Why I’m OK Being The iPhone Guy

70Decibels, the same wonderful podcasting network that is foolish enough to host my show with Mike Vardy, unveiled CMD+Space this week. Well, actually CMD+Space is a rebrand of Myke Hurley and Terry Lucy’s “The Bro Show”, but let’s not get hung up on details. The show, clearly attempting to target me and me alone, managed to snag one of my favorite Internet souls for episode 001, Merlin Mann.

Merlin’s a hero of mine. He’s a fellow card-carrying member of the ADHD club and over years has created a body of work that inspires other ADHD messes (and probably a few of you regular folk) to find better ways to do better work.

In the early parts of the interview, which I highly recommend you check out, Merlin shares his experiences with his popular 43 Folders site and why he moved away from it. Having spent several years focusing on how we work on 43 Folders and talking about the tools and toys we geeks use as a regular guest on MacBreak Weekly, Merlin decided to shift his focus onto something bigger: how we spend our time and attention. As he puts it in the interview:

As I figure out more of what I love to do, I hope I can help other people learn to find out and then love what they do.

He also went on to talk about pigeonholing yourself as the “iPhone Guy” (as in those of us who talk endlessly about the tools, the tips and the tactics). It’s a term I’m betting will lead to a decent amount of discussion. To a certain extent, I’m the “iPhone Guy”. While I always try to strike a balance between the how and the why, a decent amount of the posts on this site focus entirely on some picayune aspect of an application or device that I use and love. Why? Because it’s been helpful to me and I hope it is helpful to you. As I work to get my act together, I share what’s working and often what doesn’t with the hope that it helps you get yours together. But Merlin offered a great word of caution:

In terms of the iPhones and the gadgets, if that’s helping you make better decisions and helping you see the world better and helping you become the person you want to be, then that’s great. Now is that really lofty? Yeah, it is, but then if you also become “iPhone Guy” you become so invested in how you spend your time that you get dug in.

And it helped me realize that while I’m ok with being the “iPhone Guy” for now, inevitably, I’ll want and need to evolve beyond him to get where I want to go.

Merlin’s a hero of mine for a reason; I admire the hell out of what he has created and what he is willing to share. Like him, “a lot of what I do is being a little bit broken in public and trying to get a little better at it.” And as I get better, I look to do better things. But at the moment, I’m a bit more broken, much of which is just a byproduct of not working on this for nearly as long as he has and still not quite finding my way. I’m still discovering the best way that I work. I’m still figuring out what I’m here to do and how to do it in a way that continues to help my family eat. Time spent being “iPhone Guy” continues to help me improve and I don’t think I would have gotten to this point had I not embraced the role.

I’ve only recently started to do consistent work. The more I do that work, the more that some of it turns out to be any good. Occasionally, I manage to maintain being good with some consistency, but those moments are still fleeting. Right now, part of me is still focused in being “iPhone Guy” because I still need it. I still have to focus on how I’m doing my work in order to ensure it actually gets done. As I grow and as the doing of the work continues to get easier, that focus will shift to bigger and loftier things. I want to do great work and I believe I’ll get there, but when I started on this journey, I wasn’t really capable of doing any work at all. So for now, as long as I avoid getting caught up in being him, my time spent as “iPhone Guy” is serving me just fine.

I really hope you check out the first episode of CMD+Space. Not only is episode 001 with Merlin a great one, but the show on a whole is a great example of two guys, Myke and Terry, who were ready to stop being “iPhone Guys” and are taking the steps needed to do even bigger and better things. Thanks for the inspiration, guys.

4 Responses to Why I’m OK Being The iPhone Guy

  1. Thanks for the tip. Just started B2W on my way home from work tonight. Merlin mentioned he was recording 8 podcasts this week. I’m ready for a Merlin Marathon this weekend. And thanks to you for being a little bit broken in public as another example for the rest of us on how to get better as we go. 

    • Always happy to lead the way for us fellow messes :) I had my Merlin Marathon on the drive down to work. Hell of a week of audio. Cmd-Space was particularly inspiring. B2W pissed me off, if only for getting me obsessed with yet another podcast in Radiolab.

  2. Merlin is to productivity shtick what Eddie Van Halen was to guitar dive bombs and tapping. Also, he remind me of Woody Allen, though probably owns his foreskin. Truthfully, if I didn’t hear him sing a la Morissey, or do his wacky “Most Days” videos, etc., etc., he’d be a total hypocrite. But the dude does MAKE stuff beyond tweaking Omnifocus. 

    Imho, the other productivity talking heads are a little less witty, original or creative. But don’t lose hope, Reb Beach copped Van Halen’s skills and turned it into something beautiful.   

    • There’s no dobut that plenty of us (myself included) are often inspired/influenced by/attempting to be a guy like Merlin. I’ve certainly found myself falling into that trap more than a few times myself. Thankfully, I’m not nearly that funny, so going after his shtick just isn’t going to be in the cards for me (although I do have the Woody Allen neurosis and true lack of foreskin thing going on…).

      Merlin’s a guy I admire, but not someone I’d want to be. That’s not a dig at him, it’s just the longer I’m at it, the more I’m enjoying becoming a slightly better version of myself than a slightly less pale version of him. If that makes any sense…

      As for the hypocracy thing, I get the temptation, but I also never really quite understood it. Do you really think that people who have never struggled with this would spend this much time writing about it? I could be very wrong, but I doubt there are very many people who focus on this wracket that were truly productive people to begin with. So much of this crap all comes from struggle, not success. Hypocracy is saying your good at something, I don’t think that was ever what Merlin did (and it certainly isn’t what I do). It was more something he seemed to strugle with, spent a lot of time thinking about and shares as much as he could in a way that is interesting to him. And in that sense, yeah, I’d be ok being Reb Beach…

Leave a reply