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How SaaS subscriptions brought skeuomorphism back to web design

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This essay was originally published on Capichea secret society for SaaS power users, building a new community of people who care about software to make the SaaS industry more transparent, together. 

Did you know we have an online conference about product design coming up? SPRINT will cover how designers and product owners can stay ahead of the curve in these unprecedented times.

When the team that built Wunderlist set out to build something new, its whimsically designed landing page got all the attention.

Wunderlist itself was a final hurrah to the skeuomorphic design that the early iPhone popularized, launched only a couple years before iOS 7 decreed flat design was the next big thing. With paper-like notes, bubbly buttons, and background photos of brick and wood, Wunderlist felt more like a real-world thing unconstrained by silicon and screens.

Pitch, their team’s new presentation app, didn’t bring back digital felt and paper. Instead, it showcased the newest thing in software branding: 3D, clay-style graphics that look more like kids’ toys than digital tools.

Art, so often, reflects the technology of its day. Charcoal on cave walls. Bronze cast in clay. Pigment infused parchment. Letters pressed.

And so it has been with software landing pages, where form followed function and changing technology enabled new design styles. But who would have foreseen software’s switch to subscriptions changing today’s state of the art?

Is this the real world?

“This is the BBC” was branding enough for decades of radio news. Simple technology, simple branding.

Television required show and tell, an identification logo or ident as they came to be known. Thus it fell to WWII-era poster designer Adam Games to decide how the BBC should “identify itself to viewers” with “something more exciting than a selection of test cards in between the programmes.”

Technology inspired —“The symbol must move”—and limited. Screens of the time showed only 405 lines of detail, and animation tools were decades away.

So the poster designer teamed up with a sculptor to build a wire and wood model, with a motor and lights to fake animation. Just enough to create the bat wings logo—BBC’s first moving ident.

Technology marched on, and with it the state of the art. The BBC welcomed color TV nearly two decades later with a motorized globe in a mirrored box, color added during the broadcast. And by 1985, computer technology finally matched the BBC’s ambitions as the first digitally rendered globe proceeded the nightly news.

And then software-powered design was everywhere, following the same progress as the BBC’s logo with increasingly better designs as technology made it possible.

Scissors and glue: 1990’s

Technology had influenced print design for decades before the personal computer. Print design, in turn, influenced software branding.

Before you could crop photos and mash them up in Photoshop, designers were clipping art from paste-up books and manually building page layouts on paper. Xerox machines and later digital scanning duplicated the work, but the original always started with layers of paper.

Software branding on boxes and disks arrived when paste-up was still state of the art. The first Microsoft Windows box—released the same year as BBC’s digital globe—was closer to a collage with a photo of a computer framed in blue. Early Microsoft Office box art featured box inception, with boxes for each included product with its own digital clip art icon.

Flat and fast: 2000-2005

Box art changed faster. Office boxes showed clouds (to match Windows 95’s iconic background), photos of actual offices, and bubbly 3D icons. Adobe put paintings and photo mashups on their boxes, educational software included cartoons. With print design and loading screens, there were few technological restrictions to hold you back.

For nascent web apps, though, simple flat designs weren’t as much an aesthetic choice as a necessity. When your average user has dial-up internet and a browser like Internet Explorer 5 with limited CSS support, you kept things simple.

Thus the flat, boxy designs that dominated early web apps such as Salesforce’s site in 2000, MailChimp in 2002, and even Wufoo in 2007. Strong colors, detailed copy, and grid-based layouts defined early SaaS startup’s design language.

Screenshots everywhere: 2005-2015

In the grand tradition of BBC’s fake-animated logo, web designers used detailed image layouts to get around the early web’s limitations. Product companies like Apple built their sites around images, with product photos and detailed typography patched together from Photoshop slices. You couldn’t copy the text, and the sites took longer to load, but the web’s design limits didn’t hold you back.

SaaS startups had to take the slower route. Their customers would load their landing pages daily, and every second mattered. As internet speeds increased, though, that became less of an issue, and suddenly photo-heavy sites were everywhere.

Basecamp switched earlier than most SaaS to a screenshot-heavy design in 2005, before newer startups like Typeform and Airtable put a modern takes on the design a decade later. Wunderlist put their efforts into designing the software—and let it speak for itself on the landing page. Software’s design was what mattered now; the landing page stood merely to showcase it.

Sketchy designs: 2012-2018

Then came touch, with smartphones and tablets and the digital apps they enabled. Wacom tablets had been around for decades, but the iPad gave everyone a chance to try their hand at sketching.

So when analyst Ben Thompson launched Stratechery in 2013, he used the Paper drawing app on iPad to illustrate his first article. “For me, it was honestly a feeling I really didn’t anticipate: I drew something, and it didn’t suck!” relayed Thompson. Years later, it’s still how he illustrates his blog posts.

A similar sketched style of illustrations took over SaaS landing pages around the same time, prompted by similar apps. Basecamp in 2012, Airtable in 2016, and both Dropbox and Mailchimp in 2018 redeigned their sites with a more organic, sketched design.

There was “a huge wave of illustration” prompted by the new drawing apps, shared freelance designer Valentin Galmand who’s worked with Lattice among others. “For me, it was Procreate that made me an illustrator now. I was an Interface designer and developer before, and when my agency I worked for got an iPad and Procreate, a long love story began.”

“It probably wouldn’t be far off-base to assume that a lot of these illustrations were done … by product designers who also have some illustration talent themselves,” surmised designer Koi Vinh in an essay on illustration-style designs. “They designed the app and while they were at it, it was faster and cheaper to just have them create the illustrations too.”

Sketched designs were easier to make—and gave brands more life than screenshots alone. They “illustrate your message a lot more than photos and are so much lighter.” Sketches made websites faster, too. Retina displays made photo-heavy designs need increasingly large images, while sketched designs in SVG files let websites load faster while having perhaps more of an impactful design than screenshots and photos allowed.

Tools as toys: 2018-2020

Then Pitch showed up in late 2018, and with it a new wave of startup sites with bubbly 3D graphics.

“There’s no official name for it,” said Romain Briaux, the designer behind Specify, Swile, Evolt, and other startups with the new 3D graphic design. “Clay-style” perhaps, or “plastic-toys.”

It’s in sharp contrast to what Galmand had described as “classic SaaS illustrations” with flat colors, screenshots, and sketched artwork. These new designs looked like they walked off a Pixar set.

“Startup websites were a bit stuck with the same illustration style and everything was looking the same,” said Briaux. “3D graphics brought something fresh and new.”

“Claymation-style 3D hands imply our design tool is our friend,” said designer Tobias Van Schneider in a recent essay about design trends. “Circles and squiggles say our form-creation app is here to party. The muted colors and lack of sharp corners signal safety. It is approachable. It is charming. It’s Kawaii.”

Realistic, 3D graphics were formerly the domain of studios, requiring thousands of dollars in equipment and software. Then, seemingly overnight, even new startups with limited budgets had animated characters selling their products.

This time, two innovations changed the state of the art: Software and subscriptions.

First, software. The biggest change is that most 3D renders—Octane, Redshift, and Blender’s Eevee—are now live, a shift enabled by GPU advances over the past few years.

“Before live rendering,” Braiux explains, “the process was tedious. Imagine that you had to do all your settings for lighting, material, etc., and then wait 10 minutes to see that the result was not as you expected.” Live rendering means today’s 3D design software makes it easy to experiment through trial and error and ship something more quickly. “You can see what you are doing without waiting and it changed everything,” said Braiux. “It’s easier for beginners to learn and achieve nice results.”

Then, subscriptions. “One of the main reasons is the fact that design tools have become more widely available,” explained 10Clouds designer Igor Kozak, something that helped both traditional and 3D design tools spread. “Thanks to various subscription options, almost every designer can afford to use Photoshop. Other tools such as Cinema 4D are more expensive, but you can still purchase a license to use it for $100 for a month without being tied in”—something that cost $3,495 before subscriptions. Even as subscriptions helped inflate software costs over time, as you may pay more over time for subscriptions than you would have paid with one-time purchases, their lower per-month fee makes it far easier to use software for a limited-time project.

Then there are increasingly powerful free tools. “Blender is free, super advanced, has been completely redesigned and now the UI is more ‘designer-friendly,’” explained Braiux. And last year, Blender gained a live rendering engine, Eevee, that’s made 3D design even more approachable. Designers can start for free in Blender, then upgrade to subscription rendering tools like Octane (a 19.99€/month subscription today, versus 299€ before) as their skills improve.

Subscriptions mean you don’t even need a powerful computer to render 3D graphics. Instead, you could run Blender or Modo in the cloud with tools like RenderStreet from $3 per hour, or even use Pixar’s RenderMan in Google Cloud from 53¢ an hour.

Subscriptions made advanced design tools accessible to everyone. And now, they’re everywhere. As Briaux said, “Technological barriers almost disappear and designers have now the freedom to create more easily.”

“Technology is constantly evolving,” says Kozak, “and as a result, we can now create something faster and at a higher level of quality for $100 than we could for $200 a couple of years ago.” As designer Sheldon Drake wrote, “It’s the difference between nearly impossible and just press OK.”

It’s now entirely feasible for startups to commission 3D designs for their homepages, thanks to the combination of better tech and subscriptions.

Future design

Already the styles are merging. Notion and Airtable mix sketched designs with screenshots. Lattice’s landing page combines 3D graphics with photos; Mixpanel put screenshots and 3D material elements together. Luc Chaissac’s sketches mixed with 3D graphics for Lattice and Romain Briaux’ 3D animated line sketches for Firekast that blur the lines between the two styles.

“Design can be compared to fashion, which is cyclical,” said Igor Kozak. Flat, then 3D, then something in the middle, then something new again.

The software that enables Pitch-style 3D graphics also enables everything from animated sketches to hyper-realistic models. And it’s not just the tools to build 3D graphics that are changing—the web is changing too. Tools like Airbnb Lottie render After Effects in real-time in the browser—no video or GIFs needed. Sketchfab lets you embed 3D models in a site today; tomorrow, it could power more creative landing pages.

It’s not software holding design back anymore. We’re far beyond wire and wood. Imagination’s the limit—and for today, that seems focused on designing the most graphical landing pages possible.

“There’s a saying in Russian: ‘When you meet a person, you judge them by their clothes. When you leave them, you judge them by their mind,’” relayed 10Clouds’ Igor Kozak.

“I think the answer here is that startups need to learn how to present themselves as you only have one chance to make a first impression. Effective illustrations, along with the right messaging, will provide a strong user experience, guiding prospective customers through their journey on your website.”

It just might be an animated character that guides you on your next user journey. Clippy may at last have its revenge.

This article was originally published by Matthew Guay, Capiche‘s founding editor and former senior writer at Zapier. You can read the original piece here

Published May 20, 2020 — 11:00 UTC

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Hey snoozy Susan, here’s how to stop falling asleep at work

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It’s 3pm on a Friday and you’ve had enough. Or maybe it’s just after 9am on a Monday and you’re struggling to get started, or even 12pm on a Tuesday and you’re falling asleep.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re probably used to the overwhelming struggle that is trying to stay awake at your desk when you really just want to fall asleep.

If it’s any consolation, you’re far from being alone. That’s why I’ve put together these few pointers to help you stay engaged, active, and awake while you’re at work.

[Read: The weirdo’s guide to WFH productivity: Sanity shower, squats, and snacks]

Get your steps in

Getting your morning routine right will undoubtedly set you up for a productive day and stop you from falling asleep.

Morning exercise is a good way of waking up your body and mind. If you can, go for a walk before you start work and get some fresh air.

You’ll feel more awake, and what’s even better, you’ll get your dreaded workout out of the way first thing.

Coffee isn’t the answer

Coffee is wonderful, it really is.

A good cup of the stuff can turn the worst of days into the best of days — but you shouldn’t abuse it.

If you’re going to be friends with caffeine, make sure you limit your intake because too much of it can leave you feeling lethargic.

I would recommend having one, or two (at most) cups of  in the morning and sticking to water for the rest of the day, which brings me on to my next point.

Stay hydrated

Water really is your best friend, especially when it comes to staying awake.

Dehydration can lead to fatigue because it impacts the flow of oxygen to the brain and can cause your heart to work harder to pump oxygen to all your organs, thus making you more tired and less alert.

Water can also help reduce stress. In fact, studies have show that dehydration can also lead to higher cortisol levels — the stress hormone — making it even harder to deal with daily problems.

You’ll need daylight

Natural daylight — or the lack of it — can have a huge impact on how you feel at work.

I used to work in a windowless office in a London co-working space and I’d find myself getting increasingly sleepy and restless throughout the day. I eventually realized this was mostly due to the lack of natural light — and it seems my conclusion wasn’t unfounded.

A study conducted by a US professor found that workers in day lit office environments reported an 84% drop in symptoms of eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision symptoms all of which can detract from productivity and potentially lead to sleepiness.

Snack away

I don’t know about you but I used to experience an early afternoon drop in productivity and would start to fall asleep, particularly in the colder, drearier months — and then I started snacking.

It turns out this afternoon slump was probably caused by a drop in blood glucose levels and the good news is that I managed to solve this problem by keeping several healthy snacks within arm’s reach or just a short walk away.

Time yourself

Whether you’re working on an ongoing project or you want to tend to your overflowing inbox, own your productivity and hold yourself accountable by timing yourself.

Here’s a familiar scenario: You need to prepare a report by the end of the day but it’s 4PM and you’re struggling to stay awake. Stop what you’re doing, take a moment, breathe in, and set a timer on your phone. Give yourself a deadline and motivate yourself with the possibility of a nap once your work is submitted.

Get the hard stuff out of the way

Only you know when you feel more awake, so keep this at the forefront of your mind when you’re planning your day.

If you feel less sleepy in the morning, take care of the hardest, most boring tasks then and keep the fun stuff for later. If you’re more alert in the afternoon or evening, then save the most menial tasks until then.

There’s no hard science and if you’re fortunate enough to work somewhere that offers flexible working, you should use this to your advantage.

Let music be the food of love productivity

Lastly, but by no means least, I have to be honest with you: I can’t do anything without listening to music and while my taste may be questionable, that’s besides the point.

If you’re working from home or are lucky enough to have your own private office, why not sing along?

It’ll perk you up, you won’t fall asleep, and if you’re as bad a singer as I am, well, no one will hear you!

Published June 5, 2020 — 09:00 UTC

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A step-by-step guide to becoming a better engineering manager

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The typical job description for many engineering manager roles is action-packed. It is a mix of hands-on coding, technical leadership and decision making, process and project management, product oversight, people management, finding and hiring talent… the list goes on.

In our work, we deal with both technical and people systems: we support individual engineers’ growth; help teams become successful; and make the organization more productive, functional, and innovative. Above all, an engineering manager is a service or support role across these various layers.

Perhaps most fascinating and difficult is the high-level of ambiguity that comes with engineering management. Many problems or questions don’t have straightforward answers. There aren’t absolute answers to what it means to be a good engineering manager either, but there are certain values and guideposts to follow.

In this post, I look at what can shape our thinking about our role as engineering managers and how to effectively support individual engineers, teams, and organizations.

What do engineers need to thrive at work?

It helps to start shaping engineering management roles by understanding what engineers need, and the environment in which they thrive. Research from performance coach and trainer Paloma Medina exposes six core needs humans have (including at work). She calls this research the BICEPS model:

  • Belonging. As humans, we strive to be part of a community of like-minded people where we understand and support each other. We also want to feel as if we are not being discriminated against or marginalized. Belonging is really important to me personally: I love working as part of a distributed team, but I also really enjoy seeing people in person every once in a while. It makes me feel more connected to them.
  • Improvement. We also seek to continuously learn, improve, and grow in areas that matter to us, as well as to our team or company.
  • Choice. We want to have choice, control, and autonomy over important parts of our lives. In one of my previous roles, I took on a lot of work to drive organizational change. But ultimately, the control I had over my domain was limited due to organizational issues – which led me to leave the company.
  • Equality. We want to know that our access to information, money, time, and other resources is fair and equal for everyone – not just for ourselves, but also for the people around us. Everyone’s needs should be treated as equally important.
  • Predictability. We look for certainty, safety, and stability in our lives. We also want goals, strategy, and direction to be consistent – and to not change too quickly. I’ve been leading teams in fast-growing startups for the last couple of years, and when there’s a lot of change happening, it’s a challenge to instill predictability in teams.
  • Significance. Deep down, all of us seek meaning, importance, and status. We also want to be appreciated for our work by people whose opinions mean something to us.

If our core needs are threatened, people resort to fight-or-flight modes of reaction, which are very stressful. The failure to meet core needs has high costs for organizations by harming people on our teams. So how can engineering managers put the BICEPS model into action to help their teams thrive?

Using trust-based relationships to help engineers grow

The foundation of being a good engineering manager is getting to know our teammates and understanding what is important to them. Here are a few places to start building trust within your team.

1. Ask questions

One of the most powerful tools managers have is asking good questions. The basis for doing our jobs well is listening, observing, taking note of what motivates our teammates, and really digging into their responses to our questions. I usually gather questions before I meet with my teammates one-on-one, so I am prepared and I can guide the conversation towards understanding them better.

Over time, I have built a kit of one-on-one questions that I pull out when I need some inspiration for these conversations. Asking questions helps us adjust our leadership style to the people we are leading. It also ensures that they feel understood and heard, which are really important pillars of inclusion and belonging.

2. Be curious

People are full of surprises, and sometimes our teammates’ reactions may be completely different from what we expected. I once received a message from an engineer on my team who was deeply upset about the specific wording used in a product-release note to customers.

At first I did not understand their strong reaction. But when we talked, I learned the engineer had been overruled by someone with more power, making them feel helpless, and threatening their core need for choice and equality.

What managers might perceive as no big deal can be enormous threats to other people. Cases where we’re surprised by our teammates’ reactions are good opportunities to focus on human-centric responses, like giving people the opportunity to talk through their feelings.

3. Connect to the bigger picture

Creating an impact is a very good motivator for all of us, so helping engineers understand how their work connects to the bigger picture (how it helps users or supports other teams) is an extremely important and strategic skill for managers.

While goal-setting frameworks like OKRs can help, it is also crucial to align engineering initiatives with higher-level goals, and connect them clearly with user value.

4. Involve engineers in decision making

Feeling that decisions are fair and equitable is an important component of the BICEPS model. When we make decisions, it is helpful to ask everyone for their opinions first, and take their opinions into account.

It is not always possible to go with what everyone wants. But we can still do a good job at contextualizing the decisions we make, and helping people understand that their feedback was considered.

5. Give feedback for growth

One of the best things we get to do as engineering managers is support engineers’ growth. Give feedback regularly to help the people on your team understand where they are at and grow – by course-correcting where needed, as well as by doing more in the areas in which they are already doing great. Managers need feedback as well: it’s important to regularly ask your team for feedback so you can make adjustments.

6. Coach engineers

Coaching helps people find answers themselves, improves their problem-solving and leadership skills, and increases learning, resilience, and self-management.

7. Sponsor engineers

Think back on your career, and whether you have had a mentor who connected you with someone, put your name forward, and used their influence to make a difference in your career. Be that person for someone else: invest in their growth, lift them up, and put your weight behind their success. Supporting your team’s success can make a real difference for them.

This is the foundation of our work as engineering managers.

Driving a culture of trust and continuous improvement on teams

The next important building block in our work as engineering managers is the team. According to research, high-performing teams need the following elements.

  • Psychological safety. This is about believing that we will not be rejected, and feeling free to express our work-related thoughts and feelings to the people around us. It also means believing that others won’t think less of us if we make a well-intentioned mistake or ask for help.
  • Structure and clarity. Everyone on the team should understand expectations, goals, and accountability.
  • Meaning and impact. High-performing teams find a sense of purpose in their work, and know that their work has an impact.

Luckily for managers, this research neatly aligns with the BICEPS model. All human core needs are represented and have impact at the team level as well. By understanding and responding to people’s motivations, leaders create the basis for teams to express themselves – and provide the structure, meaning, and impact they need.

1. Build trust

The first step in creating structure is building relationships. For our distributed teams at CircleCI, we’ve built different structures to help teammates do that, such as regular pair programming rotations and engineering talks.

2. Structure around how we collaborate

Our engineering department has doubled in size for three years in a row. Over this time, we’ve moved to a more streamlined engineering delivery process for all teams. But we still leave it to the teams to decide how to implement t day-to-day processes, including daily standup meetings, planning sessions, or collaboration. Every team has specific needs, and they know best how to address them.

3. Remove blockers

Structures can also help mitigate the impact of getting blocked at work. We all know how frustrating it is to be stuck. Putting up pathways to help people get unblocked can be really important – for example, setting up regular pair programming rotations, investing in self-serve information access, supporting each other across teams, putting up escalation paths for people to get help when they need it, or helping people support each other through knowledge-sharing.

4. Continuously improve

We can use retrospectives to discuss and improve how we work together. Blameless postmortems are also a great tool to help understand problems and drive towards solutions. Code reviews, mentoring, or knowledge sharing can help team members learn from each other.

The way we talk about learning matters – especially the way we discuss mistakes. These decisions will fundamentally shape the culture of our teams, and determine whether people feel safe or threatened in their core needs.

5. Drive toward alignment

Communicate strategy, direction, and relevant tactical details to your teams – and remember it’s almost impossible to over-communicate these details. Always repeat what’s important.

As engineering managers, we are like mortar: we connect structures, teams, and people. We hold them together, but also identify and fill gaps as needed. Handling ambiguity is one of the most important and difficult aspects of engineering management. For a lot of work in our field, there are no straightforward answers, let alone resolutions.

Our work isn’t so much about us; it’s about the people, teams, and organizations we support. We build structures to help others shine.

Supporting organizational change

Lastly, creating environments in which engineers can thrive is about supporting our organization. We need to use our power as managers to drive organizational change, no matter the size of our businesses.

1. Advocate for change

To be effective as managers, we need to push for organizational change to improve the larger structures around us. For example, we may need to advocate for more clarity around engineering manager roles, have conversations about what engineering management should be like in our company, and determine requirements for hiring engineering managers.

2. Manage up

Managing our own managers is a useful but difficult skill. Driving organizational change also means making sure that our engineers’ concerns are heard at the highest levels, and that we use our power to make sure engineers have a voice in the rest of the organization.

3. Build frameworks and standards

While it is always important to make room for individual needs, structures and frameworks for managers help us hold each other accountable. They also help level the playing field and build in equality for the people on our teams.

On my current team, every quarter we pick some high-priority projects to improve how we work as an organization. Most recently, we’ve worked on our hiring process and incident remediation; last year, we developed an internal career growth framework for engineers.

Growing as a leader

Being a good engineering manager isn’t always a straightforward path; a lot depends on where we are at in our careers and where we are looking to go, as well as the growth stage, size, and needs of our organizations. In our daily work, we hold vast amounts of uncertainty while also trying to make progress.

An overarching theme in my work in engineering management has been growth and improvement. We rarely deal with greenfield projects or are able to build a team or department from scratch. Even when we do, we build on existing structures in our organization. I believe our supporting role largely means helping engineers grow, supporting teams at continuously learning, and helping organizations become better.

As engineering managers, we frequently face questions that don’t clear right or wrong answers. Many years ago, my leadership coach encouraged me to use those kinds of uncertain situations to ask myself, “What kind of leader do I want to be?”

I want to leave the last call to growth and improvement with you (and me): no matter what your role or company is like, work on shaping your approach to engineering management. Get to know the people that you work with, and use feedback to help them course-correct. Build teams that are psychologically safe places, where people find meaning in a shared purpose. 

And use your power and privilege to drive change in your organization. Make people the center and focus of your work, and build on that foundation to create an environment in which they can thrive. Always push to continuously improve. Lead with humbleness, empathy, and lots of curiosity.

Published June 5, 2020 — 06:30 UTC

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Why entrepreneurs need to find their ‘inner clown’

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Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

Contrary to what many people may think, learning how to be a clown is not part of a circus school curriculum. I know, because I dropped out of school when I was 15, signed up for circus school, and graduated as a professional juggler three years later. 

Circus school was very much about specializing in one skill, spending countless hours practicing, and building an act around that. Becoming a clown, however, followed a completely different process.

Clowns, all joking aside, take being a clown very seriously. The thing is, you can’t just train eight hours a day for it and then eventually succeed, like with juggling. A real clown IS a clown. He or she isn’t acting. The clown is already there, hidden inside of us, and the course focused on finding your inner clown and peeling away the layers of respectability, rather than trying to make you simply act like one. 

Be authentic

Many years ago I knew a young entrepreneur who was always hustling. When he found an opportunity to make money, he went for it. He had no specific interest or hobby and was just interested in doing business. He’d buy and sell and make a margin and that was enough for him. I recently bumped into him and he’s now rich and successful and still hustling buying and selling ever more expensive things. 

[Read: Working from home is great — until your co-workers show up]

While this is clearly a success — he’s happy and rich and he has achieved his goals and dreams — I personally find it hard to be positive about what he achieved. I can’t relate because my starting point was always my interest in technology and innovation, building upon who I was at my core. Only caring about wealth is a very specific kind of poverty. 

I do realize that’s a very privileged thing to say, but if you can, try to unpeel your traditionalist layers and find out who you really are. Nothing can beat authenticity.

I heard a comedian describe once how he developed his act. At first, he began looking for jokes in the world around him, but soon he realized the best jokes were to be found within. 

When he felt uncomfortable about something, he discovered it paid off to poke and prod at it and build the joke around the discomfort it caused him. The deeper he went, the more personal and funnier his routine became, and also more distinctive. 

I guess we all have our inner clown to discover. And my inner clown is a very specific one. I couldn’t play a different clown and care about the things I don’t care about. Now let me ask you, who’s your inner clown?

Can’t get enough of Boris? Check out his older stories here, and sign up for TNW’s newsletters here.

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Published June 4, 2020 — 15:00 UTC

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