The Official Weblog of Internet Person Sam Killermann

Sam Killermann is an author, activist, comedian, and DIYer based in Austin, TX. He wrote A Guide to Gender & co-wrote Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation. He was featured in NatGeo's documentary "Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric" and awarded "Changemaker" in Austin and named a "Person We Love" by Yes! Magazine for his activism. You may know him through his work with It's Pronounced Metrosexual, The Safe Zone Project, Every Shirt is Political, Uncopyright.org; his TEDxTalk about Gender; or something else; but you most likely have never heard of him at all. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, or GitHub.

Better Humaning

Public Libraries Shouldn’t Exist

Imagine that public libraries weren't a normal thing. What would the public debate sound like?

Public Libraries Shouldn’t Exist

Usually, when I’m at home in Austin, I work in coffee shops. Today, I’m working from our gobsmackingly beautiful public library. And I can’t help but repeatedly ask myself “What would happen if someone pitched the idea of a public library today?”

It’s a broken record in my brain. An audio loop. It plays every time I turn a corner in this space.

“What would it sound like to argue for the idea of a public library in 2019?”

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Better Humaning

When Ambition is Hiding

Sometimes shooting for the moon isn't taking a shot at all.

When Ambition is Hiding

Consider a few alternatives. Let’s say I told you:

A. I want to remove every unhealthy habit, food, and mindset from my life, and I’m going to start tomorrow.

B. I’m going to eat less sugar, starting tomorrow.

When tomorrow comes, which one are you likely to hold me accountable to? Which might you help me excuse when I fall short? Which are you actually expecting me to do? Or even realistically try?

Let’s do a few more with those questions in mind.

I say:

A. It’s my goal to transform my country to 100% renewable energy.

B. It’s my goal to transform my local school district to 50% renewable energy.

Or:

A. My organization is going to end racism, globally.

B. My organization is going to help local people of color, and other disenfranchised people, register to vote and get to the polls.

That’s plenty to get the point I’m going to make, I think.

But first, here’s what I’m not about to say: that any of the As above — the lofty, admirable, pie-in-the-sky ambitions — are in any way bad, undesirable, or something I’m advocating against.

I want all of those things. I have, at different points in my life, said all of those things, in some way or another. And I don’t even like thinking of myself as ambitious.

Here’s all I want to point out: sometime we set the bar so high because it gives us an excuse when we can’t clear it.

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Technolophizing

3 Simple Things You Can Do to Curb Your Phone Addiction Right Now

For when you notice your phone is using you.

3 Simple Things You Can Do to Curb Your Phone Addiction Right Now

A lot of us are addicted to our phones. If you’ve started to see why this might not be the best thing ever, and want to ween yourself off of that tantalizingly non-nourishing blue glow, you’re in good company. This is something I’ve been thinking about, and experimenting with, for a few years now. Following are three things you knock out in about 15 minutes, that will benefit you for weeks.

Before I get into those, I want to be clear: I’m talking about the colloquial, not clinical, usage of the term “addiction.” In this post, I’m not staking my flag in the hill that “phone addiction” is (or isn’t) real.

What I’m talking about here, as addiction, is the compulsive use of our phones. That we’re spending more time poking around our phones than we want to, picking them up and checking the screen before we realize we’re doing it, and that our phones aren’t adding quality to our lives, and might be distracting us from the things we’d actually care about enjoying.

I’m talking about how we’re already dating our phones, and how little red numbers are trying to rule our lives.

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Better Humaning

The Creative March

My new challenge to log at least 1,000 hours of creativity every year.

The Creative March

My last few weeks have been marked by creativity. I love that feeling. I want to make it happen more.

Bill Gates is frequently quoted for saying, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

I feel this contrast more intensely on a smaller scale: we overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can do in a year.

It’s so easy for me to think of myself as a creative person — a writer, a doodler, a designer, a coder — even when I don’t create anything in a given day.

But I’m not really a writer when I’m not writing. I’m a reader of political news, or a dog walker, or a cook, or a compulsively rechecking my email because it triggers a dopamine response-er.

I’ve been “working on a book for three years” now, but I haven’t truly been working on that book for three years. I’ve barely worked on it at all. A few minutes here, an hour there.

Creativity is an act, and one that is so easily sidelined by other actions — anything that feels safer, simpler, easier, or fulfills a shortsighted desire.

How many people do you know who are “working” on things that never get any creative time dedicated to them?

How many projects are you “working” on that you haven’t sat down in front of for over a week? A month? A year? Ever?

Last week, I finished and published a book. The week before I co-created and published a massive Train-the-Trainer Retreat Guide. The week before that I wrote a new comedy show. And in between all of that I’ve made major strides in starting two new (secret, for now) projects. And I’ve only checked my email two thousand times (a made up number down from what I assume is my normal two million times per month).

But in the weeks before that, I was mostly just slogging through administrative stuff. Checking in on old things, closing out 2018. Not really making progress on anything, with only a few essays and one edugraphic to show for it.

All of that got me reflecting on the ebbs and flows of my own creativity, and wanting to come up with some personal challenge or strategy to get a better grasp on that part of my life.

I don’t want to spend most of my time on tasks that amount to nothing, but feel good in the moment (or at least don’t feel terrifying, like creativity often does).

I want to spend most of my time creating things that I share with the world, that are durable, that might exist when I’m gone.

As luck would have it, listening to a podcast interview today with Jim Collins gave me an exciting challenge that I’m going to start tonight.

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Better Humaning

Learn For a Project, Not the Sake of Learning

The common foundation that is the basis for everything I've taught myself, from programming to design to golf.

Learn For a Project, Not the Sake of Learning

Because I’m self-taught in most things I do — from programming to design to animation — a lot of my friends ask me for tips on how to learn a particular thing.

“I want to learn how to make websites,” a friend will ask. “Where do you think I should start?”

Over the years, I’ve given a lot of different responses. Pointing people to free online resources for learning, like Codecademy or Khan Academy. Or telling them to join a local workshop or meet-up. Or both.

It’s not how I learned, but it’s easier to point someone to a resource than it is to give an autobiography for how I learned something myself.

However, seeing that advice fail again and again prompted me to rethink my rationale.

What would it look like, if I advised people to learn things how I’ve learned them?

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Technolophizing

You Can Stop Saying “They Should Make A…”

There was a time when You needed Their permission. That time has past.

You Can Stop Saying “They Should Make A…”

Something I see all the time on the internet is people saying “They should have a…” or “They should make a…” and then sharing some idea, platform, service, movement, or cause that the commenter wants, and believes “they” should create.

A few years ago, this made sense. The request was legitimate and necessary.

There were gatekeepers in every industry — from arts to activism to commerce to community-building — who were the “They.” It was They who had to approve our appeal to create a new thing.

You couldn’t just make that thing, or build that platform, or create that movement, release that show, or host that community yourself.

You needed Their permission. You needed Them to make it for you.

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(Un)Happiness

The Big Thing Being Bedridden with the Flu for a Week Made Me Realize

What I got in exchange for 11 pounds of bodyweight and 80 hours of productivity.

The Big Thing Being Bedridden with the Flu for a Week Made Me Realize

For the past 7 days, my life was consumed by the flu. Technically, I was more couch-ridden than bedridden, but I was decidedly horizontal. Luckily, I had a faithful guardian who didn’t leave my side, so I survived.

This is the first time I’ve had the flu in as long as I can remember. I don’t get sick often. The last time I was even “take a day off work” sick was over a year ago (and I don’t even have to get a doctor’s note to call in — I have lenient bosses).

Yesterday, as I was catching up on the SNL I missed, I realized I didn’t get most of the jokes because I hadn’t been keeping up with politics or the news (or even trying).

Today, something else hit me, as I started to dive back into work and catch up with life, that I can attribute entirely to the flu:

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Work dot Com

A Checklist to Work Through Before Creating Any New Website, Blog, or App

Don't hire a designer until you've figured these things out.

A Checklist to Work Through Before Creating Any New Website, Blog, or App

Are you thinking about creating a website? Or a blog? Or an app? Do you want to be “in the cloud,” but you’re not really sure what that is? Have you been talking with colleagues about this idea, or received direction from your boss, and started figuring out how to do it yourself, or looking into hiring a designer/developer to build it for you?

Great! Good on you. Making things is really exciting, and it’s really fun to hit the ground running.

The natural next step you might make is to start price shopping around, looking for an agency or creative you can afford.

Not great! But no fault to you: this is what most people do next. And it’s something that results in a lot of wasted money in the long run.

Before you start designing or building something that you have in mind, and definitely before you start paying someone else to, there are a few things you need to figure out.

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Work dot Com

Why I Hadn’t Funded My Work with Patreon

It's not just about a discomfort with money.

Why I Hadn’t Funded My Work with Patreon

For several years, my “day job” (the one paying my bills) has been performing comedy shows. Meanwhile, my hobby has been creating online resources, tools, and organizations for justice.

If you think that’s a weird combo, you’re not alone. I’m with you: it’s hard to wrap my mind around the truth that the way I make money is comedy, then I use that money to pay to do administrative-paperwork-email-non-profit-type stuff.

Usually, it’s the other way around.

What’s even weirder? Switching things up — and starting to fund my online advocacy work directly, not via comedy shows — seems less likely to succeed than continuing to be a working comedian.

And yes — I’ve heard of Patreon. People have told me about it hundreds of times, for years and years, every time I made that point.

A lot of the work I do is a great fit for Patreon. But I’ve been resistant to the idea of funding it that way. The reasons are a mix of ethics and personal discomforts, and are all tied directly to my work, and the change I hope it effects.

So why haven’t I done it?

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Better Humaning

You’re Not “Self-Employed”

What happens if you let go of the myth that you are?

You’re Not “Self-Employed”

For the past almost-decade, I’ve checked the “self-employed” box lots of times: when opening bank accounts, on lease applications for apartments, and it’s how the IRS sees me.

But it’s a lie. I’m not “self-employed.”

Nobody is.

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Better Humaning

Breaking the Chain of “Maybe”

It's an epidemic. It's coming for your social life. But there is a vaccine.

Breaking the Chain of “Maybe”

There’s a modern scourge upon us, and every get-together, plan, and social event is vulnerable.

I don’t know when it started, who’s to blame, or if it can be defeated, but I’ve begun vaccinating myself against it. And if you or your social circle have caught a case of the Maybes, or you want to prevent an outbreak, here’s what you can do.

The first step with any epidemic is understanding the problem: What is the Maybes, how does it spread, and why is it harmful?

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