“It’s not about how it looks, it’s about what it communicates.” – Joe Natoli
Joe Natoli is the UX guy.
He’s done it all – from running a print design firm to jumping on the user interface design platform when the internet was small enough to start with a lowercase “i”. After 26 years of coaching clients and corporations on how to build stuff that humans can intuitively use, he’s written a book to complement his course – which has reached over 55,000 students. Joe also confessed he might move into my living room and never leave.
In this week’s podcast, Joe lets us in on his early adoption of the internet as more than just a “passing fad”, his definition of UX, and how communication is the heart of design. We also get to hear about his growth, riding the Dotcom boom, and how purpose should drive what creatives do. Joe also shares wisdom on how language can encourage listening – and when to pull a “Tom Hanks”. (Yeah, you’ll have to listen to find out.)
“It’s not about how it looks, it’s about what it communicates.” – Joe Natoli
How do you get rid of imposter syndrome? Find out Joe’s answer:
Joe found his calling while running a UX design firm. He watched the room light up as he got clarity on why humans get stuck at design roadblocks – including the frustration of an espresso machine.
At the end of the episode, we even get to listen in on his philosophy on the ups-and-downs of life- and the power of seeing value manifest itself.
FEATURED IN: 7 Inspiring Podcasts on Work, Leadership
“I stopped waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel and lit that bitch on fire.”
It’s my birthday today and I have to admit that I am enjoying the heck out of getting older. One year ago today I was preparing for a year of change. I was working out how to end a relationship, blow up my business, and unbeknownst to me, getting ready to dig deep into why I’m on this earth.
In celebration of this last year of blowing things up, here’s my birthday wish for you: I want YOU to light a huge blaze. I want you to make a decision to SHOW UP every day – beginning today.
My birthday wish is for you – the person who feels lost and empty, the human struggling to find out who you really are, the one who’s really trying to show up and show off. It’s time to light that shit on fire. My wish for you is to start showing up and showing off.
So, what are you waiting for? All it takes is one decision and one step.
"Hey you! That Sportsman Expandable suitcase looks like it may burst! I love your beautiful Tumi but that Samsonite seems like it’s been through a tornado. Hang on – is that a vintage Louis Vuitton? Can I ask why you’re carrying so many bags? How long have you been dragging those around with you? Why do you need so many?”
We all lug around a bunch of shit – and we’re all pulling different sized suitcases. Big ones, little ones, duffel bags, wheelie ones, even backpacks. Some of us need luggage carts while others masochistically subject themselves to the pain and strain of pulling them by hand. Sometimes someone will walk up to us and hand us the suitcase they took long ago. And what do we do with it? Just toss it on the pile.
Recently a friend of mine mentioned she had been doing ‘talk therapy’. She’d gone through childhood trauma and hadn’t been able to deal with it. That trauma had started creeping into her life and was making her feel like she had dementia. She had been losing her memory and was struggling to keep her life and business together. She wasn’t looking for sympathy from me – she shared her story to let me know she stood next to me in my own struggles.
"I stand with you.”
Later in the day, I had a similar conversation with a different friend. She asked if I was willing to stay in my own lane and let go of anything that wasn’t adding value. Shortly after, I asked how she was doing – knowing she had been struggling to keep her marriage and her life together. Her response: “Staying in my lane and compartmentalizing.” I knew I couldn’t do anything for her so I told her I loved her and that I stood with her.
Last week was rough for many – the dreaded Valentine’s Day (or Galentine’s Day or Singles Awareness Day). I was working through my own shit, and I posted on the social medias about how I felt about the day. I had no idea what I was going to say but I could feel something inside clawing to get out. I just started typing. I poured my whole heart out on the internet, knowing it would leave me vulnerable. I shared things many of my friends don’t even know. And that vulnerability taught me that I have the most loving community any human can imagine: They stand with me.
Here’s what I wrote:
A tiny heartfelt share today. I'm sitting at my desk in my office on the verge of tears – all dressed up for my day – and realizing my love tank is running on fumes. Today is the reminder of my first marriage (2004) as I cried REALLY hard down the entire aisle at our eloping ceremony in Lake Tahoe. The first marriage that lasted 9 whole months and ended because he cheated. I don't hate today but it is a hardcore reminder of failures, disappointments, regrets, and bad decisions. But at the same time, I learned SO much about myself, what I want, what I require, and who I am.
I KNOW a lot of other people have a hard time with Valentine's Day and I have to tell you – I'm standing firmly here with you trying not to cry my beautiful makeup off in a dress that makes me feel sexy while also trying not to sabotage another tough day that's supposed to be all smiles. I'm standing firmly here with you with all the love in my heart and tears running down my face knowing that we all deserve to leave our pasts where they are – in the past as learning experiences. I'm standing firmly here with you knowing how hard this is but how joyful it could be. To love yourself deeply, to know how beautiful you are, and to know that you are enough – not too much, not too little – perfectly enough.
I'm standing firmly with you on this beautiful, terrifying, hard, lovely, incredible day. Reminding you that you are right where you're supposed to be – feeling everything you're supposed to feel – because those feelings make you who you are. And it's time to let go and make room.
I love you. ❤️
Our past sticks to us in ways we can’t always see but definitely feel. We drag those bags along behind us and sometimes it feels like we’re pulling an 18-wheeler rig. Sometimes I wonder why the heck I’m still carrying this shit. I wonder why I allow myself to cry through the pain and keep on rolling those suitcases along the path of my life.
My muscles are tired. My eyes are puffy. I’m not perfect and I don’t have all my shit together, but I definitely don’t need to shoulder such a heavy load. So how do I shed some of the emotional pounds? It starts with letting go of the failures, disappointments, regrets, and bad decisions and sharing what I’ve learned from all of it.
"Keep what is adding value in your life and let go of the rest.” – @DailyOM
As a born-and-bred people pleaser, I find letting go of what doesn’t benefit me REALLY tough. Especially when the ‘what’ is a who.
Recently, I was accused of some really heinous things by the people closest to me. Suddenly I was transported 20 years in the past to my 15-year-old self. I was again being accused of terrible things and experiencing the same pain I did so many years ago. That’s when the anger crept in.
I was being unfairly accused. I had done something thoughtful and sweet for someone years ago and somehow it got twisted into a despicable act of spite. My accusers took the tact of “you were at the scene of the crime so obviously you did it”. And my being angry only fueled the fire. A really heavy, beat-up suitcase that didn’t belong to me was plopped on my luggage cart. But for the first time I decided to shove it back off my cart. I dropped it like a bad habit. It could not be a part of my life and would not stay in my collection.
I am NOT perfect. My personal brand is one that is beautiful in the broken places. I’m an Approachable Badass – a walking contradiction. I’ve made a lot of mistakes but I’ve never done anything out of spite. I’ve never done anything viciously, and I’d never wish harm on anyone. To be accused of something so outside my character brought back a flood of suitcases and a whole host of bad memories. But this time I wasn’t going to take them back. I had left them behind for a reason.
“When they go low, we go high.” – FLOTUS Michelle Obama
It’s like at an airport where they say “Don’t accept a package or luggage from someone you don’t know.” The suitcases we drag behind us are the ones we choose to pull. No one can make us hold onto them, and no one but us can drop them. Our muscles, no matter how strong, will get fatigued and we’ll crumble from the weight. We have to do the work to let go. We have to CHOOSE to drop the weight and walk away. No matter how comfortable we are dragging that shit behind us, it’s a lot more comfortable to let go and find peace.
I used to be terrified of sharing my story – my baggage. Of being vulnerable or allowing someone to peek into all my suitcases. Until I started Adventures in Branding – the podcast for kickass humans. I started by sharing my failures. My running away. About finding myself. Finding my purpose. And wow – the response was overwhelming. One woman said: “I may be nobody to most, but this podcast made me somebody to me.” I was finally letting go of my luggage and standing with people. And they were standing with me.
The more we drop the luggage, the more upright we can stand. When we stand together, we are stronger than ever. When we learn to let go of the things holding us back, we start stepping into our purpose. And when we fully embrace the reason we’re here on earth, the rest of the world benefits.
Gary Vaynerchuk posted a video that said, “If that’s your purpose, why don’t you do it for free? Purpose… is your purpose. If it’s free, you’ll have more people. Now show me in your actions that it’s actually your purpose.”
My purpose? To be a lighthouse. To shine light for others who haven’t been able to find their own light. To give them a place to shine it. And I wrote a talk called Rock Your Life that does exactly that. It creates light for others to see what they need to do to pull themselves out of beige existence and into a space where they can see all the colors and reflect those for others. And thanks to the wise Gary Vee, I’ve decided that this is the talk I want to give freely (and free!) to anyone who will listen. Because…
I stand with you.
I stand on a stage – with you. I stand hand-in-hand with you. Call me. Ask me questions. Listen to the podcast. Or bring me to your team, your audience – wherever there’s a need. I am still learning to let go of all of my own suitcases – one at a time. But in the meantime, I’m standing taller and shining my light brighter. With you.
Your suitcases tell a story. It’s the story of your life and where you’ve been so far. Once you start telling those stories, the weight starts disappearing. Like magic. I promise.
Help me fulfill my purpose and bring me to you & your audience. Book my Rock Your Life talk and un-beige the lives of the humans around you. You pay to get me there, you get the people, and I'm all yours for a kickass keynote. It's easy – the contact form is in the footer. CODEWORD: Suitcase
This year, I am lighting things on fire. Not literally. Ok, maybe sometimes literally. But lighting things on fire to me means – No more waiting. No more hoping. No more “maybe someday.” No more expecting someone else to do it for me. I have the match. I am running it down the back of the box and dropping it into the lighter fluid, newspapers and kindling I’ve been building for years. It’s my life and, heck yeah, I’m lighting it up.
I have a book (or three) inside my head. It’s been sitting there in an ever growing stack of papers and thoughts for years but I’ve been waiting to feel ready. I’ve been waiting for the right time. I’ve been filling notebooks and reading books. I’ve listened to podcasts and attended conferences. I’ve been building my expertise strategically. I’ve rewritten speeches countlessly. I’ve updated slides and worksheets over and over. I’ve listened to clients and gone on road trips to find even more. I’ve done the leg work… and now it’s time.
For years, I’ve been writing. Almost daily. Analog & digital content piling up. Notebooks filled with content from every thought, every quote, every question. I know the content by heart. I just have to put it all together. And this year, I want to start a focused habit of writing – daily. Sitting down every morning before the world gets started – writing what’s in my brain space. My lovely assistant has even gone to the lengths of blocking off one week every month of no phone & no internet time for me to write. Not vacation. Intensive time to focus. Time away from the little every day distractions. She’ll even take care of my email – the thing I’ve checked every 5 minutes for 5 years. (Thanks, Chenes!)
*whiney Melanie* But I like distractions. I like the little fires I have to put out. I like getting new clients. I like listening to others and giving advice. I like checking Facebook and wondering who emailed. I like knowing people want to hear what I have to say. *focused Melanie* And if I don’t write this book, I’m doing myself and others a disservice.
Because when I speak, people ask “so when will your book be out?” When I mentioned my potential book to a new client this morning, her response was: "When will it be ready? I need to read it." She didn’t say “Oh, that’s nice. Good luck.” It is time.
I’m writing a book this year. And what’s crazy?! I have this overwhelming urge to find someone to tell me what to write. Why? Because I feel like I need more. Like I need to be more. Like I don’t know enough. Like I’m not enough. Wait… isn’t that what part of my message is!? “You are enough.” Do I need to give myself a little Rock Your Life speech?
I have an overwhelming amount of content and somehow I feel like I’m missing something. And that’s a lie my scared little internal Melanie is telling me. The truth is – I know all of it. I speak about it. I give workshops on it. I eat it for breakfast. I breathe it. I live it. Daily.
The book is already in my notebooks. I’ve been writing it for years. Learning. Taking in content. Listening. Waiting for the right moment. My notebooks hold all of the answers.
One of my favorite things, especially at the beginning of a new year, is cracking open a brand new notebook and beginning.
Oh, the joys of a new notebook.*breathes deeply through her nose* Clean white sheets of paper. Waiting patiently to be filled with thoughts. For the binding to be cracked and split. Needing your scrawling. Ready for the smudges of ink in a rainbow of colors. Pages created to take on anything you can throw at them. The sweet scent of bleached paper mixed with tanned leather. A favorite pen sits beside it fantasizing about its next set of words. Life to be documented here.
A new year. A new mojo. New intentions. Updated goals. Effervescence bubbling over. What will this new space hold?
Broken notebooks sit on a shelf in front of me. Worn out and used. Scribbled in and joy-filled, anger-splashed, tear-stained – old thoughts. Years gone by. Previous versions of me sitting in those notebooks. Notes from meetings, conferences, church services, dreams, plans, and the thoughts that ran through my head. Who was I then? Who am I now?
The inner dialogue goes something like this:
This year will be different.
Why? What will make it different?
I will. I will make it different.
But how? What will you do differently?
I will be more diligent. More intentional.
What makes you think you can be more?
I am stronger. I am already more.
Oh, so you’re already more. Now more of more?
Well, I’ve learned a lot. A lot more.
Because you hadn’t before?
I’m older now.
But weren’t you older before?
True. Maybe this year won’t be different.
Is it ok if it’s just another step? Another page?
Ooh, I can do that. Take another step. I’ll fill another page.
A new year. Bigger hopes. Bigger dreams. Growing. Still me.
These filled notebooks contain a journey: my journey. A journey from where I was to where I’m going. The words spilling over from page to page, words manifesting reality. Words that are slanted and angry. Flowing and happy. Printed and thoughtful. Sloppy and excited. My innermost thoughts materialize on clean sheets of lined paper – personally, professionally, poetry, songs, words, letters. Sometimes full paragraphs. Broken yet smooth, thought-provoking and questioning. When I capture my thoughts, I am learning from myself.
Every time I start a new notebook, I dedicate it to a specific task personally or professionally. I try to keep them separated until they start bleeding over. Notes about my personal vision next to meeting notes with a client. How I feel about my family on the same page as my to-do list for work. It’s all blended and I don’t know why I always try to keep it separated. (I’m sure there’s another blog post about balance in there somewhere – sigh…) There are 5 unfinished notebooks in various places currently being filled.
With these notebooks and in this time, I’ve learned more than I ever expected – about friendship, leadership, client relationships, humility, dedication, perspective, hard work, and love. Walking this entrepreneurship path, I see through my notes that I’ve learned my fair share about business. The good, the bad, and the ugly of humanity. The loving hug of a coworkers. The violent voice of a client who must be right. The harsh reality that this is really just business, despite what you want to believe. Yet every step has shown me growth. And it’s all blended with my personal life.
As I read through them, I am seeing how every single step I took HAD to be one-foot-in-front-of-the-other. I HAD to take that step to get to this step. I HAD to hire that person to let go of that one. I HAD to lose that client to get this one. I HAD to stop doing that service to offer this one. I HAD to start doing that planning before I got to this stage. I HAD to endure that breakup to find “the one.” I HAD to wait in order to step in at the right time. I HAD to close that company to open this one. I HAD to let go of that to get this. I HAD to learn that hard lesson to see the bright spot in this one. I HAD to experience all of these things before I could write the book about it. It was all required to take the next step.
While I was capturing my thoughts, it felt like none of it flowed together but now I see my life more clearly had structure. The connections. The disconnected pieces. The path. The places I had to go to get where I really wanted to be – even if felt like a harrowing detour. And I see it all now because I wrote it all down. I wrote my thoughts and found my words while throwing my voice in for added effect. Painfully, insanely, excitedly – whatever I felt, it didn’t matter what anyone would think about me. I wrote it all down.
What happens when you write things down? You manifest them. They become reality. Writing things down makes them real. Writing a blog post about it makes it a reality (eek!). Writing it in a notebook tells you where you're going to do and shows you where you've been – but sharing it with the world makes it very real. Hardcore real. A kick-in-the-ass painfully real. If you tell the world about it, you have to do it. Right? Nah. Let’s rephrase: if you have something that will help the world and you tell the world you’ll do it, THEN you have to do it.
These notebooks are my sacred space. They contain my life. They are my legacy. And yes, before I die, I will leave it in my will & testament to burn them in case anyone decides to publish them – Emily Dickinson, I am not. But before then, I will use them to write what I’ve learned – the things that make me who I am. That make me Melanie Spring a brand strategist, but more importantly, a lighthouse. The things that make me an approachable badass. The things others crave to know about how to find their purpose. The things I’ve been soaking up for years. The things I’ve made my expertise. The things I’ve learned about myself that will allow others to learn about themselves.
These notebooks make up the story of my life. And they help others create their own story. And I can spend years filling notebooks but if I never learn from them, grow from them, or share them to help others, why am I even bothering? If I keep these notebooks to myself, everyone loses out. I would be doing a disservice to myself and others. It’s time to proverbially light them on fire and show the world before I literally light them on fire. It’s time to write a book (or three).
Hey you – yeah, you. This is really about you.
Do you need clarity? Read your old notebooks.
Don’t have any notebooks? Start one.
Have ideas? Write them down.
Want better ideas? Listen to what’s in your head. You’re smart.
This new year and these goals we’re all writing about right now – these resolutions about how 2017 will be the best year ever and how 2016 can suck it – about how it hasn’t worked yet, but this year will be epic. What if we stopped worrying so much about the year and concentrated on one page at a time?
Have you ever heard a speech about someone who had something horrible happen to them and it changed their life? Cancer, a car accident, an injury, a fight, a sickness, a relationship ending, being arrested. They get up on stage and start with how it all changed for them. My goal in this life is to never have to give that speech because I was in control of my life being amazing and nothing had to happen to me to change it. One of my other goals is to make sure others are living their lives in a way that they won’t have to either.
Many people think about things they need to give up or quit or get rid of – those habits they want to be done with. But how many times do we say we're going to do it and then decide it's not really as big of a deal. So we keep doing that thing. We keep going back to it with guilt and the feeling that we really can't stop doing it because (insert excuse here).
Most of the time, these are just stories. Stories we tell ourselves because we're human. And that's where those speeches come from. We never gave up that thing and something had to step in and change it all for us.
I recently wrote a very personal blog post called Because I Keep Saying I Will on one of my biggest "stories." The story that said I wasn't strong enough to find something different to cope with stress, anxiety, nightmares, and lack of sleep. Something that could help me stay focused because I just wasn't built that way. And you know what, it was just that – a story.
Replacing my story with a commitment – NOT saying "I'm giving it up" or "I quit" – but saying, this is my new story and this is how I want my life to look. I have a much better chance of being true to myself and writing the next part without making up guilty lies.
COMMITMENTS: Even if you don't read the post, or listen to the podcast, here’s my commitment to myself:
Meditation as medication. I am committed to meditate when I feel it’s time to medicate myself. Even if that mean I have to meditate 15x a day to make it stop.
No booze in the house. I am committed to removing all alcohol from the premises and will not purchase another bottle of anything.
Playtime looks different. I am committed to finding new activities that will replace “meet me for a drink” activities.
Cravings become writing. I am committed to keeping a journal of how I’m feeling so I can find out what brings on the cravings.
COMMUNITY: As much as people like to complain about others oversharing, posting too much, and being narcissistic, we humans need each other. We need to hear each other’s stories, we need to know that others struggle like we do. We need to be there to help each other through these things. I need you. You need me. We can do this together.
Do you have something you need to commit to? It doesn’t have to be the same as what I’m doing.
What do you keep saying you’ll do?
What do your friends keep asking you about?
What are you doing that doesn’t fit your personal brand?
Write it down. Find a replacement habit.
Commit to it. And take it one day at a time. We’ve got this.
Let’s work together to make sure we don’t have to write a speech about the thing we couldn’t give up that almost killed us.