Kids Parenting

Get a helmet

I got Sam this race car helmet from the gift shop at the Glasgow Museum of Transport recently (an awesome place to go by the way). Museum gift shops are a guilty pleasure, I always find something I want that’s usually overpriced, and the kids always seem to as well. However, this helmet was only £4! It must have been a mistake, as I’ve seen all manner of plastic items with much fewer parts priced three times as much, so I considered it a purchase worthy of the few hours of fun that we would have with it.

The thing is, Sam barely took it off once over the course of the next couple of days. I think I actually had to tell him that he couldn’t sleep while wearing it on the first night.

That £4 purchase has now given us days and days worth of fun.

But the best part of the helmet purchase is seeing how Sam behaves differently with it on. He’s a race car driver! A superhero! He’s invincible! He pretends that the visor gives him an extra shield to protect him against the sun (which is actually kind of true) and against Grandpa’s robot laser beams and careens about shouting and sliding with wild abandon.

Aside from the huge smiles that we all get and how much fun it is to play with Sam and his helmet, it’s gotten me thinking about the connection between the playing dress-up and pretending to be something versus actually being it. What’s the difference? We all start as pretenders and we all feel like fakes at first. What you wear (and how it fits) can make you feel invincible or invisible. You have to start somewhere.

One of the best pieces of advice I have been given was from a former mentor who would tell people that really wanted to switch what they were doing professionally (i.e. take on a new role doing different work than they are currently doing) to simply find a way to start doing the work now, regardless of whether they had permission. In other words, get a helmet and start pretending.

A £4 helmet gives Sam permission to be something that he might not think he is, but that’s exactly where the path to being a race car driver starts.

What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#44)

Spent a lot of the week doing things and nothing at the same time: Spent a lot of time with the kiddos. Spent a lot of time outside. Experienced mild consternation and contemplation about a full-time assignment with Automattic but ultimately accepted the position. Got to see a friend from back home. Bought some awesome hiking books and otherwise kicked around and did a lot of hanging out.

A great newsletter that I wish I knew about earlier: The Recomendo newsletter by Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, and Claudia Dawson is so good. The one before last had a Google Maps hack in it and a brilliant quote and reference:

Always remember that to argue, and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are arguing against. It is painful to lose your reality, so be kind, even if you are right.

Haruki Murakami (Found on James Clear’s website)

Another quote I loved:

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A favorite recent purchase under $100: By far it’s the Roost laptop stand, which, when coupled with the Logitech K380 keyboard and the MX Ergo trackball, make for the ultimate mobile office.

Fascinating look at McDonald’s history and future via McDonald’s CEO Wants Big Macs to Keep Up With Big Tech (Bloomberg). Here are a few passages that caught my eye:

In 1940 brothers Dick and Mac McDonald redesigned and rebuilt their modest hot dog drive-in, in the shadows of California’s San Bernardino mountain range, into McDonald’s Bar-B-Q, which sold 25 items. By 1948 they dropped “Bar-B-Q” from the name and streamlined the menu to offer only the most profitable foods: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, potato chips, coffee, soft drinks, and apple pie. The restaurant seated about a dozen customers on outdoor stools and sold 15¢ hamburgers, which were bagged within 30 seconds of being ordered thanks to the pioneering Speedee service system.

The system had begun with the brothers sketching out life-size kitchen blueprints on a tennis court with chalk and having employees act out cooking and serving tasks. After settling on the fastest method, they contracted kitchen equipment companies to build machinery to support the choreography. Breakthroughs included custom-made saucing guns for the buns and curved steel ramps on which burgers would slide down into cashiers’ hands to pass on to diners. At the time, only a handful of burger chains were using similarly bespoke hardware.

The company boasts a market valuation of $159 billion and an immense global reach, feeding about 1% of the human population daily.

Something I learned about Scotland: It’s winter now. A bit early seeing as how it’s only October 3rd but it was 0 degrees on Tuesday morning.

A reminder that quality can be found anywhere: I was in Cotswold (a UK-based outdoor outfitter) on the hunt for some hiking shoes and the guy helping me was really good. Scary good. You could tell that he was really interested in helping me in the best possible way, from understanding the shape of my feet to what other activities I like to do outdoors and what other footwear I owned. He really wanted to make sure I actually needed boots. Another woman came up to be helped and so he was working with both of us, very delicately and gently moving from me to her, and then back again.

The thing was, another couple showed up after a few minutes and he asked them if they needed help and they said they were also needing some hiking shoes. He (so nicely) suggested that he was already helping two people and, so that he could give them the attention they deserved, suggested that they go have a coffee and come back in 20 minutes or so. They were a bit taken aback I think but after a short pause they said “yeah, of course” quite enthusiastically. Who was this jedi of a sales person at Cotswold? Needless to say I bought some hiking boots and have since bought some hiking pants as well. Quality service matters more than ever.

New music I’ve been cooking (and working) to: The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out (thanks Sully)

What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#14)

  • A useful metaphor for handing adversity and keeping a positive outlook: Unfortunate things are caused by a chain of unfortunate decisions, and it can be discouraging to view a situation through this lens. Alternatively, one can also look at it from the perspective that by making one right decision, or doing something good, the chain can be broken and a whole new chain can begin. There’s always an opportunity to course-correct. 
  • A need to re-buy one of my most essential pieces of gear: Icebreaker 200 Oasis Leggings are one of my most-used pieces of clothing. Perfect for fall/winter/spring outside activities. I live in them during the weekend and I recently had to get rid of a couple of pairs that were literally disintegrating.
  • What a ‘now’ page is: A friend sent me Derek Siver’s now page and, aside from the content of his status being very relevant to ours (he’s relocated to another country), I love the concept of a “Now” page (see others at and have set one up here.
  • Useful encouragement to get on with it: “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way. – from the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#11)

  • Memento mori: Translated as “remember that someday you will die”, and otherwise referring to an object that serves as a reminder of death. Aside from being useful short-hand in conversations, having a reminder like this visible is useful in keeping perspective, prioritizing and staying present.
  • New music to focus with: Midnight Marker by Shy Layers has been on my album list for a while but recently I gave it a spin while working and it was great for focusing.
  • An informative source of thoughts and ideas: I’ve been following Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of Wired, for the past few weeks on LinkedIn and Twitter. I’ve found all of his reading recommendations and short videos have been well worth the time.
  • A simple new essential for the car in the winter: A friend pulled this out last week during a particularly snowy evening and I was shocked I hadn’t seen it before. The Frostblocker keeps your windshield ice free and frees you from having to scrape the window after a long stretch in the cold. Brilliant.
  • An approach to capturing people and movement: I loved these simple-yet-complex sketches and I’m inspired to try the same technique (quick figure gestures, layering on top of one another, the use of different line color for figures vs environment). Here’s one from the blog Mostly Drawing, which is fantastic (I love the info on the kit being used):
From See-through city on the blog Mostly Drawing