Tongue tricks

Doing a meditation, I had a random idea to make a post on tongue tricks I know of. Without further ado, here it is.

  • When running, keep your tongue inside your teeth, even if you are panting: as pointed out to me by a Krav Maga trainer, you don’t want your tongue caught between your teeth if you can fall or be hit on your jaw. This took a small bit of attention to practice and soon it became my default.
  • When you have an urge to sneeze and don’t want to sneeze, rub your tongue against the palate of your mouth (i.e. the ribbed part on the upper part of your mouth). For some reason this suppresses the sneezing impuls (conflicting sensations in the same nerve bundle?). Interestingly, it does not work the other way around: rubbing the palate of your mouth does not have you sneeze.
  • When you have muscle tension in your jaw, relax the muscles and use your tongue to slightly open your mouth. Much more relaxing!
  • When you are playing with energy, especially micro-cosmic orbit, place the tip of your tongue gently on the palate of your mouth (I rest it against my front teeth). Supposedly this helps guide the energy down again. All I know is that it helps prevent headaches I got doing energy play without this.

99Designs experience: tragedy of the commons

To make this blog ready for wider distribution, I ran a 99Designs campaign to design a new logo for
I didn’t have a good experience with 99Designs, even though it came well recommended by Tim Ferriss. This is what I suspect is happening:

The game’s rules and impacts

I have the impression that game theory is well at work here, and the results I’m seeing are because 99Designs set up the rules of the game in a specific way.

The beginning is a delicate time

As the campaign starts, the client (me) is instructed by 99Designs to give the designers low marks. I suppose the intent is to prevent you giving the highest marks immediately, and then there is no way to exceed them, but this way early submissions get penalized just for being early, even if they are great. I frequently went back to earlier designs to check if I should not actually increase their rating.

Mono-culture is not a good thing

Apparently designers can see each other’s designs and my ratings of those designs. The designers follow a strategy of going for the path of least risk of offending me (and not the path of the greatest difference).

As a result the earlier designers have the cost of finding a style that gets high scores from the client, and other artists then copy or expand only on that. The result is a lot of the same designs, and earlier designers risk being ripped off.

Then again, the earlier designs do get more attention from the client and more chances to adapt the designs.

I’ve had several “designers” that blatantly submitted replicas of earlier submissions. Part of this is of course, natural evolution, part of this does seem… opportunistic to me.

Series 1 of the convergence

OriginalLogo copies - 3Logo copies - 2Logo copies - 4Logo copies - 6Logos 2 - 5

Series 2

Original round logo by redboy_s Copy cat logoCopy cat logoCopy cat logo

I think the only real way to counter this a bit as the client, is to give comments to designs, but no ratings. This might work because the comments are not visible to the others, but the changed designs will be.

Vying for attention

Near the end of the first phase, there was a clear “ballot stuffing” moment, where artists put up a series of very similar designs or even the same logo in various angles, in an apparent attempt to crowd out the others.

Another attempt to garner more attention, was sending standard or effectively empty messages. Apparently “.”  is the smallest message allowed to be sent, as it brings up the design also on the messages.

(The messaging system of 99Designs has a mediocre user interface. It was completely unclear to me what messages were new and unread. It also accepted new designs after the deadline and sent me emails about it, but were not actually shown on the website.)

Voting for your own

This didn’t surprise me to see: designers did of course vote for their own design in the poll (again, apparently the polls are also not hidden to the designers).

Redboy voting for his own design
Redboy voting for his own design

But of course, this is now also “crowd sourced”: clear ballot stuffing by cohorts of the designers was also visible:

Peer "support"
Peer “support”
Peer "support"
Peer “support”

Steering this game?

So, I was wondering just how I could turn this blatantly opportunistic behaviour to my advantage as a client.

It is not the brief

I don’t think you can use the brief (the initial instructions to the designer) effectively: only a few of the artists read the brief (it explicitly told the designers to not mimic handwriting if it was not mine, which a lot did not follow). Only one explicitly referred to the brief’s content, and included an appreciation of this (he is also the original artist using my own writing and the red “.org“, and did not end up updating his design so did not make it to the finals).

Some spectacularly did not read the brief, including misspelling my name:
Logos 2 - 4

There is no feedback mechanism

I could not find a “ban this designer” or “mark this designer as …” mechanism for feedback. I have no idea how feedback works in this domain.

All in all I got a good logo out of this exercise, helped significantly by help by the readers.
However, if you know a good graphics designer, or know someone who knows one, I’d advise going that route. This isn’t particularly cheap and in the end the whole group behaved as a single designer anyway.

With kind regards,

99Designs logo design experience

As you early readers of my blog know, I had a design “contest” using 99Designs for a new logo. I’ll have another post on how the economics of 99Designs lead to some less desirable results.

This post however, is about how selection of the logo happened.

Setting context: The brief I gave

Title: “Create a clearly personal, yet elegant logo and FB header” by

The tone I want to convey is me (Wouter, my first name, masculine) talking to you (the reader), one on one, person to person, not with a lot of attention on me but also not shrinking that it is me you are talking to. I’d love the logo to be very similar to my own handwritten Wouter, or quite different but inspired. The total domain name “” has to be quickly understandable, with .org clearly part of it.
I’ve also attached some pictures of me for possible inspiration on the header files. All are mine in terms of copyright and can be used for this.

Lessons learned

Cross cultural experiences

An important practical detail for me was that the total domain name “” would be immediately clear. This brought up interesting multi-cultural perspectives. As the logo was based on my (arguably not so readable) handwriting, I found out that the t is crossed differently in the US for example. I did not know that cursive writing varied that much!

Voting isn’t that distinctive

I set out a poll with friends to ask for feedback.
It turned out that the actual voting itself wasn’t as useful to me as I expected, as the voting results were pretty close to each other:

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 10.49.23Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 10.49.38Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 10.49.56Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 10.50.13Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 10.50.30Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 10.50.48

Interestingly there was quite a bit of “love or hate”, i.e. designs having lots of votes in both the “1: hate it” and the “5: love it”. My conclusion: this design does stir things with the viewer. 😉

Text remarks are most actionable

Getting specific comments from people turned out to be the most useful. I could spot common themes in what worked and did not work for people, and those who had experience in graphic design gave detailed feedback.

However, quite often that feedback was completely contradicting the previous feedback in impressively new ways. The first feedback would say some aspect of the logo was very unclear, the other immediately saw me and my name in it, the third said it wasn’t me and the ‘t’ should be different.

In the end I, Wouter, make the decision

So, with conflicting signals, ultimately this was my decision to make and hold. Not much different from my technical work and other leadership positions 😉

So I decided for the one that felt the most authentically me. logo logo

It looks really good on shirts and a business card!

With gratitude (and a new logo),

The new logo: thank you!


With big thanks to you all, the new logo was selected.
With thank to Cris, these became embroidered Mizzen + Main shirts on time for the BP Conference 2016. embroidered on shirts embroidered on shirts

Wearing the shirts with logo felt good: it is my style clothing (nice business casual and practical), my style logo (personal, simple yet slightly out of the box), and people had an easy time spotting and reading the logo. Win!

Oxygen bar BP Conference 2016

Oxygen bar BP Conference 2016

Business card
Business card

I’ve written up how the process with 99designs and with those of you who gave feedback was too.

Again, thank you all for making this happen for me!

With gratitude (and a new logo),

Financial growth to freedom

Lately, I’m getting questions on “how to invest” income beyond direct living costs.
Just like with GTD systems, I find it very important to have a financial system that one can relax into fully. Not having concerns about money frees up a lot of mental and emotional energy, and can shift one from a scarcity to abundance mindset.

My advice and practice is go implement this once the daily living costs have been covered, in the below stated order:

  1. Put an amount of at least 6 months of living costs + one big unforeseen cost (e.g. suddenly needing a new car due to an accident) aside in a savings account as buffer for hard times.
    Taking out a loan is very expensive, both in money (interest) and in energy (loss of abundance mindset).
  2. Invest at least 15% in a financial freedom fund, some form of savings that does not easily lose value but is accessible if you need it within half a year, relative to the way you live.
    In my case it is my own house and office, as I don’t likely need to move anytime soon. If you are like a lot of my friends and you want to stay more mobile for a while, consider an investment fund that has the same distribution as the Dow Jones, but mind the costs and risks!! I highly advise reading Tony Robbins’ “Money, master the game” on this topic. Management costs above 0.5% annually of your investment will kill any value accrued.
  3. Invest 10-30% in development of skills and contacts that make you more valuable, more productive and widely skilled, so that you upgrade your market value by at least one order every two years. Examples include workshops that really stretch you beyond what you think you could do or mastermind groups at a level you think is beyond your stature.

After the above, you can put the remainder into further tweaking of your financial growth and stability, with your choice of:

  • Extending your safety buffer to 12-24 months (I aim for 18+ months, allowing for a safety margin to abort ventures)
  • Reducing any costs you have (e.g. paying off outstanding credit card, loan or mortgage costs)
  • Investing in quality products and services that require reduced upkeep costs and make you much more productive
  • More investment in financial freedom capital
  • More investment in totally different skills and contacts

And whatever you have left and are entirely ok with losing completely, gamble that by:

  • Paying it forward to a personally worthwhile social goal. Ideally, this could be bootstrapping someone you personally care about towards their self independence, their growth, while expecting nothing in return (and probably getting a lot from that in feeling good).
  • Trying an investment in a start-up you believe in will work financially (with a return of at least 10x) and do your kind of good in the world. Then don’t touch or even look at that investment for at least 5, preferably 10+ years. Don’t expect it to return anything, be positively surprised when it does.
  • If you really must learn that lesson yourself: lose it by gambling on the stock market, stepping into or out of the latest crypto coin hype too late, or other such “I can beat the system” delusions.

I hope this view helps you decide wisely where to put your money.

For the growth!

Time hack: speeding up podcasts and audiobooks

One of those small hacks that I enjoy a lot, is to set the playback speed of podcasts or audiobooks to 1.5-2x the normal speed. Modern players such as the iOS podcast Overcast app and Audible app will keep the pitch normal.

So the effect is similar to giving the speaker a cup of coffee, not a hit of helium and making him one of the chipmunks. Especially with speakers … who … speak … with … … profound … … silences … like Osho, this speed up saves me a lot of will power to keep listening.


The Overcast app has a more granular setting for the speedups. Not only can you select speedups in 0.25 granularity, you can also vary the speedup per podcast (so usually slow speakers can get even higher speedups). In the speedup it also removes the pauses, which gives another 0.25-1.50x speedup without any loss of information.

The Overcast app has a few other features that make life easier: downloading of new episodes is reliable (iOS app is crap at this), skip forward button step is configurable, it automatically plays the next priority episode (iOS app stopped doing this for unknown reasons). And they are very well aware of the impact on our mental well being:

Overcast knowing the cost of attention
Overcast knowing the cost of attention

For iOS podcast app

Podcast speed is to the left of the play buttons:

Podcast speed is to the left of the play buttons

For the Audible app

I like Audible for audiobooks, and quite a few of the speakers have this profound … silence … speaking style that I’m not really interested in anymore, so this works well for me. Tapping on the lower left corner brings up the Narration Speed menu.


Even more ideal would be removing the silences automatically, similar to how my videos are edited, but I’m not aware of something that does that.

Hoping I saved a few hours of your life with this,


Voynich manuscript reproduction coming

Oh, in the world of infinite resources, I definitely lust for this, for the sheer having as a token of cryptography run rampant: The Voynich manuscript is going to be reproduced at a staggering $10,000 price tag.
Much more reasonably priced reprints are available via Yale books or Amazon, and the scans are available for free.

The Voynich manuscript has been intriguing cryptoanalysists for ages, with its cryptic almost-sensible texts, pictures of not-quite-real plants and animals. There are interesting attempts claiming to have partially decoded it here and here.

I, for one, think XKCD still has the best explanation of the origins of this intriguing manuscript:


XKCD's take on the Voynich manuscript

How long to try a venture?

I’m getting quite a few questions recently about being an entrepreneur, and a specific recurring question is: so I have put my hopes on this venture, it might not take off soon, should I go for it?

To which my answer is a version of: check if you can afford to give the venture your all for 0.5-1.5 years, and that you have enough money available to last 0.5 years after that. If yes on both of these, go for it. If you’re unsure on any of these, reconsider. Read further for more detail…


This is coming from theory and quite a bit of practice: I’ve had my own company for more than 20 years (since 1995-08-08), and during that time, I have at times been employed with other companies also (see my resume for the details).

I’ve had “Really well thought out!” and “What was I thinking?” ventures over the years, and a significant amount of them did become successful within the specified trial time frame I set for it (this blog and Authentic Europe for example). I’ve also, often with pain in my heart, decided I should and would not go fully with other projects, because I did not have the finances for it.

And at the same time I’ve seen quite some people try things half-baked and fail, I’ve seen too many people run themselves into trouble by not considering beforehand how to stop, and none of them ended well.

All of this to say, that I’ve both thought a lot about this topic, and seen it play out real time.

So this post is about how to determine how long to try to make a venture work, and when to stop, in service of both you and your venture getting a fair chance.

Try the venture at least 0.5-1.5 years…

A venture needs time to be developed, deployed and especially to be marketed and sold. This time frame is best counted in months as there is often a lag time of 3-6 months between a customer becoming convinced he needs the offering, and actually receiving the money in the bank account, particularly for service offerings.

For example, a typical and fairly optimal time frame for a customer wanting a training workshop from me looks like this:

  1. Week 00: First contact, customer sends request for training workshop, I send clarification questions.
  2. Week 01: Their partial answer comes in. I make an estimate on what workshop would fit best and send it for discussion/agreement.
  3. Week 04: My response and some negotiation on terms.
  4. Week 05: My offer is sent to the client.
  5. … silence  (The contact person is gathering the signatures and budget from within the bureaucracy of the organization.)
  6. Week 07: Signed contract. (If the legal or financial departments are involved, add 2-3 weeks at least, in mutual negotiation of the planning of the workshop.)
  7. Week 11: Workshop takes place, at least one month out, as it needs to be customized. (In practice my agenda is nowadays usually full for the first ±2-3 months, but that is another discussion.)
  8. Week 15-23: Payment received. (Most big organizations have 30-90 days after delivery payment terms.)

The above timeline does not include the time gap between promoting myself and the customer actually coming to me, which is at least a few months, if not a few quarters. At least 30% of my CC training customers decided that they wanted a training from me 1-2 years ago.

Thus, seeing the above timeline, means that you have to give any venture at least 0.5-1.5 years to see if it is going to work out. You should be a “hell YES!” to this.

Anything less than a resounding “YES!”:

  • Put the venture idea in your “sometime maybe” GTD file and save up, or
  • Consider re-engineering the venture to either feel like a “YES!” or consider running it as a low-intensity experiment alongside an existing job, or
  • Hand it over to someone else.

… But make sure your money stretches that long!

So you determined you can give the venture the time it needs to succeed? Now you have to check that you have the money to make it to that end, or safely land if you can’t make the venture work.

“The venture works” when it is sustaining you financially for a good hourly rate. You should decide now to stop the venture if that deadline is reached, and go seek other sources of income such as a job.

You’ll want to have enough finances available now to last you until at least 3, preferably 6, months of living costs after the deadline for the venture. At least 3, because even when you are in extremely high demand on the workforce, it will take a month for you to be hired, and a month for you to be paid at the very least. Realistically you should have more like 6 months of safety margin.

Conclusion: Fail fast or at its due time
So my advice is to look hard at venture ideas and ask yourself if you believe enough in it to commit 0.5-1.5 years to it.
Then set a limit on how long you are going to try the venture, by making sure you’ll have enough finances presently available, to allow at least 3 months of living costs after the deadline for the venture.

Good luck with your venture, and well done if you reconsidered!