My love for bikes

Hey there!

I’m taking a respite from writing about writing to writing about one of my favorite things in the world: bikes! I’m a nutter, and I have been since I went to school at UC Santa Barbara, when I bought my first road bike: a pearly white Windsor Pro from the mid-1970s, with a full build of Campagnolo Nuovo Record components. So smooth.

So, some of my favorite news of 2018 has to do with growing bikeshare options across the country–and overseas, too. With tariff wars looming, few predictions noted the tariff impact on the US market for bike computers, bearings, spokes, and bikeshare bikes in particular. (See It seems clear that component builders like Paul, White Industries, Chris King–NorCal represents!–are bound to suffer. I can find little news on this topic, though. If you have any insights on tariff impact on the bike industry, please be in touch. Thanks! 


Ready to roll responsibly.

Setting Goals, Marking Time, & John Cage

As kids, we knew that summer commenced in June, ended in August, and school resumed in September. As adults, we learned about equinoxes and solstices and that days got longer all winter–even if it didn’t feel that way. For many kids, this weekend marks the halfway point of summer. I find it’s a good time, too, to review my goals for Q3, for it increases the chances that I can check off some big items on my quarterly to-do list in its final weeks.

I find that the making of manageable-sized goals, assigning compassionate deadlines, and crossing items off my to-do list is a huge part of adulthood. It’s essential, too, if you’re running your own business. You are repeatedly called upon to impose something (deadlines) onto nothing (the calendar) and to see it through. It’s an odd dance. So, how do you move through the rhythms of the day, the week, the month, and the season? What do you do best in the morning or in the afternoon? Can you set up your day accordingly?

John Cage’s “Lecture


John Cage enjoys a laugh, a smoke, and a rhythm. 

on Nothing” (here) (1959) is one of the oddest things I’ve ever read, but it’s something you might enjoy this weekend, especially if you have something better to do.


Mission statements and mantras

Mission statements are essential. “Knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing (your mission), where you’re trying to go (your vision), and how you’re going to go about it (your values) are the glue that holds an organization together.” Variations on this theme appear on dozens of Dear-Abby-for-entrepreneur pages, and it’s certainly helpful to take stock of your value proposition and the direction you’re heading.

Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist of Canva (a position he also held at Apple), prefers mantras to mission statements. In Art of the Start, he contrasts the mission statements of Southwest Airlines, Wendy’s, and Coca-Cola to hypothetical mantras.


Guy Kawasaki in New Zealand, listening to a J.R.R. Tolkien audiobook.

Mantras, by the way, embrace brevity, positivity, and are consumer-centric (rather than self-serving). For Southwest, Kawasaki indicates that “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit” might be reduced to “better than driving.”

Hmm … I’m not sure that’s fair, especially since he distinguishes mantras, which serve employees, from tag lines, which draw in customers. Plus, “better than driving” doesn’t really emphasize the positive.

For my colleagues in small businesses and ventures, I imagine their work and success as following this mantra-like equation:

Compassion * (Patience + Persistence) = Power

Here are a few of my hot takes for the bigger companies.

Burger King“offer reasonably priced quality food, served quickly, in attractive, clean surroundings.” Or: fast dining done right. 

Subway: “To provide the tools and knowledge to allow entrepreneurs to compete successfully in the Fast Food industry worldwide, by consistently offering value to consumers through providing great tasting food that is good for them and made the way they want it.” Or: “Made-to-order meals that are healthy and delicious.”  

Adidas: “The Adidas Group strives to be the global leader in the sporting goods industry with brands built on a passion for sports and a sporting lifestyle. We are committed to continuously strengthening our brands and products to improve our competitive position.” Or: “My passion. My performance. My Adidas.” 

I like the two-syllable “passion” first, and then the parallel cadence of “my performance” and “my Adidas.” “My Adidas” also evokes the eternally cool Run DMC and their hit “My Adidas.” And the Adidas logos are also divided into three parts. (I prefer the original on the left to the 1997 update on the right.)

adidas-logo-evolution-trefoil adidas-logo-evolution-1997

For Adidas, I think this mantra might work as a tag line, too. Like athletes, employees take pride in their performances.

Thanks for the read!

The economy of feedback


Is it somehow fitting that “writing” is only worth 11 points in Scrabble?

I’m kicking the tires–or maybe the table legs of my desk is a more apt metaphor–on another book. It’s a baseball project, and I am sending out queries to agents. Soon thereafter, I receive rejections akin to “Dear John” break-up letters, and some offer astonishing clarity: “it has been determined that Mr. X will not be pursuing representation of your manuscript.”

And that’s fine. I’m happy to know where I stand. In one case, though, an agent noted, “I’m sorry to say … that I just wasn’t as completely drawn in by the material as much as I had hoped,” which I took to mean two things: nice job on the pitch, but the first 10 pages of your manuscript need sharpening.

Shortly thereafter, I saw those pages with fresh eyes, edited accordingly, and I’m excited about the next round of queries. This agent is, I figure, just as busy as most agents, but found enough time for an extra 28 syllables. We’re all busy, and it’s easy to forget how two extra minutes for a co-worker (or potential client) can make a huge difference–especially if you’re willing to offer feedback that’s constructive and critical.

I hope that a few more signposts of narrative direction, along with an edit focused on vigor, will generate additional interest from potential agents. If so, then think about the second agent’s two minutes may help me find representation more quickly and, in turn, spare her fellow agents (and me) hours in subsequent pitches and rejections.

I’m going to keep this thought in mind the next time I’m between tasks and tempted to alt-TAB over to Facebook or the NY Times. Your thoughts?

Thinking into action–or vice versa

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’ ” Isaac Asimov

I found this delicious epigram in a book on entrepreneurship, but I’m thinking of it more as an adage for fostering self-awareness. We’re humans (so we’re already amazing), but we’re flawed, too, and sometimes we engage in behaviors that range from inconsiderate to awe-inspiringly reckless. Instead of inducing waves of guilt, though, what if we proceeded methodically and noted, “Hmm … that’s peculiar. Why did I do that?”


Rodin, under sunny San Francisco skies.

Might such a cognitive move foster greater possibilities for change and self-care, and allow more growth? What might growth-paradigm expert Carol Dweck say?

Alcoholic Anonymous tacks an alternate course, driving AA members to embrace ritual in order to change habits. Great review of a great book here gets after this approach.

The ear of an editor

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges: a man of good cadence.

Smart piece here on copy editors and cultural difference. Does Jorge Luis Borges’s writing read so well in English and Spanish because of his interest in music? In all editing tasks, I trust my ear more than my eye.

Also: I’m surprised the Chronicle editors let the author introduce Borges as “Borges,” rather than “Jorge Luis Borges.” He’s a giant, but not quite on the scale of Marx, Freud, or Evita.

Sharing My Work–v. 3: Choolah

Austin Kleon, and his hair

Happy Friday!

As I noted in an earlier post, I’m a fan of Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work (and his fabulous hair), so I’ll do a bit of that here, now and again.

Choolah: it’s fast Indian casual, and super tasty. I love the concept and the food, as well as their space on the far east side of Cleveland. (They’re in VA and PA, too.) Nice work, team!

These folks know what’s what, so I was surprised to find an opportunity to wordsmith their copy.


I love the angle here, and my take is to maintain the punchy cadence all the way through.

“Serve guests healthy, hearty food. Deliver yum, not yawn.
You can pick it up.
We can bring it to you.

“Relax. We’re on it, and we care.

“Easy peasy.”

The healthy-but-hearty angle offers some distinction, but McDonald’s (and others) can claim they deliver what their guests really want. (Seriously: their fries are a scientific and culinary wonder.)

“Relax” stands on its own as a sentence without being didactic. And the rest of it works, even with the shift in point of view from the first to the second paragraph. (You could argue that “serve” should be serving, but since it’s about catering, it’s potentially the client who’s serving up the food.)

Good food. Good copy. Enjoy!