in front of you. You worked for it, so you deserve a big cake , right?

Most of our time is now devoted to protecting all those things. Because who likes to take a pay cut or move from a bigger apartment into a smaller one, or risk no place to stay at all? The older we get and the bigger our cake grows, the more we get used to a certain standard.

Personal development stagnates and becomes less relevant as our eyes are completely focused on the cake. And the fear of losing it is just too big to take any risks or try something new.

You can even see this happening in big organizations. Most of the time is devoted to protecting the cake, innovation stagnates as every eye focuses on the cake, while a new wave of small companies (some might call them startups) are taking over, beating big established brands with a “nothing to lose” attitude.

The cake is a lie

We’ve all been in those situations where all we wanted is change. Move across the world, start a new career or pivot the product into a much needed new direction.

THE CAKE IS A LIE — Roughly translates to “your promised reward is merely a fictitious motivator”. Popularized by the game “Portal” via Urban Dictionary

Every time I’m stuck, I like to imagine this big cake right in front of me.

Then I ask myself:

Am I protecting the cake again? Or are there any real reasons for me not to make the change?

In most cases, the real reason is that I'm protecting the cake. Every argument I have (even with myself) is based only around protecting what I have, not thinking about what I could have instead. Every time I do this exercise I picture myself building walls around my little cake, protecting it with everything I have. Every minute, every thought and every idea I have resolves around protecting the cake, rather than new exciting opportunities.

In the end, the cake is a lie. The cake is just an embodiment of what we believe is important to us. There is no value in protecting a cake no one can eat. Happiness will come from either baking or eating the cake, but never from protecting it.

Stay awesome,

December 30, 2016No Comments

No Alcohol, No Coffee for 27 Months

Exactly today (Dec. 26th 2016) I haven’t had a single drop of alcohol or coffee in 27 months. If you're reading this later, you can do the math yourself.

A couple of my friends on Facebook & Twitter asked me to write about my experience, so here it is, in a nutshell.

With over a year of no alcohol & coffee, I did notice some side effects. Here is what I learned.

I save $1000 every month

After 2 months I noticed that I had $1000 more on my bank account. Yes, that’s a lot, but do the math and you notice it’s not that much.

I live in New York. In order to spend $1000 on alcohol I only have to spend $33 everyday. Assume that I have 2–3 cocktails every other day (which are $10 each without tip), including some wine bottles every month for at home I can easily spend $1000.

Some might think that this is heavy alcoholism, but trust me when I say that having 1–2 drinks everyday in New York is more than normal.

Also, going out drinking means that the occasional dinner & snacks are more frequent. You don’t just drink, you get hungry and buy some food. And before you noticed it, you spend $1000.

Less gossip

If there is one thing I noticed quite early, then it’s the lack of social interaction my new diet brought with it. Here is what happened:

  • You don’t really go out anymore. It’s exhausting to explain again and again why you don’t drink and NO also one drink is not okay.
    When a group of people asks me to join them for drinks, I mostly default to answer with NO because I just don’t want to deal with gossip as a sober person.
  • If I do go for drinks, I last max. 1 hour because this is how long my attention span as a sober person lasts in a group of drunk people.
  • While I was never a party animal anyways, completely stopping with alcohol made me go out even less. It’s amazing to see the culture of drinking slowly fading away from your life. It made me realize how many friendships are actually based mostly on your drinking habits.

“Let’s go for a drink” is so engraved in our lives, because who says “Hey, let’s just meet up as sober people and talk about stuff” — Why the fuck would you do that? “Let’s get a drink” needs no explanation. It’s a thing, everyone knows what happens next.

My sleep quality increased

Removing alcohol from my diet increased my sleep quality drastically. And I’m not talking about “falling asleep” but the actual sleep quality.

You sure do fall asleep easier with 1–2 glasses of beer or wine, but the actual sleep quality might suffer. I sleep better, and I wake up with more energy. Before I always ruined my mornings, even if I only had two beers at night I could feel it in the morning. (if you’re in your early twenties, ignore this, it doesn’t affect you yet)

No coffee, less panic, less stress

This might be something more personal and not related to everyone. But removing coffee from my diet helped me become more relaxed. Coffee always made me stressed out. It increased my chance of having anxiety and also fucked up my digestion. Removing coffee/caffeine from my diet not only made me more relaxed, I also poop like a king.

Besides that, I love the smell and taste of coffee. An occasional decaf will do the trick. In the summer I now drink ice tea, in the winter regular tea.
I found out that “Going for a coffee” turned out to be more of a social activity than the actual craving for coffee. Keep the social habit, replace coffee with something else.


Overall, I’m very happy about my decision and have no desire to start drinking again. I’m also not telling you to do the same, if you’re happy with how things are going, don’t change anything.

I changed my habits out of curiosity and I like how it turned out.

PS: Before someone asks. I do not smoke cigarettes. I also don’t smoke weed. I also don’t take any drugs whatsoever. (I have Internet, that’s addiction enough for me)

Yours truly,

December 12, 2016No Comments

Fuck Work — Is Work the Evil or the Cure?

I know this is a little bit of a harsh title and I didn't mean to make it sound that negative, but this topic has been on my head for a while now.

And more recently outlets started to write about this topic, such as Aeon magazine which just recently published an article about it.

From the very beginning of my life everything always resolved around getting a job, working and getting paid. It seems almost weird to question this system because this is just how it works since hundreds of years.

And if you've been reading my articles for a while, you know that I love work. And that brings me to an important question I asked myself:

What is work?

There is no universal answer right now, only your personal opinion. But when most people hear the word "work" it has some negative associations to it. For example we often like to say "I can't come to dinner tonight, I have to work" making it sound like work is some evil that pulls us away from everything we would rather do instead, even though that might not be the case. It always makes it sound like as if I "have" to work and as if it's out of my control.

Maybe I should rather say: "I can't come, because I WANT to work.". But of course, this now makes it sound like your dinner has less priority, so this choice of words brings it's own complications.

So when we go back to the question from above, work can be either good or bad. Sometimes this depends only on your perception of it, but sometimes it's also just a matter of privilege.

Ultimately, work falls into two categories for me but with a much bigger meaning hidden behind it.

Some people have to work in order to survive. Some people are privileged enough to either choose to work at all, or at least choose what kind of work they want to do everyday, which of course changes the perception of work and turns it more into an activity of pleasure.

But generally, work and having a job brings a lot of hidden benefits with it. For example, most people would probably go crazy if they wouldn't have a daily schedule, even though they hate that particular schedule.

I also believe that hard work builds character. It makes me appreciate things and it gives me pleasure to create things. But if we're honest about it, the majority of people in this world don't have a job that enables them to create. The majority do work that shouldn't be done by humans in the first place. It's work without meaning, such as working in big factories repeating the same task over and over again.

I just recently had this conversation where one person in the group was upset by the fact that self-driving cars will eventually get rid of millions of jobs. For example in America, about 2.8 million people drive a truck around all day getting things from A to B. Self-driving trucks or other inventions can easily get rid of all of these jobs within just a few years.

Now the question is, is that a good or a bad thing? Also, is driving a truck all day for the majority of your life really the best use of your time?

I'm sure there are some truck drivers out there who would tell you that they love their job. And I'm pretty sure there are many who do. But also, how many people only say that because they've given up on what they really want to do, or just never in their life felt that there is something else they could do? I'm not judging, I'm just asking.

My point is, how would a future look like where the majority of humans don't have to work at all or simply can choose their work as an optional activity? What if this would be a privilege everyone can enjoy?

Do you think this is a good thing? Or would it put the majority of us in a great depression because we wouldn't know what to do with all of this new acquired free time?

I'm pretty sure that in the short term many of us would probably welcome the theoretical idea of it, but practically we would suffer from boredom and ultimately sadness and depression.

But on the other hand, you can already see that today. Boredom is the ‘privilege’ of modern man and more people than ever suffer from depression and aren't creatively satisfied with the work they do because the work itself provides very little to no meaning, even if that job provides very well for themselves and their family. With the majority stuck in retail sales, cashier jobs or even well paid dull office jobs there is very little that makes you feel like you accomplished something.

Are we fucked either way?

At one hand the majority of us works in shitty underpaid low-wage jobs that make us struggle financially, and on the other we have dull office jobs that remove the financial struggle but make us go insane.

So you're essentially left with two choices: Distress or Boredom.

“Mankind was apparently doomed to vacillate between the two extremities of distress and boredom." ~Schopenhauer.

In actual fact, boredom is now causing more problems to solve that distress. And these problems are growing increasingly crucial, for progressive automation will probably lead to an enormous increase in the leisure hours available to the average worker. The pity of it is that many of these will not know what to do with all their newly acquired free time.” - Viktor E. Frankl

Simply put: Even if technology is helping us to solve all these problems and free more people from their shitty job, what happens next? What will you do with all of your free time?

After all, work seems to be the necessary evil for a healthy human being. But maybe work is the wrong term, because work is just a vehicle for routine, progress and activity, right? Maybe even just a legal drug to escape the much feared feeling of boredom.

I honestly don't know. But I have this on my mind all the time. The thing is, even if we solve this problem in the future, like let's say we manage to free the majority of our population from a daily job (because machines are now doing that), while still providing everyone with food and shelter of course.  - How would that play out?

What will happen to those people who want to work because they want to enjoy more luxury? Is it fair? Because I assume that even in a world where basic things such as food and shelter is provided, people still seek for luxury which means there will be always someone who has something that you don't have, even though you live a perfectly fine life.

And what will happen to those people who just choose to stay at home, and while perfectly financial stable they're deeply depressed due to boredom?

Maybe this goes down all the way to how we raise our children and what we teach in school. Right now we teach people how to follow rules, routines and become great employees. People nowadays need to be told what to do in order to be happy, and if no one says what they should do, they're not happy.

Maybe in the future we will raise more self-directed human beings, more people who choose to make art and just be active on their own schedule.

Maybe we even discover that boredom isn't a bad thing and allow us to be bored? Did you know for example that the word "boredom" is not found in the English language before the 1760s when it suddenly appeared and since the the usages has progressively increased?

Does that mean people weren't bored before the 1760s or does it mean people were experienced boredom but didn't feel the urge to express it, because they felt perfectly content with it?

Now, the reason I wrote this article is because I want to inspire you to think about this yourself. Forming your own opinion, using it as a dinner table discussion or simply as a motivation to think about a potential world without jobs and how you personally would feel about it.

It's about asking questions rather than finding the right answers. The answer will come soon enough.

Thank you for reading, and if you like to share something with me, please always send me a tweet @vanschneider and I'm happy to talk to you.

Stay awesome,


December 1, 2016No Comments

How Many F*cks do you Give?

A couple weeks ago I tweeted something along the lines "I feel like the older I get, the less fucks I give". It was a spontaneous observation of my behavior, especially the last two years.

Shortly after, someone tweeted this image at me.

It really stuck with me and made me think a lot about this topic. When I was younger I always gave tons of fucks about everything. I always wanted to be friends with everyone. I gave lots of fucks about what other people think of me.

I always used to be the clown in the class who entertained and made everyone laugh. I used to be friends with every group in school, even if those groups who didn't like each other. I put an effort into making it that way. I gave a lot of fucks.

When someone didn't like me, it gave me stomach pain and I invested tons of fucks into making sure we find common ground and sort things out. I just couldn't understand when someone didn't like me. (what did I do wrong?)

Over the years in my career, I learned that there are some people who just don't like me, no matter what I say or do. I invested even more fucks to change their mind, bring them over to my side, for no specific reason.

I wasted so many fucks over the years on people I don't even like, and I still don't even know why.

Today I find myself giving way less fucks, because my budget of fucks to give is slowly getting smaller. Probably one of the benefits of getting older.

But the thing is, I like giving a fuck. It makes me who I am and it shows that I care. I'm disappointed in myself because I wasted all these fucks as a teenager and in my early career. All these fucks I could really make use of right now, but instead I don't give a fuck, because I feel like I have so few left.

What I'm trying to say is, I don't want to be that guy who gets older and give less fucks every year. But at the same time, I like the feeling of not giving a fuck, because it conserves my energy and keeps me sane.

There is a positive and a negative side to it, and it has never been more clear to me than today. When I was younger, I didn't think of it this way, but I wish I had because holy shit I would be rich of fucks to give today.

So, my core message to myself & maybe you is: Make sure to manage your bank account of fucks you give. Don't waste them on people you don't even like, or people who're just haters for the sake of being haters. Spend them on people who deserve them & trade them with you.

Have a wonderful week,

November 21, 2016No Comments

New Blog Updates

Hey friends! It's only been a little over a month since this blog launched and so much has already happened.

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November 14, 2016No Comments

Do These 4 Things to Stay Safe Online

This is probably an unusual article for me to write, but in the recent light of political changes and many other reasons I feel inclined to write about this topic.

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November 12, 2016No Comments

Love your haters

We all know about them. People who hate on you, or the things you do. A hater can be anyone, someone you know or often someone anonymous.

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November 5, 2016No Comments

The Post Virtual Reality Sadness

Short piece on my personal experiences with VR.

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November 2, 2016No Comments

11 Most Used Tools & Apps Essential to my Work

The best apps for your Mac.

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October 27, 2016No Comments

New Mixtape for Designers & Makers

The ultimately autumn playlist

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October 24, 2016No Comments

My Photo & Camera Gear

The full list of my photography gear.

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October 6, 2016No Comments

Setting up My VR Machine

Since many of you on Twitter have been asking me about my recent VR setup I wanted to write a quick and short blog post about my experience so far.

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September 7, 2016No Comments

The DESK Blog Is Finally Live!

We did it!

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August 23, 2016No Comments

Semplice turned two!

Exactly two years ago we hit the launch button on Semplice.

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August 1, 2016No Comments

Best of the Week, Edition 65

Last week in Review

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July 18, 2016No Comments

Why I Write

I've gotten this question more and more recently. "Tobias, why do you write? Aren't you a Designer?"

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July 5, 2016No Comments

Creativity Is like breathing

I elegantly stole the subject line of this email from one of my favorite websites: The Oatmeal. 

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June 28, 2016No Comments

Visiting Vidcon as a Non-Youtuber

Last week I went to VidCon, a three day conference in Anaheim, California.

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June 21, 2016No Comments

Secrets about freelancing, I lied about my career

At least once a day I get an email from someone reaching out to me asking for advice on how to become a designer. Or more specifically, how to become a freelance designer with your own clients.

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May 9, 2016No Comments

Work/Life Balance Is Bullsh*t

There is no question being asked more often than how people manage their work/life balance.

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May 3, 2016No Comments

It’s Been One Year!

Today is a special day, this is Edition Nr.52. It's special because it means that I sent out a weekly email every Sunday, since exactly one year.

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April 12, 2016No Comments

Why I Try to Avoid a Daily Schedule

Let me tell you why.

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March 28, 2016No Comments

A Teacher Explains, a Mentor Inspires

I often get asked if I have had any mentors along the way in my life and career. I'm not sure if I'm right with this, but I feel like this is a very American question to ask.

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March 7, 2016No Comments

This is for you, internet

Today I'm writing to you from Hong Kong where I've been staying for the past week. I was invited to be a judge at the Hong Kong Global Design awards. I started thinking about what brought me here, to a country hundreds of miles from my home, and it led me to the same place I usually find myself: the internet.

If there is one thing that had the biggest impact on my life, it's the internet. It gave me a career I love. It gave me friends from around the world. It gave me the opportunity to write to you right now from Hong Kong, a city I've never been to before.


Writing from my hotel room in Hong Kong in 2016

Occasionally I'll look through my Google Analytics audience stats, or review our orders, and see where everyone is from. It always feels magical to me. Seeing people from Vietnam, Germany, Russia, Italy, Ukraine, Columbia – everywhere across the globe – are reading my writing or using my product. It's why I love the internet so much.

The friends I've known the longest, I got to know through the internet. None of my friends from school have remained, but those I met on the internet have. Some good friends I've known for more than 10 years and never even met in person, even though I talk to them on a daily basis. In some cases, I don't even want to meet them in "real life." There is something special about online friendships.

People sometimes look at our generation's relationship to the internet and shake their heads, which is fair. Not everyone has to understand it, but we all know it's the future. The world is shrinking.

Of course, this is the introvert speaking in me. Other introverts will know what I'm talking about. If there is one thing we introverts have been waiting for forever, it's the internet.

The gatekeepers are gone

My personal life aside, the internet has also made a huge impact on my professional career.

The only reason I have a job today is because I bypassed the gatekeepers. When design universities declined me, I opened up my own design studio and tried to establish it online so I could get clients. One of my first international clients reached out to me on Twitter. I had about 200 followers at the time, half of them probably bots.

With the internet, we're celebrating the death of the traditional gatekeeper.

Back in the day, if you were a band, you needed a label to promote and publish your music. Today you can do everything yourself with the help of Soundcloud & YouTube.

Back in the day, if you were a book author, you needed a publisher to print and publish your book, and the chances you'd be rejected were high. Today you can self-publish through email, blogs, ebooks or even Amazon.

Back in the day, if you were a filmmaker, you needed expensive hardware, a team and often someone who would distribute your movie. Today, you can shoot a movie on your iPhone, edit it and publish it straight to YouTube or Vimeo.

The same goes for so many other industries.

Nothing is standing in your way now. On the positive side, that means you and I can do whatever we want. On the negative side, it means you have millions of people competing with you. Luckily, most people still don't take full advantage of the internet, even today. You can still be one step ahead.

Today you don't need the approval from anyone, you can do whatever you want. The only question is, for how long?

New gatekeepers are slowly emerging in the form of closed ecosystems (the App Store) or heavily controlled social networks that manage the majority of traffic (Facebook). While you will always have freedom to chose the platform, things will eventually become harder in the future.

The internet played a huge role in my life. It's our responsibility to keep it that way. Seeing countries or corporations trying to manipulate access to the internet for a certain group of people is something that saddens me. We should never let this happen.

If you're lucky to have access to the same Internet as me, use the shit out of it. Do the things you always wanted to do because now you can, and you can do so independently of your location.

So if there is a perfect time to do the thing you always wanted to do, it's today more than ever.

Yes, this is a love letter to the internet. A love letter to all of you.

January 21, 2016No Comments

Every reason to panic

I’ve meant to write about this for a while but just couldn’t put it into words. It’s a sensitive topic and it makes me feel vulnerable, but I wanted to write and publish it because I wish more people would do the same – especially in our industry.

I barely understood anxiety until recently. I have always considered myself a happy and healthy person. I'm sure I have experienced mild anxiety before, but never to the point that I gave it a name. After all, a certain degree of anxiety is part of the human experience.

But then something strange happened. It was a regular day early in the morning, and I was on the train making my way to work from Brooklyn to Manhattan. About halfway in, I started sweating. My vision became blurred, my head started spinning and I had the sudden urge to throw up. I got off the train immediately, three stops before my destination.

Now I was sitting there in the middle of the sidewalk. I had trouble breathing and my heart was beating fast. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I couldn’t feel my legs and it was as if my mind was separated from my body. I had never experienced these sensations before, especially not at the same time. I’m not easy to freak out, but I was getting there.

My first thought was that I’m probably sick. Maybe something I ate? That must be it. I walked the last 10 blocks to the office that day. I felt better outside breathing fresh air, not locked in a subway train. I left work earlier that day. My stomach was giving me a hard time and having meetings in the office felt like torture. I just wanted to be by myself.

Over the next couple days, events kept repeating. I couldn't take the train anymore. I couldn't go to bars or restaurants. I always felt like I couldn't breathe and I was afraid I would throw up. Being around groups of people only made it worse. When going out for dinner (if I wasn’t able to avoid it) I tried to position myself close to the exit. Eating in front of other people was almost impossible anyway; I had zero appetite and preferred to eat alone at home. But I still assumed I was just sick. Maybe a stomach flu or something. It will be fine, I told myself. Let's wait another week.

After a few weeks, still nothing changed. I went to a few doctors who all confirmed I was fine, that there was nothing wrong with me from a physical perspective.

At that time, I still didn’t know what a panic attack was.

Then I went to Stockholm for a work trip. I love flying and being on planes, but this was the most horrible flight I ever had. My whole week in Stockholm turned out to be exhausting. The fact that it was winter and I never saw the sun once during that week made it even worse.

One day that week, I went back to my hotel room in Stockholm after work. I tried to have dinner at the hotel restaurant, but I couldn’t get down a single bite of my food. I was shaking and had trouble breathing again. I went to my room feeling spent. I had this overwhelming pressure and weight of sadness in my chest, for no particular reason.

That was the first time I started crying in my adult life. I can’t remember when I had last cried. It must have been at least 18 years ago. Not because I feel like I need to resist, but I never felt the urge to do so. I grew up in a society that encourages men to be strong and not cry, but I don't think that's the reason I never do. It's just not part of who I am. I just never had the inclination to do so. But in that moment, it just happened. All my energy faded away and I felt like I just gave up.

It was weird. I was experiencing a new me – someone I didn't like or fully understand. It just didn’t make sense to me. Was I having the infamous" quarter-life crisis" and no one told me that this is how it works?

I’m a designer. I like to analyze and solve problems so I figured, let's solve this one with me as the object. (Yes, this sounds easier than it was.)

I started writing down all the physical symptoms I was experiencing: chest pain, sweating, nausea and the feeling of being removed from my body in a weird way. I knew that everything happening in my body or brain is because of chemicals, and I knew the balance of those chemicals was important. If the balance is off, my body is off.

After some research, it began to make sense. I was experiencing panic attacks which transitioned into a constant feeling of anxiety throughout the day. Dealing with these shitty physical and mental symptoms occupied most of my waking time. My panic attacks were feeding themselves. I ended up getting panic attacks because I was afraid of getting a panic attack again. I was positive that if I entered a subway train, it would happen again. Usually it didn't, but it was enough to keep me anxious and away from the subway.

I still couldn’t believe it. Why the fuck me? I’m smiling all day, I’m always positive, I love my life and I’m a fucking happy person. It’s almost like I didn’t agree with my own diagnosis. I was angry at myself because I hated wasting time on this. I got shit to do! But I took it seriously. I started to learn more about panic attacks and each individual symptom. I broke it down into pieces. I was on a scientific mission to fix this problem.

I learned that when a panic attack happens, your body is preparing you for some sort of fight or flight situation. In pseudo-scientific terms, this is is what's happening:

At the core of your brain, right in the middle, you have your amygdala. The amygdala is also called "reptile brain" because it's the part of your brain responsible for your deepest and most basic intuitions. Pretty much every animal has it, and we still have it too. It's a little bit of an outdated part of your brain, but humans haven't evolved past it just yet. The amygdala tells you when you're in danger and prepares your body to be ready to face the situation.

When the amygdala notices that you're in danger it sends signals to your body to shift resources from the less important parts to the more important parts. So if you're facing a dangerous situation, the amygdala speeds up your heart rate to pump more blood through your body. Your muscles tense up so you can get prepared, and functions like your digestive system will be de-prioritized. Because obviously, you have greater worries than digestion when you're in an emergency.

Now, all of these things your amygdala does to keep you alive when being chased by a lion, or involved in a physical fight, they're important. But how can that be helpful when sitting on your couch at home alone?

Because you’re in a state of fear, your breathing becomes all fucked up. Instead of breathing deeply through the stomach, you do short breaths through your chest. This limits your oxygen intake and makes you feel you might faint. And all other symptoms are just a chain reaction that comes after.

Breaking it down like this helped me the most. I understood the practical reasons of why my body was acting all weird. The next time I got a panic attack for no apparent fucking reason while sitting on the couch, I focused on all the symptoms. I focused on my heartbeat, my sudden change of breath and chest pain. It all went according to plan.

I looked at it as if my body was another person I was trying to analyze. I suddenly started laughing, as if this doesn’t belong to me. I couldn’t help it. It was just so ridiculous and for some reason, I found it funny. This was the start of my self-therapy. Every time a panic attack was coming up, I started laughing at myself. I made fun of it. I wasn't trying to minimize any underlying issues that might be causing it, but simply felt amused by the overreaction of my amygdala.

Something magical happened. Panic attacks occurred much less frequently and when they did, I felt like I could cut them off at the quick. Making fun of my panic attacks took all the pressure and effectiveness out of them.

Whenever a panic attack happened, I was telling myself. BRING IT ON PANIC ATTACK! YES, PUMP THE BLOOD IN MY VEINS, YOU FUCKING IDIOT! GO AHEAD!

Slowly over time, my panic attacks subsided. Not the way they did before at least. There was no one around who took them seriously enough. Sorry amygdala, my little almond-shaped reptile brain.

But still, I knew I had something bigger to deal with. Constant anxiety was still a big part of my day. I also knew that I need to stop overthinking and searching for a reason. Because sometimes there is no particular reason other than the sum of many you can’t recall. That's what years of therapy can often uncover.

It’s like this with drinking water. If you are not thirsty, there is no reason to drink water in that moment, right? But after one or two days you will experience a heavy headache. Still you might say, I was never thirsty, so why do I have a headache now? Shouldn’t I have been thirsty first? The effect of not enough water is something you only experience later on. Drinking water is basically preventive care. We might not be thirsty in the moment but we know that if we don’t drink it, our body will hunt us later.

With my anxiety and panic attacks, I figured it was similar. I wasn’t drinking enough “water” and now I have to deal with it. But again, it would be too simple to nail down a single problem such as “you work too much." Rarely there is just a single reason. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was something. I was on a mission of change. My goal was to change many aspects of my life, which ultimately ended up solving my problem – or at least understanding it. I also knew that I didn’t want to take popular medication for treating anxiety. I knew for myself, this wouldn’t fix my problems but only delay them.

Here are some key points that helped me the most:

1. Breaking down a panic attack to its essentials takes away all its power. We’re scared of what we don’t understand. But the moment we understand how they physically work, it makes them less scary.

2. Anxiety gives you the feeling that you are not in control over your body or actions. Regaining control is the most important aspect to alleviate it. Knowledge gives us humans the feeling of control. Reading up on research around anxiety helped me to see myself more as a scientific subject.

We can also trick ourselves and pick other areas of our life to simulate the feeling of control. If you can’t control your anxiety, you can certainly control your diet, your physical activity or other daily activities. All these little steps will help to fight anxiety and it will slowly fade away.

3. Talking to other people about it. A reported 20% or more of all Americans currently suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, and even more have experienced it at least once in their life. That basically just means a lot of people know about it, but few talk about it.

In my case, I knew nothing about it, and I didn’t even know that what I was experiencing was fairly universal. I was thankful that I could talk to a couple friends, and to my surprise most of them have had similar experiences.

In the end…

That particular winter felt one of the worst times in my life. In retrospect, it was also one of the best. I don’t want to repeat it, but I got to know myself better again. That time helped me to grow, reflect and think about what happened the last 3–6 years.

In the end I stopped trying to search for one problem, because that is not how it works. I took some time and cleaned up my life. Quit my job, changed my diet, reflected internally and changed my habits.

I feel great again, and I know I'm emotionally and mentally stronger for having this experience. It challenged me in a way I haven’t been challenged before.

PS: It took me quite some time to hit the publish button on this article, but I think it’s the right thing to do. If you enjoyed this article please let me know on Twitter @vanschneider

Keep on fighting the good fight.

January 11, 2016No Comments

100 Years Ago

For some reason, every time a year ends I get a little emotional and enter a reflective stage. I try to zoom out, look at the bigger picture and analyze all the things that happened.

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January 4, 2016No Comments

The worst case scenario

When I sometimes chat with friends we like to talk about things we dream to do in our lives. Often these things involve us to take risks, personal risks we can’t foresee and in most cases like to avoid.

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December 28, 2015No Comments

2015 – The Year of Change

2015 has been a crazy year. It’s hard to look back and reflect on everything that has happened, but below are some of my personal highlights. I mostly write this for myself, so I can look back at it next year again — You might do the same.

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November 2, 2015No Comments

Trust your gut

Five principles have guided me through most of my life and career and I always look back to them.

I’ve already written about two of them: ignoring everybody and being a jack of all trades, master of some.  Today I'll share my third principle: trusting my gut.

To follow the advice “Trust Your Gut” in today's world seems almost a bit irresponsible. Some would even say it’s bad advice given the amount of data we now possess.

In a world of big data, where everything gets measured, decisions should be data-driven. You should have numbers and studies to back up every decision. At least that's what people say.

But I still believe in trusting my intuition. Let me tell you a short story from my childhood that explains why.

It was a regular winter deep in the mountains of Austria where I grew up with my mother and four siblings. The village was famous for its harsh winters and snow sometimes up to 2 meters high.

At the time, I was 11 years old and loved living in nature. Every morning I’d get up at 4–5 a.m. and get ready for school. This meant putting on my full ski suit and equipping myself with a flashlight, fighting my way through the snow, down the mountain. The bus stop on the main road was about 500 meters away, and on average it took me 20 minutes to get there in the winter.

You have to understand that we lived in an extremely remote place. The bus was some kind of snowmobile bus that picked up the six kids too far away from the regular bus stops.

Winters came with a high risk of avalanches, but they never happened. Usually after a night of heavy snow fall, my mother would receive a call from the mayor's office confirming that it’s safe to go down the mountain. The mountain most at risk was just on the opposite of the valley, and the valley was narrow with just one road in the middle (our main road). If the mayor's office confirmed there was a danger of avalanches that day, I had to take a significant detour and avoid the main road where I'd get picked up by the bus.

On that particular morning, I was getting ready to head into the darkness. My mother got the call that confirmed that there was no danger of avalanches today. I remember asking her three times to really make sure there is no risk. She said no. It was pitch black with a blizzard raging outside that morning. I was nervous but I did it so many times already – I had never seen anything coming down that mountain anyway. What are the chances it'd happen today?

I kissed my mother goodbye, flipped on my flashlight and went down the mountain. I don’t remember much, but halfway through I decided to ignore the mayor's (and my mother's) advice and take the detour. I had no particular reason, but my gut was telling me something.

I arrived at school without incident. Three hours later, I received a call from my mother in the principal's office. She was in tears and said she was relieved to hear my voice. Apparently, that morning, at exactly at the time I went down the road, an avalanche came down the mountain. The first one in many years.

My usual bus stop was covered in a meter of snow, rocks & ripped-out trees. If I hadn't taken the detour that morning, I don’t know if I would be alive today. Because it was pitch black with a blizzard raging outside, I didn’t even notice the avalanche coming down just meters away while taking my detour. Only in retrospect, I remember hearing something, but I thought nothing of it in that moment.


I won't forget that experience. In particular, I will remember how my mother responded to it. She had always supported and believed in me, but after that day, she told me how happy she was that I ignored her advice. I followed my gut, and she told me I should do it for the rest of my life.

Oftentimes, an experience like this is all you need to establish one of your life principles. I’ve read many books that tried to explain how our gut feeling works from a scientific viewpoint. There are many theories, but we still can’t put our finger on it.

“I believe in intuitions and inspirations…I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am.”
- Albert Einstein

I choose to believe in gut feeling, wherever it's coming from. I believe it has a place in our decision-making process, the same way collecting data does. Sometimes data is the way to go, sometimes it’s your gut.

Our gut decisions are highly personal. They are the sum of our intuitions, instincts and our life experiences. Knowing this also includes our emotional & cultural biases is important, because our gut feeling isn’t always right. But we often believe it is, mostly because our gut decisions define who we are as a person.

Right or wrong, we learn and adjust along the way.

September 14, 2015No Comments

No Struggle, No Change

As some of you might know, for the past two and a half years I had the honor to work with the fantastic Spotify team in New York. Since then a lot has changed not only for Spotify but also for me.

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August 24, 2015No Comments

How to Read a Book

There are many things I want to write about, but one question I got asked more frequently over the past couple weeks is: “How do you read so much, or find the time reading?”.

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August 3, 2015No Comments

Doing it wrong

As you might have read in one of my earlier articles, I dropped out of high school when I was 15 and started working as an apprentice for computer science, which left me with very little traditional education.

Because of that, one of the things I always struggled with was writing. It was hard for me not only in my first language (German) but also in my second language (English) which I never really learned in the few years I visited high school.

In a world where making a typo or grammatical error seems almost on the same level as committing a crime, I felt intimidated even thinking about putting some words on a page. It seemed like I had to follow established rules that everyone else knew, but I did not.

I believe the reason why I became attracted to the creative industry (as a designer) at that time was because “doing it wrong” wasn’t something you got punished for. There was no one who knew better. The rules weren’t yet established, and they hopefully never will be.

"While others are complaining, you just created something out of nothing. You are one step ahead."

When it comes to writing, things are different. Our written language follows strict rules and people love to call you out on it. But these people are really the only obstacle to overcome, nothing else.

I didn’t know how to write, but I still did it. I didn’t know how to design, but I tried it. I was doing it “wrong” for many years (I still am) but I’m doing it — and that’s what counts for me.

Every time someone complains about your writing or any other things you make, you have to understand one thing:

While others are complaining, you just created something out of nothing. You are one step ahead.

For me, the willingness to do it wrong is a gift. There are not many people who have the courage to do it the wrong way, just for the sake of doing it. The moment we understand that “the wrong way” just means “doing it my own way,” we know we’re on the right path.

As Albert Einstein already said: “The only source of knowledge is experience.” So instead of doing nothing, do it wrong.

April 12, 2015No Comments

My Top Reading Recommendations Part I

A few days ago I promised to write a couple more book recommendations, so let’s start with the first batch. Some of them are a bit older, some more recent.

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