Never Save The Best For Last

Do you ever save the best tasting bites of your meal for last, or postpone wearing your favorite outfit for that “big day” next week, or wait for a REALLY special occasion to drink that fancy wine?

Me too.. I used to do it all the time. And after years of doing it I see the effects. I was always too full to enjoy those last bites at maximum potential, my favorite clothes are in perfect condition because I never wore them but so much time has passed I don’t even like them any more, and the wine went sour long ago.

Why’s that? Because TODAY is the big day. Today is the special occasion. If today is the day you want to wear that fancy dress even though there’s no party, or if today is the day you pop that bottle of champagne at a small spontaneous gathering of friends with no birthday to celebrate.. fucking do it.

Don’t wait for that ultimate special moment–a better moment is never going to come, and if it does, you’ll probably be disappointed that it didn’t live up to your huge expectations. Who knows if you’ll even want it later? Don’t wait. Don’t save the best for last. Use the best first. There will probably be more bests that pop up along the way–you probably won’t run out of bests to try, and even if you do, run through the exciting possibilities first before resorting to less appealing options.

Imagine a huge plate of food–let’s say its a big fresh salad brimming with cherry tomatoes, spinach, candied walnuts, chickpeas, grilled chicken, the works.. as a whole that salad is great. The chicken is average but your favorite is the candied walnuts.

You have two paths you could take on your salad-eating journey.

You eat the chicken first–you want to get it out of the way so you don’t have to think about it while enjoying those tasty walnuts. You scarf it down, thinking about how boring it is and how you can’t wait till you reach the end and get to eat the walnut. By the time you have those few prized morsels left at the end, your stomach is gurgling with fullness. You don’t really even want to eat any more but you’ve GOT to now, because those delicious walnuts still remain. Finally after working so hard to get to the walnuts, you pop ‘em in your mouth. Munch munch. Hmm those really weren’t as good as you remember on the first bite.

Or.. you could scoop up your favorite bites in the first part of your meal, when you’re hungriest and most appreciative and conscious of the flavor and texture of the sweet crunchy nuts. You savor each bite slowly and work to make a good well-rounded bite each time: a few leaves of spinach, perfect amount of dressing, maybe a piece of feta topped off with the glorious shining walnut. You’re feeling really satisfied now as you reach the end of your meal and realize you don’t really want or need to eat the last few bites of boring chicken because you’re content.

The same works with bigger life choices too.

You have two options. Save the best for later, or enjoy it now while you’ve got it. Don’t save the best for last in your life–if you’ve been dreaming of climbing mount everest, don’t save it till after you’ve slaved away for 40 years wishing all the while that you were up on that mountain. Maybe in 40 years your joints will be too stiff, maybe you’ll die in a freak accident in 10 years, maybe mount everest will be off-limits to the public.

Yes there are going to be 1 million reasons why you shouldn’t do it. Yes it will make you uncomfortable. Yes there will be hardships. Yes there will be unknowns.

But the alternative is never climbing the mountain. It’s never living that crazy idea that popped into your head. Its regret and coulda, woulda, shoulda looking back.

So for the sake of your own contentment, save the best for first. Go out and thrive. And make no apologies when you enjoy the hell out of it.

Seek Out A-Ha! Moments

You never know what you don’t know till you find out.


Yesterday I visited a great company that makes letterpress cards like I do.  A rather large business, I’ve seen Hello Lucky cards stocked in stores in many cities and was happily surprised to see that their print studio, retail store and design office is right in the heart of San Francisco, which I visited briefly this week.  Since we have a lot in common, I thought I’d just stop by and say hi.

I didn’t have much of an agenda or expectations, but since they’re obviously doing something right, I thought it would be fun to see what I could see.

My non-existent expectations were blown out of the water.  I got to meet and talk nerdy with one of the master printers, explore the design studio, and meet some of the great folks that work there.

That alone was golden, but at the end I mustered up the courage to talk to the woman who  handles wholesale orders.  Even though a big part of me said it was probably useless–maybe she didn’t have any tips that I hadn’t heard, maybe the company didn’t want to give away any secrets, blah blah blah endless list of excuses and reasons not to–I still did it.

And I’m so glad I did.

One of my main objectives for the last few months has been to get wholesale buyers for my cards.  Teaming up with The Hipstery for wholesale back when I was printing in Germany worked out so well–it was fun and lucrative, so I am eager to expand in that direction.

And even though its one of my main priorities, what have I done about finding wholesale customers in the last 4 months?  NOTHING!  Until yesterday that is.  I was unsure, didn’t have any great leads, and just generally clueless as to how to approach this.  My strategy looked eerily like Southpark’s infamous gnome flowchart.

Phase two was missing, and I didn’t know what it was.  I knew what I wanted, but it was  uncharted territory for me.  Then I spoke with Heather, who has direct experience with what I’m working towards.  I simply asked if she had any tips on getting wholesale customers, and she turned over the very same Hello Lucky catalogue I was already holding in my hands and pointed to a list of Reps who find wholesale customers for you on a commission basis.

WHAT?  I had no idea that even existed!  A concrete plan of action for Phase 2!  Aha!

Could it be that simple?  Who knows.  Maybe this Phase 2 won’t work.  But I have something solid to work on now, and I will do my best to discover and test all possible Phase 2s until I successfully reach Phase 3.

The thing is, I didn’t realize my flowchart of action was missing a step until that very moment.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  And that’s a tough spot to be in, it feels a bit hopeless, like you’re searching for an unknown object in a big dark room.  But rather than continuing to search blindly for that unknown object, perhaps it is more appropriate and productive to find out what that object is first.

The only way to find out what you don’t know is to search for information.  Perhaps you have no idea where to start, like me.  Just start somewhere, anywhere, and one clue will lead you to the next.  Put yourself in scenarios that could possibly shed light on your unknowns.  Read Even better talk to people with experience doing what you’d like to do.  Yes, its scary being in the dark, but more often than not, people are willing and happy to help you.  And once you have that A-ha! moment, it gets easier. You’re finally able to turn the light on.  Its easier to work with the light on.

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What Is Good Design?

 Dieter Rams design.“Good design is as little design as possible.” - Dieter Rams

Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub.
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.

- Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching

Good Design is not about

  • costing the most
  • being the most intricate
  • having the most features

It is about cutting out the unnecesary parts to leave only what is useful.

It is the bare minimum, executed with attention to the tiniest detail.

It appears effortless.

It is less, but better.

It is timeless.

It is honest.

Dieter Rams 600 Chair on Melissa Rachel BlackDieter Rams 600 Chair

I had the honor of seeing Dieter Rams’ original designs at the San Francisco MOMA yesterday and it was pretty powerful for me.

Part of me hesitates to write that last bit because I don’t consider myself an art or design snob.  If we’re being totally honest, even though I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art, museums usually bore the crap out of me.  I think they’re stuffy and that my friends make art that’s better than half of the stuff behind fancy plastic barriers.

So when I say that seeing Dieter Rams’ stuff was the bees knees, I hope you know I mean it in a genuine way.  But it wasn’t special because his aesthetic WOW-ed me with its grandeur.  In fact, if you stepped into that room without any prior orientation, you’d probably assume you were just in IKEA.  Surrounded by rows and rows of everyday electronics and furniture, you might as well be in an office in Anytown, USA.

Melissa Rachel Black - Good DesignGetting serious at the Getty museum in LA.

What got me so excited about the Dieter Rams exhibit was the restraint.  The pure functionality of each piece.  The familiarity.  Each item, from a chair, to shelves, to hair dryers, to radios, to speakers, to televisions, to electric shavers–they all existed purely in their simplest form.

There was no showing off.  Nothing was gaudy, loud, or in your face like so much of today’s aesthetic.  They were sleek, discreet, and toned down.

“Design should not dominate things or people, it should help people.” – D. Rams

Just like Michelangelo sculpted by removing unnecessary blocks of stone, so did Rams refine and reduce to the essence of a machine, so Jonathan Ive left only the essentials in creating Apple’s quintessential products, and so you can sculpt your project, home, or life.

None of them did it alone, they took the building blocks of their predecessor and continued to subtract.

“Prefer subtraction.”Leo Babauta

Good design does not only work in art and products.  A lifestyle can be sculpted too, which is why the term “Lifestyle Design” makes so much sense to me.  I am constantly sculpting my life, molding and reshaping, trying new things and shaving away what doesn’t work.  I practice incorporating many of Rams’ 10 principles of good design in my graphic designs as well as in every aspect of life.

“We need new structures for our behaviors.  And that is design.  We have enough things. The unspectacular things are the important things, especially in the future.” – Dieter Rams

Good design goes even deeper than lifestyle and a lot farther back than famous sculptures and Dieter Rams and iPods though.  Evolution has been sculpting our bodies, our minds, our environments, and everything in our reality for at least a few years now.

It hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t been quick, but over the millennia, evolution has done a pretty fine job of smoothing out the rough spots for our human design.  We’ve got systems inside us whizzing and buzzing and reacting and interacting that keep us pumping day in and day out.  From the tiniest electron at the very core of our atomic building blocks, no detail has gone unnoticed.  Everything works in harmony (though obviously we still get sick sometimes–its a good design, nobody said it was perfect).  And yet its so simple we don’t even have to think about any of it.  The hard work is already done for us, by us, in conjunction with everyone who’s ever lived before us.

When you hone and refine, test, create, learn, make mistakes and repeat.. you evolve into more sophisticated, yet sleeker ways of living.  You are capable of more, but do less.  Strip away everything but that which is absolutely necessary.  That is the beauty of good design.