Tag Archives: Jon Westenberg

It’s Not Alright (But It’s Okay)

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The subtleties of language. They count. Big time. In a similar way, anyone who thinks that math doesn’t matter, I refer you to How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg, who explains ever-so eloquently the ways in which math permeates our everyday lives – in a cool and very necessary way.

When it comes to everyday language, however, I’d refer you to a piece by Jon Westenberg, who’s got something important to say about the matter, specifically, “Stop telling each other it’s alright. Sometimes, it’s just not.”

The moral of his story can be summed up as follows:

If your startup fails? It’s not alright. But you can get through it.

If your freelance career bombs? It’s not alright. But you can get through it.

If your relationship comes to an end? It’s not alright. But you can get through it.

If your dreams burn out? It’s not alright.

But you can get through it.

It’s straightforward, simple, and to the point. Me likes, in the same way that Robert Fulghum writes about stuff in From Beginning to End.

Unfortunately for those of us living in North America, and who use English as a first language, we’ve become knee-jerk mollycoddlers. You didn’t finish the race? You failed at your attempt to make toast? Your manager doesn’t like you because you’re too nice? That’s okay. You tried your bestest! Here’s a Last Place ribbon to hang on the wall.

For me, the interesting part about this article by Mr. Westenberg has to do with language. Any douchebag can pick up a few swear words in a foreign language, but one of the hardest things to do – naturally and politely – is to learn the right words and expressions in times of great distress or hardship.

And one of the biggest pitfalls second-language learners make is to ask their teacher/friend/native speaker of said language, “How do you say [insert word/phrase from English] in [insert language]?” Instead, you should be asking, “What would you say in [insert language] in this situation?” The difference may seem subtle, but then so is language.

Another complication lies with culture. If you’re learning Arabic online in Des Moines, Iowa through Rosetta Stone, for example, what makes you think Arabic speakers in Egypt say the same thing in the same situation as they do in Iraq?

But, as usual, I’ve digressed. Jon Westenberg was not writing a linguistic analysis of English speakers in Australia, he was merely pointing out that sometimes the truth – as hard as it is to hear – can go much further to helping someone in their time of need than mollycoddling (love that word) a person who’s struggling through a rough time. There are simply occasions when “I’m really sorry. That sucks. It’s not alright.” can do more to help restore one’s bruised ego than any flowery words or feel-good idioms.

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Keys to Getting a Million Views for Your Site

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Bloggers/Writers/Entrepreneurs, take note. If you want to up your A game and reach seven digits with your total number of site views, take a few minutes and read this excellent piece by Jon Westenberg (@Jonwestenberg) titled “The Tools I Used To Reach 5,000,000 Views on Medium.”

I’ll let Mr. Westenberg do the heavy lifting on this one, but basically he highlights some really simple-to-use yet highly effective tools. This can be accomplished by making use of websites like Grammarly, Google Trends, KeyHole, Speedlancer, Medium.com, and Google News, while vigorously seeking out your competition and finding out how you measure up against them in terms of content, popularity, on-target marketing, etc.

It obviously goes without saying that if your site looks at least half-normal – not like one of these “Top 10 worst websites you’ll wish you hadn’t seen” – and you know how to string together sentences that prove you graduated from grammar school (pun intended), then the seven-digit site views goal is not a pipe dream; it’s definitely within reach as long as you’re willing to do a lot of hard work and log a ton of miles.

Should you get down on yourself and lose confidence somewhere down this path, just remember what my favourite hagwon in Korea used to remind its students: “You can do!”

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The Value of Sage Quotes

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Jon Westenberg (@Jonwestenberg) posted a cool piece on the importance of quotations. More specifically, he spent a year writing down 100 quotes a month – by hand! Mon Dieu! The brashness of using a writing instrument to better understand and remember some of the most “useful, inspiring or just plain interesting” things that men and women around the world have said over the years in myriad fields. (Shaking head) That’s just crazy.

Or is it?

As readers of this blog may know, I enjoy contributing a Quote of the Day once in a while. There was a time, many years ago (when “I was young and unafraid/And dreams were made and used and wasted/There was no ransom to be paid/No song unsung, no wine untasted”) that I would keep a notebook and pen with me whenever I read a book. If I stumbled upon a nugget of literary gold, I’d write it down, carefully, knowing that even if I could not write as well as that author, I had at least benefited from their wisdom.

Then I got older, a little lazier, and after buying my first laptop I stopped writing down the quotes altogether. I miss it, not the quotes of course, as I still type them out and read them online or in books, but the process of painstakingly writing out each letter, each word, each sentence. It’s therapeutic in some ways, a feeling not totally dissimilar for me to spending time in an empty cathedral or a rural temple.

In any event, I laud Mr. Westenberg’s efforts to do something as “archaic” as write and something as “pretentious” as to quote quotes. (See how I threw those quotes around words that aren’t even quoting anyone! That was fun!) But if you enjoy learning from the enlightened words of others, I encourage you to read the above piece, which is so aptly titled “I’ve copied out almost 100 quotes by hand every single month for the past year: It’s not a bad habit to get into,” because in it you will find a treasure trove of quotes from across the centuries.

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The Joys (Horrors) of Freelancing

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@Jonwestenberg (jon@creatomic.co) has posted a great piece on freelancing that so very much tickled my fancy. Very subtly titled “Fuck you. Pay me.” Mr. Westenberg discusses one of the mot annoying parts about going it all alone as a freelancer or as a small business owner: clients expecting you to do work for them pro bono. I would take that one step further. As someone who’s been freelancing professionally for well over a decade, my biggest concern is not so much that the client won’t pay me, but when they will pay me. Landlords, banks, companies and the like don’t take very kindly to “So sorry, but my clients are total douchebags and didn’t pay me when promised. I’ll just, you know, pay you next month – or perhaps the month after that – when these arseholes finally cough up my doughy dough.”

After Mr. Westenberg details the guilt attached to this constant hounding from clients (“Can’t you do this for me just one time?” “It would really mean a lot if you could do this for me…pretty please with cherries on top?” “We don’t have the money to pay you for this. I’m so, soooooo sorry.”), he describes how to assuage any guilt you, the freelancer and the one actually doing the work, might feel in these situations and in fact breaks it down temporally by the number of hours the average person lives (in his home of Australia, which apparently is 82 years).

Freelancers of the world unite!

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