I take it for granted every day that I work with a team of smart product managers. If I need an opinion, or want to talk through a problem all I have to do is ask for their help and instantly I have a second opinion, someone to lean on. 

This isn’t always true for everyone. I was reminded about this a few weeks ago when I did an advisor session at orbitalnyc

A group of 10+ people were working on their very own projects. Very few of them had overlap, yet here they were supporting each other’s projects. Sharing their struggles, lessons, accomplishments, and failures. Without this support structure there’s no doubt in my mind that they would have less success. 

In a lot of ways Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Secret, Meetup, and many other services facilitate support structures. But they’re not for everyone or everything.

People with confidential or sensitive roles (social workers, therapists, law enforcement, etc…) or who don’t want to share publicly need a different type of service. 

Maybe I’m not aware of an existing service that does this, but I think technology can play a huge role in creating and facilitating support structures. 

Gillian and I were feeling antsy from yesterday’s rainy and muggy weather - so we set out to explore. Neither of us had gone to the High Line so we walked there from Brooklyn. 

We never really go to the West Side of Manhattan so every street felt new to us. We also did our best to not take a look at our phones and just enjoy exploring a part of the city that we rarely visit. 

After a long walk, lunch, and a nitro pour coffee at Stumptown we decided to zig zag our way to the F train at Broadway Lafayette.

As we were walking we passed by a storefront that had several boardgames in their window display. As a game designer I love board game stores, so we stopped to take a look at the display and one of the games caught my eye. A few minutes later we had purchased Zombicide - a cooperative zombie board game - and were playing in The Uncommons

After an hour it got busy and we decided to go home and play more of Zombicide. We were gushing all the way home. The game was a lot of fun and a perfect thing for both of us to do on a really hot humid day. But I think what was best about it was that we just happened to find a store, that just happened to have a board game of a particular type that both of us are really interested. 

If we would have planned it out we would still be excited, but less so. Because we naturally found it while exploring the city, the experience felt special, more natural. 

So often I resort to exploring the city using my smartphone and apps like Foursquare. I don’t have anything against that but I seem to have forgotten how great it is to just explore without the help of technology and see what happens. 

As a child I remember learning a lot of my summers. I would spend my afternoons exploring our large garden. Along my way I’d pick lima beans, tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers, and strawberries. That’s how I learned a little about gardening. 

When I was in Spain I’d wake up, meet a few of my friends and we’d play soccer or go on a hike to try to find something we heard about from someone else.

The afternoons and evenings were spent at the beach. On our way home we’d cut through the corn fields and vineyards to borrow ears of corn or bunches of grapes as a snack for later. 

The nights were spent just hanging around and getting into trouble. That’s how I learned how to clam. We’d head back down to the beach and go clamming, being care that patrols wouldn’t catch us - we didn’t have permits. On a good night we would bring home 3 to 5 pounds of clams that we’d then split up amongst ourselves. 

Gillian has a lot of these stories also. More than I do actually. As we get closer to wanting to start a family I can’t help but think about how we’ll raise our kids. 

This weekend I read “We Don’t Need No Education” an article in Outside magazine by Ben Hewitt. You can read it here.  

It was an interesting read and while I don’t know if I agree with the specifics of his unschooling method I agree that there’s something to think about here. Here’s an excerpt that stood out: 

But, in truth, what I most want for my boys can’t be charted or graphed. It can’t be measured, at least not by common metrics. There is no standardized test that will tell me if it has been achieved, and there is no specific curriculum that will lead to its realization.

This is what I want for my sons: freedom. Not just physical freedom, but intellectual and emotional freedom from the formulaic learning that prevails in our schools.

This I agree with. Throughout my education I found exams to teach me how to take and do well on exams, not much else. Most of what is memorable and I use on an everyday basis came from my own curiosity. I think there are things we all should know, but there isn’t a hard and fast way as to how they should be taught. 

Gillian and I took the subway to Long Island City to visit one of Brooklyn Grange’s rooftop farms. We entered a large commercial building, followed the signs, went up some stairs, we found tomatoes, peppers, lettuce mixes, okra, and plenty of other great looking vegetables. 

Standing on the roof looking at the Manhattan skyline but also being on a farm felt natural. The city needs food and this rooftop farm in LIC and it’s sister rooftop farm in the Brooklyn Navy Yard produced over 50,000 pounds of organic produce every year. 

Brooklyn Grange isn’t the only urban farm here in NYC. There’s of course Gotham Greens with three locations (2 in Brooklyn and 1 in Queens), and there are other newcomers such as Edenworks who is building an aquaponics farm that will be opening soon in Brooklyn. 

I’m sure there are more Urban Farms in New York City, both commercial and private. But standing there on top of the Brooklyn Grange farm I wondered why weren’t there more? In fact - why isn’t there a rooftop farm on top of every rooftop available?

There’s a lot of talk about how one could change or disrupt agriculture and I think urban farming is one of the best answers. We have to remember where our food comes from and what it takes to grow it. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future if most households would have their very own “farm”. 

For the past few days I’ve been playing Motorsport Manager. It’s a racing manager simulation game and I’m having a blast playing it.

Ever since I watched a Hot Wheels video tape when I was four or five I liked cars and racing. Today I watch Formula 1 instead of Hot Wheels cartoons - although I wouldn’t mind re-watching those videos.

When I was in college and started working in video games I had an idea about building an F1 manager game. My friend Alex and I would spend many rainy summer days playing PC Futbol, a great football manager game and I thought it would be a great idea to do the same with F1.

I never built the game while I was in college. A few years later I thought about it again but still didn’t build it. Now today, instead of playing a game I built I’m playing a game Christian West built that I think is far better than anything I could have made.

The game is much simpler than I imagined but it does an excellent job of keeping the balance of being simple but allowing the player to make meaningful decisions. I already can see where I would have gone wrong. The decisions would be too technical, it would be too intimidating, and at the end of the day the game I would have built would not be fun.

I’ve always felt bad about not making the F1 manager game. Guilty for not even trying, and a bit pressured that I didn’t do anything with the idea I had. But I’m glad I didn’t build it. I  - Christian West’s Motorsport Manager is far better than what I would have built.  Not every idea is worth building yourself. Sometimes the right person for the job isn’t the same person who had the idea - and that’s alright. 

It’s rare that something you do is perfect. In fact it’s damn near impossible. There’s always something that’s wrong, broken, or you can improve. 

Early on in my career I was scared to mess something up. I would try to make sure that everything I built was perfect. But, time and time again I found myself disappointed. No matter how hard I worked to make something perfect, it never was. 

It was weird though. No one seemed to mind it wasn’t perfect, and we focused on what we needed to do to fix or improve. After a few months I wasn’t scared any longer. I still wanted to do a good job but I didn’t expect anything to be perfect. Instead I focused on how I could react to the problems or improvements I know I would face. 

When I talk to PMs who are just starting out they all have this fear - that what they build won’t be perfect. After all, most young PMs are idealists. But I find that it’s far more important to focus on reaction than perfection. There’s no such thing as a perfect product. But a really damn good product does exist, and it requires skilled and focused reactions. 

No one likes talking about maintaining products. It gets even worse if you’re talking about maintaining products that are only used internally. But it’s something that everyone (PMs, developers, and designers) has to do. 

Maintaining products is a lot about listening and making decisions - sometimes those decisions are often unpopular and to be honest, a bit boring. 

It’s hard to get excited about adding a new column to a table or fixing a standard bug. And it’s even harder to listen to people and then tell them that the maintenance that they’re asking for right now isn’t a priority. 

But, maintenance is an important part of a product’s life. So remember that if you want to create products you also have to maintain them, no matter what. 

A few months ago I started reading Modern Farmer (print and online). It’s exactly what you might think it is, a publication about the modern farmer. They have great writing on agriculture and fun things such as Farm Dog Week. But one of my favorite things about Modern Farmer was something that took by my surprise, and that is their Instagram account

Modern Farmer each week invites a new farm to guest post on their Instagram account. The new modern farmer will introduce themselves and each day of the week will post a new photo and a brief description of the photo. I can’t get enough of it. 

The posts are casual and brief which I think also make way to a lot more authenticity. The perspective is created not just by a photo but the farmer’s raw perspective. Is it Pulitzer Prize winning journalism? No. But it’s still damn good and a great use of Instagram. Every week I can’t wait to see what farm is going to be featured and what I’ll learn from them. 

Most brands and companies use new high reach services such as Instagram in the “traditional” way - or use features that are created specifically to reach consumers. But I think Modern Farmer’s approach is unique, creative, and effective. 

I did a round of feedback sessions at garychou's Orbital NYC bootcamp today. I love participating in these feedback sessions. I don’t know a thing about the projects the people are working on and in the span of 45 minutes to an hour I try to help them as best I can. 

I think this type of feedback works extremely well.

I don’t have any context or background on their project. I haven’t put in the same amount of time that they have put in to work. This makes it easy for me to not be attached to their plans. Instead I’m invested and focused on their problems, vision, and goals.

I wish I could get this type of feedback more often and realize it’s hard to access that or make it available. garychou has done an amazing job of making this a staple of the Orbital Bootcamp - curating a list of advisors and making sure they come in at the right time. 

Maybe some day he’ll make it available for people at organizations. I know I would want it. 

I love coffee. I love the caffeine, but more importantly I love its taste. The complexity of a great cup of coffee that comes from a great bean is unlike any other. 

Fast Company recently did a week of coffee articles. One of the more interesting articles is The Multimillion Dollar Quest To Brew The Perfect Cup Of Coffee. It’s a long one, but also does a great job of giving an overview of how coffee culture has started and grown over the past years as well as who the major players are. 

Here’s a small excerpt that talks about the start of the “Third Wave”. 

Known as the Third Wave, this movement started a decade ago by a splinter group of true believers who approach every part of the coffee life cycle with meticulous obsession. Coveted “single origin” beans with unique flavors—and high prices—are harvested like wine grapes: on a specific farm in specific soil at a specific altitude in a specific climate on a specific lot, in some cases even picked on a specific day. Rather than the darkly roasted coffee popularized by Starbucks—the emblem of “second wave” coffee—third-wave roasters cook the raw green beans lightly, to bring out their distinctive profiles. Brewing for peak flavor requires scientific precision: how finely or coarsely to grind a particular strain of bean, steeped in how much water and at what temperature. All this adds up to a cup of black coffee so dimensional, they believe, that there’s no need to pollute it with milk or sweeteners—and so valuable that it can earn a price tag as hefty as $7 a cup.

I’m always excited about trying a new cafe, roaster, or brewing technique. It’s my own personal search for the perfect cup of coffee.

In fact today I went out on that search and tried a cold brew from Kings Roasters. The cold drip system used is the only one of its kind in the United States and the water used is limestone water (also used to distill spirits). You might think that’s overboard and pretentious - but I don’t care what you might think. It was the best cup of cold brew I’ve ever had.